Bruges, Belgium

Thursday, February 7, 2013

It was afternoon by the time we arrived in Bruges (a short 1.5 hour train ride from Brussels) and we had no idea where our hotel was. The snow was coming down and we had no map at our disposal, so we did the easy thing and hopped in a cab.

Where we stayed
We stayed at Hotel Salvators, and I absolutely LOVED it! I would recommend it to anyone planning a trip to Bruges. Downstairs had a great fireplace to relax in front of after a cold day in the snow, along with a bar that had a few beers on tap (including a delightful cherry beer that I was obsessed with). 

The rooms also had a faux fireplace to continue to ambiance, and the bed was actually comfortable (something that rarely happens when we travel in Europe). Breakfast was included in our room rate, and along with the standard breads, meats, and cheeses, they also offered fresh Belgian waffles and omeletes. The batter of the waffle was so sweet that syrup wasn't even't necessary. YUM!

After checking into our hotel we decided to roam around the city. One thing I did not know about Bruges before planning this trip is that in January a lot of places are closed. They all re-open in February, but unfortunately we were unable to go to some of the neat pubs that we had heard about. The city was way less crowded than I would imagine it to be other times of the year, and it looked beautiful in the snow. 

We stopped in and had a beer Herberg Vlissinghe, the oldest pub in Bruges. It was small and cozy, and was a nice break from the freezing cold. 

By the time we headed back out it was close to dusk, and we were just in time to watch the sun set. 

The next day we headed out to the De Halve Maan brewery tour. 

Although we have been on many brewery tours in the past, this one was unique. This brewery is much older than any we had previously been to, and it showcased how beer was made back in the day. 

After the tour we tried a couple of beers, but with alcohol percentages of 8 and above it doesn't take much! The "Straffe Hendrik" was our favorite out of the brews we tried.

For lunch we went to a small place right across from the brewery. I cannot remember it's name, but it was literally right across the street. What enticed us to eat there was a sign that read "Mussels and Fries." We had yet to try the much talked about mussels in Belgium, and obviously couldn't pass up more fries. We ended up with a big pot of yummy mussels, a bowl of fries, and some more Straffe Hendrik. From what I can recall after a few beers, it was delish! 

Now that our stomachs were full, we headed to the Church of our Lady.  This church houses Michelangelo's Madonna and Child, which is said to be the only statue that left Italy during his lifetime. When we arrived there appeared to be some sort of orchestra/choir practice in session, so we sat and enjoyed the ambiance for a bit. 

We roamed around in the cold for a bit more, and had to try some Belgian chocolates. I had read a few chocolate shop recommendations, so we decided to stop and try two. The first one we stopped at was Dumon, which was amazing. There's nothing better than quality chocolate.

The second one, Confiserie De Clerck or Chocolaterie Confiserie, was less expensive but not nearly as good. Apparently with chocolate you really do get what you pay for (even in Belgium), and this cheaper chocolate was so not worth it. 

That evening we decided to go to a popular pub, t' Brugs Beertje, and continue our beer tasting. The place was small and packed, but we eventually found our way to a table. We each tried a variety of beers, and dined on a small cheese and salami platter. A perfect finish to our Bruges adventure. 

The next morning we got up early in order to catch our train to Amsterdam. Thanks to weather conditions this didn't go as smoothly as we had planned, but I'll share more about that later.

We both enjoyed really enjoyed Bruges. The city is adorable, but a bit on the touristy side. I'm glad we finally got a chance to go, and the snow made everything look like a fairytale (perfect for taking photos). The only down side was that many places were closed while we were there, but we still managed to have a good time!

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