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Bruges honours its loyalist of tourists

Tourist mecca Bruges likes to honour its loyal visitors and this is what befell Paul Halliday, a 71-year-old Briton, who is arguably the city’s most faithful tourist.  He got a special welcome to Bruges city hall this week as well as a special guided tour of the building.

Paul first visited Bruges in 1960 and has repeated this experience over a hundred times. He told VRT how as a 9-year-old he fell in love with the city: “It was Easter and I was on an 8-day school trip.  I remember the Basilica of the Holy Blood, the canals as well as a picture of a man skinned alive: it made quite an impression on 9-year-old me! I also remember the architecture and religious images. Superb!”

Paul was able to revisit only in 1972: “My studies and work commitments got in the way. As soon as I could afford trips they came in swift succession.  We spent the weekend in Bruges, a whole week or even ten days.  No holiday was the same.  Every time we discovered something new”.

Paul can’t say how many trips he has made to Bruges, one of two regrets: the other is his failure ever to have learnt the local patois, Flemish.

“We travelled here by car, by coach, by train and even by bike.  We never managed to drop in by parachute though!”

“I have seen the town change.  I remember the market square full of cars.  It’s a good thing that was banned.  Bruges is a medieval city and cars don’t belong here!”

Paul also speaks of the rise of mass tourism: “It’s the price people who live in such a beautiful city have to pay.  I don’t believe it’s a disadvantage.  Tourism brings prosperity and jobs and as a rule that makes people happier”.

Radio 2

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