"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."

~ St. Augustine

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Bruges

June 11th, 2012

flags in 't Zand, Bruges

In Bruges, most of the people you’ll see will be European tourists. There’s nothing wrong with this, mind you – it’s nothing like Paris where in some places, the onslaught and the obnoxiousness of tourists can be downright overwhelming. On the contrary, the people you meet, whether local or not, will be generally friendly and polite. A former European economic powerhouse, Bruges is now a world heritage site, and a lovely and quaint city with a rich cultural and commercial history. We spent a few days there recently, and here are a few highlights.

Sightseeing

There is much to see in Bruges, from museums dedicated to the specialties of Bruges’s commercial pursuits to historical buildings. Among other things, we took a boat trip through the canals for a visual guide to many of the sights around the city, climbed up the Belfry for a bird’s eye view, and toured a local brewery (our guide reminded me of Judy Dench, and was hilarious). Tip: wear good shoes that will withstand the cobblestone streets while keeping your feet comfortable.

boat ride through canals, Bruges

boat ride through canals, Bruges

The Hotel Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce, Bruges

The Hotel Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce, featured in the 2008 movie In Bruges

view from atop the Belfry, Bruges

The view from atop the Belfry; the tower of the Church of Our Lady is a prominent landmark.

Simon Stevinplein, Bruges

Funky trees in Simon Stevinplein, a square (ok, more like trapezoid) surrounded by shops and restaurants

Beer aging tanks, Bruges

Beer aging tanks in the Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan

Culture

Bruges is a city fully steeped in the arts. We marveled at the painstakingly rendered paintings of the Flemish primitives (which were hardly primitive) at the Groeningemuseum; I would give an example, but photos simply do not do these masterpieces justice (not by a long shot). I regret to say that our short stay left us no time to catch a concert at the Concertgebouw, but that will certainly be on my list for the next time we visit.

Food

You might immediately think of waffles, mussels & fries (mosselen & friets), chocolate and beer when you think of Belgium, but to our surprise and delight we found that the local restaurants serve a menu much more diverse. Duck and local seafood figure prominently, as do potatoes. We had an outstanding salad with smoked duck breast, diced mangoes and specks of perfectly candied nuts at Brasserie Forestiere and marveled at the hefty tome of beers at Cambrinus (note: try the Corne, lest you be envious when your table neighbours order it). A visit to The Chocolate Line, in Simon Stevinplein, rewarded us with excellent chocolate in many classic and exotic flavours, both for ourselves and as gifts to bring home.

La Corne du Bois des Pendus beer

via La Corne du Bois des Pendus

Cambrinus

Cambrinus's book of beers

waffle, Bruges

a waffle from streetside stand Laurenzino

Until we return, Bruges. It was a lovely trip.

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