Having been to Belgium before to visit Manon, I had decided that it was my favourite place after New Zealand. Bold call, but the fresh air, friendly people, delicious food and second-hand shops drew me in. My fondest memories were cycling through the cobbled streets, eating cheese, eating delicious chocolate spreads which throws nutella out of the water, and finally the Ghent speciality – neuzeke (little nose). Cone shaped, raspberry flavoured deliciousness.
Inspired to go again, my birthday present from Hana was decided.
Just days before we were to set off, the horrific terrorist attack happened in the airport and main train station. As with the world, we were astonished at the atrocities man can perform. After a bit of encouragement for myself, we decided to be resilient against this terror and go anyway.
Arriving at St Pancras ready for our Eurostar, we tucked into out breakfast of orange juice, tea and bread-like substances. A short trip later, after passing through Paris, we were in the centre of Brussels. Our plan to go to the Armed Forces and Military museum and infamous steak house were decided against due to the safety risk. Instead we crossed platforms and got straight on a train to Brugge.
Brugge is located in the north-west of Belgium, and is distinguished by its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. To be honest, it’s pretty small and I really hadn’t needed to go again. But having four days just to chill out and relax together was idyllic.
We marched the cobbled streets. Driven by hunger and the annoying sound of Joe’s wheely bag on the bumps. Our second try at AirBnB, a whole house with four bedrooms rented out to guests. It was an odd situation, from memory the owners said they lived there, but then they had a baby and we only heard the baby during the day. So I think they said they lived there for safety reasons incase the guests thought of doing something silly. But it was pleasant, clean, and was so close to the town square that we were woken daily by the chorus of the church bells. On average they would go for a good 10 minutes, but Easter Sunday, literally over an hour of different tunes and sounds and celebration.
Google recommended a restaurant called Bones for lunch, so off we trot the few blocks away. Only to find that the poor restaurant owner’s chef had failed to turn up, the poor man was pacing in a state of distress, having to turn down the hungry, lunch time visitors. We promised we’d be back again, and went looking for another place. Oddly we ended up at an Argentinian Grill which was around the corner from the Chocolate Factory. Joe gleefully ordered his first glutenous beer, and I got a red wine. Lesson learnt – don’t have half a glass of wine on an empty stomach or else the remainder will end up splattered over your white shirt and dripping off the table after a clumsy hand movement. The waiters laughed, and hastily brought us our pommes frites and grills.
With a full stomach it was time to explore. We traced the streets, with me oohing and ahhing at my memories of the shops. Stopping by the canal to have a break and people watch. It was March, but I wasn’t expecting it to be as chilly as it was.
I remember this nunnery exactly how we found it, as last time I went for Easter also. It is so serene as there is a no talking rule when you’re inside, people meander around, enjoying the curiosity of Nun’s houses, being totally encapsulated in their world.
The next day we slept in, went out for lunch (tried Bones again but it was shut – poor owner!), wandered around a little more, then felt so tired we got into bed and watched a film.
The following day we finally got into Bones for lunch. And boy did it live up to expectations. A rack of spicy ribs with a ginormous roast potato. The wine bottle in the middle was hilarious, it was about 2 litres of wine, and every table had one. They explained that you helped yourself and drunk however much you fancied, then they weighed it at the end and calculated how much you owed them.
Surprisingly, although it was Easter we didn’t have very much chocolate at all. I did manage to find my favourite neuzeke, and got my yearly full.
A perfect activity for a rainy day is to go to the beer museum, where the local processes old and new are explained in great detail with a tasting session at the end.
With bags left for free at the city’s history museum. We stopped for our final lunch which was next door to Michelangelo’s Mary and child.
Having toured all streets large and small in Brugge, I think I have fulfilled my love of it for now. But it certainly holds fond memories and was a perfect slice of respite from London.
Thanks Hana and Ben!