For the following days of our trip, we basically had grey skies with random showers. Not much sunshine at all. But there’s something charming about grey skies too. It adds a little mystery to the day, don’t you think? This weather is not so great when you have to get up early and go to work. But since we were in exploring mode, I didn’t mind it much.
Before traveling I did have to buy a few clothing items to prepare for the weather. And boy was I happy to have done this. Living in Miami for 8 years and Rio de Janeiro before that, my wardrobe basically consists of summer dresses. What I used for most of my trip was a pair of snow/rain boots by Columbia ($69), warm leggings, a sweater or sweater dress, and covered up with a jacket I purchased in a Columbia outlet ($99). It was a jacket that kept me warm and somewhat protected from the rain. I definitely didn’t want to spend much on clothes that I won’t use as often. So this was perfect and not too expensive.
Back to Tuesday morning. We got up, showered, had breakfast, and headed to Bruges in Belgium. My cousin Meissa and her husband took the day to join us too, so instead of the train Meissa’s husband drove. The drive took us a little over 2 hours and we did get a little traffic. But all-in-all nothing compared to the Miami traffic that we’re used to.
We arrived to Bruges and I was ready with my little list of places to visit and things to do. Being somewhere for the first time can have its challenges because you really don’t know what’s a MUST. You kind of have to take others words for it. My list included a few churches, bridges, and a couple of museums. Like the museum of fries and chocolate. But despite doing some research beforehand we were also open to go wherever the wind took us.
As far as culinary experiences go, Belgium is known for their beer, chocolate, Belgium waffles, and last but not least, fries. There are a few story versions of where fries are originally from, but legend has it that Belgium was the first to create this decadent masterpiece. I mean most of us love fries anyways. So why not try the ones in Belgium?
The first thing we did once we arrived to Bruges was to enjoy some Belgium waffles. It was already almost lunch time anyways. I didn’t have high expectations because honestly I find waffles to be just OK. But OMG! Even if you’re on the fence about them, you have to try Belgium waffles. Just like my experience with Dutch pancakes, it’s quite different. Not only the flavor but the actual dough. There’s a certain crisp to the dough when you bite into it. And topping your waffles with a little Belgium chocolate doesn’t hurt either. It was perfect and even JP who doesn’t care much for chocolate, loved it!
Bruges reminded me a bit to Amsterdam in the sense that the best thing for you to do is to just get lost walking up and down the streets. Explore old churches, checkout museums if that’s your thing, and don’t forget to just stop and look up at the beautiful buildings. Especially in the main square. You’ll want to take a few pictures, but eventually put your phone and camera away and just let your eyes wander from building to building. Take it in. Fully.
When we visited, there were times that the rain really made it difficult to stay outdoors for too long. I remember my hands were turning orangish already from the cold burning my skin. But I just couldn’t get enough of this place. It was really like walking into a fairytale. With charming houses, canals, and chocolate shops everywhere.
The buildings that I added to “the list” were Belfort tower, Basilica of the Holy Blood, and Church of Our Lady of Bruges. In the church, they keep an original Michaelangelo that you can visit. This part was really neat! There are plenty of other museums and houses to visit in Bruges, but we were short on time since the plan was to only spend the day there. The fries and chocolate museum would be for another time.
The one thing that initially I was on the fence about was the boat tour around the canals. We had done the Amsterdam one and I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it. But if you ever find yourself in Bruges, I really recommend it. In fact, you can even begin your visit with the boat tour. You get quite close to the buildings and enjoy a really great view of the city while learning a little city history. You’ll see beautiful houses and Christmas decorations, you’ll go under the lowest bridge ever (watch your head!), there are countless swans swimming by you, and last but not least, you can actually smell some of the breweries making beer.
When the sun started to set, we had to hurry a bit. For the rest of the afternoon while things were still open, we checked out a few Christmas stores and chocolate shops. Places were closing at around 5 PM and I was not going to leave Belgium without getting some chocolate. Which I did! Sampled a bunch and bought a couple of bags. Only one made it back to the U.S.
One of the things that I really wanted to experience is a Christmas market. Any Christmas market would do to be honest. I just love everything about them. And guess what? It was officially Christmas market season. The ones in Bruges were set up in the main square and another one about 10 minutes by foot. That’s the good thing about Bruges, everything is really close and it’s pretty easy to get around by foot.
We headed back to the main square and were ready for a little Christmas magic. Every booth and decoration caught my eye. I blame the pretty lights and catchy music playing. I only contained myself mostly because we traveled with a pretty small suitcase and luggage space was an issue.
I did however enjoy the food — there she goes again talking about food. Well guys, I don’t know what to tell you. I had a good time!
I tried the famous Belgium fries and had a hot chocolate. JP had the biggest hot dog I’ve ever seen in my life accompanied by Glühwein, which is basically hot spiced wine. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. When it’s cold, this is the PERFECT beverage.
Alas it was time to leave this beautiful and charming town. We still had a drive back to my cousin’s and her hubby had work the next day. Bruges is small and technically you can see it in a day. But I think I could’ve definitely spent a couple of days here.
Ah yes! One last thing. Before heading to the car, JP and I finished our day with another Belgium waffle. You know, for the road.