Tuesday, 3 August

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
The streets are very picturesque, and the whole town looks a little as though it were taken out of a storybook, except for all the tourists going through.  When we arrived, we spent a few hours wandering around and exploring.  My favorite street was the one we called "chocolate street," because it was lined with so many chocolate shops, each displaying its delectable delights in beautiful window displays:

Chocolate, anyone?
Given what a huge industry tourism clearly is, there were all sorts of different guided tours, whether by horse-drawn carriage...

Chocolate street
...or by boat, along the canals.  Celine and I opted to take a boat tour to get to see more of the city from a unique vantage point.  The tour was about a half an hour long, and our guide ably managed telling the 30 or so passengers about the city in Dutch, French, and Spanish.  I know he could have done English as well, and who knows about any other languages.  It is amazing how many languages everyone speaks!

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:

Grand Place
And then we walked through some more residential, less touristy parts of town.  I had been hoping to find a gaufre (waffle) stand here, away from the crowds under the assumption that a waffle in an area unfrequented by tourists would be the choice of local residents and therefore better, but apparently local residents all either make their own waffles or head into a more touristy location to buy them because there were no waffles to be found here!  After getting sufficiently lost, we pulled out our map and made our way back to tourist central for a well deserved gaufre:

Gaufre Liègeoise
There are two main varieties of gaufres: Bruxelloise, which is light and fluffy with a crisp crust, and Liègeoise, which is denser with a sugar-coated crust.  Each stand seemed to specialize in one or the other.  We opted for Liègeoises, but unfortunately the stand we chose already had some made, and they heated those up again rather than making them fresh for us.  Though it was warm, it wasn't as wonderful as I had hoped, I think mostly due to it not being freshly made off the griddle.  (The next day, we had a fresh one in Brussels, and it was delicious).  I also was not a huge fan of the sugared exterior sticking to my teeth as I bit into it - I think a Bruxelloise would be a better choice for me.

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.

Leonidas chocolates!
Bravo, Leonidas.  Well done. 

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 !

A bientôt,


I need orange said…
Surely enjoying this, vicariously, and will enjoy, even more, from a much closer distance..... :-)