Tuesday, 26 April 2016
TRAVEL: A long weekend in Bruges
It’s been about a month and a half since we got back from Bruges, and I’ve been struggling to find the words to put a blog post together. It’s difficult to think about our trip now without thinking about the terrorist attacks in Brussels that followed a couple of weeks later, and even though we had a wonderful time, I can’t write a blog post about our happy-go-lucky weekend without thinking of the people who lost their lives, and how different things could have been if our anniversary was a couple of weeks later.
I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling scared about the increase in attacks lately, and how close to home they are. It feels like only a matter of time before London is targeted again, and we just have to hope that our protection systems are enough. But I also feel, really strongly, that we can’t be ruled by fear and we have to live our lives, accepting that our time to die will come one day – hopefully when we’re old and grey, but it also might not. We’re not immortal. We’re not safe anywhere. Some people go to bed and never wake up. So I always think to myself that I could be in Paris, or Brussels, or London, or New York and a bomb could go off when I was walking down a street. But I was always going to be on that street, and the bomb was always going to go off on that day. It’s scary, but it doesn’t mean it is - or isn't - going to happen, and I’ve accepted that I’d rather live my life and enjoy it than be too scared to go anywhere.
Anyway. Bruges. And happy things. We booked a cheap weekend away in the Eurostar sale (£70 return, amazing) for our second anniversary because we’d heard such wonderful things about the city, and we weren’t disappointed. Bruges is very small, which makes it perfect for a weekend away – we even had time to leave early on our last day and explore Brussels a little, too.
On our first day, we realised we’d walked across Bruges in no time, and during our long weekend we covered pretty much the whole place. But there are always more nooks and crannies to explore – tiny bars and restaurants down quaint alleyways, beautiful bridges and buildings that look like they haven’t changed in hundreds of years. Even in the rain and snow (oh yes - I was extremely glad I packed my warm boots from Spartoo), Bruges was still beautiful. And it was so lovely being somewhere small, with so much less pressure to explore and see everything constantly looming. We pottered around, dipping into pubs and restaurants and chocolate shops (plus obligatory tourist visits to the Chocolate Museum, Frites Museum and the Belfort - note, don't go up the bell tower at ten to twelve. Bells are loud), and it was exactly what we wanted from a minibreak. Comfortable, cosy and relaxed. Oh – and packed with delicious things to eat.
I don’t think the Belgians get enough credit for their culinary contribution to the rest of the world. Belgian waffles. Belgian chocolate. Belgian beer. Not to mention chips and mayonnaise, great steaks and amazing stews.
Gran Kaffee De Passage
We came here for our first meal in Bruges, tired from our early start, hungry from missing lunch and cold from the March that Spring forgot. I ordered brochette – hearty chunks of steak cooked on a skewer – and Matt had Flemish Stew. Thus began our love affair with Flemish Stew. The brochette was good, don’t get me wrong – well seasoned, beautifully cooked – but the stew was something else. Richly flavoured with dark beer, with melt-in-your-mouth hunks of beef… I’m still thinking about it. We had it every day, but this one was by far the best.
The Park Restaurant
As suckers for a good review, we booked this place as it was the top rated restaurant in Bruges on TripAdvisor. Turns out there’s good reason for that. The set menu is a little pricey, but includes four courses and wine pairing with every course. They were very generous, too – I don’t think my glass was empty the whole time I was there! The food was out of this world, too. I will never stop thinking about that velvety steak. You know when people describe meat as velvety and it sounds kind of pretentious? Well, I get it now. And they blowtorched Matt's Creme Brulee at the TABLE. Amazing. Go here, please. You'll thank me.
We popped into this place for one of those lunches that turns into a massive meal, because I wanted stew again and Matt wanted mussels and we both wanted waffles and we got ALL THOSE THINGS. The service was friendly, the food was delicious and they sell beer. Nom. It's quite low rated on TripAdvisor, which confuses me, as we went to this place which was top 30, and it was rubbish.
We got to this place just too late for lunch, so instead had sweet bagels and mindblowing hot chocolates. It was a lot of sugar. But hot chocolate in Bruges is worth the sugar-shakes, because it's flakes of real, incredibly good quality chocolate melted in whole milk. We bought some back with us (from another shop) and are saving it for a special occasion, because honestly it's so much better than anything else.
Cafe Georgette, Brussels
We weren't in Brussels long, but managed to grab some food. As we were only there for a day, we didn't know much about Brussels - such as how you should avoid Rue des Bouchers if you don't like being bombarded by people outside restaurants, so we were lucky to stumble across Cafe Georgette, which is known for its excellent frites. They were excellent, as was this giant burger I had. Yuuuum.
We also visited some pretty wonderful bars too, such as Herberg Vlissinghe (oldest pub in Bruges!), 2be (coconut beer!), De Garre (secret!), Wijnbar Est (wine!) and Delirium (elephants!).
I absolutely recommend a weekend trip to Bruges, if you like food and drink and happiness. You do? Well, get thee to the Eurostar website, pals! Me, though, I'm craving some sun now. I have a long weekend in Magaluf planned for my sister's hen do in June, but I keep finding myself idly looking up flights to hot places like Italy and Cyprus too...
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