Eurotrip 2011: Bruges

We're on our way to yet another city in our European vacation. See the entire Eurotrip series here.

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It should come as no surprise to regular readers that our day trip to Bruges once again began early. This "vacation" allowed no time for excessive sleeping. We left our hosts' house at 7:45 (after a breakfast that included fresh bread topped with Speculoos - yum!), so that they could get to work. (By the way, Speculoos is as close as Belgians generally get to peanut butter. While I don't consider it a straight substitute, Speculoos is a tasty spread made from carmelized biscuits/cookies.)
We took the metro to the Central station, where we purchased train tickets to Bruges (pronounced "Broogsh", with a soft "g" at the end, like in the French pronunciation of "Gigi"). Our ride was comfy, allowing us to snooze and read, confirming once again that we love traveling via train.

After arriving in Bruges, we took a bus to the center of town, greeted regularly with sights like this:

Give me cobblestones, bricks, and lampposts, and I'm a happy tourist!
Bruges has tons of canals that wind their way around buildings and landmarks that are centuries old.

One popular landmark is this Lover's Bridge. Silly us; we didn't get a photo together, but I still posed in this setting that is as serene as it looks. I love the old, solid look of the architecture. This is stuff you can trust.

We booked ourselves a canal boat ride; it seemed only appropriate. Soon we were cruising along with many other tourists (mainly of the white-haired variety), listening to the tour guide give his spiel in Finnish, French, and English.

The imposing Saint John's Hospital (above our white-haired companions.)
The next scheduled activity N had booked in advance was supposed to be a surprise for me: A hot-air balloon ride! He knew I'd had this on my long-term to-do list for years, so the thought of seeing such a picturesque location from the sky sounded magical! However, as you can see from the photo below, the weather was taking a turn for the worse, which is not what you want when you're about to be floating around among the clouds.

Poor N had a time of it trying to contact the tour company, using a pay phone with foreign instructions to make an international call. (I think the fact that it was a pay phone was more than half the battle.) Finally, the tour company made the decision: No flying in four weather. Belgium was just out to foil us. On to other activities.

While N was sorting out the balloon ride, I sent a postcard from the town's post office, shown below. I liked the name, but don't you think they left an "N" off the end of it?

Since we hadn't been able to go into the chocolate museum in Brussels, we headed over to Choco-Story, the chocolate museum in Bruges. My take on the museum: Too many stairs, and the exhibits made a really big deal about how the ancient cultures used chocolate. I read a bit more about the Aztecs and Mayans than I really cared to. The most memorable exhibit, for me, was a huge 3D pie chart that showed the amounts of each of the main ingredients in traditional milk chocolate, white chocolate, and dark chocolate recipes. Let's just say my case for dark chocolate was made even stronger by that large diagram! I'm sure there are health benefits.

We helped ourselves to a couple free museum samples, checked out chocolate Barak Obama, and went on our merry way.

Sweets must have been on the brain. The smell of cinnamon-apple waffles wafting from one of the shops nearby was more than I could resist! See my gleeful smile below:

For the rest of the afternoon, Bruges was just photo op after photo op, with the bricks and the lampposts and the tiny streets winding their way through the city. I fell in love, over and over again with Bruges' charm.

Our day wrapped up with a leisurely stroll through Minnewater Park, enjoying the greenery and swans and more wraught-iron lovliness.

When we originally planned our list of places to visit in Europe, Bruges wasn't even on our radar. But when our well-traveled friends in Cayman heard we would be in Belgium, they insisted upon a stop off in Bruges. After a day in this charming little city, I'm certainly glad they did. A day trip to Bruges was perfect for us. The quiet, slow pace matched the old brick buildings that we found lining the canals, and the calming atmosphere came at the right time in our trip, as we geared up for our final three cities.

More trip notes to come.


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