BRUGES

 The colourful houses all in a row in Bruges market place.
The air is hot and rich with the scent of chocolate. Quite unlike the white powdery chocolate I knew as a boy, this has a throaty richness like the perfumed beans from the coffee stall on the market, a redolence of amaretto and tiramisù, a smoky, burned flavor that enters my mouth somehow and makes it water. There is a silver jug of the stuff on the counter, from which a vapor rises. I recall that I have not breakfasted this morning.
— JOANNE HARRIS - CHOCOLAT

A MIND MAP FOR INDULGENCE

The word indulgence can be complex - it denotes both the act of indulging - a pursuit of personal pleasure, and the act of giving indulgences - a pardon obtained from the Catholic church for ones sins. Not surprising, then, that we should have gotten the two meanings mixed up somewhere along the way.

Is it not common, when we think of indulgences, to think first of small guilty pleasures? The thought of indulging ourselves brings up a myriad of odd associations: delicious food, sin, bubble baths, repentance, self care, selfish acts, luxurious moments, guilt, and above all... chocolate!

I wish, here, to clear up the messy meanings of something that to me is so simple. In order to do so, we must look back the root meanings of the word...

INDULGENCE

inˈdəljəns | noun

 

1. From the Latin root indulgere, meaning = to give free rein to.

2. 17th century, the meaning shifted to include = to treat with excessive kindness

3. Current meaning = fulfillment, satisfaction, gratification, appeasement.

 

When I look at all these meanings in conjunction, what I see is not some messy act of guilty pleasure, but is instead a word for an act of self nurturing, bordering on mindful consumption, with an end point of fulfillment. 

That word, indulgence, ran through my mind once or twice when we visited Bruges.

 

My Most Vivid Memory from Bruges

sitting on a park bench, the evergreen shellac peeling off the wood, Oliver beside me, both of us watching the world go by as we passed a small chocolate back and forth...
The taste of that one chocolate will stay with me forever. I have cemented it in my memory, along with the moment.
It was green, too, although lighter than the bench. The colour denoted the contents, which were said to be 'cilantro and lime'...
I remember the way that first chocolate burst like an orange nodule, tangy and sharp, almost hurting my sleeping mouth, before the layers of flavours became apparent - bittersweet like a guava, pitted and grainy like blackberries, smooth as milk and soft as butter, the effect was a symphony, one part moving through to the next.
It was a moment that deserved my undivided attention. There is nothing I needed to do, right then, except be there, eating chocolate.

 

The whole of Bruges was like this - a feast for the senses. By awakening, opening, surrendering and focusing my attentions, I felt I could drink in the colours, imbibe impressions, and engage with the fabulous visions of the world around me, tasting the very essence of it all.

 

 Best chocolates in Bruges - Line chocolates.

... and a small map of places where one can indulge themselves ...

 

Taste:

- Chocolate at The Chocolate Line, Brugge.

- Waffles at Maison Albert.

- Beer from the Westvleteren Monastic Brewery

 

See:

- Michelangelo's Madonna and Child at the Church of Our Lady.

- The beauty of Bruges on foot, or by water.

 

Hear:

- A chorus of ducks at Minnewater Park.

- The slow click and creak of windmills along Kruisvest.

 

 The beautiful canals of Bruges - with small medieval houses on either side.
 Primroses in pots hung on a brick wall.
 Belgian fries - twice fried, extra crunchy, perfect.
 Colourful town houses in a row in the market place of Bruges.
 The best waffles in Bruges - from Chez Albert.
 The tower of Bruges - sparkling in the sun.
 Secret alleyways and small cottages in Bruges.
 Drinking a glass of Westvleteren beer at the Trappist monastery.
 Michelangelo's madonna and child in Bruges Church of Our Lady.
 The old town of Bruges - a boat leaves off the dock of the canal, by medieval houses.
 Windmills on the edge of the old town of Bruges - set upon green hills.
 Minnewater lake in Bruges - the lake of love.
 A bridge over a canal in Bruges.
 A painting of the crucifixion in Bruges Church of our Lady.
 Horse and carriage waiting in the market place.
 Candied oranges in the windows of Dumon chocolatier.
 A brick house with red shutters and a small boat in the canal.
 Dumon chocolates in a small box.