During a recent visit to Bruges, Belgium I found myself wandering around the city. I hesitate to call myself lost, especially in a city as small as Bruges and given my generally excellent sense of direction. Rather, I’ll chock it up to my usual approach aimlessly of ambling through historic cities while enjoying the various surprises that await me. On a typical day, this usually includes a surprise run-in with a lazy cat, the discovery of a scrumptious eatery, or the crumbling remains of a beautiful UNESCO world heritage site. So, it was with some interest that I found myself standing on a bridge over one of Bruges’ many canals facing a small army of Belgian police. With a harmless smile and upraised eyebrow I inquired what the event was. I was quickly and politely informed that the police, and a few thousand folks standing shoulder-to-shoulder along the fall-kissed canal behind them, were waiting to see the Belgian King and Queen who were visiting the city. They were due to float by on a canal tour in the next few moments.
While I lack the adoration for royalty that my Danish friends and the Belgians harbor – who can pass up the opportunity to see a King and Queen up close? So, I found myself a small niche sandwiched between an older gentleman with some 15 or 20 war medals pinned to his suit coat, an old woman who appeared to have a slight mustache, a crop of young children, and an aged tree with golden leaves. We waited some 5 minutes or so before King Philippe of Belgium and his wife Queen Mathilde floated by with a smattering of local officials. Though, unfortunately, largely cut from the photo there was also a woman who had an absolutely fantastic outfit and hat on.You can just see her face and a hint of the hat in the photo above. It reminded me of the fabulous hats worn to formal events and days at the races. Not to be out done, another member of the royal party – I presume an adviser of some sort (not in the photo), had on one of the most fantastic old-world hats I’ve ever seen outside of a museum.
The Belgians generally seemed to adore the nobles and for their part both the King and Queen seemed to be genuinely friendly, open, and sociable folks who were happy to be there and were enjoying the moment.
It just goes to show – you never know what your day will bring!