Celine and I went up to Bruges for the day. While I had done lots of planning for my time in France, I had done very little planning for Belgium since I knew I would be staying with Celine and her family, who would have plenty of recommendations. It was about 2 hours by train to Bruges, and well worth the trip - it is a beautiful town - "the Venice of the North," with all its canals. However, its beauty has also made it something of a tourist trap, and the streets are crowded with chocolate shops, gaufre stands, and lace stores. (Not that all of this is a bad thing!)
Bruges is in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. I had always thought of Belgium as a French speaking country, with Dutch as an afterthought. Not the case here! All the signs are in Dutch, though it seems everyone speaks French, too, and usually English as well. Why oh why are the States so monolinguistic?
|View over a canal into Bruges|
|Homes jut right up to the waterside!|
|View down a canal|
|An example of the original wooden houses in Bruges|
After our tour, we were getting hungry, so we stopped at a small boulangerie called La Baguette for lunch. Celine and I split a sandwich "di Roma" (whole grain baguette with tomato, mozzerella, and basil - dried, unfortunately) and a Worstebroode (a sausage wrapped in a flaky pastry crust).
|Sandwich di Roma|
After lunch, we visited the Grand Place, the center of the town:
Finally, before we left, we needed to get two more things. I wanted to pick up some chocolates, so we went back to chocolate street and stopped in a Leonidas, a well-respected chain. The Belgian specialty for chocolates are pralinés: chocolates filled with a hazelnut praline interior. I got four chocolates: dark chocolate praliné, milk chocolate praliné, toute praliné (dit "gianduja"), and white chocolate hazelnut.
Our last stop in Bruges was at the oldest brewery in the city, called De Halve Maan.
They give tours of the brewery, but we opted instead just to have a glass of their Brugse Zot, a blond beer that apparently has won awards.
The first sip was nice, offering an interesting and complex flavor; but after that, it just tasted like beer to me. But when in Bruges...
After our beer, we took the train back to chez Bonne Maman for a dinner of tomates-crevettes, raw tomatoes stuffed with tiny "grey" shrimp in a mayonnaise-based sauce. For dessert, we finished the tarte au sucre that we had started the day before. A nice end to a lovely day.
Thank you for bearing with me as I slowly work my way through writing about this trip... Without having a regular internet connection, or more than that, a computer with me, it is slow progress. But I will get through it all!
Coming soon: Avignon, and the pont où l'on a dansé !