Monday, August 5, 2013

Belgium and the Charm of Bruges

After five days of London we made our way to the continent, or mainland Europe and particularly Belgium. If you read my previous posts you may remember we had booked plane tickets that had us arriving in London and leaving from Frankfurt. Being the main planner, I tried to find the most charm in between those two spaces and Bruges, Belgium was the top of the list.



 Here my eldest is awaiting a pain du chocolate before we board the train at London's very beautiful St Pancras station. This lovely rail station was built in 1868 and was almost demolished in the 1960s before it was restored and opened as the main Eurostar hub. Lots of good restaurants and shops to wait your time out in too.



The Victorian architecture is very pretty. The 243 foot arched span, designed by W.H. Barlow, was an engineering marvel at the time and the largest enclosed space in the world in 1863!

It's quite easy to get over to Belgium on the Eurostar. In just around 2 hours or so you arrive in Brussels and from there you can take another quick train North to Bruges. The Eurostar is very comfy and traveling as four you can share a table. These two were spending the time watching a movie.  They are into Game of Thrones right now.



If you think travel on the Eurostar is going underground it's actually not so much. You are in a tunnel for maybe 15 minutes. Most of the time you are passing the French and Belgium countryside and all the little villages built around churches. Travel by rail is unique because you can say you have really seen a country.



I also find it so romantic. I love to look out my window, daydream and listen to one of my iPod travel mixes.



Yes it was cool the whole time we were in Europe. This photo is in the last week of June. I have on a jacket, two scarves, along with long pants, thick socks and tennis shoes! My four pairs of sandals did not see the light of day. Duh.

Bruges exceeded our expectations in so many ways. It was beautiful, quaint, fun and not crowded at all. Our stay was made even better by our Hotel Adornes, which was a Rick Steve's website suggestion. The people at Adornes, especially Rik, were so welcoming and had some great recommendations.



Bruges is part of the Flanders region of Belgium where Dutch is spoken. In the south of Belgium is the French-speaking Wallonia region.




This was the view from our family room!



Out front of the hotel on the canal.


Breakfast was in this cozy room each morning. How can you not appreciate a day begun with a basket of homemade breads and croissants? European breakfasts are the best.


Hotel Adornes has a terrace full of free bikes for guests so we took advantage to see more of Bruges.


Bruges is totally walkable. We spent all 3 days on foot, a little biking and a boat ride and never needed a cab or car to get anywhere. The town has a great path that goes around the city that takes you past some of the best canals. It's a joy to putter along here and we did that a lot. It feels uncrowded compared to other European cities.



The first day we were cold and hungry and we happened upon this divine tea room, Patisserie Servaas Van Mullem.  It was so amazing we went twice!


No words needed right?


I am enchanted when my tea is served like this. It's all in the details.


My husband loved the cookies here too. Food outstanding. Cozy, warm and lovely people. This pastery shop was opened again in 2004, in it's original spot, after being closed for 40 years. The chef's grandfather and brother were famous bakers who ran this place from the late 1800s. Pretty cool.


Our kids took this. I wanted to show you the 18th century decor of this place behind us and we matched! Loved the wallpaper, mouldings and chandelier.


Bruges is a Unesco World Heritage Site and has most of it's medieval architecture intact. In fact, if you see a building with a stepped roofline (like the grey and peach homes above) it dates from the 1600s. It's very cool how much is exactly like it was, and that they had had the foresight not to modernize everything.



Buildings also have the dates they were built in many cases. Love this one above from 1676, which is still being used as a storefront and an apartment.


Little cafes are jammed in every corner and yes you can sit outside even if they have 5 feet of space! This one across from our hotel was closed, but I loved how they fit in this corner.


The charm is everywhere!



The Markt (or market square) in Bruges is lined with more spots to enjoy the cafe lifestyle.



Bikes are everywhere with stylish riders.







Jan Van Eyck a very famous 15th century Flemish painter who lived in Bruges and he is honored in many places.



Most all the streets are cobblestone which are lovingly restored and replaced as they wear out.


Here they are repairing one.



Some seriously adorable shops.














They take every chance they get to pretty things up with blooms in this city.







A gate to a shared yard that many homes have here.



Most homes open right onto the street, but they find ways to add some curb appeal.



These are just a few of the window boxes as you walk along the residential streets.








 
Boxwood is everywhere too.



Another one of my favorite things is wicker and woven furniture and you also see it in so many cafes, and everywhere.

Some of the best times were just meandering through the town. As you turn each corner there are hidden squares and sweet little spots of the city.






Walking down this very quiet street we came upon some painters and they were blasting,  Der Kommissar by Falco.  Funky!  I know it was German, but it was just one of those strange happenings you can't forget. A Northern European moment I guess. (If you have forgotten this, so bad, it's good song, check out my link to the original video.)




 


A canal ride is a must when you are here and our captain was the Sean Connery of Belgium. (Or so he said!)


What a charmer.







Many hidden gardens along the canals.







Lots of bird lovers here.


These folks had a landing spot for this duck family!





Some homes have private entrances from the canals.



One of the highlight of the canal tour was seeing this cute dog. This pampered pooch was on his special pillow watching the boats float by!


There are numerous canal restaurants you can't see on the city streets like this one called The Sixties!



There is a lovely park in the center of town that is quite large and beautiful. Bruges boasts some impressive museums, churches and cathedrals as well.


One day we walked to the other side of town where you can see the windmills and it's an even quieter part of town.




There are two cute restaurants out this way as well.

We ate at this one, De Verloren Hoek which was excellent and popular with locals, usually a good sign.


Around the corner literally from our hotel and down this tiny street, was Bruges oldest pub, Herberg Vlissinghe, built in 1515.



Indoors is authentic and you could swear you were back in the 16th century.

It was a nice day so we sat in the beer garden.



Kids and adults can play games like boules and there is a little Jack Russell running about. The beer from the Half Moon (De Halve Maan) brewery in town is unbelievably good and also I tried a rose beer, which is very light from Hoegarden which I quite liked. You can also visit the Half Moon brewery in Bruges and they have a restaurant as well. We didn't get there this time.



Yes, all the Belgian beers were as good as this looks and I'm not even a beer drinker, but when in Rome. . .


Just loved, loved, loved Bruges and I am now intrigued to see more of Belgium. The wonderful people here are so welcoming and kind. I hope you get a chance to stop here if you are in Europe. Belgium is one of those places not everyone goes, but you shouldn't miss it. 



The feeling that you are walking back in time is the best. Very few spots left in the world that still appear untouched by modern life.




Next up we are on our way to the Netherlands and the city of Amsterdam.

Thanks for reading and suffering with all my travel posts!

Kim



29 comments :

  1. Your pictures are spectacular Kim and so reminiscent of our trip last year at almost the exact same time. We stayed in Ghent and spent one day in Bruge. The chocolate is EVERYWHERE and don't you love the darling shops and cobblestone streets (very romantic indeed:)The waffles were so fresh and delicious and their espresso was yummy. Thanks for sharing your photos and I'm sure this will be a trip your kids remember forever!

    xxL

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    1. Leslie, I remember your posts about this. I would have loved to get to Ghent as well! Yes, there is just so much to love in Belgium and I didn't even mention the to die for chocolates! Thanks for your note!

      xx

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  2. I am amazed at your generosity and hard work to post so many lovely pictures of your travels. Thank you
    Joanne

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    1. Joanne, Thanks so much for your comment and for reading. You are very kind!

      xo

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  3. Suffering with your travel posts??? They are delightful!!! Bruges looks so charming. I want to go immediately if not sooner. BTW I am a fellow (native) northern Californian and HSU grad. Saw your old posts on Arcata. Some memories there. I have been in exile in SoCal for almost 20 years. Keep those wonderful travel posts coming!

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    1. Marla,
      Thank you. Wow, a HSU grad in the OC? You have made it there 20 years? Pretty good. Must have been a big change after Humboldt. Lol! I actually love Orange County. So many fun things to do there and you can't beat the weather!

      I am excited you found my Arcata post! I am missing it and would love to get up there again soon.

      Thanks so much for reading! So happy you found my blog!

      xo

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  4. What a fab post Kim. Your photographs and narrative are beautiful. Love Eurostar, used to use it regularly upgrading myself by sneaking from Premier into Business even sitting adjacent to Grace Jones on one Journey! The beautiful streets of Bruges are now calling my name, I must take a trip there. That image of the green door with the ducks in front is wonderful isn't it. Love Falco by the way, Rock me Amadeus!

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    1. Paul,
      I want to hear more about your escapades! Grace Jones? I die!! You sneaky devil! I can totally believe it.

      Yes, you have no excuse not to get to Bruges! It's so close to you. Lucky boy. I know you would appreciate the plants and nature. Falco was the best! I forgot about Amadeus! Even better!

      Thanks so much Paul. xx

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  5. I feel as if I have been on a fabulous mini tour looking at your amazing photos Kim ... I would love to visit Belgium some time:)I have sampled the chocolate though!!
    ~Anne

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    1. Anne,
      Thank you! You should get over you would love it and it's close to you! So fun to make it a weekend I bet?

      xx

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  6. Loved the pictures Kim! I have been to Belgium but not Bruges - such a shame when I can just pop over and now I feel guilty! My fave was that dog looking out onto the canal - what a lucky canine!!xx

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    1. Naomi,
      I would have thought people go to Bruges, but I guess most visit Brussels. We did go through Antwerp and I didn't get to see much, but the train station was so amazingly gorgeous.

      You should do a long weekend! You are so lucky to have that Eurostar. Can you believe that pooch? What a life!

      xx

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  7. Hello lovely Kim,
    First off, thank you for your heartfelt words on Stylemindchic. Your kindness means so much. This community is incredibly supportive in times of sadness or loss.xx
    Your post here is absolutely charming! I feel like I just had a little European jaunt from my computer. Your have a gift for capturing the sites and sounds of a city. Now that I've seen this view I will definitely add Bruges to my travel list. What fun for you and your family!
    xx, Heather

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    1. Heather, Was thinking of you all week. Thanks so much for you note. I know you would love Bruges too. You have to go next time and I know you will be going again to Europe! Love your travels as much and all your photos and tips!
      xx

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  8. I absolutely loved this post! I'm such a fan of your travel posts as you have an eye for interesting and cute details such as the pretty green door with the window box, the wonderful flower shop etc. etc. The photo of the canal in front of your hotel with the reflection of the buildings is gorgeous too. No wonder you returend to the patisserie. The way the tea was served is just the kind of thing that I like. We visited Lille in France a few years ago and had a day trip from there to the beautiful Bruges but we didn't have time to see all of these hidden little gems. I remember being amazed by the architecture - everything is so well-preserved and of course I remember all the chocolate shops!

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    1. Miss b. Loved that place! Wish we could have tea there together! I know Bruges was just beyond darling! Love to get to Lille too. I heard that is beautiful! Yes, the chocolate shops were beyond amazing! Thanks for your note

      xx

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  9. What a wonderful trip! I haven't been to Belgium since my early 20s, and you have me feeling so tempted to revisit with my daughter! Beautiful photographs!

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    1. Cynthia,
      Thanks so much for your note! Thanks. I think Belgium is one of those places you want to get back to. Hope you and your daughter get there one day!

      xx

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  10. Love your photo's Kim! Bruges is one of my favorite places in Europe and I was so happy to see some pictures. I have also been to Antwerp, which we also liked and also to Brussels. Brussels to me is mostly just a big city, but it is where we discovered one of our favorite beers, Leffe! Most European beers are too strong for me, but this one is just right. We always look for it at Bevmo. I am so enjoying your trip and wishing I was there! Kelley

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    1. Kelley,
      Was amazed by the Antwerp train station! So gorgeous and wishing we had more time in Belgium. I will look for Leffe. I am now loving Belgium beer. It's just so good! Thanks so much for your nice note!

      xx

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  11. Bruges looks spectacular (and thank you again for the lovely postcard from there!) Your photos are fantastic, the little details are the best.

    I would love to go to Belgium again one day, I was in Brussels once but unfortunately I don't remember much of it, aside from feeling sick from the crappy, choppy ferry ride from Dover to Calais and then having to get on a stuffy tour bus and driving to Brussels...so yes I would like a re-do! :)

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    1. Laceylyn,
      That sounds like it wasn't a good experience the first time! I know that sick boat feeling and I never want that again! I hope you get to Bruges because you would adore it! Thanks so much!

      xo

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  12. Bruges is my fav place in Belgium. You can't imagine how different it is at Christmas; a real fairytale. Your photos are stunning and makes me want to go back very, very soon. I've subsequently noted down your lovely hotel xx

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    1. Vanessa,
      Christmas sounds wonderful there! I would love to experience Europe in Winter! I know it's cold, but all the little markets and lights sound so fun. Yes, the hotel is fantastic and I am going back there again one day I hope. Lovely and charming!

      xx

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  13. oh kim ever since i saw the movie *in bruges* i've wanted to visit. your photos are stunning. and the eurostar is the best isn't it? and european breakfasts are too. i'm still missing my cream teas and baguettes and coffee.

    your trip looks amazing!!!

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    1. Janet,
      Thanks so much! It's funny the whole time I was in Europe I was thinking about how you froze too and I should have heeded your jacket warning after reading your posts! I so agree about missing the cream teas, baguettes and all those sinfully good things!

      xx

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  14. What a charming town. This post came out when I was at the beach on vacation so I'm just now getting to it. Lovely. Lovely. It's just beautiful. I checked out the Hotel, and it looks so quaint and nice, too. Bet it was wonderful, Kim.

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  15. Hi Kim! I am finally catching up on my blog reading and your post on Bruges made my day. I love that place. And then I laughed out loud when I saw your pic of the dog laying on the window sill keeping on an eye on things. I took a pic of that same dog, too! Don't know why I didn't post it. Seeing your pic made me think I was seeing an old friend. So fun. Glad you and your family enjoyed your time in Bruges.

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  16. Hi Kim, for some reason I overlooked your abroad section..I am just discovering it and it's so funny because I just added abroad photos on my site (including Brugge and other parts of Belgium) Amsterdam, and so much more! I love this!! xx, Tiffany | www.sunshinedaydreamphotography.com

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