Putting Bruges into words can only be described as writing something of a love letter. With it’s cobblestone roads, bridges dressed in vines, Gothic squares and high-pitched cottages, it was something of a fairytale. More than midway through our trip, having nothing to do other than wander the canals of Bruges, dodging the horse and carts as they trotted past sounded pretty damn good.
Tucked away just off the main square was our perfect little cottage, with stairs so steep that we left our bags in the kitchen before climbing two flights to bed. With a roaring fire and a list full of restaurants within a five minute walk from us, Bruges was a massage to our tired legs.
But also, Bruges means beer. And within ten minutes of being there, he’d pulled me into about seven beer shops and was already trying to convince me that I’d really like the fruit beer. It would be really nice, apparently. Just like cider. Well, it wasn’t. But I tried. A few times. I even went on a brewery tour of the De Halve Maan Brewery, the only brewery to remain in production Bruges, now run by the sixth generation of the family; the proud owners of a three kilometer underground pipe that sends beer flooding through the city to their bottling factory just out of town. Not a lie. But beer aside, the view from the top was sweet enough for me and saved us the 12euros each to climb the Belfry.
First things first though, lets talk food. Pieter, our host, had given us a list of things we had to try in Bruges which was long enough to take a normal person three months to get through but, yes, you guessed it, we managed it in three days. L’Estaminet just around the corner served the best lasagne diablo – the Dutch version with a little bit of spice. The best thing about it though was that there was not a word of English spoken on the tables around us so we knew we’d escaped the tourists. And trust me, there’s a few of them around. For good reason though. Many day trip from Brussels so it gets quieter at night.
Chocolate from Stef’s, recommended to be the most reasonable in town (the locals go out of Bruges to get the good stuff), and then again at The Chocolate Line – the Heston Blumenthal of chocolate shops with prices that would make a fat duck sing. Think of the novelty though.
Breakfast the next morning was a Sanseveria Bagelsalon, just around the corner. A place which I’d found in my research the weeks beforehand and had already picked my order back in Australia. Needless to say, it lived up to the suspense. Oh, and if you go, request their special grapefruit juice.
The coffee shop we’d looked up was closed for the days we were there, but glass-half-full, the owners were in Amsterdam (our next stop) and were sharing all their favourite cafes there on Instagram. Waiting til 11am, yes that’s when things start happening in Bruges, we got coffee at Vero which did the trick.
On the second night we walked for a whole ten minutes to get to the other side of town to Tom’s Diner, another recommended from our host, but apparently also by the rest of town as it was fully booked on a Wednesday night. Once being told no we decided we really wanted to go and our lovely host helped us book for the following night. Delicious tapas and wine. Great atmosphere and a locals only vibe, it was perfect. For the night before, we’d just wandered until our noses found a little restaurant on a corner serving the traditional Flemish stew and mussels we’d been told to try. Passing the memo on to you now. It’s finger, licking, good.
A few sleep ins, a stroll through the Christmas markets in the main square, some window-shopping and a sneak peek inside the incredible Sint-Salvatorskathedraal – you didn’t think we could get through Europe without visiting a least one chapel did you? Ahhh, Bruges…
Bruges was everything and not a lot all at the same time, exactly what we wanted it to be. It’s got to be one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever been, and seeing the fairy lights reflecting in the still water of the canals as I walked hand in hand with him back to the warmth of our cottage is a moment I’ll keep locked up for a while. Oh, and the waffles lathered in nutella. I’ll dream of that too.
Bruges, you’ve taken my breath away. I thought only he could do that.