For our first wedding anniversary Brian and I headed to Bruges, Belgium. The weather was gorgeous, the beer was delicious and the company couldn’t be beat. Although we had a difficult journey (several trains were cancelled) we arrived early enough to wander around the beautiful neighborhood we were staying in. The next morning, after Brian gave me a lovely necklace as an anniversary present, we found a bike rental shop. We have been through many challenges in the past year, some we have conquered successfully while others have given us wounds to lick. The challenge for our anniversary was mastering the tandem bikeâ€¦ or if not mastering, than at least somehow plowing through 20 miles.
I am not a great biker. I hobbled through owning a bike in Munich that, while wonderfully free, was unmanageably big. Previous to that I hadn’t biked in at least ten years. The bike I have in Amsterdam is perfect and I have been slowly acquiring confidence â€“ although those damn pedestrians will just jump out of nowhere. But a tandem bike was a different beast altogether. Our pedals were synched so if I was pedaling Brian was pedaling and if Brian was pedaling (which he always was) than I was pedaling. This was not a canoe expedition where I could rest and let Brian power us along. Nay, as I sat in the back, trying hard to crane my neck over Brianâ€™s shoulders to see any oncoming butt bruising bumps, I realized that this was not a fun adventure but rather a team building exercise. Any time Iâ€™d need to adjust said bruised butt I’d have to give Brian the head’s up that I was going to stop pedaling, and he learned that when a particularly nasty bump was coming up he should warn me. By the end of the day we had it figured out pretty well, although trusting my husband to steer, follow the directions on his phone and snap pictures with our camera took a leap of faith. But my fingers loosened their grip on my handles as the trees and canals flew by.
We took a pit stop in Damme for milkshakes and a walk around. As we slowly wandered through the town, no bigger than my hometown of Sherburne, we wondered if the kids who lived there knew that they were growing up someplace special. The newest building in town was almost 70 years old and the church dated back to the 1300s. Speaking of churches, we climbed another bell tower. This one was perhaps the most terrifying yet – even worse than Copenhagen. The measly charge of 1 Euro each gave us a hint as to the depth of maintenance and upkeep the tower enjoyed. As we crawled hand over hand up the many ladders, stretching 200 steps upward, we tried to avoid putting our fingers in the hundreds of spots of pigeon poop. The occasional creaking noise that the ladders emitted did nothing to help our confidence and I ended up doing a hilarious jerking motion with my body, trying to both cautiously proceed due to the piles of poop and also speedily making it to the top before the ladders gave way. The ladders did not give way, of course, and I comfortably write this blog post with no broken bones. The view from the top may not have been completely worth the insecure climb but you couldn’t beat the price! The little town lay before us surrounded by cows and cornfields and I felt very much as if I were in a classier, European version of Sherburne.
We saw a little ferry crossing the canal we had been riding alongside. There were two cute little girls manning the rigging sending the floating ferry back and forth and they happily pulled us across. With a merci/dank u we headed back towards Bruges on the other side of the canal. Except that the path diverted away from the waterway and we found ourselves out in the middle of wheat fields, riding along on our tandem bike. It was a perfect moment. Luckily the path swerved back to the canal before we got too worried and we stopped at a small cafe for a beer to top off the end of a lovely day.
The next day we joined a bike tour. We hadn’t done one before and it was quite enjoyable. The tour guide was a bit raunchy and the jokes were a little practiced but the sights were pretty and we learned a little about Bruges. As we returned the bikes Brian got to chatting with one of the other couples – turns out they are from Denver and were on their honeymoon. Happy to share our anniversary with the newlyweds we headed off together to enjoy a late lunch. I had fun reliving our wedding and talking about proposals and love. It was sweet to see how the husband played with his wedding band, taking it on and off. I remember when Brian used to do that.
We have been so blessed by the wonderful people that have come into our lives during the past 11 months. I was just remarking to Brian how much this trip has opened my eyes to how good humanity can be. We had an amazing weekend and I couldn’t have asked for a better first anniversary.