Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bruges, Belgium: Part I

I'm not really sure where to begin with Bruges. Here's one word... AMAZING! Let's see. I have sampled the best chocolate and beer I have ever had in my life, as well as mussels and frites. :) We've seen (up close) a vile of Christ's blood brought to Bruges from the Crusades in 1150. (Skeptical about this one). We've visited a 13th century church that houses a Michelangelo statue, which is supposedly the only statue created by the artist to have left Italy during his lifetime. We walked through cobbled streets and along the canals admiring medieval architecture. And we got a good taste of some 'Flemish Primitive' art at the Groeninge and Memling Museums. We had such an amazing vacation.
Markt at night
Everybody says that Bruges is a fairytale city. Ever since my father visited Bruges a few years ago he has raved about this city. He says it's a must see. He's right. Even though the city is swarming with tourists I agree that when visiting Belgium this place is a must see. Tons of old architecture and history have remained intact for centuries and very little of the city appears modern. It's a very unique place and quite interesting to witness. It's understandable why so many tourists flock here, but we found a way to escape it all and truly enjoy ourselves and Bruges.

With Rick Steves as our guide we started exploring at De Halve Maan Brewery because it was very close to our hotel. The best part was going to the roof at the end for some panoramic views of the city, as well as some excellent beer at the end.

Afterwards we grabbed some dinner where I had some amazing rabbit and frites of course. The first frites of three. I know. That's excessive, but when in Rome! 
Touring De Halve Maan Brewery
Views from brewery
The next day the true sightseeing began. We climbed the Bell Tower and took some pictures from the top. The tower is under construction and because of obstructed views we got a free ticket to another museum, so we visited City Hall for free. Yay for free stuff! Jaap and I were recounting scenes from a movie we recently saw with Colin Ferrell called In Bruges. Has anybody out there seen it? The movie's a little weird, but it was fun to figure out where certain parts were filmed. There's a few scenes filmed in the Bell Tower and I was wondering how a film crew could fit inside such a small stairwell. Then Jaap pointed out that it's possible that not every scene was filmed on location. "Maybe it was filmed in a studio." Good point babe! (He's so smart). Despite obstructed views, we still got some good shots from the top.  
Happy to climb
Stadhuis
Day 1 continued with a visit to the Groenige Museum for a van Eyck and Dürer exhibition followed by stop at Dumon, a chocolate shop recommended by our buddy Rick Steves. Okay. Here comes a life changing moment...eating Dumon chocolate. It's the best chocolate I have ever had in my life! No joke. There's a reason why this shop is recommended by every travel book. It's to die for. And it's reasonably priced compared to other chocolatier shops in Bruges. We bought a box with an assortment of different chocolates and slowly ate our way through them for a few days. I was sad when the last one was gone. Just another reason to return to Belgium.
van Eyck
Our afternoon stroll took us to some stunning spots. It was quite chilly so we stopped at a pub for some beer. I had a Kriek, which means cherry beer in Flemish. Very yummy, but the beer gets even better on Day 2. More about that in Part II. Here are some pictures from our walk.

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