Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Europe - Pit Stop 2 - Bruges, Belgium

Day 2 in Belgium - After a scrumptious breakfast of waffles, fresh fruits, coffee and eggs we headed out for the touristy town of Bruges. The town is Brugge in flemish and Bruges in french and english. It's a 20 minute train ride from Ghent. It's a well preserved Gothic city and prospers mainly because of tourism. It's prefect for a day trip or you can even spend a night or two.

We visited Bruges on a sunday. Once you reach the main train station, you can either walk to the Market square (20 mins) or take any of the buses marked as Centrum. We were 4 of us and we chose to walk. We passed through a huge flea market selling all kind of goods. I was struck by the number of vendors at this beautiful and colorful market. If you are doing a day trip, here are some recommendations on what to see/do:

Walk around the flea market on Sunday, it has a great selection of vintage goods/furniture and new items.
Flea market on a Sunday
Colorful houses

Ride a bike around the city or take a horse-buggy tour. You can also take one of these boat tours which takes you around the city canals. A perfect way to view the city. The last tour leaves at 5:30 pm in the evening.
Boat tours on the canal 

Scenic canal view

Visit the Church of our Lady and see Michelangelo's Madonna and Child. The entry to the church is 4 Euros.  The church is nice but not very well maintained from inside. This Michelangelo's statue is the only one to leave Italy.

Michelangelo's Madonna and Child
Church of our lady 
Inside the church
Walk to the Market Square where the Bell tower stands tall and high at 290 feet. If you have time,  climb up the 400 stairs all the way to the top for spectacular views of the city. It will cost 8 euros and is open from 9:30 am - 17:00 pm. Right under the Bell Tower  are two famous stalls selling Belgian-style fries.
Bell Tower at Market Square

Bruggians love fine chocolate. All throughout the city you will find beautiful chocolate-filled display windows. The Chocolate line attracts plenty of tourists and locals everyday. The chocolates are pricey at 5 Euros/100 grams but definitely worth the price. Dominique Person - the mad chocolate scientist mixes chocolate with a variety of savory flavors. Options like lemongrass, lavender, ginger, chili, Moroccan mint and many more are all available at this store.
Fine Chocolate

Train Station 
We ate a scrumptious lunch at a family owned Mediterranean restaurant called The Olive tree. The dishes were all tasty and prepared fresh. It's the kind of place where you go, sit and enjoy a meal. Do not dine there if you are in a hurry. The owner/server was extremely friendly and took great care of us. We tried the shrimp and chicken. Both tasted great. The best part of the meal was the complimentary dessert - greek yogurt with candied fruits and honey. Simply delicious!!
Fish at The Olive restaurant

Bread with olives at The Olive restaurant
Chicken kebabs at The Olive restaurant
Bruges is also famous for lace. Bruges' crocheted lace imitates lace, which is done on the bobbins. There are plenty of stores selling beautiful lace for curtains, table-cloth and pillows.

If you have time, take a horse-buggy ride. You will hear one pass by you every few minutes. You can catch up on Flemish art at the Groeinge Museum. You can also do a fun tour that includes beer. It's called the De Halve Maan Brewery Tour. Rent a bike and visit the countryside. Finally if you are interested in chocolates, they even have the Chocolate museum.

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