Enjoying the Guilty Pleasures of Bruges

It was an overcast Tuesday afternoon when we arrived to Bruges. Although I was bundled up with a hat, two sweater layers, a scarf and boots, I could feel the cold rising in my cheeks and hands as soon as we got off of the train. This was our first encounter with winter after two years!

Outside of the metro station we asked for advice on how to get to where we were staying. A woman advised us to take a bus that dropped us in the main square, close to where our condo was. After a short ten minute ride we were there.

As we suspected our condo wasn’t ready to check in yet, but we were able to drop our bags and went exploring. As we walked around we noticed the cobble stone streets, buildings dated from the sixteen hundreds; all made me feel like I was visiting a medieval town from the past. It had so much character and history I was amazed just walking around.

In addition to being excited to visit Belgium we were looking forward to seeing our friends, Ashley and Christian. They were in Europe on vacation and we were set to spend the next four days with them. This is the first time we’ve seen any friends from San Diego since we left over one year ago! As we came back to the condo we saw them in the distance and waved, drawing an instant big smile on our faces followed by a long hug. We grabbed our bags and went inside the condo to freshen up before going back out to explore Bruges.

Our first stop of the evening was the chocolate museum.  The museum was a little goofy and we were too excited from seeing each other and catching up to pay proper attention and read all the facts. I only remember one fact that I thought was pretty funny: If you are overweight, lose weight and then you can eat as much chocolate as you want! Apparently the chocolate museum’s stance on their attraction is you will not get fat… might have to test it out! The last part of the museum was a small kitchen where a guy showed us how they made it and then (most importantly) we were able to try some of the delicious chocolate.

Ok, what should we do next? Belgium Beer! (Of course)

I had iPhone envy and remembered the advantages of having a smart phone when Christian quickly found the perfect local pub. The bar had two rooms; the first with a bar, a handful of stools around it, and some tables. The other little room was tucked away in the back. We sat in the first room and started to look at the extensive menu of Belgium beers. Every beer had their own special glass. We sampled several rounds, but after two or three I started to feel a bit tipsy. Turns out your average Belgium beer is 7-11% alcohol! We felt that we went to the right place when we realized, by the end of the night, that the bar was full of locals.

The morning of the next day we went to an outdoor market in Markt Square. It was very happening; some vendors were screaming their offers (I assumed); they were selling vegetables, cheeses, meats, cooked food like chicken, potatoes, sausages, bread, waffles, etc. The market was placed in the center of the square surrounded by beautiful old citadel buildings, adding to the ambiance.

As we walked we saw a group of people rushing to get inside a church in the corner of the plaza. Driven by curiosity we followed suit. We found out later that this was the Basilica and we just made it in before closing time. Inside, a nun was sitting at an altar, as if she were guarding something. As we walked closer, we noticed a sort of clear tube the size of a cucumber. There was a line to view this strange tube. We learned that the tube, “Saint Sang”, has a small cloth stained with holy blood, supposed to be the blood of Jesus and guarded for hundreds of years and many generations.

From there we went on to the much-anticipated De Halve Maan Brewery tour. I was the first of the group to walk inside the building and our guide pointed at me with her finger:  You were at the pub yesterday!  We all laughed and nod. From then on she would point at us while making jokes about drinking too much. We felt good knowing that we visited the same bar that our local brewery guide frequents. The tour was very interesting and entertaining, a must for those going to Bruges. De Halve Maan beer is delicious.

For the next couple of days we continued exploring; we took a boat ride around the canals, visited the Picasso museum, ate in very cute and cozy restaurants, had some delicious clams and had lots of beer and chocolate, enjoying all the guilty pleasures of Bruges!

We absolutely loved our time in Bruges. Made that much better that we were able to enjoy it with wonderful friends. If you find yourself in Belgium, don’t miss it!

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