May 31 – Saturday. Today was to be the start of the bike/barge portion of the trip. We checked out of the Cordoeanier and loaded up a taxi with all our bags at 10 a.m. Gerry and I walked the 20 minutes to the bargeplein while Gordon and Darryl stuffed them selves in the cab to accompany the bags. We arrived just as they had finished unloading and putting all the bags on board but the Gandalf, our barge home for the next week, would not be ready for us until 2 p.m. so we spent the time wandering and checking out museums. At the Church of Our Lady, I forked over the €2 admission to see the Michelangelo Madonna and Child. I guess I never saw it last time in Bruges because I didn’t want to pay, since I remember being in the church (where Gail got pickpocketed) but don’t remember the statue. The sun was nice and warm and Darryl, Gerry and I hung out in the courtyard by the Four Horsemen while Donna did a quick tour through the Groeninge Museum. Then off for a waffle lunch, which seems to be our standard lunch for departing Bruges, and walk to the boat.
While passing through Berg Markt, we saw a large collection of gull-wing cars being lined up on display. It was the DeLorean Club of Belgium, with at least 2 dozen of their cars opened up for public viewing, including one equipped with a flux capacitor, plutonium chamber, cable hook and all the other accoutrements on a Back to the Future car.
Once we made it to the boat, we were introduced to the crew: Captain – Hans, Mates – Nick and Meyian, Cook – Pim, Guide – Thomas, and ship’s dog Jala, a large but docile Tibetan Mastiff. We were assigned our bikes, adjusted them to fit and took off for a short ride to Damme to check them out. We followed the same route as 2 years ago, there and back, and got back to the boat a few hours later for a fine supper. The bikes were all 8-speed, internal hub, with hand brakes and equipped with panniers. And heavy as hell. Not that that mattered much, seeing as the only elevation changes we would come across were the bridge and overpass ramps. As with all Dutch bikes, we sat very upright on cushy seats. After getting used to it, I found my bike quite comfortable and adequate for the distances we would be doing.
Rode 18 km