We had went to bed early last night as we are a little sickly & thought we could use some rest. Yes, I did say sickly…we are a sniffly, sore throated pair, but Justine is on the mend & Kristin should be soon. We are trying to take it easy & get ourselves back to 100%. An unfortunate side effect of going to bed early is that Kristin was up and wide awake by 7:30. And usually when she gets up Justine gets up to, though she could have laid in bed a bit longer. So we were out on the streets of Bruges before 9am this morning. Not a lot is open at this hour, except the Wednesday market in the market square!
We wandered through the rows checking out what there was to buy. There were plants, flowers, produce, cheese, meat & baked goods. Basically so many wonderful looking things! After a full lap through we purchased our breakfast:
The coffee came from a “Quick: A Quality Burger Resturant” on the square but the rest was market fresh. The strawberries were the delicious little straight-out-of-the-garden type and both the cinnamon bun & the eclair were increibly good! And all for less than €6 🙂
By the time we finished eating things had opened up. Specifically concerning us, the clock tower was now open. Before it was even 10am we had climbed all the way up the 366 steps to the top of the Belfry (bell tower) to check out the view. The distance panorama was best from the top, but the best view of the market came about halfway up.
Worse than the climb up was making our way down. Many of the staircases were skinny, curvy and had very tiny steps & little for handrails. And to make matters worse it had started getting busier by our decent so we had to keep accomadating people climbing up on the steps as well. In the end we were happy we had done this in the morning & not the tourist infested afternoon.
We then went to visit the Church of the Holy Blood. It is rightly named as this church is home to, what they believe is, remnants of Christ’s actual blood. It was brought to Bruges in 1150, after the 2nd crusade. The church itself was in a building we had photographed yesterday thinking it was very cool & pretty looking, but not realizing at all that it was a church.
The interior was richly painted with lots of deep & yet bright colors. The main altar was surrounded by color, which is quite different than a lot of grand cathedrals we have been to. The blood was located in the side alcove. We didn’t get to actually see the blood as it was enclosed in this large sculpted silver thing (case? statue? sculpture? altar? We’ll go with thing…):
We then tried to visit the other big church in town, but it was closed until 1 o’clock, so more on that later…
So we skipped ahead ot our next scheduled stop: the De Halve Maan Brewery. This is the only brewery still operating in Bruges…there used to be loads of them…and Rick Steves told us to take the tour here. In case you haven’t noticed we love Rick Steves…he pretty much planned our trip. The tour was sooooo entertaining. We went up and down stairs (220 total) seeing all of the brewing equipment from the past & present. This brewery is in it’s 6th generation of family ownership & very intent on staying independent. There will be no selling out to a big company in it’s future. The best past of the tour was the guide. He was sooooooooo excited about brewing beer! He had the most animated face, the craziest inflection in his voice and hand gestures so big you had to give him plenty of clearance when he talked. The whole group of us was laughing & smiling our butts off the whole time!
It’s always nice to go on English tours as we get to meet other Canadians and nice Americans. Today there were 3 couples from Ontario who were probably in their late 40’s and a guy/girl pair from Texas who were our age. We talked a lot about our trips and experiences so far. The adults were very curious as to how all of us kids had planned and were structuring our adventures. At the end of our tour we got a free pint of the Bruges Zot Pale Ale. Justine thought this was much better than our free pint of Guinness….Kristin couldn’t help but agree. This Bruges original was a tasty drink. We ended up sitting with the Texans and guess what? We made our first new friends 🙂
So we sat and chatted over our free pint with the pair from Texas. He originally went to school to be an engineer but switched to Biology. She has been going through the same making-herself-learn-to-like-beer thing for the last year as Bean has. We have talked to lots of people through the course of the trip but these are the first people we really clicked with. We ended up spending a whole chunk of our day with them. When we finished our drinks we slowly wandered back to the Market Square. Beneath the clock tower are two French fry carts. Random Fact: they are called French Fries because of the way they are cut, not because they were invented in France. They were actually invented here in Belgium. We got fries to share with a large dollop of Mayo…because that is the Belgian way to eat your fries…ketchup is so American! We found a comfy step in front of the Post Office and just watched the hustle-bustle of the central square while leisurely munching our fries. They were Yum Yum Yummy. There wasn’t really anything oiginal to them, they were just really good fries. And the mayo was pretty good too, not exactly healthy, but good.
Then we parted ways from our new friends as they had managed to get into the church we had missed out on earlier. The Church of Our Lady stands as a memorial to the power and wealth of Bruges in it’s heyday. Bruges was a huge trading post in the 14th century, especially in the cloth industry. It was the same size as London until the 15th century and the harbor silted up. Bruges then became a bit of a ghost town until a new harbor was built in the 19th century and tourists found it in the 20th. The church shows the power the city used to possess not only by being quite grand, but also by featuring Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child. This is the only Michelangelo statue to leave Italy during his lifetime…must have taken a good sum of money to get ahold of that! We are not too proud to admit it took us awhile to locate the famous statue. There are a lot of Madonna & Child statues in there! But we found it eventually (no photos allowed though, sorry).
We then visited our favorite place in Bruges: the laundromat! We had done one load with half our clothes yesterday, but that still left the other half for today. We planned out what to do in Brussels and informed ourselves about Amsterdam while we waited for our clothes.
On the way home from doing laundry we could resist the temptation no longer, we bought a waffle. A Belgian waffle. And we pulled out all of the stops…Kristin had strawberries & whipped cream and Justine’s was bananas & chocolate.
We then wandered the streets aimlessly again. It’s so nice here that you don’t need a destination, just enough time ot walk and the patience to spend it doing nothing. And as we are not the healthiest at the moment we thought a low impact evening would be grand. For supper we returned to the same place as last night. We had noticed fresh soup & bread on the menu and thought that would suit our sick selves quite well…but then faced with that amazing pasta again we couldn’t resist. If you want a picture of it return to yesterday’s blog post. We did choose to get hot beverages tonight instead of beer though. Look at all of the goodies that come with a drink:
– All of the roads here are cobble stones. Two thoughts on that…1. They are slippery when wet. 2. That must be hard on people’s tires.
– There are so many Subways here! And we mean Subway as in the sandwich shop, not as in the metro system. They are on like every second block…almost as common as waffle or chocolate shops.
– Justine drops things a lot…anything she is holding: brochures, maps…it’s best when she’s not holding her camera…
Things We Learned Today:
– In Belgium every beer is served in it’s own specially designed glass, always. And these glasses are actually designed by the beers brewmaster to completely compliment his vision for his beer.
Now we are turning in early to recuperate. We have this weeks episode of Glee to watch and a little snack of chocolates for later.
Love, Luck & Lots of Snot (gross but true),