There is no denying that the last month proved a challenge, bringing a lot of emotions to the surface. By the time my birthday came around I was ready for a break to help clear the air and what better way to begin a new chapter than with a romantic weekend in Bruges.
For this European escape I chose to take the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Brussels Midi, catching a connecting train on to Bruges. It made for a refreshing change to flying and allowed us to reach Belgium in just two hours, with a brief stop in Lille, France. The feat of the Eurotunnel never ceases to amaze me.
Stepping out of the station it took mere seconds before I found myself falling head-over heels for my new-found surrounds. Enjoying the quaint architecture abiding by the lush green banks of the canal running through Minnewater Park.
Following the curvature of the wide cobbled path, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves on the bustling edges of town, where a weekend market was in full swing beside an idyllic row of restaurants, with diners savouring culinary delights al-fresco in the midday sun. From here it was only a leisurely 5-10 minute walk through the shopping streets to the central Markt square, with its charming architectural delights and impressingly heightened clock tower, watching over the bustling thoroughfare.
We went on to have a wonderful Italian lunch in the square with the sun beating down, as we sampled a taste of the local ale. Then we wandered on to wile away the time by exploring a couple of hidden laneways and intriguing back streets, where we discovered an old brewery and an impressive department store.
I traipsed over the bridge to explore the town further and followed the idyllic canal along the Dijver, where there was a flea market like an old world jumble sale spread beneath the shade of the trees. Crossing the road I stumbled through an ornate courtyard and gazed enchanted at the scene before me.
An ancient stone bridge arched over the water, church spires reaching for the vivid blue sky behind, as the verdant hues of the blooming trees swayed gently against the backdrop of quaintly historic buildings. It was bliss, or at least it would have been if it wasn’t for the onslaught of selfie-hungry tourists overwhelming the structure.
Carrying on down the path we met the road where a multitude of shops nestled beneath the ornate bricks that gave the city its unique style. This was where I would sample my first taste of the sticky, but sweet waffles, coated with warm Belgian chocolate and a dollop of whipped cream. It turned out to be a scrumptious but sickly combination, and proved just the sugar lift required as we were exposed to the hottest part of the day.
We checked in to our ornate attic room at Hotel De Tuilerieen. Having had little sleep from a late commute and an early start from the Eurostar, it was high time for a well-deserved nap, before making back into the town in the early evening for dinner, where the earlier throng of day-tripping tourists had now thankfully dissipated for the night.
Having spent some further time getting lost between the beautiful maze of buildings and watched the swans glide along the water, we stumbled into an authentic little Italian and indulged in further samples of locally brewed beer along with our pizza and pasta.
There was just enough light left to saviour a cooling ice cream beneath the striking clock tower as the last of the evening sun fell in golden shades against the city hall, the horse and cart rides drawing slowly to a close for the night. These simple pleasures caused us to smile as we wandered back to the confines of our hotel.
The following morning saw us return to many of our stops from the previous day, but also saw a new adventure into another part of town in search of some traditional old Almshouses. We stumbled across a host of hidden treasures along the way, including the most idyllic leafy canal views and Käthe Wohlfahrt i.e. the most enchanting Christmas shop.
We ate light, savouring a final Belgium bitter beneath the stifling but still inviting sun, and reflected fondly on our time in this picturesque pocket of Belgium. On wandering back towards the train station we hopped across a thriving communal atmosphere at a pop-up food festival and stole an additional half-hour to sample some sugary delights, in preparation for a very long journey home ahead.
Have you ever visited Belgium? What region did you pass through, what were the highlights for you? I for one would love to go back and spend more time in the surrounding areas and possibly combine the trip with an adventure into France, Germany or the Netherlands at the same time.