Visit: 4th – 7th July 2009
We visited Bruges back in the summer of 2009, between our 2nd and 3rd years of university. This was my first time in the city but Tom had been the previous year with family. Our trip was completely unrelated to UNESCO and was actually inspired by the film In Bruges, it was the first of our beer drinking holidays and set a good precedent for the rest.
Tom drove us in his parents’ Mazda and we went via the Channel Tunnel:
The drive flew by with some predictably crude games of ‘would you rather’ and lots of list-based activities (a recurring theme on all our holidays). We arrived in the afternoon and were all very pleased with the weather. We parked in the underground car park and went straight to the hotel to drop our bags off. We’d managed to get a place just off the Grote Markt, this is a view of the Belfry from our room:
For our first meal we went to a restaurant on the Grote Markt, it was just the kind of place you usually get in tourist-heavy areas with menus in at least 7 different languages and food that is about as authentic as a Mars bar, this place though was especially abysmal. Hungry for some traditional Belgian cuisine I was quite excited with the menu, I ordered frogs legs for starter and eel in chervil sauce for main. Unfortunately though the meal that followed was extremely disappointing – the frogs legs were completely insipid and the eel tasted like a bicycle tire that had been stuck at the bottom of a river for a few weeks. Garland’s rabbit ‘cooked on the Flemish way’ was equally overcooked and bland, what a shame!
Oh well, at least there’s still the beer we told ourselves! After a quick walk around the cobbled streets and bridges (not forgetting the alcoves) we headed to a bar on the Grote Markt where we would end up spending a lot of time (and money) over the next three days. It was right by the Belfry tower and served steins, the waiters were characters as well: one looked liked like Quasimodo and would call anyone who didn’t order a full Stein of beer a pussy and the other a Columbian who told us particularly lewd stories, one of which involved a transvestite!
As you would expect, pandemonium and vast amounts of beer drinking followed. We did take a few snaps though:
The next day we sat in a park for a few hours before eating some Lasagne in a café, and getting told off for ordering tap water (unlike in the UK this is not served in most restaurants). We then tried lots more Belgian beer, some of the better ones were: Bruge Zot, Duval, Kwak, Leffe (Blonde & Brun), Jupiler (of which we took a keg home), Chimay, Stella Artois (it is definitely better in Belgium), Judas and many more which I can’t remember. We played lots of drinking games, one of which involved the infamous ‘Bruges rules’. I also had some great Moules frittes and a lobster which was served straight from the tank.
On the last day we climbed the Belfry tower which involves a very narrow spiral staircase which is nauseating to climb, not to mention with a hangover. The tower is actually part of the separate WHS of Belfries of Belgium and France, there are 31 other similar towers spread across the two respective countries. The view was impressive:
Although the photos probably don’t do it justice I can assure you Bruges is a truly beautiful city, some would say that with all the canals and bridges it’s just like a fairy tale… It is a WHS because ‘Brugge is an outstanding example of a medieval historic settlement, which has maintained its historic fabric as this has evolved over the centuries, and where original Gothic constructions form part of the town’s identity. As one of the commercial and cultural capitals of Europe, Brugge developed cultural links to different parts of the world. It is closely associated with the school of Flemish Primitive painting.’
Interestingly we all bought our girlfriends souvenirs (even Ant) with the exception of Chig who bought his girlfriend nothing. I bought Louise two presents, one of which was this white chocolate swan: