In Bruges

In Bruges
Holland? No, Belgium!

There we were, sitting in our campsite in Bruges and thinking, “Hmm – should we put another blog post together? No, let’s give it another day or so then there might be a bit more to talk about.” 

Not my smartest idea, as we quickly discovered that EE don’t have the best signal coverage in Germany. In fact, we’ve been in a complete network blackout all the way down the Rhine valley. We’ve only been able to keep in touch with the world via a few Wi-Fi hot spots, mostly thanks to Lidl. I’ve had so many wagging fingers and much tutting from busy German shoppers trying to sail round my trolley when I’ve been texting the family (or to be more accurate, catching up with my daily Wordle…)

Hopefully that won’t be a feature from now on as we’re much further south now, and enjoying full-fat 4g.

So what of Bruges? Lovely place, cobbledy streets, shady avenues and criss-crossed by canals. Our first introduction to the town was ages ago via the Colin Farrell movie In Bruges. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a bit dark, but very funny in a violent kind of way. I loved it – Gill not so much – but we both agreed that the town looked worth visiting, and so it was.

Belfort Tower
The Belfort (or Belfry) Tower

Our campsite was a bit tightly-packed, but the facilities were top-notch. We didn’t have the energy to lift our bikes off the rack, pump up the tyres and oil all the oily bits (we still haven’t, eight days later!) so we strolled into the centre about 40 minutes away. The Belfort tower in the market place was our first stop. It featured heavily in the film and on our arrival the bells were playing a selection of ABBA and Beatles hits! It was bizarre approaching the market square listening to what initially seemed like church bells playing religious music. Your ears suddenly tuned in and you found yourself singing along to When I’m 64. Which isn’t too far away as it happens, unfortunately.

The Belfort tower was also where we’d agreed to meet Stephanie of Free Walking Tours for a two-hour stroll round the centre. Their unique selling point (and it’s a clever one) is that you pay the guide what you think the tour was worth. We cheated a bit and looked up what the other Bruges guides were charging and paid about the same. There was a lot of boring history blah-di-blah but MOST importantly we called in to an authentic Belgian chocolate shop, my idea of heaven, where we bought our granddaughter a chocolate bomb. When immersed in warm milk it explodes with flavour and an eruption of marshmallows – the perfect treat for her third birthday when we get home. I can’t wait to see her face 🙂

The history bit wasn’t really that boring. We even learned a few things; for example that the traditional step-gables on the facades of many of the buildings were a sign of wealth. The more steps on your roof, the more important and wealthy you were in medieval times. We also learned that the oldest hospital in Europe is found in Bruges, the old St. John’s Hospital dates from the mid-12th century. Apparently the canal water was so foul at that time that the patients were hydrated with cold beer. My kind of therapy!

Chocolate in Bruges
Chocolate heaven!

We’d been lucky enough to arrive on a national holiday for Ascension Day. In Bruges, there’s an annual procession which attracts visitors from all over the world, rather gruesomely called the Holy Blood Procession. It’s been taking place since the Middle Ages when a phial of (allegedly) Christ’s blood was brought to the city from the Second Crusade. This relic is paraded around the town followed by more than 1700 locals who re-enact stories from the Old Testament, the life of Jesus and the history of Bruges. It’s full of colour, and to be honest, the smell of er.. overexcited horses. I can truly say it’s the first time I’ve ever seen an actual ox pulling an actual cart too. 

The three wise men
The Three Wise Men

Our second and last stop in Belgium was a lucky find. We’d decided to head for the Romantic Rhine route but needed a stopover on the way. We stumbled on signs for a planetarium in a forest in Genk. Totally free to stay overnight, we filled and emptied and had an enjoyable stroll through the forest into town for a beer in the park. Our timings didn’t allow us to visit the planetarium but we enjoyed lots of scientific displays on the wooded walks.

Next time – 70p wees, a river confluence and a horror circus!

See you then 🙂 xx

PS As always, click or tap any pic to enlarge.

Wooded walk
Genk forest walk
More heavenly chocolate
More waffle-y chocolatey heaven!
In Bruges
Beautiful Bruges canals
Bruges canals
About Ken Tomlinson 217 Articles
Semi-retired biker, blogger and world’s best grandad. Doesn’t take life too seriously. Discovered motorhoming in 2015, sold up and downsized to fund more travels. Now with added Yorkshire.

2 Comments on In Bruges

  1. We loved Bruges too. Lovely architecture and the view from the tower is brilliant. However taking 3 boys 9/11/13 into those chocolate shops with some of the chocolate sculptures on offer was highly amusing – they weren’t all harmless marshmallow bombs and fluffy rabbits, some you might normally find in an Ann Summers (Not that I frequent Ann Summers by the way)
    Looking forward to the next instalment xx

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