Tuesday, September 30, 2014

All-Ireland Hurling Final (Again)

Kilkenny and Tipperary played to a classic tie earlier this fall. On Saturday, both teams hit the field again to settle the affair... for good.

The two kept it close in the first half before historic hurling champs Kilkenny began pouring in the points (over the bar- 1 point) and goals (in the net- 3 points). Tipp scored a late goal to bring it close, but were unable to pull even before the final whistle blew and they were on the bad side of the scoreline.

Twitter again lit up with action from around Ireland and around the world, let's take a look at some of my favorites!

Also in GAA action this weekend, the Cork Ladies Gaelic Football team overcame a late deficit to defeat Dublin in Croke Park on Sunday. Congrats to all the men's and women's GAA champions this year.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Goodbye, Bruges!

After walking around the ring canal in Bruges, we had to head back to the city. The sun was setting, giving us some great new views of some of our favorite spots in the city.

Bruges Canal at Sunset
Bruges Canal at Sunset

Bell Tower at Sunset Bruges
Bell Tower at Sunset

Arched Alleyway Bruges
Arched Alleyway

Back in the old town center, we went to a recommended bar, t'Bruges Beertje. This place was incredible; they literally had a thick book of all the beers they served. Almost everything was in bottles, and the prices were great compared to those in Dublin. We didn't know where to start, so we chose beers from a few random breweries and hoped for the best... and we got the best.

Blurry Beers in Bruges
Blurry Beers

After the beers, it was late twilight and the churches and city buildings were brilliantly lit. I've noted before how much I love European-style lighting on historic buildings. They are difficult to photograph clearly, but I think we got some gems.

Flying Buttresses
Flying Buttresses

Gabled Roof on the Canal Bruges
Gabled Roof on the Canal

We had to catch the last train out of Bruges to Brussels and our hostel. It was late when we arrived, but we were more familiar and more confident with the city this time. For another great night view, we headed back to the Brussels main square for a peek at the lighting of those impressive buildings.

Brussels Square Tower
Brussels Square Tower

Pointy Spires
Pointy Spires

Brussels Town Square
Brussels Town Square

The next day would be our last in Belgium. We had a few hours of additional Brussels touring before catching our bus back to the airport.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Retro Saturday: Final Fantasy 5 Four Job Fiesta Run 12 Highlights

This is it! The last run of my 2014 Fiesta. It's been crazy fun, but now I have to move on to some new projects. I'll post them here next week, but you can follow my channels at the bottom of the page for more on my latest retro-game projects.

Let's get to some video highlights from Run 12!

Here, the boss Twintania is taken out by a very lucky death spell from the Assassin Dagger- a 1/3 chance- after several game overs.

As per usual, find my video game action on the following networks:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Dublin Park(ing) Day 2014

When I can, I like to find interesting and unique (don't forget free!) community events happening around Dublin. I can't think of any more interesting, unique, or free event this year to rival Dublin Park(ing) Day.

The idea of Park(ing) Day began in San Francisco, but a number of other youthful and hip cities have become part of the project. The idea is simple: turn a bunch of parking places into mini public parks for one day.

In Dublin, more than twenty spots around City Centre were sponsored by local businesses and organizations. I was able to visit four of them during in a little loop around my side of town.

Green Design Build Park(ing) Day Park Dublin 2014
Green Design Build Park(ing) Day Park

Green Design Builders set up a park with the theme of their eco-construction business. They set out beds of sedum- a green roofing cover plant- for visitors to lay on and enjoy. I sat down and read for a while as cars blasted by. They were setting out the Go board when I had to head over to the next park on my list.

Sedum and a Potted Palm at Park(ing) Day Dublin 2014
Sedum and a Potted Palm

In the busier St. Stephen's Green corner, several more parks were set up, but these were less chill-friendly and a bit more activist... Not that that's a bad thing. The mental health advocate group See Change had a mental health fairy tree, where passers-by could hang their messages and wishes. Just like the one in Marlay Park!

See Change Mental Health Fairy Tree Dublin Park(ing) Day 2014
See Change Mental Health Fairy Tree

An urban farm project group had on display an astonishing selection of bizarre heirloom potato varieties, all grown in the city.

Unusually-shaped potatoes at Dublin Park(ing) Day 2014
Scraggly Spuds

Last on my checklist was a potted-tree-lined mini park sponsored by the Irish political Green Party. They are campaigning for Dublin City Council to plant more trees in the more permanent public parks in the city. Sadly, their chairs were covered with giveaway swag, so I couldn't sit in the shade of a planter-grown tree.

Irish Green Party Trees Dublin Park(ing) Day 2014
Irish Green Party Trees

Thanks to the businesses and organizations who put in the time and effort to set up the parks this year, I hope to see many more of them next September!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dublin Oktoberfest 2014

There was lots of local press and hype for Oktoberfest Dublin 2014. What could be better, right? Beer? Sausage? Pretzels? Dublin? It was also free admission before 10pm, so I took a no obligation fact-finding trip up to George's Dock to check it out.

I got there early, shortly after they opened on the second day of this surprisingly long festival. As such, the party wasn't yet in full swing. The food and beer stands were open, but the entertainment tent was empty and quiet. 

Bavarian Maypole at Oktoberfest Dublin 2014
Bavarian Maypole

It was probably a good thing that none of the entertainment had fired up for the day, because I had made a vow to myself not to buy anything, including snacks and beer. I was immediately tested by the Haribo gummi cart and its staggering collection of chewy, Central-European treats...

Haribo Gummi Candy Oktoberfest Dublin 2014
Haribo Gummi Candy

Just like any festival, be careful of the prices, food and drinks were going for 6 Euro and up. Since

The festival runs until October 5 on George's Dock on the north bank of the River Liffey in Dublin, full schedule can be found on their website. When the entertainment tent is open, it looks like there are Bavarian bar games, costume contests, and other fun. 

For my cheapskate recommendation, I'd give it a peek during the free daytime hours with a very strict beer, sausage, and candy budget.

George's Dock Arch Decorated for Oktoberfest 2014
George's Dock Arch Decorated for Oktoberfest

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Collins Barracks Part 1: The Asgard

Just east of Phoenix Park is the largest National Museum in Dublin. It is also the most confusingly-named museum in Dublin. From what I gather, the museum is called the National Museum of Ireland: Decorative Arts and History. The location of said museum is a place called Collins Barracks. Some people just call the place Collins Barracks (as the military use of the compound greatly predates the modern museum), and sometimes the Collins Barracks is added to the end of the name as in, National Museum of Ireland: Decorative Arts and History (Collins Barracks) or National Museum of Ireland: Decorative Arts and History at Collins Barracks. Many other variations will also be used in different publications.

To further complicate the naming conventions, much of the history part of the museum is really military history. Ireland's anthropological, archaeological, and cultural history is largely held over at the fantastic National Museum: Archaeology. The decorative arts wing surely speaks for itself, but I'm not sure why they didn't call it the military history museum.

I was pulling my hair out when writing that chapter of my Dublin eBook. What should I call this thing? I finally settled on a name and took an exploratory trip out there. Because the museum is so large, I will be breaking the coverage up into three posts. Let's go!

First up, the newest permanent exhibit at the museum, the Asgard. Located in an old gymnasium just outside the square barracks themselves, this indoor luxury yacht display seems confusing at first.

...Until you read the provided background materials. This luxury yacht and several others were used to run guns from Germany to Ireland in 1914. 

Bow of the Asgard Collins Barracks Dublin, Ireland
Bow of the Asgard 

This yacht belonged to Irish Volunteers supporter Erskine Childers, and he offered up the boat for the gun-running operation to Howth, just north of Dublin City. The guns? 900 40-year-old German Mausers left over from the previous Franco-Prussian war. The Germans were happy to sell off their old inventory to help fund their own new war effort, and Ireland couldn't be choosy about their guns while planning the 1916 Easter Rising. These old rifles were woefully outdated compared to the British arms, but the plucky fighters were able to take advantage of the longer range of these slow rifles in urban and guerilla conflict.

The Howth gun-running adventure on the Asgard produced one of my favorite Irish photographs. Below, Molly Childers and Mary Spring Rice enjoy the sun on the deck of the Asgard while casually holding these old German rifles.


Today, the Asgard is at rest in a very well-presented exhibit at the museum. The boat itself, according to the interpretive materials, was almost completely disassembled and restored before being rebuilt inside this old gymnasium. Like building a full-sized ship in a building-sized bottle.

Stern of the Asgard Collins Barracks Dublin, Ireland
Stern of the Asgard

Around the boat, a series of ancillary exhibits give more context to how important this mission was to the early stages of the Rising in 1916. A few displays of the actual Mausers, ammunition, and uniforms worn by the Volunteers help tell the story. Most interesting among them may be the wood Mauser replicas used by the Volunteers for training while they waited for the guns to come in. These rebels were so poorly equipped that they had no choice but to use these phony guns for drilling. 

...And they were still planning to take on the mighty British military? Madness!

Raised Walkway for Easy Viewing of the Asgard Collins Barracks Dublin, Ireland
Raised Walkway for Easy Viewing

Port Side of the Asgard Collins Barracks Dublin, Ireland
Port Side of the Asgard

The yacht can be seen on all sides from ground level and from a convenient raised platform built at ship's-deck-level. Visitors can see the rigging, the wheel, and just a little bit of the rooms belowdecks.

The Wheel and Belowdecks Entrance on the Asgard Collins Barracks Dublin, Ireland
The Wheel and Belowdecks Entrance

Now that we've seen the Asgard, let's take a look into the main Collins Barracks complex...

Collins Barracks Inner Courtyard
Collins Barracks Inner Courtyard

...Next time!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Kerry Knocks off Donegal in the Gaelic Football Final

It's still All-Ireland season here, and the GAA action is still rocking the whole island. The men's Hurling Final ended in a tie and will be replayed, but not before the men's Gaelic Football final pitting historical favorites Kerry against far-flung Donegal.

I wasn't able to catch the match live, but I did have the chance to scroll back through the Twitter history to get the real-time report from Irish folks around the country. For those thrown by the some of the words and references, here's a mini glossary:

The Kingdom- Nickname for Co. Kerry
Hon- It means "on" or, "go" as in "Go Donegal"
Sam- Name of the trophy going to the winning team, the Sam Maguire Cup
Mon- Short for "Come on"
D- Short for "The"
Croker- Croke Park, Dublin's historic home stadium of the GAA
Dun Na nGall- Irish name for Co. Donegal
Ulster- One of the four provinces of Ireland. Ulster includes the six counties of Northern Ireland and the northwestern counties of the Republic, one of which is Donegal.
Jaysus- Alternative pronunciation of "Jesus," originally made famous in the book The Bible.
Shite- Irish polite way of saying sh*t. If you reverse the vowel sound (or add an "e" in text), it's not as dirty! See also: feck

Let's hear what they had to say!

If you couldn't tell by the Twitter highlights, Kerry won a close match. The game overall was a low-scoring, grind-it-out match, leading to many upset viewers. The "Blanket Defense" prevents many of the exciting plays and high scores that fans so enjoy.

...But don't try to tell the Kerry fans there was anything wrong with the game!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Canal Walking in Bruges

After a walking tour of the historic squares of Bruges, we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the various canals and bridges of the city. We all know about the canals in Venice, and Amsterdam has its share of symmetrical canals, too. I didn't know before this trip that Bruges is also a heavy-hitter when it comes to canals.

The canals were built to help support the trading economy in this once commercial hub. Today, they are mostly full of tourist cruises and endless charm.

Bruges Canal
Bruges Canal

Luckily for Bruges visitors, most of them are lined with streets or walkways on at least one side, letting the dedicated walkers among us explore for hours uninterrupted.

Canal Corner, Bell Tower on the Right Bruges, Belgium
Canal Corner, Bell Tower on the Right

Sometimes, there are no walkways, and buildings come right up to the water's edge. The view from the windows of these (residences?) must be amazing.

Buildings up to the Edge of the Canal Bruges, Belgium
Buildings up to the Edge of the Canal

Some Lucky Person's Patio on the Canal in Bruges, Belgium
Some Lucky Person's Patio

After a long afternoon of canal-walking, we stopped in to a fast food restaurant cafe for more Bruges beer and a pot of mussels with fries.

Straffe Hendrik and Brugse Zot Beer Bruges, Belgium
Straffe Hendrik and Brugse Zot Beer

After our seafood, we struck out beyond the heart of the city to see the larger ring canal around the old town and the four remaining Low-Country windmills still standing on the city's edge.

Obligatory Cory-Looking-at-the-Water Shot Bruges, Belgium
Obligatory Cory-Looking-at-the-Water Shot

If we'd planned to stay a night in Bruges, we would have rented bicycles to pedal around the fantastic trail around and out of Bruges to the countryside. As it was, we had to stick to our feet on the ring canal. The windmills are open to visitors for a cost, but we were happy just enjoying them from the grass in the lengthening shadows.

Ring Canal Windmill Bruges, Belgium
Ring Canal Windmill

Two of the Remaining Windmills
Two of the Remaining Windmills

Beyond the ring canal was what we assumed to be the real city- the part where people actually live and work. Being the unashamed tourists we were, we made our way back into the old city as the sun set for a taste of some more Belgian beer and some nighttime photos.

Bruges Canal at Sunset
Bruges Canal at Sunset

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Final Fantasy 5 Four Job Fiesta Run 11 Highlights

Two more FJF runs to cover, that means I have to get streaming a new project, and soon! Run 11 stuck me with an amazing FF5 job combo: Beastmaster and Blue Mage. As you all know, Blue Mages learn skills from enemies, but must be targeted and hit with the learnable abilities. Beastmasters learn the command !CONTROL, which allows the player to manipulate enemies and use their abilities.

This normally understated ability let me learn a number of defensive Blue Mage abilities that normally are impossible or very difficult to learn, relying on confusing monsters with the Dancing Dagger or some other such tedious nonsense.

There are also a number of other instances where we get to have some fun with !CATCH/RELEASE and !CONTROL. On with the highlights, including some gifs from Gyfcat!

A Released Dragon Avis does 9999 to all parts of Neo

Neo Final Killshot

As per usual, find my video game action on the following networks:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Caving in County Clare

We saw an announcement for a free caving trip in our go-to Dublin Event Guide and couldn't resist finding out more. The Dublin Caving Group was trying to raise awareness of the Irish caving hobby and had arranged for equipment and guides for a beginner caving adventure under The Burren in County Clare, on the northwest Atlantic coast of Ireland.

We were heading out early on a Sunday morning, and Dublin was foggy and quiet when we made it up to City Centre.

Foggy Dublin, Ireland
Foggy Dublin

This was our first real trip to the west side of the country, and we were going to The Burren, one of the most unique and beautiful landscapes on this already unique and beautiful island. After a long trip from Dublin to Galway and south to our meeting point in Lisdoonvara, we donned our caving gear and prepared to hop into the cave.

Cory and Sara, Ready for Caving Poll na Grai, The Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland
Cory and Sara, Ready for Caving

I couldn't resist taking a few photos of the hills around the cave entrance. We were just up a small hill from the Atlantic, and the Aran Islands were clearly visible even through the haze and fog.

A Lane in The Burren, Aran Islands in the Distance Co. Clare, Ireland
A Lane in The Burren, Aran Islands in the Distance

 We didn't take the camera into the cave for awesome cave photos. It wouldn't have held up to the water, mud, and tight squeezes down there. By the time we left the cave, we were glad we didn't drag our poor camera through what we had just been through. I did find some great photos of the same cave from this excellent blog post and will insert some of them here. Remember these aren't pictures of or by us- just the same cave.


The cave we explored is called Poulnagree in English, which comes from the Irish Poll na Grai, which translates to "Cave of the Heart" or, "Heart Cave." The entrance was in a willing farmer's field on a steep hillside. We turned on our headlamps and climbed in with our team.

The first part of the cave was wide enough and tall enough to walk through comfortably... but it wasn't like that for long. Soon, we were squeezing through narrow passages, climbing over gaps by bracing ourselves to the walls on our way to a couple of large caverns the leaders had marked as our goal.

The first cavern (called an "aven" in caving terms, we learned) was amazing. The ceiling was so high it was almost out of sight. Our leaders said the top of this room was about 30 meters above the floor, this huge room after such a tight squeeze and climb! Water was dripping down in this room at the rate of a heavy rain, and our leaders said that in a wet week, there were proper waterfalls gushing down the walls and from the ceiling... not sure if that would be for me...


Farther in from that big aven, our leaders wanted us to experience a real cave crawl, through a tunnel so short and so narrow that cavers have to go through on hands and knees. In we all went in a line around a couple of bends. Then, just to give us all a really exhilarating experience, we turned around to face back to the entrance and turned off our lights.

We were to try to navigate back through this crawling space with no lights. They say it's dark in caves, and they are right. Cavers talk about the total lack of light photons in caves, and they are right. I don't think I've ever experienced a complete lack of light, where blinking doesn't change your vision at all and you can literally not see your hand waving in front of your own nose. It was quite a thrill, but we all made it out of the crawl and were able to turn on our lights for the long walk back to the surface.


After the long climb/crawl/squeeze/walk back to the surface, it was almost disappointing to step out into the hot sun- especially with our layers of cave clothing and protective over suits and helmets. To help ease our pain, the whole cave group was set to rendezvous at a pub in nearby Fanore village.

After such an intense and grueling afternoon, it one of the best pints I've ever had.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mussels in Honor of Iowa

It had been a long and busy week, and we were looking for something special to eat before watching the Iowa/Iowa State game. The six-hour time difference is a bit inconvenient, but we make the most of it by eating a big meal before the game, which is harder for our Midwestern friends and family at 11 a.m. Yet somehow, we American football fans are always able cram in as much (or more) food and beer than we can handle before a game at any time.

We had a jug of (almost expired) heavy cream in the freezer and I always have plenty of homemade hard cider on hand, so I decided to grab some fresh mussels from Molloy's in Donnybrook, my main seafood source.

I started putting my plan together. Normally we have mussels with white wine and French bread, but I wanted to keep this cheap, and I had all day to put this together. We had really loved having mussels with French fries in Belgium (called moules frites) and I have been honing my potato frying skills lately.

I decided to be safe and go with both carb sources.

Fries in for the First Dip in Oil
Fries in for the First Dip

Bread for Sauce Shlurping
Bread for Sauce Shlurping

Having only one saucepan like we do, some careful planning was required for a complex meal like this. Like I've done so many times here, I put together a careful pan schedule, making good use of a warm oven to keep the first foods warm while making the next round. 

I gave the fries the first dip while I cut up the aromatics for the mussel sauce.

Onion, carrot, and celery for mussels
Mussel Aromatics

When the potatoes were finished with the first fry (floating in the oil and starting to brown), I removed them from the oil and kept the heat cranked to high. After a probably-too-short rest, they went back in for the crisping dip. Irish and English chips don't seem to get this second dip treatment, because they must prefer a thick, soft fry to a thin, crispy one. Just a regional preference, I suppose.

The finished fries came out of the oil, and I had to use a brewing trick to get the oil to a safe temperature for pouring from the saucepan. I put a few inches of ice water in the sink and set down the blazing-hot, oil-filled saucepan into the cold water. My oil thermometer told me right away that my plan had worked! The oil was cool enough to strain and save in a few minutes.

Now for the hard part. Into the same saucepan went some butter and aromatics while I cleaned and debearded all the mussels. Some recipes instruct the cook to individually scrape off all of the small barnacles that grow on some of the mussel shells with a little pick. That's much too much work for me, so I just let them go with a good scrub and a beard pull.

When the vegetables were cooked, I threw in the garlic for a few seconds before throwing in about a cup of hard cider. Once the cider had cooked down a bit, I threw in the mussels- just until they opened. Once the shellfish were done, I pulled them all out and finished the sauce with the cream. As soon as the creamy sauce was hot, it was ready to do with the fresh bread and french fries. Served with mayonnaise and ketchup, of course!

Good thing the food was good, because the Iowa game was a difficult-to-watch disaster.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New eBook Chapter and Updates

Now that the content of the eBook is growing, I've run into some of the first editorial roadblocks of travel book writing. When this project started, I was writing whatever I felt was most appropriate for any specific area of Dublin. Some areas would work best as a mapped and guided walking tour, some as a list-followed-by-a-paragraph, some as a more long form traditional book chapter.

When putting together my latest chapter covering City Centre North, I had to do some real reflection about what kind of format to use so that the book may one day be a coherent single piece instead of the broken bits it is as it trickles out of me. I had to finally start writing a style guide for myself so that I could at least get my dates, times, and weblinks consistent even if the chapter format changes depending on my mood when I wrote it.

The rest of these issues I will have to face as the book grows and grows, but for now, I have updated each of the previous chapters with a few minor style changes and uploaded and linked the latest versions on the eBook page. Whenever I make an adjustment, I will upload and re-link the latest version, so for that reason I will only link to each article on the main eBook page of the blog so I don't have to track down older pages to update.

See the new chapter and the latest versions of all the other on the Free Dublin eBook page of the blog.

Feedback is always welcome through the Contact page of the blog.

Thanks for all your continued patience and encouragement!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Booterstown Wildlife Preserve

Dublin City, like any city, can be a grimy, loud, stinky, mess. Human settlements so often destroy the quiet, clean peace of the natural systems in favor of our own little conveniences and necessities like buildings and roads.

But Nature herself has her share of grimy, loud, and stinky ecosystems that are vital habitat for many species of plants and animals. In one such place, the Irish conservation board An Taisce has taken control of a rare coastal fresh-and-saltwater wetland to preserve it for the unique species living there.

It all starts at the Booterstown DART station in South County Dublin. Booterstown is a small neighborhood between the larger Merrion area to the north and Blackrock to the south. 

Booterstown Train Station Dublin, Ireland
Booterstown Train Station

On the above embedded map, the marsh extends southeast from the train station along the tracks for (maybe) a half-mile. The marsh originally formed when the railway was built here in the 19th century to connect Dublin with nearby Dun Laoghaire. The railway was built on reclaimed land built with topsoil and sediment. When the railway engineers built up the railbed, water at high tide was still flooding this area. 

They built a water control system to keep this area dry. When it inevitably failed in the 20th century, saltwater began mixing with the fresh water springs that flow into the sea here. This created the unique salt marsh habitat right in the middle of the city.

An Taisce noticed that rare species of salt and freshwater tolerant plants and animals were establishing themselves here. Since the 1970s it has been run and protected by An Taisce.

I did some exploratory poking around to see it for myself. Much of the preserve is (understandably) not easily accessible to pedestrian meddlers like me. The best access that I found was on the northwest side of the park, just east of the Booterstown train station.

Booterstown Marsh, Howth Head in the Background Dublin, Ireland
Booterstown Marsh, Howth Head in the Background

It is difficult to capture with the camera, but I have been there when the tide is high, low, flowing, and ebbing. A drain on the lower end of the park allows seawater to enter or drain from the park without the raised railbed interfering. I don't know if this pipe allows fish to pass through, but there are a number of unidentified fish of decent size in the water here when the tide is in.

The marsh is also home to many species of freshwater and saltwater birds, some of which have very specific habitat needs on migration routes.

Beautiful Salty Mud Booterstown Marsh Dublin, Ireland
Beautiful Salty Mud

Well done, An Taisce, for recognizing the need to protect such an unattractive piece of habitat. The birds, fish, and I thank you!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bruges: Market Square and Burg Square

After our brewery tour, we were feeling good and ready to explore more of the city. It was now late morning and the day was beginning to warm up. The first stop was Market (Markt) Square, home of Bruges' famous Bell Tower.

Bruges Bell Tower, Belgium
Bruges Bell Tower

...But the tower isn't the only thing to see in the square. The old public trading post is ringed with these classic northern-european gabled (steppy) building fronts and bright colors.

Bruges Market Square Belgium
Bruges Market Square

Before braving the 300+ steps of the Tower, we needed a snack. Luckily, touristy towns like Bruges are always full of handy food carts selling local favorites. For us, it was fries and mayonnaise!

French fries and mayonnaise in Bruges, Belgium
"They drown 'em in that s**t!"

The cart was tourist-friendly, so a number of other toppings were available, like malt vinegar, ketchup, and curry sauce. We stuck with the warm mayo pumped from a large bag in the street cart. Mmmmmm...

Refreshed, we were ready to take on the Bell Tower steps. It wasn't easy, but we've climbed towers like this before.

Bell Tower Innards Bruges, Belgium
Bell Tower Innards

The steps were tough, but the payoff was great! The view of Bruges was amazing, and the weather was cooperating with mostly clear conditions. The only downside was that being inside the Bell Tower, we couldn't see the Bell Tower. Oh, well.

Bruges Steeples seen from the Bell Tower
Bruges Steeples

Red Roofs as Far as the Eye can See! Bruges Belgium
Red Roofs as Far as the Eye can See!

Bell Tower... Bell Bruges Belgium
Bell Tower... Bell

Canal Below the Bell Tower Bruges Belgium
Canal Below the Bell Tower

While we were in the top level, the top of the hour struck and the bells began to ring. It was LOUD LOUD LOUD but pretty neat. The quarter hours were short jingles, but the hour mark was a two-minute piece that banged away while we watched. I smiled at a number of other folks filming the whole thing on smartphones and wondered what kind of sound quality those little mics could pick up... assuming the incredibly loud bells didn't shatter the diaphragms.

After the Bell Tower and Market Square, we headed over to Burg Square, another old center of commerce in this once-great trading port.

Bruges City Hall
Bruges City Hall

This in another of of those "Turn 360 degrees and see all the awesome buildings, monuments, and crowds of tourists" squares. Luckily, we could see the tip of the Bell Tower over the gabled storefronts in the square- and the crowds, oh the crowds.

Bell Tower from Burg Square
Bell Tower from Burg Square

Old Recorder's House Bruges, Belgium
Old Recorder's House

We finished Burg Square with a look inside the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The church has on display a relic, a phial of dried blood reported to be Christ's own. It was given to Bruges by a Crusader who brought it back from Jerusalem, and has been housed here ever since. 

The line to see the blood was long, so we just took a cruise through the rest of the sanctuary.

Basilica of the Holy Blood Upper Chapel Bruges Belgium
Basilica of the Holy Blood Upper Chapel

Whew! After a morning of walking through a brewery, climbing and descending 300+ steps, and marveling at the unique buildings in the squares, we were ready for a break. Then, more walking!