Handmade Belgium Lace Butterfly

Handcrafted lace butterfly. 1/2″ square, meant to be appliqued.

So far I’ve blogged about adventures in Scotland, England, and the Netherlands on my first trip to Europe.   I’m using the charms from a bracelet I assembled as we travelled.  Today we’re in Belgium.

Belgium to me means Brugge. I always loved medieval history and art; Brugge was the first real-life embodiment of it I ever saw. Of course, there were old buildings and monuments in England, but this was a complete town. Streets, canals, court houses. All from the 13th and 14th century. Someone slept in this house in 1322! People I never imagined used hand tools to shape these stones, to build this bridge. They lived 700 years ago, before Christopher Columbus was born.

It’s one thing to read about a time in the past and another thing to step into that time. Brugge is a UNESCO World History site, and with good reason. So what would make a good souvenir?

I learned Belgium is considered the cradle of lacemaking. In a shop a woman was making lace by throwing little wooden bobbins this way and that. (I have since read that lace took the place of embroidery on clothes – it was removeable and thus a woman could keep in fashion by changing her collar. ) In any case, I bought the lace butterfly applique. Mother, also in love with the lace, looked at her three daughters and decided to buy a wedding veil. I believe I was the only one to wear it. All the nieces are now married. I hope a cousin or grandchild or some relative in the future will choose to wear it. I promise it makes you feel like a medieval princess.

And of course, I bought a charm.

Netherlands – Delft Blue Shoe

A wooden shoe charm in delft blue.

Because one of the companies I worked for had an office in the Netherlands, I have been many times. My Dutch colleagues were fantastic – open and friendly. All of them spoke great English. One of them took me on a tour of the blooming tulip fields: great swaths of vibrant color. Not to be missed. But my first visit was with my family.

In Amsterdam we bought a Volkswagen bus. There were to be 6 of us and it made getting around more economical. I assume it was purchased on the continent so the driver would be on the correct side for driving at home. When we picked it up, there was a lesson in shifting: a four in the floor, but for reverse, you had to push down and slide the stick to the right. It was known to be tricky and the salesman patiently showed Daddy how to work it.

Away we went. Oh, look at that windmill over there. Let’s drive to it and take some pictures.

We got on a road that seemed to head in the right direction but no. The windmill receded. Daddy needed to turn around. No traffic. He pulled the bus across the road, which was bordered on both sides by canals, but couldn’t find reverse.

Suddenly, there was traffic. Cars stopped in both directions, not honking you understand, just blocked and gaping at the crazy Americans. We couldn’t pull forward (into a canal) and reverse was elusive. I believe there was some silent swearing (Daddy never swore out loud) and much sweating.

Finally a kind Dutchman got out of his car, into our bus, put it into reverse, and then led us to the windmill. A typical Dutchman, I might add. I do love that country!

English Charm – The Throne of Scone

English charm. I am working on a series about that family trip based on my charm bracelet. We started in Scotland, but I’ve already written about that. So, on to England.

This charm represents the throne on which English monarchs have been crowned since Edward I.
It’s a square cut, carved chair with a stone set under the seat. When I first saw it I thought it odd to crown a King sitting on a piece of rock. However, the “rock” is of symbolic importance: the Stone of Scone was used to crown Scottish monarchs. Edward I, with the picturesque moniker of Longshanks, stole it in 1296 and took it to Westminster as a symbol of his right to oversee the Scots.

In recent history, the throne has had a rough life. In 1910 a suffragette left her tnt-loaded purse hanging on the back of the chair where it exploded. (Understandably they wanted to vote – I can sympathize since those of us in DC can only vote for president. But I digress…) In 1950 it was stolen by some Scottish students, but eventually returned. (That escapade was made into a movie, “Stone of Destiny.”) In 1996, England sent it to Scotland and will only reclaim it for a coronation.

Let’s move on to scones of a different ilk: those you eat. While the family was in London, we wanted to have a typical British tea. We hadn’t eaten lunch and arrived ravenous at a hotel famous for the flamboyance of its tradition. The order was given. Tea was brought. Better than the tea, however, were the many little plates of “biscuits” and tarts and scones. We promptly ate everything in sight. On her return, waitress said, “Oh my.” We learned that a selection was placed before her customers, who usually ate one apiece. We greedy Americans had devoured the whole lot. Did we remember what she had brought? No! She counted the plates and charged us some sum. We were too happily sated to be embarrassed.

Sad that that on my first exposure to real castles and real museums, I remember the food. And the laughter. In recompense, I have been there many times since and have paid better attention.

Next we cross into the Netherlands for an adventure with a windmill and a VW bus…