Some of you have had the dubious pleasure of breakfasting with William on a bad day. He’s sullen, dictatorial, incapable of being pleased. Well, yesterday was a very bad day. He didn’t want to get out of bed, despite the fact that he had taken a bath and retired early the night before. He complained every step of the way down to breakfast. I gave him coffee with what might have been creamer – it was in the pitcher next to the coffeepot but looked a little more beige than milk. He said it tasted horrible. I switched my own coffee, made with what was definitely warm milk, with his, and that was acceptable. He complained that he had a terrible headache, so I said he could have an ibuprofen as soon as he had some food in his stomach. There were mini pains au chocolat (chocolate croissants), which have been a fairly safe bet so far, so I gave him one & he tried & lamented that it tasted horrific. Hmm, pain au chocolat tastes horrific? What’s wrong with this picture? He whined that his head hurt. He had a sore throat. He needed to spit. And the next thing we knew he was losing his breakfast on the patterned carpet of the Hotel Aragon. I tried to shepherd him up to our hotel room; he got sick in the elevator as well. Finally he lay down in bed and accepted a cold washcloth over his eyes.
By this time it was nearly 9:00, and checkout was at 11. Alan had been planning to take the boys for a canal tour that morning while I checked out another museum, and then we were on to Brussels, an hour away by train. But how were we going to transport a child this sick? Would one of us have to stay behind with him in Bruges while everyone else went on to Brussels?. Alan asked the front desk clerk to extend our checkout time for that room, and she gave us until 12:30. Alan and Sharon went out with Alexander, I headed for the Memling museum at Sint-Janshospitaal, and Mitchell stayed with William; I promised I would be back by 11 and we could switch off.
I was hoping to see three works by Memling at the Sint-Janshospitaal. I had structured a whole lecture around one of them, contrasting his St. Ursula Shrine with Carpaccio’s St. Ursula cycle in Venice. But I had never seen the shrine in person.. And when I teach northern Renaissance, I also show his St. John Hospital Altarpiece and the stunning Maarten van Nieuwehove diptych. Everything else was gravy. And there was a lot of gravy. There were cool medieval liturgical objects and a section devoted to medical history – lots of interesting objects to draw if one had the time & the inclination. The Memlings were beautiful, and there were four more than I was expecting, including a lovely portrait of an unknown woman and two small triptychs. Unfortunately the reverse of the wings was not well enough illuminated for me to see if St. Wilgefortis was depicted with a beard (the miracle that kept her from having to marry and spoil her virginity). The ticket also included admission to the hospital pharmacy, where you could imagine the sisters brewing up concoctions for their patients. I wondered what they might give William.
Out of time, I hurried back to the hotel to find William just waking up (I did bring him some mint tea) and Mitchell content to keep chilling in the hotel room with him, so I rushed off to see the cathedral and its treasury where I did a hasty drawing of a 13th C Limoges bishop’s crozier featuring a figure handing his or her head to an ecclesiastic. I would have said St. Denis, but the head had long hair. A mystery. Back at the hotel, William had recovered enough to be poking his brother and extorting foot rubs. But when he was asked to sit up & get ready to leave, I thought it was all over. Tears. “I can’t.” “I’m not going to be able to walk.” He’d kept the tea down & a cookie, though, & we urged him into his shoes and out of the room. We walked slowly down the street to a gorgeous square where we found a restaurant. We told him he did not have to eat if he didn’t feel like it. He did want one of our cheese croquettes, though, and two iced teas, and he poached fries off of everyone’s plates. And that was it. He was recovered. He was fine.
We taxied to the station (Mitchell biked), got all our bags out, & got tickets for Brussels. Getting all our luggage onto the train was a challenge, but we managed, then arrived at the right station (of 3 possible Brussels choices) and took a cab to our hotel. Mitchell’s directions to the hotel were from a different station, but he decided to bike anyway and figured it out just fine.
I could chat with the cab driver. We are in a unique small hotel – each room has an international theme instead of a number. Ours is Saigon, and the boys are in Istanbul. It’s on a plaza that was once a fish market and that is now covered by open-air seafood restaurants. Very Parisian and totally charming. We ate out of doors at a restaurant our hotel manager recommended but where the only choice for vegetarians was exactly what we’d had for lunch, cheese croquettes & salad or cooked vegetables. Oh, and french fries. Alan had escargot; Alexander ordered fish soup. Everything was very good, and we love the energy of all the outdoor restaurants.