Thursday, June 2, 2011
Introduction to Brugge
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Woohoo, we made it to Brugge! Brugge was at the top of my must visit list when we first started talking about European travel. I'm not quite sure what drew me to the city, it may have been a travel or food show, but I'm so glad that we made it here.
We left Brussels at 9:30 and got to Brugge around 10:30. Right off the bat I was in awe as we walked along the old moat to get to our b&b which happened to face a canal and our room happened to overlook that canal. We dropped our bags off at the hotel and got the keys and then headed out to explore the town. We started with some breakfast in the big Market square. We had quiche and coffee, a little pricey but you pay for the central location and the sounds of the bells right there. After breakfast we decided to try the Rick Steves self-guided walking tour and perhaps a museum. We started in the market square where the big bell tower is and then headed to Burg square where the city hall sits and where the Basilica of the Holy Blood is.
The Basilica is said to posess the actual blood of Jesus Christ. The story is that a crusader brought the blood back in 1150. They display the blood daily and for a donation you can touch the container. We came back to see it but did not touch it.
The Burg square is also home to the "carwash" a modern statue that is supposed to be a play on water and lace but just looks ridiculously out of place. Another newer building in the square is the Plaza Hotel. The cool thing about this new building is that it was built on top of some old ruins and you can walk right down into the basement and see the artifacts that they dug up along with the original walls. Very cool.
The Burg Square also had one of the best statue men I've ever seen, he was so good that when he moved it gave Jamie a bit of a scare!
From the Burg we walked across a canal to the fish market where on Sunday they have some souvenier vendors out. There were a few artists selling original work and it was beautiful and would have made a great gift if I'd had money and room to bring them back.
From here we walked to an area called the canal postcard view for good reason, it was the most beautiful little spot rivelling Amsterdams canals. Of course we took pictures. Then we saw the Groeninge Museum which we had wanted to go to but it is undergoing renovations so we decided to skip it and continue our walk to the Church of Our Lady where they have the sculpture "Madonna and Child" by Michaelangelo. It is very rare to see his work outside of Italy. It was really the most beautiful sculpture I've seen, there was a certain refinement in the work. The church was really quite beautiful. From here we paused our walk and got some money from an atm and went back to the fish market so that Jamie could buy a painting. We came back to where we left off to finish our walking tour. We made sure to buy our brewery tour tickets and then we had a street waffle and soda. The place place where we got our waffle was amazing. It was a woman and her son and they also sold ice cream. The little boy was maybe 8 or 9 and he was manning the mixer making up some waffle dough, it was more cookie dough coonsistency than batter. While we waited for our waffles to cook we watched him weigh out portions of dough, it was a great scene to see.
After the waffles we had an hour to kill before the tour so we headed to the Minnewater and the place wherr the Benedictine nuns live. The Minnewater is lake like and there are lots of swans and ducks. This is also where the horses pulling the carriages come for a drink and snack. The Begijnhof is where religious women live, not quite nuns but similar. We got to the little chapel and they were singing vespers and it was beautiful. I wish we could have sat and listened all afternoon.
Instead though we had to get to our tour of de Halve Maan Brewery for our tour. The tour was given by a very dry humoured woman who clearly loved beer and new quite a bit about it. During the tour they took us to the old brewery and through all of the stages that beer goes through before anyone can drink it. The tour was educational and fairly entertaining but the best part may have been the view from the rooftop. You could see the entire town from up there, it was great. Of course after the tour we had to sample the beer and it was pretty good. I have to say that over here beer is so much more than a means for getting drunk. The beer here has depth and flavor that I've never tasted anywhere else. It is so vastly superior to any beer I've tasted in the US.
After our drinks we walked back up past the market square and made our way to a highly recommended place. Unfortunately, being Sunday evening it was closed. After much careful consideration and consulting maps and guidebooks we found an Irish Pub that was open and serving food. It felt a bit wrong to be at an Irish Pub in Belgium but the food was good (bangers and mash) and they had the Ireland v. Scotland football game on. We stayed for the entire game and really got into it. Great choice.
It was definitely time to go back to the b&b at that point and get some rest for our big bike ride in the morning.