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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Bruges. It's in Belgium.

In an attempt to finish my little European trip write ups before we go away, I'm going to write about our second to last trip. I can't believe this was a year ago!
Having loved our shenanigans to Paris, within a few weeks we booked a few days off and had a four day weekend for another little adventure. This time our destination was Bruges. (Our choice in destination was definitely influenced by watching the film!)

After loving the Eurostar, we were quick to book this up to use them again, and I was even happier to find upon booking that on the way there we'd been upgraded to 1st class seats for the outbound journey. This got even more exciting when we were on the train and someone came round with a trolley, and we realised we got free breakfast.

This is how excited we were about breakie!
The Eurostar took us as far as Brussels, where we then had to get off and hop onto a normal train (the price for this was included in our tickets, so no messing around with buying any others!) I personally really enjoyed the change of scenery, I loved that they have double decker trains, for me it was a novelty having never seen it before. And their trains run very efficiently, they were ALL on time.

A few hours later and we hit Bruges! The train station is on the outskirts of the city, but Bruges being quite a small place it was only about 15 minutes to our hotel and the weather was beautiful, so we walked. Walking through Bruges for the first time is gorgeous. You catch sight of all the little cobbled alleys and want to run down them all and explore.

We were booked in at Martin's Brugge, a lovely hotel smack in the middle of Bruges, right behind the Belfry. You couldn't ask for a better location, and I would highly recommend them. They were very polite and helpful when we asked for a change of room, I can't remember why we asked to be moved though..

So into Bruges itself, we quickly set out to explore! One of the big things for us was that we loved the film In Bruges (Ian particularly loves his films) so we tracked down the tourist information and got a map of the film locations, and made a plan to visit our favourites. The thing about film is how deceptive it is. They make things look so different to reality, so we were shocked to see the differences. That being said the film definitely choose the best settings.

The next day we tried to visit the Belfry, but unfortunately it was closed to the public for the winter, so we were unable to go up. We had a wander around though and the square is pretty, lots of dodging the horse and carts, and surprisingly busy for a cold February. We visited a few chocolate shops, you have to in Bruges! My favourite was The Chocolate Line with some delicious flavours, alongside some very weird ones. Cola, tea, vodka and passion-fruit were among some of my favourites. Havana cigar flavour (yes really) curry, crisp fried onion, wasabi and sun-dried tomato and black olive flavoured chocolate sounds all a bit too odd for me. I do wish I'd tried the bacon flavoured one though!

We tracked down many of the film locations from In Bruges, the hotel they stayed at, the bench scene in front of the statue of Jan Van Eyck (See right) the park scene at Koningin Astridpark, the bridge at Meestraat (see photo above) We also went a bit mad, and tracked down the restaurant Cafedraal, where Ray and Cloe have a date in the film, and had dinner there one evening. We managed to nab a table in almost exactly the same place where they did, you wouldn't believe how much smaller the place is. It's teeny! During the course of the evening a gentleman on the next table attempted to teach me a little Flemish. He taught me one word, and I promptly forgot how to pronounce it. Sorry good sir, but thank you for the kindness.

The Basilica of the Holy Blood
We also tracked down some of the other lesser known locations mentioned, but which weren't as recognisable. Such as the Basilica of the Holy Blood where they keep a vial containing a piece of cloth with the blood of Jesus Christ. every Friday they bring it out for veneration, and apparently they get 50,000 pilgrims a year!

The food in Bruges was lovely. The stand out restaurant for me was Sacre Coeur which was a chilled out restaurant that very kindly gave us a table quite late one evening. Another night I indulged in mussels in garlic sauce, which was served in what looked like a cauldron, I've never seen such a huge portion! Unfortunately we didn't get the chance to sample any Belgian beer while in Bruges on this trip. We would both love to go again (we nearly went this winter but decided to save more for Canada.)

My absolute favourite part of Bruges was Minnewater. It's a beautiful lake to the south of the town (also named the Lake of Love) surrounded by swans and we befriended a ginger cat too. We wandered here for quite some time, it was less busy and quite serene.

In the background is a building called the chateau de la Faille, which had previously been a hostel but was closed and empty when we visited. Such a shame as it's the most gorgeous building. If I had the money I'd buy it!

Overall Bruges is a beautiful town, it's small and quaint, with lots of museums (we did visit one gallery while there) and chocolate shops. It's a great little place for a little get away, I would say for an extended weekend it's perfect as there's just enough to see and do, but no more than 4-5 days.

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