Belgium

Lovely Bruges

After several days in Paris we traveled to Bruges via train. The lovely old-world charm of the city was evident to us upon our arrival at the train station. Bruges train station with tourists waitingBeige walls of Bruges train station with old paintingClose up of painting on Bruges train station wall

After checking into our Airbnb we took a walk through the Begijnhof (Beguinage), which used to be a home for the beguines – lay-women who sort of lived like nuns but did not take formal religious oaths. After a few minutes we ended up on this bridge, where I excitedly waved at tourists cruising along the canal.

 

DSCF1856

Walking a bit further led us to the Minnewater  Park and its highlight, the Lake of Love.

Triangular installation at Minnewater Bruges

The Triennale was ongoing, thus the presence of that triangular structure on the lake. Various installations could be found all over the city at the time.

Know more about Minnewater Park here.

DSCF1869Female tourist sitting on stone border of Minnewater Bruges

DSCF1885

As we walked around and saw bevies of swans, I started to wonder: Why are there so many of them in Bruges?

Female tourist looking at Swans and ducks in Minnewater

DSCF1879

There are no historical facts that can explain their presence. But there is a legend that tells the story of Maximilian of Austria, who wanted people to pay higher taxes back in the 15th century. Naturally nobody was happy about that and Maximilian, together with his advisor and good friend Sir Peter Lanckhals aka Longneck were captured. Longneck was beheaded and to avenge his death his friend decreed that swans were to be kept in Bruges lakes and canals.

DSCF1883DSCF1893DSCF1894

When we got our bearings we decided to go on a bicycle tour. It’s easy to find bikes for rent in the center. Cycling a good way to go around and see the sights and feel like a local. Plus, it’s a form of exercise, which you may need after all the frites and  chocolate.

Girl with headband on bicycle in cobblestone street

Coming from the Philippines where bicycle paths are virtually non-existent I was a bit afraid to cycle around town, given the presence of tourists and cars.  But I soon discovered I had no reason to be afraid because Bruges is such a bicycle-friendly place.

Girl with headband on bicycle in cobblestone street lined with trees

Old stone tower at the end of treelined path

Away from the center we saw some quaint canals and parks. We also saw the city’s old ramparts and gates. It’s more calm in these areas so when you want more peace, head here. Tree lined path for cyclistsAncient gate in Bruges BelgiumCanal lined with grass down the sides

Bruges used to have more windmills in the past, but now only four remain.

Red windmill on top of grassy hillWindmill on top of grassy hill

a treelined bicycle path from the point of view of cyclist

If you want to experienced traversing through the canals, a boat cruise is perfect. It’s not a very long one but it gives you a fresh perspective of the city. Our guide was helpful in pointing out notable buildings and establishments. And there’s something about going on the calm waters of narrow canals that’s very relaxing.

Tourists waiting to get on to a cruise boat in Bruges
The starting point of our cruise
The Dijver mansions
The Dijver mansions

The Half Moon Brewery facade of red brickOld buildings in front of tourists crusing Bruges canalThe Church of Our Lady, Bruges with tourists admiring it

The Church of Our Lady Bruges
The Church of Our Lady, Bruges is famous for its spire. It’s the tallest structure in the city.

Cruise driver informing touristsCouple in cruise with swans behind them

View of Half Moon Brewery Bruges
View of Half Moon Brewery Bruges

Old black house along canal in Brugesgirl with headband on a cruise in brugesThe heart of the city is the Markt or Market Square. There are many restaurants in the area but the more important centerpieces you can’t possibly miss are the belfry and the West Flanders court building.

 

DSCF1941DSCF1942Facade of Town Hall BrugesDSCF1945

Town hall of Bruges
The belfry

DSCF2156DSCF2158DSCF2159

The city can easily be toured by good old-fashioned walking. Even when you don’t know much about where you’re going it’s fine because the center is quite small.

Girl walking on a street in bruges
The street right outside our Airbnb

Girl looking through the glass window of wooden toy storeBrick buildings in BrugeAncient door of a church in bruges with the virgin sculpture on itSculpture of a moon with a brick church behind it

Weeping willow along a canal in Bruges

Gazebo with people dancing
We happened to see these people dancing at the park

Facade of a church in BrugesBrick buildings in Bruges

Belgium has a rich history when it comes to comic books. You’ll easily find a store that sells them or any related merchandise. Belgian comic booksmural of comic characters consisting of thiefs in yellow and black outfits

Tintin's red and white rocket painted on a wall
Tintin’s space rocket

And now we’ve come to one of the main reasons why I travel: FOOD! You’ll never go hungry in Bruges because there isn’t a shortage of restaurants, bars, shops, and cafes.

Let’s start off with the frite. We usually call deep-fried potato slices “French fries” but there’s actually some intrigue behind the history of the fry.  They say that it originated in some areas in Belgium where they had a practice of catching and deep-frying small fish; in winter the fish were replaced with potatoes. The confusion started when American soliders who got introduced to the frite called them “French fries” because they were in a French-speaking area of Belgium. And that’s just one of the stories explaining why the humbly fry’s origin has been misattributed to France.

DSCF2081

Eating Belgian fries is unique because of the assortment of sauces that they offer. Ketchup and mayonnaise are not the only options here: there’s curry ketchup, andalouse, and samurai to mention a few.

You’ll never get soggy fries in Belgium; they’re always the right thickness, made fresh and fried twice to get the right texture. They’re crispy on the outside yet soft on the inside.

DSCF2078

Of course you can’t come to Belgium without having a piece or two (or more) of their world-famous chocolates. You won’t be able to escape them even if you tried to; there’s an abundance of chocolate shops, even in a small city like Bruges.  The problem is always what to get and how many to get. DSCF2046DSCF2045DSCF2034

There’s so many kinds, all sorts of fillings and garnishes that it’s too difficult to choose! DSCF2035DSCF2037DSCF2036girl holding a purple paper bag with chocolatesDSCF1913Chocolate hardware toolsDSCF1852

You must not leave Bruges without having a cup of hot chocolate. It’s unlike any other cup you’ve ever had in your life.DSCF2004

The first level of The Old Chocolate house is a shop while the second is a quaint restaurant to eat in.

We were given huge cups of hot milk and our choice of chocolate tablets contained in chocolate cups. There were some complimentary sweets and small chocolate squares for eating. You can’t have too much chocolate!

DSCF2014
Even the cups are made of chocolate!

While the milk was hot, we dropped in the chocolate tablets and whisked until they were all melted. DSCF2026

Our brunch wouldn’t be complete without this waffle topped with powdered sugar, juicy strawberries, and chantilly. DSCF2023DSCF2021DSCF2020

You must have waffles in the country where they originated! Well, we did have waffles everyday in Bruges (and in Brussels too). I’ll tell you more about waffles in my Brussels post. DSCF2001

DSCF1923
This chantilly was so creamy and rich!

Another must-try dish in Bruges (and Belgium in general) is the moules frites or mussels with fries. The mussels are cooked (either by steaming them in their own juice or in wine) and served with fries. The succulent mussels will push you to power through a whole casserole of them, which is the usual serving size. DSCF1987

The carbonnade flamande is a Flemish stew made mainly with beef and beer. The meat is tender and the sauce slightly sweet.DSCF1984

DSCF1981
We had some soup and pate as starter

Honestly, I am not a beer drinker. But of course, I didn’t want to pass up the chance to try some famous Belgian beers. It’s fascinating how many different kinds and flavors there are! DSCF1983

DSCF1935DSCF1934DSCF1933DSCF1930DSCF1929

The 2Be Beer Wall shows you the wide variety of beers Belgium has to offer. DSCF1921DSCF1849DSCF1847

So there you have it, a short tour of Bruges. Our Belgian adventure continued as we moved on to Brussels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s