In the Bruges

So much to do, and so little time!

View from the top. Belfry, Burges, Belgium. June 2015.
View from the top. Belfry, Bruges, Belgium. June 2015.

Our last stop before heading back to my final destination—back to my London home—was a one day stay in the (once again—another theme?) absolutely stunning and easily walkable Bruges, Belgium.

While the Netherlands had given us funny cheeses and smelled of chocolate, it was in this wonderful city that we really explored our foodie inclinations. However, if you plan to follow in this model, a word of advice: plan ahead! But more of that to come.

Before anything else—and planning to eat our way through the city—we opted to head to the Belfry – the city’s large and historic bell tower where you can climb all 366 steps to the top and get an amazing panoramic view of the city.

This is a big stop for travelers—including school and tour groups—and they only allow a specific number of people up at a time, which you’ll be grateful for. Unfortunately, this also means the wait can take a while before you even mention the climb. Groups going in and out can cause you problems in terms of bunching in the stairways – single stairs for people going up and down— but we’ll cover another issue with this in a moment.

While we had done a lot of climbing throughout the trip, this tower felt like a whole new mission. Something we hadn’t known going in is that this tower leans. And when I say leans, I mean leans.

Belfry, Burges, Belgium. June 2015.
Belfry, Bruges, Belgium. June 2015.

The further you go up, the more you will notice that one side of the stairs within the spiral slowly but surely shrinks while the other broadens—because the stairs run pretty much straight in a leaning tower. In case you have someone like my sister with you: this is apparently terrifying for those afraid of heights, especially with people trying to pass, so be wary. On the way up, however, there are two rooms which you can stop in whether to read all the information, take a break, or simply get your bearings, so if one of your party can’t make it to the top, these are great spaces for them to hang out in, at least until traffic slows down.

The second of these rooms houses the chimes which are played like a gigantic windup music box so getting to that level to see its construction is pretty amazing.

But moving on to the rest of our day and, therefore, food.

There are a few things you really can’t miss if you visit Belgium and grabbing a waffle and some chocolate were definitely on our list. Therefore, if you can walk and eat, or at least find a quick seat along the street, popping by one of the many Belgian waffle shops is quite the treat—light and easy after our climb, but what we really loved was the utensil we were given. While sporks are commonplace, this was a tiny fork whose third tine doubled a knife. We never really settled on what to call this, but we are open to suggestions!

Then we were off to the French Fry museum—officially called the Friet Museum—where you learn more about potato history, travel, types, and even lore—seriously—than you ever knew was possible. And in true Gallagher fashion, we read it all. But while the potato choice is important, it is the way in which they are cooked that really make the fry, and, of course, you are taken through this process step by step.

There are a lot of spaces for kids—or playful adults—to run around and interact with here, so it’s a great stop for families and never got crowded. And of course, once you finish your tour, you can head down to the fry shop and discover exactly how a properly prepared fry is supposed to taste—the curry ketchup was surprisingly great! Also, if you take the tour, you get a 15 percent discount on all food orders per person which you can combine, so this is a nice place to stop and grab lunch if you are ready by then.

ALL THE FOOD! Burges, Belgium. June 2015.
ALL THE FOOD! Bruges, Belgium. June 2015.

After sampling the starchy wares, we went on to the local chocolate museum. Once again, we were taken through the history of chocolate and its manufacturing. While we did get free samples—which were delicious—if you’ve done other chocolate tours like the one I mentioned in Switzerland—I’d pass on this stop.

While the walk through was fine, the building smelt like a sewer, the information on chocolate is the same that you will learn pretty much anywhere else, and the part of the museum which should be exciting—watching a demonstration by one of the master chefs—there are signs throughout which explicitly state the you may not talk to the chef. So while seeing the chocolate sculptures which filled the latter part of the tour were cool—overall we were unimpressed.

If you are willing to shell out the big bucks, however, you and your group can do a private demonstration which, watching the group through a window—seemed fun and highly interactive, but I reiterate, it will cost you.

These next two stops are where the planning comes in.

We were meant to hit the Diamond Museum and another local brewery tour, however, due to a timing error on one hand and a ticket situation on the other, neither of them worked out.

From the canal to wandering the city. Burges, Belgium. June 2015.
From the canal to wandering the city. Bruges, Belgium. June 2015.

So my advice? I’d have skipped the chocolate museum; buy yourself a treat at a local shop instead and hit the diamond museum—though no free samples, sorry! And for the brewery, go first thing in the morning and buy your tickets. There are a limited number of tours throughout the day as well as spaces on those tours so, they can sell out early. This is a locally run brewery which seemed—unlike others—to really take you through the brewing process by a person who knows what they are talking about (a plus), and sampling is part of the tour, so go in early and get those tickets

But, since these fell through, we opted to be ferried along the canal by one of the many companies docked along the bank. If these tours interest you—and I do recommend it even just to see the city—you can pretty much find one by locating a bridge. While seeing the city was great, there were also a few fun facts for anyone interested in history and/or architecture from roof construction and pricing to the effect that window taxes had on those buildings you are passing. Our tour guide was very sweet, and if you can manage it, he recommended sitting in the center aisle for the best views, so keep that in mind.

While everything we did here in Bruges, was amazing—seriously great food—what we enjoyed most, for no other reason than surprise, was wandering the streets in the morning—though it plays all day—and having some 90s music pumped out into the streets. This wasn’t loud stores, but literally speakers lined up and down the streets blasting out The Backstreet Boys among others. But hey, it’s the little things.

So until next time,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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In the Bruges

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