Monday, 22 December 2014

City hopping | Bruges


The city was beautiful and we were in a prime location, next to all the chocolate shops and within 10 minutes of the market and other attractions. I love generally mooching about and looking at all the Christmas decorations. I was expecting it to be really busy, but it really wasn’t, even at night – we saw and did so much in two full days.
We visited the chocolate museum, learning about the history of cocoa, the chocolate making process and about famous Belgian brands. At the end of the visit, we even saw a demonstration and got to sample a lovely praline chocolate figurine. Even though it was aimed at children, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. There was a very nice shop as well and I could have bought everything in there!
Who knew there was so much to know about the humble potato, to the extent there’s such a thing as a fries museum?! From variety to history, nutrition to remedies, old memorabilia and more – the frietmusuem had it all! The upstairs of the museum had an interactive area with video and plenty of photo opportunities to be had in the old chip van. In the basement is a small restaurant area – like an old fashioned fast food place. We ordered a portion of fries (which we had with ketchup) and they were amazing; by far the best I had in Bruges.
Of course, the visit had to continue with another thing Belgium is famous for – beer. We went to the beer museum and despite the fact I’d been to breweries both in the UK and abroad, this was still an education. We were given an iPad mini as a guide and at each station was a QR code to scan and you were given the choice to read, watch or listen the relevant information. Admission was either 7€ or 11€ (which included three drink tokens at the bar at the end). Even though I paid the cheaper price, I had one of Jake’s tokens and had a lovely cherry beer.
Oh my gosh, the market was incredible! It was the only reason I wanted to visit Bruges and it totally didn’t disappoint. I had a mulled wine, followed by a chocolate waffle and hot chocolate with amaretto to keep toasty. We had a look at all the stalls and the food ones were amazing – with rows of pâté, cheese, jam and other delicacies on display. I definitely took advantage of the samples! There was even an ice skating rink in the middle of the square and even though I didn’t skate, it added that extra magical touch to the wintry scene. Everything was so beautiful.
There were hundreds of chocolate shops and we must have dived in to at least 15. We visited one of the most famous chocolate shops in Bruges – The Chocolate Kiss, who produce their own chocolate beer and hot chocolate, amongst other delights. So many people were having their photos taken outside the shop, so I just had to, too. Unfortunately the chocolates were by far, the most expensive we came across, but it was lovely to simply browse.
The snow & ice sculpture experience was incredible, if a little chilly (I think it was something like -6C in there!). The theme this year was The Hobbit and the displays were amazing; you could see the amount of time and effort gone into carving each figuring, not to mention ice houses, bridges and even a slide! I queued for the slide and it was great fun – it didn’t even feel cold to the touch. There was an ice bar where we enjoyed shots and sat on an ice bench, covered with furs. It was definitely a must-see attraction and something I thoroughly recommend. I took about 40 photos and with the changing colours, had to capture each one a couple of times – they simply don’t do it justice though.
On the way back to the Centrum (city centre), we went on the giant ferris wheel, which was also fun. The view from the top was beautiful – you could see all of old Bruges and the skies were so clear, offering perfect panoramas. We went round nine times and each time was even more special than the last as there was always something new to spot.
Even though we saw and did so much, I’d still go back – but the appeal is only there in winter.

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