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


Listing off London

You will never believe the following occurred in just over twenty-four hours. But it did. Because if you’re going to do it, do it right. And do it all.

Day one / we rose and walked all of three meters to The Watch House, a cafe-come-bar that I’d been ogling through the windows the night before, as it was closed on the weekends. Not amazing, but warmed our fingers while it lasted. With a bit of pep in our step, we headed for the Tate Modern. We may have been up and at it early that morning, but a little research would have warned us that London doesn’t actually wake up til 10am. So save yourselves our wait and stay in bed until things open.

A visit to the Crying Room installation let out some of the tears that I’m sure wanted to at the reunion a few nights prior, and the new viewing deck at the top dropped jaws all round. Some eyebrow-raising art and some powerful pieces. Whether you’re a lover or not, the building is impressive enough to warrant a visit. And don’t get me started on the gift shop. Sorry for the wait, boys.

A wander through the Borough Markets on the way back to the tube, we ended up showing Henry something he’d never heard of (when the guide becomes the guided), and he outdid all of our lunches with a loaded pie that I can still taste on the tip of my tongue. Plus I recognised chips with beef dripping from dad’s stories.

Next stop the National History Museum, which he’d hyped up quite a lot. While the dinosaur bones that originally hung in the main hall appeared to have wandered off, they had replaced them with a whopping blue whale that swam through the monumental pillars of the museum. Not sure which part to take a photo of first, I could see how you could get lost in this place for days. And considering entry was free, why not? But if museums aren’t your thing, they also had an ice rink out the front where we watched two girls nail the perfect ‘gram, so there is that too.

It was Harrod’s for a juice (that’s all we could afford), and then off to find  the fairy lights I’d been dreaming of since I was a little girl. Yes, we walked it, and I’ll leave you and Google Maps to work out the distance. Coincidentally, or not, at both Regent and Carnaby Street there were also football shops. I know right! Ehh, everyone’s happy.

A beer at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese where it took longer to find a seat in one of the nooks and crannies of the pub than it did to drink it, and a lot of talk about ordering the three-week old scotch egg sitting at the back of the fridge, but luckily no action taken there. And like the ending to a fairytale, we feasted like kings on beers and burgers at the joint across the road from our apartment until I was hot enough that I was sitting at the bar in my thermals.

Day two – yes, that was all one day / we headed to Angel as I’d been told it would transport me to the ‘101 Dalmatians’ world that my seven year old self would have probably cried over. Row upon row of neat white terraces, I looked in eat window for a puppies face to pop out as we walked to Brother Marcus for breakfast. While we didn’t spot a puppy in the window, he did spot a fancy coffee machine so we stopped for another one, and with a neat thumbs up to the barista we were on our way again.

Covent Garden ticked another off Henry’s London List, and with another hundred photos taken of Christmas decorations, we were on the move again as we had somewhere to be at 3pm. Sketch. Yes, I’m still excited about it. The weirdest and most fabulous afternoon tea I’ve ever had, we were wined and dined by a waiter in a boilersuit, a caviar man in a panama hat, and waitresses that look like the stewardess of a flight to Mars. Pink walls, velvet chairs and toilets that looked like the eggs of the dinosaur who has gone walkabout from the National History Museum, it was an experience that will be relived through stories for a long time. And with a cake wishing ‘Sydney’ a happy birthday at the end, it’s endless thanks to Jane and Peter.

Grabbing Henry again, we headed to Ye Olde Mitre for one last beer in a place where Queen Elizabeth is rumored to have danced around a cherry tree. With sore feet and heads full of fresh memories, we hugged and separated once again, this time knowing only for a month. Not giving ourselves time to think, we raced off to a late night showing of The Book of Mormon and laughed until we collapsed back in bed.

So to London, the city where there always seems to be masses of people walking somewhere on the street, where there are no bins anywhere, and the subway conductors sing Christmas carols to the commuters on the platform as they remind you to watch the gap, thanks for helping me get my steps up this week. I’ll be seeing you again soon. No doubt. Definitely.

E x