On our last day of our weekend in Paris we decided to rent a car and drive to Belgium. We are so glad that we did. It was an amazing trip. We left Paris early in the morning (to beat all of the traffic) and were surprised to see that unlike other big cities, Paris still seems asleep until around 0900h. We drove straight North and compared the French countryside to Northern Virginia and Maryland—and a little like Bavaria. Once across the border we went to Bruges! If you are looking for a suprising romantic get-away that is not one of the “big-famous-European-cities” then Bruges should be high on your list!
|Crossing the border into Belgium|
Unlike Brussels, Bruges has preserved the Flemish architecture and culture. Tall, colorful buildings and ornate churches line the cobblestone streets. Restaurants, beer bars, pastry shops, waffle stands, chocolatiers and lace stores line the roads. Belgium is famous for all of these and we made good use of our time enjoying them (all but the beer you would have to ask someone else about the Belgian beer). As we parked there was a symphony of bell carols from the nearby churches. These were not the hourly dong, dong, dong, it was actually music. And there were huge palm sized snowflakes falling. As we neared the town center it was truly a magical experience. So perfect. The horse drawn carriages, the smell of fresh chocolate and waffles drifting in the air.
We walked the streets and were fascinated with the city. We ate lunch, all the waffles we could eat and spent most of our time alternating between chocolate shops and lace stores—both of which are produced specially in Bruges.We went into several of the churches as we passed, something that I do in all of the cities that we visit. I like seeing the old architecture. In this one they had opened some of the graves and let you see inside. Morbidly interesting.
|Shopping for Belgian Chocolates in the company that invented pralines: Neuhaus|
|A look into the layers of the bell tower|
|Medieval burial spaces in the floor of the cathedral|
From Bruges we went to Ghent. It is a bit bigger but still had the Flemish charm. The snow had continued to fall so there were less people out, but we still loved to see the area. Of course we found ourselves in more waffle shops and buying more chocolate. By this time we knew exactly what to look for and how much we wanted. We even tried the “Ghent Famous candy” commonly known and the Ghent Nose. It is a fruit flavored gummy treat. It is like a giant gummy bear.
|One of the squares in Ghent Belgium|
|The waffle man|
|Making Ghent Noses|
|The fruit candy they call Ghent Noses|
Our next stop was Brussels. As we drove Tau’aho was getting more and more anxious about being in his car seat (he is such a trooper) so Lady Hiva said to him, “Stop whining and look outside the window and appreciate the sights.” He must have looked out the window because he thoughtfully said, “Wooooow!” to whatever he was seeing. We both broke into full on laughter! At least we can say he can listen to instructions.
Now in all fairness, Brussels has plenty to offer and for a large city it is rather clean. However, after being in Bruges Brussels didn’t have the charm that we wanted. We figured we would park and walk for a bit and we were glad that we did. We found the city square that did have the Flemish charm—of course we went into candy and chocolate store after chocolate store! Our last stop was for hot chocolate and waffles before heading back to Paris.
|After chocolate store after chocolate store, Lady Hiva voted Neuhaus is the best of the Belgian chocolates|
|Belgium is heaven for my Lady with a sweet tooth!|
Our weekend trip was fast and we packed in so much. We could have spent more and more time there, but we enjoyed everything that we did. Everyone we met the entire trip was so kind and friendly. We are happy that we had the chance to go!
|The "loot" that came home with us that was not already eaten! Haha|