Vicki and Dan's version of the movie 'In Bruges'

Trip Start Jun 16, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Belgium  , West Flanders,
Saturday, October 29, 2011

We headed off to Bruges with our friend the Eurostar, with a stop in Brussels just to change trains.  We followed the crowds in to the centre of Bruges and found that the central square (which was so empty in the movie) was filled with people and stalls as there was a food festival happening.  It was 3-5 euros per entree sized meal prepared by the local restauranteurs so we had a few different bits and pieces which added up to a tasty lunch.  

Our next task was to work off our lunch with a walk up the bell tower (belfry).  There was quite a line and we were surprised to find out that the entry fee had gone up 2 euros since In Bruges was made.  Perhaps it became more popular after that so they decided to cash in on it...  Anyway, the climb was busy, narrow and steep so there were a few hair-raising moments.  We discovered that Dan's dislike of heights is well matched by Vicki's fear of spiral staircases.  We were at the bells in time to see them play music (loud- but it was fun to see how they worked, pretty much just a giant version of a music box) and got a good view of the city from the top of the belfry.

The next thing on the list (also from the movie) was a boat tour.  We were sitting in what the tour guide called the romantic spot on the boat (at the back) and the speakers didn't really work so we only caught every second word the guide said which was a bit unfortunate.  It was, however, a great way to get an idea of the layout of the city and a feel for the architecture and where we would like to visit again.  It was autumn and a really pretty time of the year - hopefully that will come across in some of the photos.  

We then went to our first (of many) chocolate shops and were sold on some traditional chocolates.  We weren't quite sure what they were - and still aren't - but they were white on the inside and covered in milk chocolate.  Very rich and very delicious.  We also got some Christmas chocolates, some chocolates for our work colleagues, chocolates for every occasion really!

We then headed towards our accommodation in a dilly dally fashion, stopping to have a look at shops along the way.  We had some trouble finding our accommodation as it didn't have a sign or anything distinguishing it.  It looked just like a house...  Hmm...   We discovered that our hostelworld booking was in fact for a room at a lady's house so we were actually in the right place.  Our host was very upset that we had spent a day in Bruges without her having planned any of it and wasted no time in making us a dinner booking (for 9pm.  That was all they had.  Tisk tisk you should come here first) and drawing on our map with how we should walk to dinner that night, what we should eat and drink that night and what we should do the following day.  A fount of knowledge but a bit too much for slightly weary and very independent travellers!

We had a walk around the city at night on the way to our dinner reservation.  More chocolate shops along the way and also stopped to check out some Christmas stores and a few bits of lace here and there - in terms of shopping Bruges has a really impressive selection.  A few times we were amazed at the shopkeepers and their ability to switch between languages.  Often people would guess that we were French but when it took us a few seconds to respond would say 'or English' and then carry on telling us in perfect English that there was more downstairs or about the special they had going on.  Vicki spotted a nice bookshop which had free wine and cheese and so went and had a look (and enjoyed a bit of free cheese) much to Dan's amusement as 'you can't even read any of the books!'.  True, but you can still look and enjoy free cheese!

Anyway - the dinner that night at Cumbrinos (as recommended by our host) was very nice.  We had a ploughmans-type platter at the bar to start so that made the wait until 9pm for dinner much easier.  Dan drank the beers that our host had told him to, and ate the recommended meal (meat cooked in the recommended beer - making the most of the Belgian beer reputation)!. Vicki even braved the beer world and enjoyed her apple beer so a lovely dinner all-up.

The following day we had breakfast and looked around the Diamond Museum.  The definite highlight of this museum was Boris the diamond robot who swallows carbon, pressurises it and spits out diamonds all the while explaining what he is doing in Russian.  Very random!  Dan bought lots of Boris diamonds (2 euro for a little packet which probably has thousands of teeny tiny diamonds, about the size of a grain of sand).  They are a bit hard to keep track of - because they are so small they started escaping out of the packet and onto the computer, into the bed, everywhere really.  A great little souvenir of our time in Bruges though and an amusing afternoon with Dan spent crawling around trying to scoop up his lost diamonds.  Our final stop in Bruges was a trip to the Frietmuseum (as in 'frites' or 'chips') which we ended with a few chips and mayonnaise.  After that, we only had Belgian waffles left to tick off our checklist of Belgian foods to try...

We had to catch the train so left the Belgian waffles until we stopped to change trains in Brussels.  We tried to find somewhere nice near the station in Brussels but got a bit lost and couldn't find anywhere nice to eat.  Unfortunately the station isn't in the best location so we didn't get a very good impression of Brussels and headed back inside the station.  We did find some Belgian waffles in the station and learnt the difference between Liege and Belgian waffles - apparently Liege waffles (which are also from Belgium) have added sugar but Belgian waffles don't.  We had some yummy Belgian waffles but have to say that they didn't quite match home-made Norwegian waffles...

After that it was time for the train home again - another lovely weekend away and for Dan another new country to add to his list of places visited.
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