6 Dec 2016

48 (ish) Hours in Bruges

Holy shitballs guys, it's December, aka the most wonderful time of the year.

 It's also the busiest time of the year for me, by a country mile. I'm busier at work, there's present shopping to contend with and hey look at that, I actually have a social life for the next 4 weeks.

Life in December is looking pretty damn sweet.

Anyway, enough about the impending festivities. I want to fill you in on my recent mini-break to Bruges, Belgium's very own winter wonderland.

Seriously, the medieval city of Bruges looks like it was made to host Christmas. Which is why, when deciding which Christmas markets to hit up this year, I chose it. Well, actually no. My heart chose it.

We  stayed at family-run Anna's B&B, conveniently tucked away in the quiet district of St Anne's, a mere 5 minutes walk away from the heart of the city centre.

The B&B itself exceeded my expectations, I LOVED it. From the moment I walked in I was in awe of the huge door frames and floor to ceiling windows. It's been decorated with love; with solid wooden floors, modern furnishings and cute little quotes stenciled on the walls. My inner basic bitch was in her element.

Our actual room was a treat too. The bathroom was bloody huge and very posh (although, my dad & stepmum's bathroom was even swankier. It had an actual freestanding bath, smack bang in the middle of the room).

Anyways, after gawping at our rooms, unpacking and all that jazz, we decided to go on a wander along the canals and through the cobbled streets into the city centre.

On the way we were enticed by the glittering lights of K├Ąthe Wohlfahrt, an all year round Christmas shop that sells a vast array of traditional handmade decorations. There's even an entire wall adorned with very elaborate, very expensive, cuckoo clocks. A real feast for the eyes. It's a MUST SEE if you're a lover of all things Christmas.

Overflowing with festive spirit we decided to grab a beer (when in Belgium and all that) at De Halve Maan, an authentic and historic brewery. I don't even really like beer but I found the flagship beer, Zot, to be really smooth and light.

We rounded up the night at a cosy restaurant in Simon Stevin square - Poules Moules - where I had the carbonnade flamande: a traditional flemish dish that's basically hunks of slow-cooked beef, stewed in beer, yum. Oh, and it was served with deliciously seasoned fries.

I have to hand it to them. The Belgians have got comfort food down to a T.

Our Second day in Bruges was a lot more structured as we wanted to cram in as much as possible in the time we had left.

So, after a tasty breakfast of fresh bread, fruit, meat and THE FRESHEST ORANGE JUICE EVER (it was literally squeezed whilst-you-wait) we went for a stroll to and around the picturesque Minnewater Park, stopping to take some snaps of the 'lake of love' and it's many resident swans.

At this point we were in need of warming up so we tracked down the highly recommended Old Chocolate House for our first taste of proper Belgian hot chocolate and waffles.

I can safely say it did not disappoint. The waffle was crisp yet fluffy (I highly recommend cherries and cream as a topping choice, you can thank me later) and the hot chocolate, well, the hot chocolate was on another level. We were each given a bowl, yes bowl of hot milk with a cup of chocolate chips to pour in and stir ourselves. I opted for the white chocolate and oh man, it was BEAUTIFUL.

The highlight of the trip for me (and there were a few) was the canal boat tour around the city.

It lasted around 30 minutes and gave us an insight into the history of Bruges whilst also being engaging and entertaining. It helped that our tour guide was bloody hilarious. Whatever that guy was on, I need it. Pronto.

The rest of our afternoon was spent examining the countless chocolate shops in great detail (Dumon was my fave) and browsing the underwhelming Christmas Markets.

That's right folks, The Christmas Markets, the sole reason why we visited Bruges, were a whopping great disappointment. There were a lack of stalls, most of which were selling the same old toot (novelty animal head hat anyone?) and yeah, maybe I was expecting too much? I don't know.

However, there was an real buzz about the square and the ambiance was everything I'd hoped for.

We actually stopped a few times next to the ice-rink to guzzle mulled wine and soak in all the festive vibes. Surrounded by stunning buildings with step-gabled roofs, horse and carriages and an imposing bell tower, you can't help but feel that you're in a fairy-tale.

That night was mostly spent in Herberg Vlissinghe, the oldest pub in Bruges (it first first opened it's doors in 1515!)

We had planned to use it as a quick stopgap before finding a restaurant but we loved the well kept, oldy-worldly feel of the place so much that we err, stayed there.

Also, we kept seeing generous portions of onion soup and bubbling lasagne whizz past, and obviously we wern't going to say no to that. I can confirm both were delicious. Maybe not Instagram worthy but nevertheless; good, hearty, no-frills grub.

Finally, Ed and I had one last stroll around The Markt, where we had yet more mulled wine and you guessed it - WAFFLES.

When in Bruges eh?

Have you ever been to a European Christmas Market? If so, point a girl in the right direction and tell me where I should go next year.
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