Here we are, a dream job come true and the beginning of a 5-month journey across Europe. The anticipation is very real and I’m so stoked to be here! Bruges is a town I came to with no expectations. This was one of those experiences I’m glad I didn’t know anything of, as exploring this amazing little town was truly a delightful surprise!
The journey begins in Paris where we hop on board a brand new straight outta the factory bus. I’m greeted by the new car smell, a few nervous faces, a few excited ones and our charming cheery tour guide, Gerard. After a brief intro our guide filled us in on the day ahead, the few stopovers on the way and an introductory spiel on Bruges. By midday we were dropped off to our hostel to unload our luggage, check in and roam the town.
The whole three days here was an escapade of pinpointing certain attractions and getting lost in the middle. And the getting lost component was probably the best part of it all (mind you, I get lost… a lot!). We were lucky to arrive on a Bank Holiday, which meant no shops were open and many families had gone away for the weekend or spent the chilly days indoors. This turned the streets into a medieval ghost town and walking down the paths at sunset felt like a knight could creep up behind every other corner.
Our hostel – The Bauhaus – was right beside the centre of town and made our daily walks to Markt Square very convenient. It had the best bar/communal area to come home to every evening with an infinite variety of beers that Belgium is so famous for. You gotta try all the weird flavours, but the cherry is by far the best! With a big backwards running clock, ambient instrumentals and rustic wooden interior, you can’t help but feel a part of the historic atmosphere.
During our coach day, Gerard helped a ton with providing us some cool facts and insights on what to check out during our stay. One of the story’s he mentioned was that a certain basilica had contained a vial that is said to contain Jesus’ blood. We made a point to turn that into an adventure in itself. With little to no research on where it was, we set a day out to walk around to find it. Once we got to the Basilica of the Holy Blood, seeing the artefact in the flesh, I’d have to say it was a very riveting experience. Whether you’re a skeptic or religious, there’s a cool story behind it and it’s definitely a cool relic to catch.
Throughout our days wandering around we of course found many must-eats along the way. I’ll be honest and say hot chips (or frites) was not a delicacy I was expecting here. Who knew Belgians ate so many fried potatoes?! It was hard to believe that the golden strips of goodness that is known as the “French fry” wasn’t actually invented by the French! Or so they say in Belgium, as Belgians take the ownership of potato frying as early as the late 17th century.
Today, Belgians consume the most French fries per capita of any country in Europe. And as any good willing tourist would, we had to have it. All day, everyday. I mean you could really get them anywhere at this quality nowadays but what differed here were the variety of sauces! It is very common to see about 20 different tubs on offer, the local standard being the mayo. But they do a super special sauce that I devoured every day: the tomato, mayo and onion mix! To any mayo haters out there, give it a go! It’s really something else on this side of the world.
I couldn’t write a blog post about any city in Belgium without mentioning their world famous chocolates. As a travelling sweet tooth it is a must to curb my sugar fix in every city and I can honestly tell you a trip to Bruges would be any chocolate addict’s dream. In Bruges, there are hundreds of chocolate shops you’ll find on the streets but only eleven still stand today as ‘hand crafted’. So I took a trip to Olivier’s Chocolate Shop for the best of the best. It is always handy asking local’s their favourite spot in town and this family run business was our top recommendation.
Now if you’re a hardcore addict (me), you couldn’t go to Bruges without a trip to The Chocolate Line. Here we caught the production of cocoa roasting process. For the daring, you can also snort the chocolate up the nose for a endorphin kick… yup. You can snort a line of chocolate. And last but not least, my trip was sugar coated with the doughy goodness of Belgian waffles. They just don’t make it back home like they do here, slightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Some places even let the sugar glaze a little longer for a sweet toasted coating outside which adds to the crispy shell. My pick was Fred’s Belgian Waffles and Ice-cream.
And now we say fare-thee-well to a short but sweet trip to a town that was never really on my radar, but after this week I am sure as heck glad I did. Next stop, Amsterdam!