…but it is hard not to avoid the devotion that everyone has to the brew. One waiter nodded with approval when I asked for a Chimay,which was one of his favourite beers. His favourite was a Westvleteren, which was so exclusive it was only served in one cafe in Belgium and to buy more to take away, you have the phone the brewery and make a reservation and supply your car licence plate number. Individual customers are limited to the number of bottles and return customers have to wait two months before placing another order. The wait would somewhat whet you appetite.
Luckily there are lots of other things you can eat and drink in Bruges. We tried the chocolate, a couple of times…
There were moules and fries to try, which were scrumptious, and the waffles, which admittedly did vary from cafe to cafe.
To work off all the food, beer and chocolate, we did a bit of a workout…
We found a park with a playground, which got a serious workout from the kids. It was a great place to relax in the sun, when it finally decided to come out!
We climbed the 366 steps up the Belfry to see the bells and the fantastic view from the top.
We took a horse drawn carriage around, which is something which would best be done at the start of a stay but even better on a sunny day. Actually this was more of a workout for the horse, who takes a five minute break halfway through the tour.
We could have gone for a ride on a bike- the fltaness of Bruges and its general lack of cars make it a cyclist’s dream. Of course you score extra points if you run down a tourist, which at times is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel ;).
Another sunny day activity was a canal boat ride, which was best done in the morning to avoid queues. It was a lovely way to see the city, seeing as it is sometimes called the ‘Venice of the North’.
If you were unlucky enough to do it on a rainy day it could end up like this…
A couple of days were indeed rainy, which did dampen our spirits somewhat, if not our jeans. We spent one of these days at the Groenenwinge museum, which was noted for its collection of paintings from the Flemish Primitives. The more modern paintings however were the ones which drew the kids’ attention
The artworks were not just in the museums. I saw the Bruges Madonna by Michelangelo at the Church of Our Lady, which was undergoing renovation. I must say it had a profound impact upon me. The church wasn’t too crowded, so I was able to simply stand and look and reflect how amazing Michelangelo was and how lucky I was to have seen his artistry in person.
I also went to see the Church of the Holy Blood, which contains a vial of Christ’s blood, recovered during the Crusades. The experience was somewhat different, in that you had to join the queue, pay money and spend a minute with the vial. My minute of reflection was spent largely thinking of the person who brought it back, how many Saracens he would have killed and the millions of people who have seen it since it arrived at the church. I think it somewhat exposed my scepticism of holy relics, my general lack of faith in religion, and those who claim to speak on behalf of God. I think my reading of Wolf Hall may have influenced me in this way.
And so we left Bruges to the thousands of tourists, on another rainy day, back on the Eurostar to London, for our last couple of days of our holiday. We were determined to make the most of our last days and see as much as possible before we flew back to Australia. Who knows what we would see?