Romantic weekend in Bruges, Belgium
I know very well how the exploration of a new city, or else meeting a new person, is bound up with the emotions we are experiencing at the time. Just as the first impression is vital, and often difficult to overcome.
I wanted this second encounter of mine with Bruges to be a success. I wanted to be astonished once again. I wanted to grow up. When I got Sophie’s e-mail at the beginning of September, suggesting I explore Bruges, my answer was an immediate ‘YES!’. And then I annoyed her with dates. I wanted to wait. I wanted to see Bruges with its Christmas lights. I wanted Bruges to light me up in its own way.
So we planned this long weekend for the 1st December. And from the 12th September onwards, I counted the weeks.
From Brussels airport, I jumped on the first train to Bruges. I watched the white landscape roll by for fifty-five minutes. It could have been Lapland, certainly the North. It was beautiful.
Approaching Bruges, the countryside became greener, brighter. I arrived just before midday, to a blue sky, fine, cold weather. I walked head in the air to the guesthouse. When I pushed open the door and saw the vast fireplace in the centre of the lounge, the old parquet floors, the giant pine tree smelling of Christmas, I already knew this was going to be a great weekend.
So with some valuable recommendations from Anke, I set out to explore the old city and its canals. I kept my eyes open. I left the city map back at the hotel and walked a great deal. I took photos. I shivered, feeling my cheeks red with cold. I wore a knitted hat with a huge bobble, which raised a smile every time I turned my head a bit too quickly. I gradually stopped shivering and slowed my pace. I became excited by the city’s architecture and its conservation.
On the canals, I took a boat and pointed to old buildings. I saw the colours in the sky, and the Christmas lights which gradually came on. I drank hot chocolate in cafés which were far too cosy. I went to the Christmas market, and watched the skaters waltzing on the ice. It was sweet and poetic.
In the evening, I had dinner by the fire, enjoying the beauty and power of the flames. In the morning I took my time, had a bath and anticipated the pleasant days ahead. I had lunch and read in the guesthouse lounge, with Christmas songs playing in the background. I had the best ever hot chocolate in my hands, and felt as if I were on a Christmas film set. I wanted to slow time down.
Several times I told myself how beautiful it is, that it’s a city for lovers, somewhere one can only love and be loved. Bruges is a city out of a Christmas story, a city overflowing with fairyland, and where, without really realising it, you have to grow up. So I forgot my first, wasted meeting, and I let the stars shine again.
I left on Monday evening, walking to the station. I missed my train but despite everything I still had a calm, cool smile lighting up my face. I think I really didn’t want to leave, and I wanted to make these final few moments last longer. So I kept murmuring to myself that I would be sure to return for a few days in spring, or why not for a few weeks, it’s a feel-good place, calming and beautiful, a place where you can’t help being happy.
So you’re going back you say?
Little guide to a weekend in Bruges
Several of you have asked me for some good addresses and advice for spending a weekend in Bruges, so here they are!
- Forget the map, and walk, lift your eyes! You can also hire bikes. I thought about hiring a bike when I arrived in Bruges. And then seeing the narrow paved streets, and as it was cold and I had my camera, I said to myself I’d be more comfortable on foot, given the distances. Whatever you decide, Bruges is a small city, where you can do everything on foot and/or bike without getting lost.
- For sleeping, I recommend (with plenty of stars in my eyes!) the lovely Filemon et Baucis guesthouse where I stayed. Anke is adorable, and her house is like her: soft, generous and warm. And the breakfast is more than perfect!
- For dinner, I loved Komtuveu for its fireplace and the refined, original cooking. Everything is served in bowls. I am smiling because I am giving you the link to the website for pictures, but I don’t speak a word of Dutch so if you are like me, you will just have to look at the pictures.
- I did some work at De Republiek on two occasions. It’s large, attractive and pleasant. When I am looking for somewhere to get out my laptop and work, I always try to find a place large enough so that I don’t feel I am disturbing anyone and I can take my time on the computer. De Republiek seems perfect! You can also have lunch and dinner there.
- I had lunch at De Plaats which offers a balanced vegetarian menu. I also recommend Blackbird which I wasn’t able to test, as it was closed when I went there, but it was recommended to me by several people. And finally, Books and Brunch. Well of course, I went through the door to the books before I looked at the menu, but I promise you, it’s good!
- Take a trip on one of the little tourist boats. Yes, it’s a touristy thing, yes, yes, but once you’re in the boat, I promise, that’s all forgotten and it’s lovely!
- Go to the lovers’ lake, Minnewater, with your lover, hug each other very tightly and make a promise together. It is said that all those who make a promise on the park bridge will stay in love for ever. Take the opportunity to wander hand in hand through the Bruges parks and watch the swans.
- On a fine day, if you have the energy, climb the 366 steps of the Belfry and enjoy the view across the city.
- Drink a hot chocolate (or several!)in a tea shop, while looking at the Christmas lights.
- And if you are there during the holidays, naturally, wander round the Christmas market with a glass of mulled wine. You can also go ice-skating in the main square.