Happy holidays everyone! I am on the move once again, with my parents this time. After a very pleasant stay in Canterbury, we have since moved on to Bruges, Belgium. Getting to Belgium was quite the struggle– we had to take a taxi to Dover, a ferry from Dover to Calais, missed our train from Calais to Lille, took another two trains to get back on track, got on our final train, and finally arrived in Bruges… in the middle of a heavy rain storm with no taxis available. Thankfully we survived, and arrived at our very cute little hotel:
We got dinner at a place close to our hotel, Restaurant Malpertuus. It was expensive, but had a cozy interior with a nook-laden basement with a wonderfully warm fireplace. We also got to try a local dish called Chicken Waterzooi, which is a Flemish chicken stew (that we now can’t seem to get away from!). The dinner itself was very good, and made for a nice first meal after our long day of travel.
Unfortunately for us, it has been raining on and off for the last couple of days, but we’ve made the best of it. Right after leaving the hotel in the morning, we headed to the quaint Market Square, which features the bell tower, a Christmas market (complete with an ice skating rink and plenty of waffle stands), and a number of restaurants.
We moved on to the Groening museum, which has a great collection of Flemish art and wonderful free gardens. For under-25’s, they only charge €1– very refreshing for the young backpacker, especially when compared to the comparable museums throughout Europe that would charge €10 for a similar experience. For older travelers, it would be beneficial to get the combination pass, which is €15 for a number of different activities, including the Belfry (the famous bell tower) and the Stadthaus.
After this we walked around the garden briefly, but the weather and a large group of tourists made it difficult for us to enjoy it. The garden backs up onto the Memling museum, which features a medical history of the Sint-Jon Hospital and a number of works by Memling himself.
We decided to stop somewhere for lunch, but struggled to find a place that served food at a reasonable price. We went to a place suspiciously titled “Fast Food,” which was (predictably), not great. The fries were delicious, but the chicken stew was nearly inedible. That’ll teach us to try and skimp simply because we were hungry! If we had looked around the area a little bit more, we probably would have found something a little bit tastier to eat for a comparable price.
The afternoon was spent at the most terrible tourist trap ever, the Historium Brugge. It was passed off as a movie, but really it was a short film that really had nothing to do with the history of Bruges. At €11, it was insanely overpriced, though it did include a free chocolate at the end and one really fantastic view point of the city, which was the highlight of the entire event. Overall, though, I would give this one a pass.
On the way through the city, we stopped at one of my favorite tea shops in the world, Het Brugs Theehuis. When I visited Bruges in 2010 I was persuaded into buying a Belgian chocolate tea, which had since become one of my favorites. I was determined to stock up this time around, and we bought a tin and enough of the tea to last me for a good long while. The Theehuis is not unique only for its teas, however; the collection of tea-related paraphernalia is impressive in its own right. I managed to snap a few photos of my favorites:
At the end of the day we decided to try and find a cheaper place to eat, and after consulting the all-knowing Tripadvisor page, we managed to find a few places that looked affordable and tasty. We managed to get lost finding one of the places on the list– Herberg Vlissinghe, the oldest pub in Bruges– but stumbled upon a quaint little pub not far away. After dinner we decided to take a walk through the residential part of Bruges near the pub, and ended up finding the place we were originally going to eat, which we ate at on our second night.
On our second day we visited the Basilica of the Holy Blood, the Stadthaus (amazing!), and the Gruuthuse Museum, all of which were very good. Each museum was fairly small by museum standards, but all interesting and enjoyable. Of particular interest in each of these buildings was the architecture– almost more interesting than the museums themselves. Beautiful on the outside and even more beautiful on the inside.
We stopped in a little restaurant slightly off the street for lunch, and it was much, much better than the shady “fast food” lunch we had the day before. The three of us split an order of garlic bread– one of the best we’ve ever tasted– and we all got tomato soups. My tea came with a very tasty little pastry piece, which was a nice step up from the typical biscuit you get. My dad also got a local Belgian beer, which he enjoyed.
We came back to the hotel in the afternoon and crashed after seeing all the museums, but not before stopping into a chocolate shop and picking up some goodies! We chose the Pralinette chocolate shop out of the hundreds of little shops after seeing that they made their chocolates on-site, and we did not regret it! The salted caramel chocolates are to die for, and we took a number to go. I’m very satisfied with all my Belgian treats!