This weekend Sam and I took a quick trip with our friends Emily and Dave to Brugge, Belgium. They are world travelers, seriously, so we were excited that they invited us on this whirlwind trip – we only stayed one night! My brain is still processing the fact that I can go to continental Europe and back in just two days; it opens the doors for many more quick trips!
We took the ferry from Dover, England to Calais, France. It was as easy as could be! Drive on, wait 9o minutes (I suggest euchre to pass the time), and drive off!
Brugge, Belgium is just a short drive from Calais. My first impressions of France were that 1) it was very flat with hardly any trees and 2) there was a LOT of graffiti. Clearly I need to return to France for them to make a more accurate and memorable impression.
After checking into our hotel and relaxing for a few minutes we headed out into the city.
Brugge met my expectations immediately… it was old, charming and surprisingly tidy. The city itself dates back to the 1100s; many of the city’s buildings are hundreds of years of old. Rows of wise, mature buildings hover over every sidewalk, but not once did it seem claustrophobic. Worn cobblestone roads encourage you down the next street or alley, cleverly distracting from standard tourist traps and stores.
To balance out the close, cozy streets, the town has two large, open squares. The main square – the city centre – is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the 82
mile meter Brugge Belfry keeping watch. The belfry was originally built in the 1200s, but burned down and has since been rebuilt.
Sam visited Brugge back in college and remembered being a little disappointed… Mainly because it had been described to him as the “Venice of the North.” That, it is not. There is little Venetian about it, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. (Just don’t expect Venice). There are, however, beautiful canals that weave through the city. Thankfully we had crisp sunny weather that made the water shimmer.
I have mentioned before that I’m typically not a “city person.” I normally don’t enjoy crowds and I don’t crave the energy that large groups of people are notorious for. That may be the reason I loved Brugge. There was so much to take in, incredible history at every turn, but I never felt crowded or ill-at-ease. Even at night the city felt safe, so we relaxed, swapped stories and laughed until it was late.
Belgium is famous for its chocolate, which I knew, and its lace, which I didn’t know. It is now also famous – at least in my mind – for it’s fancy Weimaraner art. Seriously, if I had the money, I would have bought this and displayed it with pride.
One of the main highlights of the trip (especially for the boys) was the Brugge Beer Festival. I think it is fair to say that I dislike the majority of beers, but the festival was still fun and I did enjoy a few of the ones I tasted. When we first stopped by on Saturday night it was crowded and stinky, but when we returned Saturday afternoon we actually had room to walk around and enjoy it. For the price of entry you received a 15ml glass and four tokens that you could exchange for samples from the various booths. For me, the best part was the people watching. All ages and demographics were present (even kids, though they didn’t imbibe from what I saw). We saw an old man in the middle of the huge room clutching a compass and directing, “We need to go west!” Ha!
We really enjoyed going on this trip with our new “best couple friends” Dave and Emily. 😉 It was nice to share meals with them, dine on Belgian Beer and Belgian Fries, and laugh. A lot.
Though we were only there for two days, I saw enough to know I want to go back. There’s still much more to see, belfry stairs to climb, shops to explore, and chocolate to be eaten. Good thing we already have our next trip booked! 🙂