On a cold winter morning, we wandered through the knolls and fog of Belgium to the medieval storybook town of Bruges. It was 6 AM when we left the warmth of our AirBnb to walk downtown and catch our BlaBla car to the countryside. As we napped in our carpool, we passed through the dense fog and green pastures of the countryside. An hour later we were welcomed to Bruges by sweet singing birds and freezing weather. While I was wearing a wool coat and boots, the Californian in me shivered in my skirt and thin tights on the walk to the city center.
The town was something out of a storybook. Old buildings were constructed of brick, and bikes perched near doorways and in the alleys. The trees and grass brought the beauty of morning dew, and the trees draped into the streets, with fresh moss. As the son rose, the city slept and so we ventured to find some place to warm up while the sun worked to warm up the shadowed streets.
For only 8 euros, we ate like queens. The farm to table eggs were delicious and creamy, the bread was made of fresh grains and straight out of the oven, the earl grey tea had Belgian chocolate in it, and the orange juice was freshly squeezed with just the right amount of pulp. Just thinking about this perfect meal makes me yearn for more!
After breakfast, we decided to just wander around since the town while the streets were empty. A few corners later, we found ourselves in the large plaza, the Markt. Some vendors were setting up shop at the end of the road, and you could see some carriages with horses taking their place for the tourists who would ride them for the rest of the day. We took our pictures, enjoyed the crisp morning air, and headed to our trip down the Bruges canals.
Since it was an early morning, we snagged a half empty boat with an English speaking guide. He detailed the city’s history over the 30 minute cruise (it was founded in the 12th century!) and pointed out the churches and notable landmarks along the way. While I wished the ride could last forever, because the town was so magical, we were terribly cold in the wind and had many more brick roads to traverse.
As we began our walking tour of the city, we opened up our “Use-It” maps, which were provided by our AirBnb hosts. These makes are created by locals, for tourists, and provide information for the essential tourist attractions, as well as some local establishments.
With the aid of our trusty maps, we ventured to find a discount souvenir shop to buy beer mugs and see a windmill! We walked and walked and walked and almost got run over by like a thousand bikes (on a side note, we also found that locals do not lock their bikes at the homes, but simply leave them out front), and finally we found our discount shop in a charming residential section of town. While the “discount shop” was essentially a glorified second hand store, we all found great glasses for 50 cents and a euro!
After our shopping spree, we trekked to the hills to see the windmill. As a Don Quioxte fan, I have always wanted to see a windmill in real life, and on this day, my dream came true. I carefully climbed the treacherous, creaky, crumbling ladder and posed for a beautiful picture on top of my dream. The Man of La Mancha would be proud.
For lunch, we headed back to the main square. We got some fresh fries (when in Belgium), and marveled over the large amount of tourists that appeared to overtake the city during our morning visit to the town. For my last attraction, I visited the inside of the Basilica of the Holy Blood. As the title suggests, the Basilica holds a vial of Jesus’s blood, which was retrieved and preserved after His death. The interior of the church was spectacular regardless and much different from the Spanish and French styles I’ve seen so far.
My trip to Bruges was a magical fairytale, as you can tell by the pictures. I could have spent days and days exploring the city, and the other small towns in the Belgian countryside. Have you ever stumbled across a storybook city in a new country?