Onward to Bruges!

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August 31st 2016
Published: September 16th 2016
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We just spent 3 wonderful days in Bruges and are now on the train to Brussels. I had previously been to Bruges when I was 20 when I was spending 3 months in Amsterdam with my cousin Biab and her husband Douwe. Bruges really helped us settle our homesickness for Spain! Cobblestoned streets, large historical buildings and our hotel room was HUGE and modern, smack bam in the middle of town just behind the Belfort (bell tower). After an orientation walk, we freshen up and went to dinner at this funky place with huge red cocks (roosters!) and thongs (flip flops) on the wall. I tried Flemish stew which was nice. We then met up with yet another free walking tour, this one Bruges by night. Which actually is a bit of a fallacy in summer as it doesn’t get dark until after 9pm! Anyway the walking tour was good. The guide, Hendrik, sounded British like cockney but in fact he was Belgian. He took us around town telling us stories about old ghosts and tragic love stories that are held within the walls of old houses! The tour finished at a hostel, where we got a free beer (Juliper, local swill that would be like XXXX) and an option to join a beer tasting tour and we were like hells yes! So we and a couple of other people from our walking tour plus others joined the American beer tasting guy and a drinkable journey through Belgium. 7 beers and a taste of the most exclusive beer in the world. Brewed by Trappist monks, this Trappist beer is exclusive as it is only brewed by 5 monks in limited quantities. We had a full tasting of the imitation exclusive Trappist beer which only tasted slightly different. The other beers were diverse in taste, and alcoholic percentage (8% seems to be the norm!) Afterward, not our best judgement in hindsight, we stayed on to have a few more beers with 2 Dutch girls we got chatting to and an American guy. 3 beers later (La Chouffe the one with the cute gnome on the bottle) and after pronouncing weird Dutch words and being offered weird herbal drugs which we politely refused, we left the hostel to walk back to our hotel. Unfortunately the American took it upon himself to steal someone’s bike (the bar guy at the hostel claimed it was his but who knows) and I jumped on the back for a joy ride around the streets. So after that diversion, us, the Dutch girls and American walked back to the main square with the American guy having the bike in tow. And he got rid of it by placing it against a wall at the street corner. We distanced ourselves from the bike after my short joy ride but the American didn’t! So we said goodbye at the main square and fumbled our way to the hotel to be at 3am!

The next day was pretty much written off and I had to reschedule our beer tour that afternoon. We managed to freshen up and get out of the hotel by early afternoon. We walked around for the day shopping and having a quite one. We discovered the Tin-Tin shop and learnt that the Smurfs were made in Belgium too! We also had a quite and cheap night in with supermarket food.

The next day we were back in action! First up after breakfast was a boat ride along the canals. Bruges is such a pretty city, with beautiful white swans dotting the canals. After that we went to Bruges Historium, a museum of sorts with 7 different rooms themed to be Bruges in Medieval times. A audio guide was given to us and each room had a mini movie playing ad as you go into each room the story continued. It was the story of Jacob, a worker of the great Flemish painter Jaan Van Eyk, and his quest to find a girl and a green parrot which he had lost. It was pretty good even though it sounds cheesy. Great views from the top too. Afterward we went to De Halve Maan brewery for a tour. The beer tour was great and this brewery had been around since the 19th century. We were shown modern techniques as well as the many large pieces of equipment that were used in the old days. We even climbed to the roof of the brewery to be shown where the 3 kms of piping is built to pump beer from this factory to their second one. And another fun fact, the wheat that is used, once it has been crushed etc, the leftovers are pumped into a large vat and a farmer comes to collect it and feed it to his cows! Now THAT’S recycling! We then enjoyed three beers after the tour – the Bruges Zot blonde, Bruges Zot bruin and Bill had a quadruple (11%) beer of their 2nd house beer Straffe Hendrik and I had a triple (9%). And a couple of top ups 😉 Afterwards we had to hot tail it to the Groening museum, a collection of Flemish art for Van Eyk and others. There was some modern interpretive art too (a canvas painted in dark green for example) and another artist whom I assume is Iranian Maryam Najd’s work. So after our full day, we took it easy and headed back to the hotel with supermarket snacks to have with our beers in the courtyard. For dinner we headed to one of the many restaurants along the canal for a Belgian feast - steamed mussels in white wine sauce and Bill had Flemish stew. While yummy, it was far too much big I still made sure I ate it all!

Before we headed to Brussels today we went to the Belfort (belfry) and climbed the 300 plus stairs, stopping along the way to see how the tower and mechanics of the tower were built. The bells itself is an engineering feat. Numerous large bells, chimes and stainless steel pulleys work intertwined to chime and play melodies every 15 mins! Down in the square there was a fresh food market where we wandered around before going to the train station and saying goodbye to Bruges. We really enjoyed Bruges, a great way to spend a holiday in the Flanders region of Belgium.

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