Posts Tagged With: Bruges

A Day in Bruges

With just one full day to spend in Bruges, we had to be selective about what to see. We planned to begin early and see as much as possible in the short time we had.

After an early breakfast, we headed straight to the bell tower. One of the top sights in Bruges, it allows only 70 visitors inside at a time so we arrived well before the 9:30 opening to make sure we were first in line.

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Belfry of Bruges

The bell tower, or belfry, was an important institution in medieval Bruges. The 272 ft (82 m) tower served as a lookout and a means of communication. The bell rang at different times with different tones to tell the people when it was time to go to work, break for lunch, close the city gates at the end of the day, call the men to battle, sound an alarm, or issue important announcements.

We climbed 366 winding, narrow steps to the top to see the clock mechanism, the carillon with 47 bells, and the view.

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Stairwell in the Belfry of Bruges

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Carillon in the Belfry of Bruges]

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Reaching the top

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View of the square from the Belfry

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Bruges from the Belfry

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Bruges

Bruges is called the Venice of the north so our next stop was a canal boat tour. For 8 euros we enjoyed views of Bruges from the canals accompanied by lots of historical information from our gregarious and knowledgeable driver.

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Our captain was friendly and gregarious

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View from the boat

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Church of Our Lady viewed from the canal tour

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Another boat meeting us

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Canal boat tour

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I loved all the swans in the canals

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View from the boat

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Canal boat tour

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Canal boat tour

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View from the water of Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce Hotel where the hitmen in the movie, In Bruges, stayed

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Jim and I on the canal tour

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Yet another swan photo

Belgian chocolates are world-renowned and we wanted to taste some and after tasting, we wanted to take some home. We found a lovely shop, Pralinette, selling exquisite hand-made chocolates where we purchased just what we wanted. I talked with the head chocolatier, Fangio De Baets, who explained to me that the chocolates were hand-made on-site with the best quality Belgian chocolate.

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Jim in front of Pralinette

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Inside Pralinette

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Chocolatier Fangio De Baets

Fortified with chocolate, our next stop was the Church of Our Lady to view Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child. Dating from the 13th century, the church has been under restoration for the last several years with a completion date in 2017.  Fortunately for us, the exterior was completed in 2011 and the scaffolding was removed so our view of the outside brickwork was impressive.

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Church of our Lady

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Inside Church of our Lady

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Tombs of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold in the Church of our Lady

Our primary purpose in visiting the Church of Our Lady was to view the sculpture, Madonna and Child. Sculpted from white marble, Michelangelo completed this piece around 1504 and it was his only sculpture to leave Italy during his lifetime. You may recall this sculpture was featured in the movie, The Monuments Men, as one of the art treasures recovered from the Nazis.

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Madonna and Child by Michelangelo

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Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child

Following our visit to the Church of Our Lady, we felt the need for a little refreshment so we stopped at St Janshoeve Restaurant for a waffle, another Belgian specialty, and a coffee.

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Rick, Lori, and Jim relaxing at St Janshoeve

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Waffle and coffee at St Janshoeve

Then it was on to Brouwerij De Halve Maan (Half Moon Brewery). On the brewery tour, they told us there are 1608 Belgian beers made in numerous Belgian breweries but only De Halve Maan Brewery is located in the historic center of Bruges.

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Myself, Jim, Rick, and Lori on the brewery tour at De Halve Maan

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Our tour guide telling us about the beer-making process

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Tour at De Halve Maan Brewery

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View from the roof of De Halve Maan Brewery

A family operation since 1856, today the brewery produces 5 million liters of beer each year. Transporting the increasing volume of beer to the outskirts of town for bottling caused a traffic problem of major proportions on narrow medieval streets. Thirty-six-year-old Xavier Vanneste, the current head of the company, came up with the idea to transport the beer by pipeline beneath the medieval streets of Bruges.We heard about the project which was underway when we visited in April 2016 and I read it was completed in September. You can read more about it from NPR here.

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View of the pipeline under construction at De Halve Maan

At the end of the tour, we enjoyed our complimentary Brugse Zot beer made on-site along with a local cheese.

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Brugse Zot beer and cheese

We didn’t see everything Bruges had to offer but we saw a number of the highlights. With only a day to spend, we felt we made a substantial dent in the sights of Bruges and left enough for a return visit in the future.

 

Based on events from April 2016.

 

 

 

 

Categories: History, Travel, Uncategorized, UNESCO | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In Bruges at Last

We first visited Belgium in January 2007 with our sons on holiday between college semesters. With an ambitious itinerary, we skipped Bruges and opted for Brussels instead.  Even though we ate mussels in Brussels (and horse), when the movie, In Bruges, starring Colin Farrell, came out in 2008, I knew missing Bruges was a big mistake. So when we booked a cruise to Spain, Portugal, and Gibralter sailing out of Rotterdam, Netherlands in April 2016, I saw an opportunity to correct my error. We decided to go early and make a side trip first to Bruges.

We arrived by train late in the afternoon. As we exited the railway station, we looked around for a taxi and after a short wait, we found a ride to our hotel, Ter Brughe. I discovered this historic hotel dating from the 13th century on the internet and I believed it was perfectly situated within walking distance of all the sights we wanted to see. We were not disappointed.

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Hotel Ter Brughe on the canal

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Lobby at Hotel Ter Brughe

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Breakfast room at Hotel Ter Brughe

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Breakfast with a canal view

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Swans in the canal outside breakfast room

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The bar at Hotel Ter Brughe

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Pre-dinner drinks at Hotel Ter Brughe

Our first priority after settling into our hotel was to locate dinner. We found Restaurant Bistro de Schilder in a nearby square, and while the waiter wasn’t especially engaging, the food was adequate. Lori and I ordered the white asparagus, a new experience for both of us and quite tasty.

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Lori and Rick perusing the menu at Restaurant Bistro de Schilder

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Chicken entree ordered by Rick and Jim

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White asparagus

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Jim and I enjoyed dinner in this charming square in Bruges

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Statue of painter Jan Van Eyck in the square where we ate dinner

This was also our first experience with famous Zot beer, made in Bruges. We toured the brewery the following day but Jim and Rick each enjoyed a preview Zot with dinner, while Lori and I stuck with our usual red wine.

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Zot beer

After dinner, we set off to find the historic central Market Place where we  began our exploration of this unique UNESCO World Heritage site. Bruges (French), or Brugge (Dutch), is a superior example of a well-preserved medieval town. An economic and commercial powerhouse during the middle ages, it retains its Gothic flavor with narrow cobblestone streets and characteristic architecture.

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Narrow street leading to the Market Square

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Central Market Place in Bruges

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Town Hall in Central Market, Bruges

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One of many charming shops in Bruges

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Central Market, Bruges

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Jim in front of the statue of local heroes, Jan Breydal and Pieter de Coninck, in Market Square, Bruges

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View from Market Square, Bruges

The best-known building in Bruges is undoubtedly the bell tower, dating from the 13th century. We enthusiastically planned to climb the 366 steps to the top the following morning for a panoramic view of this historic, captivating medieval town.

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Bell Tower in Market Square, Bruges

Based on events in April 2016.

 

 

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized, UNESCO | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Taking the Scenic Route to Bruges

After our visit to Keukenhof in Lisse, Netherlands, I wanted to take the scenic route to Bruges, Belgium. A train ride through small towns in the bucolic Dutch countryside filled with tulips and windmills appealed to me enormously. Instead, we took the Keukenhof Express back to Schipol Amsterdam Airport and boarded the train to take the fast route to Bruges.

But first, we spent the night in Lisse at the charming Hotel De Duif .

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Lisse, Netherlands


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Lisse, Netherlands


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Lisse


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Hotel De Duif, Lisse


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Jim in the lobby at Hotel de Duif

After taking a wrong turn and lugging our bags up the stairs not once but three times, we finally located our room and discovered it occupied two floors; the sitting room and kitchen were downstairs with a bedroom above, so we lugged our bags up one more time. Exhausted by this unexpected strength training after an overnight flight and a full day exploring Keukenhof, we wanted nothing more than dinner and bed asap.

We set off on foot to the main square just a couple blocks away to find a restaurant. Notoriously indecisive when it comes to picking restaurants, we chose Restaurant Den Ouden Heere after the usual amount of hesitation. Always a fan of outdoor seating with heaters, we sat outside with a view of the square. Our friendly and helpful waitress advised us that the special for just 9.50 euros would be a tasty choice and we were pleased with her suggestion.

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Restaurant Den Ouden Heere


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Kebab, salad, and potatoes at Restaurant Den Ouden Heere

It was early to bed and early to rise for us. The following morning, we enjoyed a tasty buffet breakfast at the hotel before one final walk back to Keukenhof to catch the bus to Schipol.

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Breakfast room at Hotel De Duif


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Breakfast at Hotel De Duif


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Tulip on our breakfast table


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Bike trail to Keukenhof

We stopped at the bench below for a photo of a bulb field and farm across the road from Keukenhof.

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Scene of the crime

When I clambered onto the bench to get a view above the fence for my photo, a local curmudgeon accused me of having no respect if I would come to their country and stand on the bench. I was embarrassed and apologized profusely while I wiped the spot where I stood on the bench with my hand. Later, however, as Jim and I discussed the event, we decided that outdoor benches are built for sitting, standing, bad weather, bird droppings and a myriad of other events and this fellow was just having a bad day. Every other Dutch person we’ve met has been friendly and hospitable so this experience was unusual, to say the least. It made for a memorable story, however.

We were the only passengers on the double bus back to Schipol and when we arrived, we were astonished to see a huge crowd waiting for the bus’s return trip to Keukenhof. We appreciated the short line to board the bus on the previous day all over again.

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Bus ride from Keukenhof to Schipol Amsterdam Airport


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Line to board the bus to Keukenhof

We easily located the ticket counter in Schipol for the train to Bruges and headed straightaway to our platform. With hardly any wait at all, we boarded our train and sat back to view the countryside.

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Bulb fields from the train


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Bucolic countryside in the Netherlands from the train


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Greenhouses for bulbs in the Dutch countryside

We switched trains at Rotterdam to head to Bruges via Antwerp. We would return to Rotterdam in two days to board our cruise ship so we looked around to familiarize ourselves with this station.

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Platform at Rotterdam

At Antwerp Central Railway Station, amazingly, we encountered our friends, Lori and Rick, who arrived that morning from the U.S. and we had planned to meet that evening at our hotel in Bruges.

We could see why this station is reputed to be one of the most beautiful in Europe and we wholeheartedly agreed. Built at the turn of the 20th century, the glass vaulted ceiling allows light to bathe the stone and marble interior. The overall impression is both historic and majestic. We also felt quite safe with the Belgian military patrolling the station so soon after the March 22nd bombing of the airport in Brussels.

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Antwerp Central Railway Station

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Railway station at Antwerp with Belgian military in the foreground

When I originally checked train connections, I wanted to avoid backtracking to Schipol in Amsterdam and find connections directly from Lisse to Bruges. When I couldn’t make that work, we settled for connections from Schipol to Rotterdam, Antwerp, and finally Bruges with several stops in smaller towns along the way. In the end, surprisingly, our train journey to Bruges turned out to be the scenic route.

Next time: Bruges.

Based on events in April 2016.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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