A Trip Back in Time in the Medieval City of Bruges

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ~Marcel Proust

What beautiful countries and cities lie beyond the oceans that separate us. In Belgium, we visited another astounding city. Bruges, in northwest Belgium, is the capital of West Flanders and home of one of the most important centers for fishing and European trade, Zeebrugge Port. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage city. Dating back to the 2nd century AD, Bruges is a spectacular city ornate with cobblestone streets, medieval and gothic style buildings, secret gardens and winding canals that will take you back in time. Roaming through the streets of Bruges one can’t help but wonder who roamed these streets? What mysteries occurred here? If walls could talk, what stories would these tell us? There is so much to discover in Bruges.

Hotel

We stayed at the Novotel Bruges Central, a modern hotel nestled among the old gothic style buildings on Katelijnestraat 65. The rooms were clean and comfortable. The service was very good. I have to say it had the best and largest breakfast bar of all the hotels I’ve been to so far. And everything I had for breakfast was tasty and seemed fresh. The hotel was well situated, just about a 10-minute walk to the Belfry and marketplace.

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Restaurant

Dinner was at the Maximiliaan Van Oostenrijk Restaurant on Wijngaardplein 16-17. The restaurant is in a nice park area and seemed warm and inviting. It had a charming medieval-style décor and the atmosphere was pleasing. The service was good, I can’t complain about that. However, I cannot say the same for the meal. Everyone sitting at our table was unsatisfied with the quality or taste of our food. We all agreed it was bland, but let me give it the benefit of the doubt, maybe it was the choice of meal. However, after our tour guide kept raving about the food all day, I expected more.

Sightseeing

Bruges Grand Place houses the XPO Salvador Dali Museum, the Belfort Van Bruges, Provincial Court, Bruges St. Jacobstraat, shops, restaurants, hotels and so much more. There are many ways to explore Bruges. One can take a boat tour through the canals, or ride a horse-drawn carriage, bicycle, bus tour or even an electric Segway. We decided to walk since we would be on a tour bus towards Paris for various hours.

We spend some time at Bruges Grand Place venturing through the shops and quaint streets while taking photos of the splendid views and architecture. It was a cold gloomy day with a bit of drizzle here and there, but that did not make it any less appealing. I liked how there were many satellite shops and vendors all around Bruges Grand Place selling anything from produce, meals, handcrafts, oh and fruits! We bought the biggest, sweetest and juiciest strawberries I had ever seen!

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Church of our Lady, Bruges its tower, at 377 feet tall, remains the tallest structure in the city and the second tallest brickwork tower in the world.

Yes indeed, Bruges is such a beautiful, enchanted city – like from a movie scene. I will definitely put Bruges on my list of places to revisit.


 

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Visiting The Not So Known City of Brussels

“To travel is to discover that everybody is wrong about other countries.”
~ Aldous Huxley

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Brussels Grand Place

Before visiting Brussels we never even considered it. Not because we didn’t want to but because it wasn’t among the most famous places to visit. The reason we visited Brussels is that it was in route to Bruges which was in our tour itinerary. For this trip, which included Amsterdam, Bruges, and Paris, we did a guided tour because we took my beautiful mother with us. We thought it would be easier for her to keep up the pace if it were on a guided tour and not independently since we tend to walk a lot, make many stops, and sleep little.

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St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral

On our way to Bruges, we made a couple of stops in Brussels. Our first stop was at the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral. Why is it that Catholic churches are always one of the most beautiful structures? It was buzzing with tourists too. This cathedral took about 300 years to complete. It is a beautiful church so full of history.

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The Atomium

We also visited the iconic monument of the Atomium. The Atomium was supposed to be a temporary structure. It was built in 1958 for the World Fair of Brussels. It became popular and now is a landmark in the Laeken area of Brussels. I didn’t even know it existed until we arrived.

Here’s a short video courtesy of Thomas and Cengiz aka The Travellers, enjoy!

According to the Atomium’s official website, “It symbolized the democratic will to maintain peace among all the nations, faith in progress, both technical and scientific and, finally, an optimistic vision of the future of a modern, new, super-technological world for a better life for mankind.” I really do like it’s meaning and can see why it captured people’s heart. It is an interesting structure and I’m glad I got to see it. Unfortunately, it was a shortstop – just enough to capture a photo or two – so we missed the opportunity to enjoy an interior tour of the Atomium. But I’m not worried. It just means we have to visit Brussels again.

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Mannekin Pis Fountain

Another one of Brussel’s iconic landmark’s is the Mannekin Pis Fountain. It is a small bronze sculpture (about 2 ft tall) of a naked boy pissing. Unlike the Atomium, I knew about the famous Mannekin Pis Fountain. However, I expected a big life-size boy fountain, not a 24 inch one. What amazed me more than the fountain was the amount of tourist anxiously waiting to get a photograph of the famous fountain. Well, that includes us too.

The Grand Place is the central square of Brussels where the city town hall, the king’s house, and Museum Van de Stat Brussels are located. It is a popular gathering place in the city, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one can see why. The square is cobblestone and surrounded by magnificent guildhalls, shops, and restaurants. The restaurants have outdoor seating which allows one to enjoy a meal while taking in all the beauty of the majestic buildings. Every now and then one will spot a horse and carriage available for rides. Such a pretty place.

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Horse and carriage ride

We came across an odd structure on Rue de Sables, right across from the Gaston La Gaffe statue. It was a container standing upright tilted onto one corner. I believe the tour guide mentioned it was commemorating the 60 years of art celebration. We were curious enough to get a snapshot of it and forgot to get a snapshot of the Gaston La Gaffe statue. Here goes another reason to return to Brussels.

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Ca Ru Containers representing 60 years of art celebration

Our visit to Brussels was short. But Brussels is, indeed, a beautiful city. And the short tour was just enough to convince us that Brussels is a place worth visiting.