Cherry beer & chocolate heaven!!!!

Trip Start May 26, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Belgium  , West Flanders,
Saturday, July 25, 2009

After a late night at my friends wedding I squeezed in 2 hours sleep before heading to St Pancreas Station for an early morning Eurostar journey to Belgium. A couple of hours after leaving London I was in Brussels & headed straight for the next train to Brugge.

Day 1

I arrived safely into Brugge & followed the crowds through cute cobblestone streets & quickly found my hostel.

From my hostel it was only a short stroll along the main shopping strip before I made it to the Markt Square. Home to just about every tourist in town & the famous Belfort (Bell Tower). The square is very cute, full of gorgeous Belgian buildings all in full view of the towering Belfort. I stopped off briefly at a little Italian restaurant in the square for a late lunch. Sitting in the sunshine alfresco style, it was just a shame the food was rubbish. The view was beautiful though looking out across the square.

After lunch I went through the laneways & along the canals until I came across the most photographed scene in Brugge. It is a nice view looking across the canal & up over the buildings where you can see the top of the Belfort. It's understandable why so many people want to take a photograph here. You can take a tour of the canals from here & many other spots along the canals but that would have to wait. Today was for exploring on foot.

As I crossed over another little bridge I came to the Vis Markt (Fish Market) & just next door I made my first chocolatier stop in Brugge. Praline No.1 - ok! With a few pralines in hand I came across the City Hall & a stage set up in the square surrounding it. Brugge has plenty of summer entertainment with a different band playing every night. It's in this square the you'll also find the Basilica of the Holy Blood, the College of Europe & the Museum Liberty of Brugge.

Heading east I came across a few nice churches & eventually came to Jerusalem Church which also houses the Kantcentrum (Lace Museum). Entry was about 2.50euro. Having a family that does many crafts & friends of my mothers that have even dabbled in lace making I had to check this place out. Every afternoon there are ladies doing demonstrations & my goodness it is incredible to watch them make this stuff. Even if you have no interest in lace whatsoever you cannot leave this place without appreciating how talented they are to make this stuff. I was mesmorized for about 15minutes watching this little old lady with a vert stooped neck flick the little wooden pieces from side to side with amazing accuracy. There was even a little girl around 6 or 7 years old making little lace bookmarks while her mother made a huge design piece.

After leaving the lace museum I headed further east until I came across the windmills. With my usual bad luck, the first windmill I came across was surrounded by scaffolding. I have an amazing art at visiting a city while the things I really want to photograph are being renovated. It's really damn annoying! Luckily I walked further north along the road to find another windmill sitting up on top of a small mound. It was a gorgeous & sunny Saturday afternoon, so there were plenty of families running around the green grass & even a little antique market in the street. There was a big beer tent set up on part of the green which looked like it was in place for the summer trade & also a medieval practice session. With swords out & protective clothing & masks on the guys were having great fun practicing their swordsmenship.

From here I started to head back west towards the centre of town again. There is no shortage of small streets & cute buildings to explore & I even managed to find some random bar stools in the middle of a cobblestone street. I kept walking along the street waiting to see a house party or a pub somewhere. Eventually I found a small dark doorway which lead through to a small bar. Obviously a local hangout as there was not one sign out front; just the open doorway.

I eventually made it to the Friet Museum (Belgian Fries Museum). I costs a bit to get in but I think I got entry to the Friet Museum & Choco-Story (Chocolate Museum) for 8euro combined. This was including the discount from the Brugge Card that my hostel gave me on arrival. The fries museum is pretty cheesy but kind of cool at the same time. There is plenty of information about the global movement of pototoes & the invention of all the toppings now used on fries. They even have a collection of old chip fryers. And at the end of the self guided tour you make your way down stairs to the chip cafe where you can get some snacks..mostly of the fried variety. Of course I had to try a traditional Beligian Fry. I can officially say that I am not a fan! Belgian Fries are traditionally cooked in beef fat & it's that foul meaty taste to the chip that I didn't like. Stick to the vegetable oils I say.

When I got back to my hostel I met a fellow traveller called Andrew. As we were both solo travellers in Brugge for the evening, we decided to go out & taste a few brew. Andrew had been told to check out a bar across town the sells over 400 varieties of beer. It took a little searching to find the place going on dodgy 3rd hand instructions but we made it & edged out way onto a table. The menu in this place was amazing. It was over an inch thick & full of more beers than I even thought existed in the world. We tried 3 beers each & Andrew seriously let the poms down in the drinking stakes. Admittedly his beers were of much higher percentage than mine but still it was only 3 beers. I am not a beer drinker; in fact I hate the stuff but after 3 cherry beers I became a real fan (of cherry beer at least). My favourite would have to be Jacobins Kriek Max, a super sweet cherry beer. We met a few nice Irish chaps & had a good chat to them & got to taste a few of their selections as well. We ended up staying at this place (Cambrinus) until closing & we were the last to leave. Great place, I would highly recommend it.

Day 2

I awoke the next morning & made my way downstairs to try out the complimentary breakfast. It's a cold breakfast with cereals, breads, meat, cheese & the usual juice, tea & coffees. More than adequate in my mind for a budget hostel. I ran into Andrew as I was leaving & he was still struggling after his dismal drink efforts the night before. We said farewell & I bid him good luck on his pending journey across the globe. (I'm seriously envious as he plans to drive his Landrover from London to Thailand)

Before too many tourists left their hotels I thought it would be a good time to climb the Belfort. Another 6euro or so later & I was on the way up. It's 366 steps to the highest point accessible by tourists & it's spiral stairs all the way. I like spirals stairs because they usually make for some cool photos but you do have to be careful not to get dizzy. Especially when they get smaller & slippery the higher you go. The view from half way up was pretty impressive over the Markt Square. But when you go all the way to the top & inspect the working parts of this bell tower, it's an amazing 360degree view over Brugge. It really is a very pretty town.

And then it was time for another chocolatier visit. Praline No. 2 - pretty good.

Everyone I had spoken to about Brugge had told me you can't go & not do a canal boat tour. It costs 6.30euro for a half hour tour. It takes you past a number of the laneways I had explored the day before but then turned around heading back where we had already been & then takes you further west. You pass under the lowest bridge in Brugge which forces everyone onboard to duck. The tours are pretty relaxing & are done in a number of languages which is great. You do pass through areas that are easily accessible on foot but it really is a pretty view from the canal.

After exploring a bit more of town I made my way back across to the area where Choco-Story the chocolate museum was meant to be. Unfortunately there is only one sign & it's on the side of the building, so I had a little challenge finding the place. But once inside you know that it was worth the search. As any chocolate lover would know, looking at mounds of chocolate, coco products & chocolate making equipment is pretty cool & mouth watering. But then the best part is always the praline demonstration & tasting session at the end. So that brings me to Praline No. 3 - very tasty!

That pretty much brings me to the end of my time in Brugge. A hell of a lot of walking through cute laneways, admiring the buildings & chocolatiers. It's a very safe little place to visit even when travelling alone & I can really see what people love about the place.

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