Monday, September 6, 2010

Bruges, Beautiful Bruges

We arrived in Bruges Tuesday afternoon about 1pm, after a lovely relaxing train ride from Paris.  Total trip time was about 2 and 1/2 hours, with a line change in Brussels. 

As our train came into Bruges, we could see it was a special place.  It is an ancient medieval town, dating back to the 8th century.  Much of the architecture from the  12th -16th century has been retained, and it is stunning.  It is so different from  beautiful  Paris, and the architecture is fascinating.  The core of the old town centers around the market square, and it is wonderful:

There are several old churches, of course.  The biggest church, Our Lady Cathedral, is undergoing restoration on it's tower, but we did tour the interior.   This church building dates from the 13-15th century, and has the second tallest brick tower in the world.  It is currently undergoing restoration, and is under wraps-so no picture to show you.  It was very interesting, but we both had the oddest feeling there, hard to describe--but it seemed to have a dark feeling, unlike any other church we have visited on this trip.  Maybe it was the many tombs of old rulers?  We can't quite figure it out!

The other very old church is St. Salvator cathedral, and it is right across from our hotel--in fact it's right outside our window!  Our hotel was once part of the church, and was a residence for the clergy.  Here's our wonderful view:

The parish of St Salvator dates back to the 9th century, and parts of this cathedral building date from the 12-13 century.  It is a beautiful old church, both inside and outside.  We love to hear the church bells ring every hour!

The streets of this amazing town are, of course, narrow and winding, and paved with cobblestones.  Each building seems to have it's own character--the same pointed roof facade, but with different architectural details.  Here are a few of our favorites:

After we settled into our hotel, we were starving--so we set out in search of a place for lunch.  We found a nice sidewalk cafe, and both ordered their local specialty--moules y frites--musseles and fries.  I ordered the mussels in white wine, and David tried the mussels in Belgian beer.  Both were delicious, and we agreed this was one of our favorite meals so far.  Look at this pot of mussels:

I asked the waiter for some ketchup for my fries--and he laughed!  They eat some really weird stuff on their fries here--mayonnaise, tarter sauce, etc.  We also had a couple of different Belgian beers--they really know how to make great beer in Belgium.  We finished every last one of those delicious mussels, paid our tab (gasp!!) and set off to explore this wonderful town. 

 We wandered for several hours, as usual exploring little side streets.  We managed to get ourselves thoroughly lost, even with a map!  We eventually found our way back to our hotel, and asked the nice, helpful young lady at the front desk for a dinner reccomendation.  She suggested a small bistro out of the main tourist area, "The Hobbit".  It sounded just like the kind of restaurant we'd like, and we managed to find it without getting lost.  We looked the menu over, and both decided on the rib dinner.  Strange choice, I know, but we both wanted something plain after all that rich food in Paris.  Unfortunately, they were the worst ribs we have ever had, and our waitress was super crabby, but the wine was good!  We met another American couple from Portland, Oregon and enjoyed visiting with them.  Small world!

Back to our hotel for a good nights sleep--it had been a really long day!

Wednesday was our full day in Bruges.  We started with a great breakfast at our hotel (included!) --they really put out a delicious spread.  Soon we were back out on the very interesting streets of Bruges, armed with a map!  This time we left the core tourist area and wandered several blocks into a neighborhood, complete with their local baker, butcher and interesting little shops.   It was nice to escape the throngs of (other) tourists, and we really enjoyed this part of our day. 

We walked back over the canal (one of many canals in Bruges) and back into the market square.  Here's a picture of the canal, they are all very pretty, with pretty houses and gardens lining both sides:

We had decided to do something very touristy in the afternoon--we took a horse and buggy ride around town!  The driver, a nice young lady, gave us a running commentary on the history of Bruges.  It was delightful!  Here we are:

The rest of the afternoon was spent searching out the best chocolate shops--and we had MANY to choose from.  Now, my friends know that chocolate is not really my favorite--but there is chocolate, and then there is Belgian chocolate!  It is wonderful chocolate, and I'd be too embarrased to admit how many we ate!  Right up there with that French butter!

I had also wanted to try a traditional Belgian waffle--but we found that most places had them "pre-made", and that didn;t seem too authentic to me.  We finally found one that made them fresh--and I was ready!  The really difficult decision--what to have as a topping?  Powdered sugar?--Nah, that's too much like a funnel cake.  I chose the caramel topping and it was really good!

David wanted to go to the local brewery, "De Halve Mann".  We got our our trusty map, and promptly got lost again!  We eventually found it,  and it was a big brewery set in a centuries old building.  The courtyard was beautiful, and the beer was really great! 

 A little more exploring, this time we visited the St. Salvators cathedral by our hotel.  The interior was beautiful, and there was a man playing harp music that just filled the church with song!  We wandered around the church, enjoying the museum part of the church that explained the history and architecture.  There was a series of 6  tapestries that dated to the 14th century--the colors were still vibrant after 600 years!

By now it was dinner time, our last night in Bruges.  We weren't taking any chances--back to our favorite sidewalk cafe (dined inside--it was chilly!) for more of those delicious moules y frites, a lovely bottle of wine, and for desert--creme brulee and an espresso.  We lingered over our desert, talking about what a beautiful town Bruges is.  A couple of days in this special place is just right, we were so glad that we visited.

A nice stroll back to our hotel, and a last minute packing of our bags.  We must be ready for our 5:45 am cab to the train station!

London, here we come!


  1. I love Bruges and you must get a job as a travel writer and photographer Di. First, I am almost sure I would have ordered the mussels too. LOL But the belgian waffle...yum yum. Bruges is so pretty and your pictures are magnificent. David looks wonderful.....traveling suits him well. Your lucky to have such a great traveling companion and he's your husband too...Wow! You have given me the best 3 weeks on this blog. I have read and re-read all your posts so many times. Thanks Di and DavOd.

  2. Hey girl, you sound like you are having a fantastic time. Reading your blog is almost like being there. I love the buildings with the stairstep roofs.... and the buggy ride sounds delightful. My favorite picture on this posting is the canal lined with flowers. How quaint. I look forward to what London has to offer. (I'm still enjoying your tomatoes - I blanched up 24 of them this weekend.) Miss you and "hi" to Dave.

  3. Post card quality photos...Thanks for all the updates on your travels - I've enjoyed reading and re-reading all about your vacation. Bruge is just like I pictured it in my mind - love the canal and your romantic carriage ride -did you need more time there?