The bank stuff was all fine in the end. We've been away for a few days as you might have guessed, and there was a veritable doormat's worth of post for us on our return yesterday evening, almost all in connection with ISAs and whatnot!
So yes, we've been away, specifically for a midweek break to Bruges with my parents. For some time we'd been pondering taking them away somewhere nice, and after our success of going to Paris the November before last, decided that a trip on the Eurostar to Bruges could be spot on, and having consulted with them at Christmas, went ahead and booked it up. Just two nights, but that was two nights in a reasonably decent four-star hotel, and pretty close to the best of the sights of the city - not that anywhere is really too far, in what must be one of the more compact cities of the world, so we mainly toured on foot.
We decided that going into London was going to be a hassle and expensive, so instead parked up at Ashford in Kent and picked up the train from there. Pretty straightforward journey from start to finish, although the signs in Brussels could have been a little clearer for finding our connecting train, and there was a momentary panic thanks to the bilingual naming of the station - "midi" and "zuid" being one and the same! We could have walked it from Bruges railway station to our hotel but the taxi rank was there, and... well, it made sense.
We had Tuesday evening, the whole of Wednesday and most of Thursday to spend in the city, and that turned out to be about right for our levels of energy and our preferences of what to see and do. To a large extent we simply walked around and absorbed the whole feel of the city, with its unspoilt architecture, peaceful canals and interesting history. We didn't actually go into that many museums etc in the end, apart from anything because the weather was so gorgeous from start to finish - if a tad cold! Highlights were going on the recommended canal trip, a lovely way to see the most historic parts of the city, and climbing the 366 steps up the Belfry, a huge tower with an impressive 47-bell carillon and spectacular panoramic views. But it was also very good to get out of the historic quarter, to the larger canal that encircles the city, with its open spaces, windmills, city gates and drawbridges - the latter seen in action - and calling at a couple of interesting museums on our way back to the centre.
Of course we couldn't go to Belgium without good food and drink being involved, and although it took some searching to find the best deals we certainly did all right in the end. We tried to be vaguely traditional in our tastes, so chose local sounding dishes and brews where possible - apart from the pizza I had at lunch yesterday, while the others had more appropriate omelettes. Most of the desserts we had were included in set meals and a little basic, but we insisted that we should have waffles at some point, and that turned out to be our grand finale at lunch yesterday, before we shopped for a few chocolates for presents, collected our bags from the hotel and caught the bus back to the station.
The journey home yesterday was altogether a bit more tiring but still just as simple, probably mainly because we were all quite shattered from the walking. My parents had come down on the Monday, and went home earlier today, so that made a nice week away for them, and it was good to spend quality time with them in a completely different setting. Indeed I realised as we were on the train home that it was in fact the first time I had ever been away abroad with them. We could never be quite sure what they would make of it all, being more country people than townies, but they were enthralled from start to finish, and I would hope it won't be the last opportunity we get to do something of that ilk.
And nice that we've still got the weekend before work need trouble us again!