Oh Bruges, beautiful Bruges… My time spent there was short but sweet like the Belgian chocolate and waffle that I devoured much too fast. Described as “Venice of the north” and like a “fairy-tale medieval town” with its canals and cobblestone streets, I also chose this Belgian town to visit for convenience’s sake- it was a tiny bit closer than Brussels by car from the French border, and smaller so easier to explore on foot.
Despite its reputation as a tourist town with hoards of people wanting to see this charming place for themselves, especially if they’ve seen the movie “In Bruges,” there were also things that made it more current. Like this amusing map “made by locals” map that I picked up in a hostel, or a very interesting tour which I went on, which I’ll talk more about later…
Once you walk just 15 minutes away from the centre of the town, away from the lines queuing up outside the Basilica of the Holy Blood to take a catch a glimpse at the supposed “Blood of Jesus”, or at the many pubs wanting to sample the strong over 15% alcohol content beers, I was glad to find locals enjoying a normal day- taking their baby out with stroller, picnicking on a hill with a windmill and riding bikes.
I relished in the quiet streets with the white and blue UNESCO heritage badges, gable step roofs and colourful doors and took as many photos without feeling self conscious as there was no one but my boyfriend to see me posing or skipping along like a giddy teenager.
Within this picturesque town I could sigh all day gazing at the many swans at the Begijnhof, or little interesting decorations in their walls. However I’m also glad I chose a more alternative activity appropriately named “Can you handle it tours?.” If you’re ok with politically incorrect, vulgar humour with swearing tossed here and there, then it is hilarious. If not then to quote my tour guide as he warned the group, “This is your chance where you can politely *eff* off”
I think I’ll always remember being able to prank other tour groups by ouuuing and ahhing and pointing at a random patch of sky, then quickly moving away trying not to giggle as they looked around perplexed. Or crouching behind bridges then jumping to scare the tour groups cruising through the canals. It was all in good fun, no tourists were hurt. (Although our guide stated if we were able to have a person fall out of the boat, he’d buy us a drink)
We were also able to learn a few new facts from our eccentric but well traveled tour guide, like the horse bridge where they’d trap uninvited guests in a section of their canal and let loose arrows, or how stairs were built counterclockwise in the Belfast tower so that defenders at the top can have the upperhand with swords and strike at their foes. We also visited a chocolate shop that has been in the family for 3 generations where where the owner insisted we sample her handmade artisan chocolate, and had quick break at the beer museum with a nice view of the Markt square
Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the town by night as I needed to meet with my airbnb host in nearby town, and it had been a jam packed past few days with my boyfriend. We were welcomed by a friendly family that lived in a country farm house that they built themselves!
After a restful sleep in a converted attic, we enjoyed had a delicious breakfast with fresh eggs from the chickens outside before returning back to France. Belgium, I hope to be back, especially since I just learned there’s Kattensbourg, a cat festival in Ypres!