Dawn had barely touched the sky. I stood in the silence, trying to decide where the dragon had plunged into the sea. My boat drifted past islands and craggy cliffs born when the dragon of the gods, after gouging the mountains with his tail, plummeted into the sea. The foaming waves then rushed in to flood the devastation, creating Halong Bay.
Now these islands with their impossible peaks swim in a sea of emerald. Later that day I would find a floating village (complete with a school and a bar) hidden among the 3000 islands (or maybe 1500 islands, depending upon your sources). Elsewhere there are forgotten grottos, or islands with names such as The Two Hens or Tea Pot Island.
What struck me most was the way the sunlight danced across the water. It had been raining in Paris, and the rain had followed me as the train sped past windmills and back-roads lined with poplars decked in autumn finery. Old stone farmhouses sat in tilled fields of soft green.
Yet when I reached Bruges, in Belgium, the sun broke through the grey clouds. The whole city had emerged into the sunshine to promenade through this medieval city, or else pass by in horse and carriage.
To meander along the canals of Bruges is to step back into the Middle Ages. Willow branches tickle the water as swans drift grandly by. Stepped rooves zigzag against the sky in classic Flemish style. The canals, dressed by the fallen leaves of autumn, sparkle in the morning sun. Having a hotel room with a window opening onto a canal is delight. Continue Reading →