Better late than never, right? I didn’t intend to post this a month after our visit to Bruges but I did manage to narrow down the 200+ photos to 53 during that time for the online album. Digital photography is both a blessing and a curse for me.
Our trip to Bruges was a tad on-the-fly. We had just returned from NYC on Tuesday with a bit of jetlag and the weather appeared to be rainy for the upcoming weekend in both Belgium and The Netherlands…typical for late March. We tossed the idea around all week, but didn’t book a hotel until mid-morning Saturday. Within an hour we were packed, showered and on the road. Those of you who really know me, know that kind of timing is pretty much a miracle. The drive to Bruges was sunny and we were optimistic; however, rain showers mocked us a few hours after our arrival. Who cares…this is the land of bier, frites, bier, mussels, and more bier. Chocolate too, but it was Lent and I was abstaining.
Our first stop was the Brouwerij de Halve Maan which produces Bruges Zot and Straffe Hendrick. This goes down as the day I officially fell in love with Tripel Ales and couldn’t wait to try more. Our tour guide was extremely entertaining and quite animated, not to mention really passionate about the brewery where his grandfather used to brew. The tour included a climb to the roof and our first aerial views of Bruges. I recommend the brewery as a must visit if you are in Bruges. There is also a café on site if you need a place to leave your travel companions who are non-bier/non-brewery lovers—but if that is the case, what are they doing in Belgium???
We managed to squeeze in a chilly, but quiet stroll through the Begijnhof and Minnewater Park before the rain. This Begijnhof dates back to the 13th century and is home to the Benedictine nuns. At one time, approximately 1500 begijnhovens existed in Belgium; however, only 22 remain today. Appropriately situated near the Begijnhof is the Minnewater Park (Water of Love) with a peaceful lake and swans gliding along the canals. My photo happy fingers were put on hold as the rain came down and umbrellas went up.
No trip to Belgium would be complete without a meal of mussels, frites, and bier. Poules Moules proved to be a great little spot for our Belgian fix. Mussels in bier for G and mussels in white wine for me. Each coupled with a huge cone of frites and a trappist bier (Orval & Westmalle), we soon had very full tummies and no room for dessert—but plenty of room to try more bier! Heading out of the main center and away from the tourist crowds, we trekked to Café Vlissinghe, Bruges’ oldest pub since 1515. The interior is well preserved and littered with memorabilia which supports the claim to oldest pub. Amongst the local crowd, I savored my Tripel Karmeliet in the tulip shaped glass with a band of fleur de lis. But the antique chairs were soon uncomfortable and we decided it was time for a new scene.
If you aren’t looking for ‘t Poatersgat (the Monk’s Hole), you could easily walk by without realizing the extent of bier that awaits underground…and sadly, choking clouds of cigarette smoke too. From the sidewalk, only a small wooden sign and cellar doors suggest descending into an unknown area. The curious are rewarded! With 100+ Belgian biers and a large selection of Trappists, the candle lit cross-vaulted cellar combines old world beauty with subtle modern accents. Hop plants playfully decorate the ceiling and the bartender’s iPod is shuffling through a Beatles playlist. G enjoys a Bruges Zot while stacking coasters and I have finally found one of my favorites that I first discovered in NYC…Troubadour Obscura! Mmmm. Another must visit if you are in Bruges, just don’t plan to recycle your jeans the next day as the smoke lingers on your threads.
The rain gods were kind on Sunday and showered down while we climbed 366 narrow and winding steps to the top of the Belfort. The hike was worth it, however the promised panoramic views were a bit limited due to the belfry receiving a facelift. (nb: Never travel with me. A “must see” is always under construction and riddled with scaffolding to make for poorly composed photos. And the rain clouds follow me as well.) The center of Bruges is a great place to wander on foot and see what surprise is around the next corner. We spent the afternoon enjoying a lazy walk, soaking of the sites, eating warm waffles, and of course, drinking more bier. Click here for a slideshow to enjoy more sites in Bruges. Proost my friends!