Monday, April 13, 2009

In Bruges...just like the movie, only not

One thing we’ve discovered in our travels as new almost empty nesters is that we have to be in all the photos. When our girls travel with us they like to say we torture them with all the picture taking. These days though it’s just my husband and I so we spend a lot of time saying, ‘No, I was in the last one…you get in this one.’ We also spend a lot of time saying, ‘I wish the girls were here.’ Especially when we’re having lunch in a lovely outdoor café and we’re served this…

I’ve posted this picture especially for Daughter1…mussels are her absolute favourite. And Belgians claim to have invented the ‘french fry’ and may I just say they have those down to an art. Mussels and fries or moules et frites are served in just about every restaurant in Belgium. They always serve their frites with mayonnaise and they are yummy.

Good Friday we woke to sunny skies and after breakfast we hopped on a train to the town of Ghent. We took the first train we could find that said it stopped in Ghent but turns out it also stopped in about 10 other little burgs in the Belgian countryside so it took a little over an hour to get there. It was that darn language thing….we managed to decipher which was a quick train back to Brussels at the end of the day and it was only about 40 minutes. Course I insisted we ride the tram from the centre of Ghent back to the train station and that took us on a circuitous route around the city. As my husband mentioned (about 25 times) we could have just taken a taxi. He says tram is short for ‘Trying Reallyhard to Annoy Me’ but we did see a lot of the neighbourhoods around Ghent this way and it was great for people watching.

Ghent is a charming Flemish city filled with medieval buildings and famous for its huge gothic cathedral and its ancient Castle of the Counts. The River Leie runs thru Ghent and is dotted with the pretty old guildhouses and lots of restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating.

Our first stop was the castle-Het Gravensteen built in 1180 although apparently a wooden castle was sitting on this same spot even earlier.

It was home to the Counts of Flanders until they were no more and was later used as a courthouse and a prison. Castles becoming prisons is a recurring theme in Europe.

We wandered next down to the incredible Gothic cathedral known as St. Baafskathedraal, built in the 1200’s.

In a small side chapel inside this cathedral is one of Europe’s most well known paintings. The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by the brothers van Eyck, dating back to 1432, but with color so amazingly clear and bright it looks like it was painted yesterday. It is essentially the perfect painting to view on Good Friday as the centerpiece of the many panels is the Lamb, representing Christ’s sacrifice.

On Saturday (also bright and sunny and as I’ve mentioned before I’m all about the weather) we ventured onto the local trains once again, this time to the city of Bruges. This very lovely little town was at one time the center of the international cloth trade and lace making is still done here today.

Like Ghent, Bruges is also a medieval town with beautiful buildings, cobblestone streets and picturesque canals winding throughout…we spent the day visiting lovely old churches, shopping in the quaint little shops, and sitting in outdoor cafes just watching the people go by.

We were back in Brussels for dinner Saturday evening. There is a famous street in Brussels called Rue des Bouchers but what we might call restaurant row. Servers stand in all the restaurant doorways and try to coax you inside for a meal.

Since my husband is in Brussels quite often we went to a place called Vincent’s. One of the things I love most about my husband is that he makes friends wherever he goes and Brussels is no exception. This is our server for the evening standing beside my husband’s new Belgian friend whose name is Steve (although he told me I should call him Steve McQueen).

Anyway, we were going to eat at Vincent’s on Thursday evening but Steve McQueen told my husband he was going carp fishing that day and we should come Saturday instead. So that’s what we did. We had a traditional Belgian steak which was served with a sauce that was flambéed just before presentation. A perfect ending to our ‘short break’ in Belgium.

And one more thing I’ll add here about short breaks…
...they are always way too short!


  1. That's a great picture of you and a very good one of you and your husband together.
    I think one of my favorite things to do would be eating at those sidewalk cafes and watching people.
    I loved reading about your weekend. It's very interesting and sounds like a blast! These are memories you'll treasure forever!!

  2. You take the most amazing pictures. As always I enjoy seeing Europe through your eyes. I am happy you had such a nice break.

  3. Belgium is another place on my list of places to travel to. Thanks for a quick look.

  4. Once again, your post makes me want to go to Belgium!

    Thanks for the great pics and descriptions.

  5. What fun to relive my visit to Bruges and Ghent through your pictures. We went to some of the same places. I remember going to a lot of castles while in Belgium and seeing a lot of guillotines (or however you spell it). The food sounds amazing!!! What wonderful memories you guys are going to have of your time in Europe. I know you hate to have to leave and come back to the states. Have a wonderful week. Love & blessings from NC!

  6. OK, so now it looks like we need to get to Belgium. You are paving the way for us to see great places, Joyce, and I really appreciate it.

    Looks like you had a fantastic time!