Our second and final day dawned and I was feeling much better (thankfully). Clearly our early Star Wars night had done the trick, even if momentarily. Breakfast was served until 10 and so we made it downstairs for 9.30 to tuck into some lovely fresh bread rolls with meat and cheese served with fresh orange juice and coffee. It was great and we used the next hour to chill out allowing our breakfast to digest before hitting the streets again for some more phenomenal architecture. We had a stroll into the main market and then kept on going to a part of town we hadn’t been to before. We then turned along past the canal and walked right around to the edge of the town where there were some pretty impressive yachts and boats parked up for winter with a lovely Christmas tree in the centre. It was a lovely way to start off the morning and thankfully the temperature had dropped a few degrees from the previous days tropical edge. After an hour of walking we took the logical decision it was time for beer, when in Bruges…
We stumbled across the Beer Museum by chance and having read some great reviews of the fantastic beers on offer in Belgium we decided to give them a go and skipped the museum part by heading straight to the bar. They had a great 10 Euro deal for 5 beers and so we decided to give this a try and ordered a lovely cherry beer, Boon Kriek and fruit beer, Rodenbach Rosso. They were both lovely and it was lovely sitting on some nice comfy chairs sipping away. I then decided to shake things up by getting the Rodenbach Grand Cru which was a proper beer although described as a red-brown sour beer. It was lovely and so refreshing. It was great to try the new flavours and actually enjoy them, I am generally not a lover of the stuff. Our final challenge was maybe a bit much. We got the Steenbrugge Dubbel Bruin which was a dark beer and not particularly to our liking although by this point I was suitably accustomed that I managed to drink most of it.
After all of our morning drinking escapades we decided the only sensible thing to do was to head for lunch. After yesterday’s Lonely Planet recommendation had been a tad off we decided to opt for a place in the main square – De Vier Winden. I generally always try and avoid eating at such touristy locations, prices are usually heavily inflated and the quality ok. This was probably true of this place but I really enjoyed it and the views into the Market square were great. On arrival the waiter asked if I wanted a small or medium beer. I opted for Medium imagining a pint size. However, the mammoth jug that came was GIANT and a very yummy fruit beer. I sipped away while I ordered and ate a starter of shrimp croquettes having loved the shrimp the day before and then mussels with wine and fries. It was a great meal and a lot cheaper than the restaurant of yesterday, although probably still expensive in terms of alternative options.
Feeling nicely full we wandered around the Market Square to meet our guide for the ‘Legends of Bruges’ walking tour. When visiting a new European city a ‘free’ walking tour is always high on my list of activities. In Bruges there were 2 different tours, this one or one for the hostel crowd. We opted for this one having read reviews suggesting it was more associated with history and were not disappointed. Our guide was so passionate about his city and very funny when explaining the at times quite gruesome historical stories associated with such a beautiful city.
We started out in the main Market square where we learned that previously the canals had come much further into the city and ran alongside the market square to allow traders to drop off their products in easy reach of their market houses. So the beautiful building along the side of the square is actually really new but was built in the same style as the other buildings at the beginning of the 20th century to preserve the beauty of the city. The pretty houses which are nowadays all popular restaurants were once used by the market traders as a place to make business deals and in one of the houses the Austrian King was forced to watch the torture of one of his allied servicemen. When he was finally released he sought revenge on the city (by killing a whole bunch of people) but also by forcing the city to keep swans on its many canals as a symbol of the ‘long neck’ which was the King’s ally’s nickname. Thankfully for us the swans of Bruges add a really beautiful edge to an already magical city.
We then visited a historical convent that still has some members to this day, although they are down to single figures from their previously busy days. It is interesting as apparently inside the gates you can rent rooms to stay but you can only do so as a single woman and so it’s a common place for widowed elderly women to live out the last of their days, and considering the spectacular surroundings, I don’t suppose it would be too bad! We wandered back around to see the famous swans from the other side of the bridge and then passed through the narrowest street in Bruges to finish off in the Burg Plaza where we learned about the multitude of different architectures from Baroque to Renaissance all within one square. The tour was great and was finished off with a story about a donkey who refused to help the people of Ghent steal the golden statue atop the old Bruges cathedral.
It was getting late in the day and so we headed straight for some famous Belgian chocolate waffles at Tea Room Laurent with another lovely cherry beer. It was so tasty and the waffle light as a feather. It had been a busy couple of days but after picking up some obligatory chocolate we headed back to the train station to get our train back to Brussels for our flight. We had a slight logistical issue in the airport where we boarded from one gate only to be driven on a bus to the other side of the terminal building which was slightly frustrating but nothing could take the edge of a great weekend in one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Belgium, I will definitely be returning!!