Apr 012009
 

Market Wednesday saw us finding cheeses, fruit and bread for a picnic lunch.  The Markt square was bustling with locals stocking up on produce, which is always a good sign.  I can’t remember the cheeses we bought; one a lighter cheese with cumin seeds and the other a more aged hard cheese.

Picnic lunch

Picnic lunch

It seems the main food group in Belgium is beer.  Apparently a single beer (usually 8-12% alcohol!) is a sufficient meal containing as much energy and nutrients you’d get from regular meal!  The beer is brewed preservative-free and can include flavourings such as coriander (very common) and other spices to create peach, cherry and other tastes.  We sampled a few including the deserved award-winning Brugse Zot.

No shortage of chocolate!

No shortage of chocolate!

Second to beer is chocolate and there is no shortage of chocolate shops in Bruges, some more authentic than others we have learned from our host at the Royal Stewart…  As it’s close to Easter, the chocolate shops are teeming with eggs, chooks and chocolate bunnies.

Third are waffles and mussels.  It wasn’t really mussel season, so we went for the waffles.  Although we had them with cream and topping, they were very light and sweet and could easily be enjoyed on their own.

Wafels

Wafels

Riding along on my pushbike, honey

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Apr 012009
 
Belfort, Bruges

Belfort, Bruges

Day 2 in Brugge saw us heading into the Markt Square to climb the Belfort.  The bell tower is a major landmark in the town, and rises imposingly above the square.  It plays 4 (very out of tune) songs every ¼ hour between 6am-10pm.  At quarter past the hour it plays Greensleeves!  We puffed our way up over 366 narrow winding steps and admired the view of all of Brugge.  It was slightly hazy, as you’ll see in the photos.

On Wednesdays the farmers markets are set up in the square, so after catching our breath we dove into the crowds to find some fixings for a picnic.  Then we hired some bicycles from the nearby hire shop (once again, we got a discount – 8 instead of 12 euros each)!

Upon Maggie’s recommendation we decided to cycle out to Damme, a small village about 5 km out of Brugge.  There was a slight headwind, but nothing could truly mar the beauty of the morning.  Once you’re out of town, there is a bike path aside the canal almost the whole distance to Damme.  In fact, if we’d kept going on it for another 10km we would have been in the Netherlands!

Bike path to Damme

Bike path to Damme

Damme is a lovely little town, with much of Brugge’s beauty, but a fraction of the size.  However, I should mention that cobblestones when you’re on a bike make for a very sore derrière! After a wander around the village, which is home to no less than 9 bookshops, we rode back to the canal and parked our bikes to have lunch.

Bikes!

Bikes!

Lunch (and food in general) will be the subject of another post, so I’ll leave that to your imagination for now.  However, it was a truly wonderful day, and we are both so glad we decided to take the time to see a bit more of the place.  I could definitely come back to Belgium!

In Bruges

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Apr 012009
 

After a very fast (and ear-popping!) Eurostar ride we arrived in Belgium, and eventually figured out how to get to Brugge. We had booked 2 nights accommodation at the Royal Stewart, a small B&B just outside the market square in town. Well, our accommodation was everything we could have dreamed and more. In fact, we loved the place so much we spent an extra night!

Royal Stewart

Royal Stewart

The proprietor is Maggie, a Scottish expat who has lived in Belgium for over 30 years and runs the B&B with her husband Gilbert. It’s a quaint 17th century building with very narrow stairs and beautiful stained glass windows. We have an enormous twin bedroom on the 3rd floor, with a near new bathroom. A full Belgian breakfast is included – this means, croissants, pastries, bread rolls, Belgian cheeses and meats, coffee and even pancakes! All for the bargain price of 62 euros/night! I cannot recommend this place highly enough – it is by far the best place we have stayed in and Maggie is absolutely lovely and so helpful.

Markt Square, Bruges

Markt Square, Bruges

After eating a mountain of food, we set off for our first full day in the town. We visited the Groeninge Museum first, although we’re not entirely convinced we actually found the museum… We definitely saw an exhibit run by the museum, but it was nothing like the Renaissance art we were expecting…it may have been closed for renovations. We also had our first age perk since we arrived – tickets are 8 euro for adults, but only 1 euro for under-26s!

We spent the rest of the day wandering down cobbled streets and past sleepy canals. You do have to pay attention to your surroundings though – bikes have right of way in Brugge, and almost everyone it seems uses them as a form of transport. Of course, we bought some Belgian chocolate, and we did the De Halve Maan Brewery Tour, the only brewery still operating in Brugge. Even I was able to drink a glass of the Brugse Zot – their blond specialty.

We finished the day with a lovely dinner at Bistro den Wittenkop and then retired to our room to rest our weary feet!