Cities / Towns Visited: 9
Countries Visited: 4
Steps Taken Today: 20,464
Steps Taken Around the World: 612,111
Awaking from our glorious slumber, in a bed I could roll over entirely in and still be within its arms, we skipped happily down to our awaiting breakfast. It’s at points like this that it’s hard not to think, ‘I could get used to being rich’. Now this B&B is really just a massive plush house that has two guest rooms and the owners live in the top floor, and as we walked into the breakfast room we passed the other couple staying as they left. We, being thrifty by nature, were appalled by how much food they had left uneaten, and agreed that we would eat until we could eat no more. The spread was fantastic: yoghurt and muesli; freshly squeezed orange juice; fruit; eggs; a selection of cold cuts and cheese; jams; honey; a big basket of rolls, brioche and croissants just for us; and a pot of tea each, it was heaven. It was a banquet for two and we refused to shy away until nought but a few crumbs remained. Finally we rolled out of the room, fat and oh so happy, as we packed up our things, reluctantly bid farewell to our bed and bath, and ventured once more into the wonders of Bruges.
We decided that was would wander to the edge of the old town, mainly to walk off breakfast as we had set today aside for one important task; waffle eating. The city is encircled by a canal, it’s own personal moat in a way, but at the points where the bridges cross into the old town, there stand ancient city gates which once controlled the flow of people coming and going. Many of them house museums of the city’s history now, although we didn’t stop to enter.
Onwards we went, past a couple of old windmills, and back into the heart of the town. As we hadn’t managed to fit it in the previous day, we weaved our way through the crowd to the Belfort. Now unlike the Belfort in Ghent, this one is much smaller inside, with barely enough room for two people to pass one another, thus they can only allow a certain number of people in at one time; this being metered by the entrance gate, meaning you had to wait for someone to leave before you could make your way inside. After an hour or so of waiting in line we finally passed through the gate, and up we went. The lowest room used to be used to store all of the town important documents, and still had a large chest behind wrought iron gates on display. The other two floors display old bells from the carillon, and the large drum that orchestrates the beautiful tunes the bells ring out every quarter hour. There is also a balcony area where you can look out over the town, which includes inscriptions on the edge to show you the distance and direction of other towns and cities. After basking in the view, we wound our way back down, carefully passing ascenders as we went, until we were spilled out into town square once more.
Thus the waffle crawl commenced. Firstly, starting at a small stall, we grabbed one topped with fresh strawberries and chocolate sauce. Once we’d polished that off, we ventured forth and purchased one from a small street front window, drizzled with a toffee syrup. Still full from breakfast, we wagered we could fit one more in before we grabbed our bags and went on our way, but which one to choose. With the pressure mounting we placed our bets on a store called The Old Chocolate House, which was, unsurprisingly, a chocolate shop at the bottom and a cafe at the top. As we climbed the stairs we were delivered into a quaint little room that looked remarkably like it had been solely furnished by someone’s grandmother, it was warm and welcoming, and you almost expected to see a nanna patter out and fuss over how tall you’ve grown and ask you fifteen times if you’ve eaten. The best part was that their menu had page after page of hot chocolate options, they seemingly had the entire range of Callebaut with the different percentage dark chocolates, single origin, as well as a number of flavoured choices, and one I’d never even seen before which is double fermented, and during the second ferment they add passionfruit pulp. I of course opted for the latter, whereas my partner chose the salted caramel one. Not knowing quite what to expect we were impressed when two giant mugs (I’m talking basically a bowl with a handle) of hot milk were delivered along with a platter holding chocolate cups containing our selected chocolate callets, as well as a couple of glass biscuits and a couple of handmade chocolates from the shop downstairs. It was a chocoholics dream, and we were in our happy place. Just when it seemed it couldn’t possibly be improved upon, out came our dinner plate sized waffles, mine with a hot cherry compote, and my partners with butter and sugar (old school like him). As we left, it was with a certain waddle to our step, and as my mum would say we were ‘full as a goog’.
As we grabbed our bags and said a kind farewell to our gracious hosts, who gave us yet more chocolates as a parting gift, we headed, albeit a little sadly, to the station. We hopped on our train to Antwerp and, after a rather arduous walk, reached out next hostel as night began to fall. Reflecting on our time in Bruges it is easy to admit that we would come back here in a heartbeat, it is the kind of small quiet town you would happily sit in a bay window, overlooking the canals, and read a book; the kind of place you would come to recharge when life becomes overwhelmingly stressful; the kind of place any artistic soul could find inspiration for a painting, or a story, or a film. Maybe it was the heady mix of extravagant accommodation, chocolate, and good food; maybe it was the warm spring sunshine, the beautiful old buildings, and the sound of flowing canals; or maybe it’s just the vibe; but in leaving Bruges, I leave behind a little piece of my heart. I can’t stay though, I still have the rest of the world to explore, and who knows how many other places will keep pieces of me when I depart, but there’s only one way to find out.