Belfort, Belgium, Bonne-Chière Windmill, Bosteels Brewery, Brendan Gleeson, Bruges, Brussels, De Halve Maan Brewery, De Vier Winden, Grand Marnier, Hoegaarden, In Bruges, Leffe, Markt, Neuzekes, Oud Huis de Peellaert, Straffe Hendrik, Tripel Karmeliet
I’m going to see if I can’t close out The Honeymoon Chronicles by getting us through the last leg in one post. If not, then, well, I guess we’ll go one more? Ok, then.
We were in Bruges. Checking into Oud Huis de Peellaert, we marveled at how beautiful the hotel was. There was much to marvel at in this old place, mostly good, and some truly odd. The view from our room was something just out of a storybook, or what you’d think a small Belgian town would look, historic and timeless. The floor of the bathroom was heated. As is the case with most European hotels, you had to use your room key in a slot to enable the lights and other electronics. The odd thing about this one was that it was a true key on a weighted dongle and not a credit card-like passkey. Also, we were to leave the key at the front desk when we left, which, if we forgot something, then the desk attendants, who never complained, certainly didn’t look pleased. It’s okay, they dealt with it, fantastically.
Another odd thing in this hotel, not in our path, but the opposite end of the hall, there were structural braces in the hall. Not just there, but THERE! See the picture, won’t you?
Well, we settled our stuff in, took in the view and decided to go out and see what this small town held for us. We dropped off the key and walked out the front door. We glanced toward the skyline and looked for a clue as to where to go. We saw what were looking for and headed to the left.
We passed by a few small restaurants and came to a small square. In this square there were a few police officers. They were setting up seats in front of a trailer/stage where an orchestra would play later that day. Let it be known that that was the only time we saw any police during our entire Bruges stay. We moved on down a street. Street is a misnomer as there was no cars in this street, although some horse-drawn carriages were.
We passed by chocolatiers, lacemakers, lace sellers, more restaurants and a beer museum. Mmmm hmmm, a beer museum. But, that comes later. We heard and saw what it was we were looking for. Bruges is visually best known for one thing. It’s primary landmark, and if you’ve seen the film In Bruges, then you know it already, is the Belfort, or Belfry of Bruges. It’s a 13th Century bell tower and has 366 steps to the top, in which I am way too lazy to climb. It’s the center attraction in the Markt, a market square that is full of restaurants, shops, a post office and some government buildings.
As we were now getting a little hungry we decided to sit down for a small snack and, of course, Belgian beer. So, we ended up at a restaurant to the right of the Belfort called De Vier Winden (German for The Four Winds) where we had frittes with both mayonnaise and ketchup and Leffe Braun. We also had a great server named Vincent. He liked us, as well, because we ate there more than once and he kept calling us his “very best friends.” The frittes, french fries – after all true french fries were created in Belgium, not France – were delicious and hit the spot and the beer, well Leffe is awesome and hard to go wrong. We then decided that we were ready for a nap. C’mon, we’ve at this point been going, non-stop, for 11 days, straight. It was quite needed.
We returned to the square later that evening and after walking about a mile (plus) out of the way to find an ATM, returned to the square, yet again, to pay for a horse-drawn carriage ride through the historic city. This was no ordinary carriage ride. The driver and her friend drove the horse quite quickly. At one point the horse was actually trotting and not just strolling through the city. It was probably the fastest carriage ride we’d ever taken. The driver stopped halfway through the tour to feed the horse and let it get water. We took that opportunity to get some pictures and enjoy the rest. It was a fun, but strange ride. We ended back at the square about 45 minutes (the ride was fast, not the tour) and we went back to De Vier Winden since we were already familiar with it. Vincent was waiting for us there and greeted us as his “very best friends,” yet again.
The BCPF had some wine whilst I had the biggest glass of Hoegaarden Raspberry known to man. It was hugantic! She had shrimp croquettes and I had cheese croquettes for appetizers. They were both spectaculicious! For dinner, she had a chicken florentine stew and I had rabbit. Dessert was, of course, a Belgian waffle for The BCPF and crème brulèe for me. All was very delicious. She was especially taken by the croquettes and got them, when she could, from other restaurants. We then returned to the hotel and stopped in at the bar for a night cap. Any guesses as to what I had? Have you been reading, Dear Reader? I’ll give you three guesses and first two won’t count. Okay, okay, I’ll tell you, it was, of course, Grand Marnier and The BCPF had Sprite. She was living dangerously.
Breakfast the next morning was a cold/dry bar with cereals, lox, toast, etc. Basically, it was the same shite we’d had everywhere else. Nothing, really, to remark about. Then, we were out and about. We had a 2pm appointment for one of the city tours with earphone guide, but we were up and out early so we had time to kill. We did what we do and took a different turn and walked the streets to see what else we could wander upon. We crossed some bridges that are older than most everything we have here in “The States,” walked the streets, doing some people watching and ended up at a little market square. At this square there was a few different things: fish (because why not?) and other seafood, scarves, t-shirts, etc. The BCPF loves some scarves, as I think I’ve mentioned, and these were actually made by the people that were there selling them. They had a large loom there that they used to make said scarves. She wasn’t going to buy one but I kind of insisted. She loved it.
We made our way to the Markt again and whilst waiting on the tour bus, we had a few beverages. The BCPF had a Belgian cafe mocha with hot chocolate and coffee and I had a few beers. These beers were Straffe Hendrik by De Halve Maan Brewery in Bruges, a fantastic 11% ABV monster and the Tripel Karmeliet from Bosteels Brewery, a great 8.4% ABV Tripel. One thing that I noticed about Belgium and their restaurants, when they serve beer, they serve it with glasses that have logos that match each and every beer.
We then walked across the square and got on the tour bus. It was really a run-of-the-mill tour, nothing major. We saw a couple of things like the Bonne-Chière Windmill, two more bell towers, including those older than the Belfort. There was also a VW Microbus carrying a wedding party. Interesting. Then back to the square where we exited the bus.
We walked up the street to The Beer Museum. See, I told you I’d get there. Admission included walking up a ridiculous amount stairs to grab an iPad of some sort that would play the part of tour guide for us. It showed the history of beer, both in the world and in Bruges. It showed the positive and negative aspects of beer in history. The highlight of the museum tour, though, was the three tokens each we received to exchange for beer samples. And, yes, The BCPF drank beer! She says that it was Belgium that fully turned her on to it. We tried Kriek (cherry) lambics, hefty high-gravity beers and other smooth and strong Belgian beers. Quite delish, all.
Feeling quite sluggish and more than slightly inebriated, we stumbled about looking for things to buy for souvenirs and found a chocolate factory that tickled our fancies. One thing about Bruges, it’s known for a few things. Specifically, it’s known for its Belgian lace (especially bobbins-made), Belgian chocolate, Belgian beer and Belfort. Anywhat! We proceeded to purchase a 36-pc box of chocolates (variety assortment) and a dozen “animal fat jellies.” Basically, jelly- (like jelly beans, not as in PB&J) filled candies that are shaped like noses and are called “neuzekes” (noses), oddly enough. I mention the animal fat because the girl who sold them to us was quite adamant about informing us due to the fact that she sold some to a Muslim couple and they didn’t know. We got them in a tin and have finished those off, definitely. Remarkably, those things (and the chocolates) held up quite nicely.
I suppose I couldn’t really get the whole story out with any kind of brevity. I tried, Dear Reader, I tried, but already past 1500 words, that’s enough for now. Only one more night in Bruges and Brussels to go. So, there will be a Part 10 to follow and probably not too long from now. I hope you enjoyed this section.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“It’s like a f***ing fairytale or something. “ Ken (Brendan Gleeson), In Bruges (2008)