A follow on from yesterday’s post…
Often referred to as the ‘Venice of the North’, and linked by its canals to the North Sea, Bruges was once considered the cosmopolitan trading port and city home to merchants from Spain, Italy, Germany and England. As larger ports became more popular it declined in importance until the 19th-century when it was renovated in keeping with the fashion for Gothic and neo-Gothicism. It was also at the centre of the western art world and home to the pre-Renaissance Flemish masters. Today Bruges, a UNESCO World heritage site, is a leading tourist attraction, but always mindful of the need to preserve its historic legacy, it retains a real sense of its roots.
By the time we awoke we were already docked in Zeebrugge . Granddaughter was eager to be up and experiencing all that she could. Thank goodness she was because we realised that my phone, which we were using as the alarm clock, had failed to automatically change time zones and we were an hour behind where we should have been! This has never happened before and it meant a fairly rushed breakfast before making our way to the dockside ready to get the coach into Bruges (about eight miles away) , but from then on the day was perfect.
Granddaughter chose a milkshake whilst Daughter in law and I had coffee in The Tea Room de Proeverie – still costing the same price as my first visit five years ago, and still served with a little dish of whipped cream, mendiants and a chocolate truffle. Refreshed, we began to explore …and to buy chocolate! There are more than 2,000 chocolatiers in Belgium, many making handmade chocolates on their shop premises.
For anyone who is fascinated by architecture, Bruges offers some wonderful examples, with many of the buildings resembling those found in Holland. This typical gabled roof-line is found throughout both Holland and Belgium. In fact, Bruges is not unlike Amsterdam in many ways, though despite it welcoming between eight and nine million tourists annually, it remains very much less commercialised and somehow ‘gentler’.
Just as in other canal cities, some of the buildings seem to disappear into the water:
There is little traffic allowed in the centre, many visitors touring the compact city by horse drawn carriage.
We had chosen to go at the end of November in order to visit the Christmas market. It was interesting but not so large as we had imagined, and according to Daughter in Law, not really any different to the ‘German Christmas Market’ hosted each year in Birmingham. It was very crowded and after a short look around we headed into one of the quieter squares to find a lunch venue. Who’d have thought that we’d have been able to sit outside in warm sunshine for an alfresco lunch on 30th November!
In addition to chocolate, Belgium is, of course, well known for its waffles. I’d never got around to trying one before so this time I did – served with toffee ice cream, slices of banana and warm chocolate sauce, it was very good.