Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bruges, Belgium: Part II

Warning: The subtitle for this post is Belgian Yumminess and perhaps I engaged in some gluttonous behavior while enjoying our vacation. :) Ooopps. 

Day 2/3 of our Bruges adventure began with our favorite part of the day. Breakfast. Jaap and I were a little obsessed with the hotel breakfast. Saying it was delicious is an understatement. I know. Who really cares? Trust me. If you stayed at our hotel you would take pictures of your breakfast as well. As you can see our trip to Belgium was mostly a culinary adventure for me. Best beer, chocolate, frites, mussels, and now the best hotel breakfast I've ever had. :) 
Hotel breakfast
A few blocks from our hotel was the Church of Our Lady. The church is beautiful, but the highlight and main attraction is the 16th century Madonna and Child statue by Michelangelo. Supposedly it's the only statue made by Michelangelo to have left Italy during his lifetime. It was brought to Bruges by a wealthy Flemish merchant.
Across the street from the church is the Memling Museum. Centuries ago it was a hospital that has been turned into a museum with artifacts and paintings from Flemish Primitives, mostly Memling. Lots of the paintings depicting medieval medicine make me appreciate modern day health care. Yikes! 

The chapel inside the church has lots of religious art. Since I know little to nothing about the Bible, Jaap explained the stories in the paintings to me. I felt like I had my own personal tour guide. I know that Jaap is not known to go to museums voluntarily on his own, so I was happy (and relieved) that he was genuinely enjoying himself. 
Below are some shots from our walk through the Begijnhof and Minnewater, a park filled with canals and swans. As you can see the weather was dark and dreary, no rain though. I thought it was very fitting for a stroll in this old medieval city. 
Back in the center of town we visited the Basilica of the Holy Blood (12th cent.). It's famous because it houses a vial of Christ's blood, preserved in rock crystal, brought back to Bruges during one of the Crusades. Skeptical? It gets even better. Supposedly the dried blood would liquify every Friday for about 200 years and in 1325 it dried up for good. Suspicious? Me too. Jaap has a theory as to how they got the blood to liquify for that 200 year period. It's fun traveling with a chemist. However, we did get to see the relic up close. We caught the public viewing right before it closed. 
Basilica of the Holy Blood
The second half of the day consisted of drinking beer and playing Rummikub at a really old pub. A fun and relaxing way to spend a cloudy afternoon. Here comes another life changing moment. This time it was with beer. Belgian beer is incredible. There is definitely a history and appreciation for it here. It made me think of all the crappy beer I drank in college. What a waste of money...and calories!
For our last night in Bruges Jaap took me out for some Flemish cuisine. We shared mussels cooked in Belgian beer. Delcious. We had frites...again. Delicious. Followed by a classic Belgian dessert, dame blanche. That's French for hot fudge sundae. Delicious. It was heaven. A great way to end our trip in this beautiful city. Thanks Jaap. :)

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