In Bruges. I didn’t know there was a movie by that title until after our return. It’s a pretty dark comedy, but it was definitely “shot” in Bruges. I recognized many of the scenes from our visit.
May is a month full of holidays here so practically every weekend is either a three or four-day break. Hard to get anything done. Good excuse to get out and visit some stuff. May 1st was Labor Day so Kate booked us train tickets to Belgium and off we went. We really like traveling through Europe by train. Except in Italy. Not so much in Italy. Anyway, Sarah wanted to visit Belgium because she had heard they were famous for chocolate.
Bruges is a trading and commerce town with a long and wealthy history. Originally it was easily accessible from the North Sea and many ships brought their goods in to trade via the canals that thread through the “Venice of the North”.
After time, however, the canals began to fill in with silt and the larger vessels could no longer access the city. These days the canals are mostly used to show tourists around.
Turns out sightseeing by boat is pretty cool. We didn’t have time to take a gondola tour while we were in the real Venice, but early Labor Day morning we hopped aboard and enjoyed a nice float through town.
The holiday weekend brought quite a few visitors to the city. I think our boat guide gave the tour in English, French, and Flemish. I was wondering how many other languages he knew.
Europeans all seem to be much better at multiple languages than we are. I guess it’s because they get an earlier start. The woman waiting for the boat with us was Spanish, but she lives in Germany teaching French and her English was excellent. Dang!
Along the way we spotted an bustling flea market and decided to hunt it down after the tour. When we found it we came across a map of the city. Done in lace. That’s sorta different! Bruges is also known for it’s lace making.
Across town near the chocolate museum we came across another map. This one just made me laugh. Art perhaps?
At another market square we came across a marching band. The nice lady who sold us a couple of watercolors told us it was the socialist party. Out playing for Labor Day. Fitting I guess.
Turns out there were lots of groups parading through town for the holiday. We even joined one briefly as it was the easiest way to walk through the crowds! The one we joined didn’t have special uniforms so I’m not sure if they noticed us or not.
We paid a visit to the chocolate museum and learned all about Belgian chocolates. I didn’t realize that the cocoa butter lotion you use on your skin was actually the same product you enjoy eating in chocolate!
The chocolatier who gave the live demonstration explained that the makeup industry consumes more cocoa butter than the chocolate industry and actually drives the price of the cocoa.
We saw lots of sculptures (?) and things made of chocolate. Seemed a bit of a waste but I guess it was a museum.
They definitely take their chocolate seriously here. We even found a bottle of chocolate wine (red). Haven’t tried it yet though. I can’t imagine it’s going to be very good…
Another item the Belgians are passionate about is French Fries. Only they don’t call them French Fries. In Europe they’re called Frites. This joint on Market Place sold nothing but frites!
Well OK, they sold other stuff too, but you can see what their specialty was. Belgians also like beer. They make a lot of it and they drink a lot of it. Wine, not so much I think. They let the (French) neighbors do that.
So, chocolate, fries, and beer. It all sounds very low-cal and healthy, doesn’t it? We also found this but Sarah didn’t want to try it.
We stuck with the chorizo and ham instead.
All over Europe we had been seeing people touring the cities on Segways and Sarah had been dying to try one. We weren’t sure she was old enough but we figured the worst that could happen was that the operator would tell us no. So made reservations for an early Saturday morning tour and off we went. They did insist that Sarah wear a helmet but, as you can see, they did indeed let her ride. After about 15 minutes of instruction and weaving around traffic cones off we went. It was fun! Definitely a different way to get around. And surprisingly tiring. Even though the Segway will keep itself balanced when standing still it is continually making micro-motions to correct and your leg muscles are continuously reacting to the motions. After 45 minutes my calves were screaming!
At the recommendation of our tour guide we stopped in at the herberge Vlissinghe for a spot of lunch when we were done. This pub has been serving munchies and brews since 1515, and we were there for the 500-year anniversary! We enjoyed fresh bread, onion and fish soups, and strong Belgian ales.
After lunch we paid a visit to the Jerusalem Church, built in the late 1400’s as a private chapel by a wealthy Belgian pilgrim after his return from Jerusalem. Now a museum open to the public, the Jerusalem Church contains a shard of wood alleged to be from the True Cross of the Crucifixion, brought back by Anselm Adornes on his return from the Holy Land.
I thought the main alter was a little creepy with the skulls and bones.
The mausoleum, while impressive, seemed a little strange in the middle of the main worship space. Then again, it was a private family chapel so I suppose it was appropriate.
There were many family plaques hung on the walls of the upper chapel. They were all of a similar size and shape and had dates ranging back over 300 years. I never did quite figure out what the significance was. Should have read my brochure more closely I guess.
Some of them were quite recent. And odd…
The text under the figures (Adam and Eve?) says “I march right” in French.
No visit to the North Sea coast would be complete without some windmills, so we strolled back to dinner along the park by the canal. Sarah just had to climb one, of course. Bruges. To quote the movie, “It’s a fairy tale f’ing town!”