We decided to book a last minute trip to Bruges, Belgium. I had heard that this place was what fairytales were made of! Plus we had just watched the movie “In Bruges” and were very excited to see it in person!
We took the train from Paris and walked into town from the train station.
This cat seemed like kind of a jerk. I put my finger up to the window and he swatted at it immediately! It was too funny.
We had a quick lunch at Marie’s and then went to meet our tour group at the hostel.
We had booked the free walking tour from Can You Handle It Tours. Our tour guide was really nice and a lot of fun! Here we are at Sint-Salvator Cathedral.
The buildings along the canal look quite lovely.
The guide told us that the bridge here was made partially from old headstones from the church.
I wanted to take a picture of the Belfry & the hotel from “In Bruges” and the guide laughed and asked if I was taking a picture of her.
This was originally the fish market (and it might still be sometimes). Today it was just a flea market.
This is the Basilica of the Holy Blood. It is a 12th century chapel which houses a phial containing cloth stained with the actual blood of Christ (or so it is believed). We would go into the chapel later in our trip.
Walking the streets of Bruges.
Andrew had a beer at the Beer Museum.
123! The number of our first date 🙂
Later that afternoon, we took a boat tour on the canal. The boat was very crowded, but it was still nice and a good way to see Bruges from a different angle.
Why are the windows painted over or filled up with bricks on some of the buildings? Citizens were issued a property tax based on the number of windows in a house. They got around the tax by painting over or filling up the windows with bricks.
The boat tour made us hungry, so we headed back to the waffle truck that we had seen earlier. Our guide had told us that John served the best waffles in town and that they were always fresh! They were very good and we ended up going back again before we left town.
This is part of the beer wall at 2be…that’s a lot of beer.
Hot chocolate on the go!
We liked the chocolates at Chocolaterie de Burg. I’m sure there might be better chocolates in town, but our guide had told us this was a family business and they still make all of their chocolates by hand. Always enjoy the dark chocolates with a nice red wine!
This is the ‘t Zand Square Fountain. It represents various parts of the local culture.
The Belfry towers over the square. It is not the tallest building in town though – that belongs to Church of Our Lady.
We got some fries, but we could tell they were frozen. The word was that a lot of the places in town served frozen fries – what a shame! Our guide told us of a place with fresh fries – we were going to try to find it before we left.
We had a great breakfast at our apartment the next morning. It was a good start to the day.
Our ride from Flanders Fields Battlefield Daytours picked us up and we were on our way!
The first stop was at the Langemark German Military Cemetery. The tombstones could not be white since they were on the losing side of the war.
The Canadian Memorial.
People have found a lot of debris from the war and are finding more still today. Nathan is showing us an old gun in this photo.
They had a strawberry vending machine at this location. A guy in our tour group bought some for everyone to share. The strawberries were very good!
The next stop was at Tyne Cot Cemetery. This is the resting place of 11,954 soldiers of the Commonwealth Forces. This is the largest number of burials contained in any Commonwealth cemetery of either the First or Second World War. It is the largest Commonwealth military cemetery in the world.
It is crazy how the clouds look so dreary in one direction and in the other it looks like a perfect day.
This is an old gas mask in the museum at Tyne Cot Cemetery.
Now we are at Passchendaele Museum. There were so many different types of gas masks.
You could also try on a helmet and coat. The helmet was very heavy!
Here are some more pictures in the museum.
Ready to enter the Dugout!
Entering the trenches!
This was a piece of art, “Falls the Shadow,” by Helen Pollock is a tribute to the tragic losses of young New Zealand men on the Western Front. The sculpture was made from clay scraped from the fields of Passchendaele and combined it with clay from New Zealand’s Coromandel region. So many soldiers lost their lives on these muddy fields.
We made a pit stop at a place where there were WW1 trenches.
First gauze masks.
WW1 battlefield ‘pigtail’ barbed wire anchor.
This guy got out of the fenced area, but Andrew ran him back in. The punk charged at one of the kids!
We made a quick pit-stop for lunch.
Then we went to the Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres.
These were the soldiers’ uniforms. From left to right: United States, Germany, France, and Canada.
We then headed back to our van.
Ypres was a beautiful town. This is the Menin Gate – a memorial to the missing. They conduct a Last Post Ceremony here.
United States Memorial – 27th & 30th division.
These are craters created from exploded mines. Today they just look like ponds. If I remember correctly, the second & third picture is of the Spanbroekmolen Mine Crater. This was the site of the largest of the 19 mine explosions detonated to signal the start of the Messines phase of Third Ypres, the ‘Pool of Peace’ – Spanbroekmolen – was formed by a 91,000lb ammonal explosion set off at 0310 on 7 June 1917 underneath one of the then highest German front-line positions on Messines Ridge. The sound of the 19 mine explosions was apparently heard as far away as Dublin, and in Downing Street itself. It was considered the loudest man made sound until that point. (some of this information taken from http://www.firstworldwar.com/today/poolofpeace.htm). Our guide also mentioned that it created a man-made earthquake.
Our last stop was at Hill 60. The Australian & English memorials were also here.
I highly recommend this tour. Our guide, Nathan, was very knowledgeable.
Once we were back in Bruges, we went to 2be for a drink.
These are some more pictures of the hotel from “In Bruges.”
We had dinner that night at Poulet Moules . Andrew had some mussels, go figure! Moules is the French word for mussels. I had a goat cheese salad and soup. Dinner was very good.
After dinner, we went for a walk around town.
This is a statue of Papageno in front of Stadsschouwburg Theatre. Papageno is a bird catcher in Mozart’s opera ‘The Magic Flute’.
I loved this boat!
We found the windmills on the outside of town.
Bruges is beautiful at night.
On our last morning, we set off to explore! I’m posing in front of Gentpoort (Gate of Ghent). This is one of four remaining medieval city gates in Bruges. I’m smirking in the second photo because I noticed that some people working on a boat were watching me.
Our first stop that morning was at De Halve Maan Brewery. This is the only family brewery in the center of Bruges that is still active. We took the tour through the brewery. Our guide was originally from Alaska and had just gotten engaged to her Belgian boyfriend!
The view at the top of the brewery was great! It is the 3rd highest point in Bruges and would have to serve as our major viewpoint because as we would find out later today we would be too late to go up in the Belfry. I think we made out pretty good though.
After the tour we enjoyed our free beer and a little lunch.
We popped into the Church of Our Lady to view Michelangelo’s depiction of the Madonna and Child. The child is throwing out an “M” symbol so that you know it is Michelangelo’s work.
The inside of the church was beautiful.
We then went to The Chocolate Line to try some more chocolates. We still preferred the ones from the first shop we visited.
To keep with the chocolate theme, we visited Choco-Story. This is a museum dedicated to everything chocolate. We learned a lot about the history and at the end we were able to watch a chocolate demonstration complete with a sample!
Coffee shops are just our thing and we hadn’t really been to one in Bruges yet. We fixed that by visiting Vero Caffe. Good choice!
We made our way back to The Basilica of the Holy Blood. The third picture is where you get to see the blood. It was interesting to see and I’m glad to have seen it. It does make you wonder though, is it really what they claim it is?
We ran over to the Belfry to get in line to climb to the top, only to find out that they were closing down early due to the line. Damn, I really wanted to climb the 366 steps to the top…I guess this awesome picture will have to do instead.
When in Bruges, have as much beer as you can. We found our way to De Garre which is still a tourist spot thanks to the internet and guides, but hidden off of the main path. This place dates back to the 1700s. Our guide told us that they will only sell you 3 house tripel beers in one setting due to the strength (average 11%). Each beer is served with cheese. I had read somewhere that this place made them think of the Prancing Pony from LOTR – that’s cool.
Our last stop was at Chez Vincent. We wanted to have fresh fries before we left Belgium! This is supposed to be the home of the fry after all. We did not leave unsatisfied.
Goodbye, Brugge! You have been wonderful.