Blown away by Bruges

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.

E x


A library of London

I don’t believe there is ever not a good time to travel, and leaving a Sydney summer for a European winter is no exception. Plus, for a girl who finds herself as entranced with fairy lights as I do, London leading into Christmas is a fairytale. Too busy staring up at the strings of lights floating above to navigate the streams of people falling out of buildings, cafes, and tube stations below. But ever so happy.

The first glimmer of the trip sparked from the idea to surprise his younger brother who had been living abroad for the year by turning up at the local derby at Wembley Stadium, creating a memory that floods warmth through your body – “no f#@king way” – and didn’t take much convincing from there.

So with four days in London, and an excited and unexpected tour guide, what do you do?

The first twenty-four hours were a whirlwind. Filled with surprises, station-hopping, and sub-par temperatures, we rode the high until we collapsed back in our perfectly positioned London pad. At 7.30pm – thank you, jetlag.Β  Wandering around Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland we wasted our first few pounds on carnival games we knew we couldn’t win, and warmed our weary fingers with Bailey’s hot chocolate and good old German beer. With Mariah already filling the air, it really was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, and with his brother back by his side I could tell he already had all he wanted.

One of the things that excites me about travel is having an excuse to eat out for as many meals as you just can’t seem to justify back home. And when we eat, we do it well. Warned about the state of coffee in the UK, our first breakfast at The Modern Pantry was very well received. The savory waffles drizzled in maple syrup and pulled pork eggs benedict definitely didn’t disappoint either. And apparently, without realising, we’d brought a taste of home back to Henry. Coffee. We even stopped for a second cuppa at Prufrock on the walk home.

A stroll through the Camden Markets, where a bubble-machine from the circus shop almost had me in tears thinking it was snowing already, was followed by a proper stuffing at Southwark Tavern with a bunch of Breislin’s who we worked out, I hadn’t seen for almost ten years. Many jokes were made about putting the ‘convicts’ back in their cells (the tavern used to be a prison), and it just felt like home. Funny thing about family.

A walk along South Bank and across Millennium Bridge, we ended up watching the the setting sun trickle through the city’s shades of grey from the top story of a boutique shopping center across from St Paul’s. It pays to know people who know the city inside out. Looking at you, Viv.

Anyway, that’s enough words for now. But don’t worry, there are more to come. A whole load more. For now, have some pictures.

E x