An hours train ride away from Brussels lies the picturesque town of Bruges. Tourist heaven, it is laden with more chocolate shops than you can shake a stick at, horse drawn carriages, quaint houses next to huge masterpieces of architecture and lots of beautiful canals.
When we arrived in Bruges, it was raining. And we had no umbrella, and failed to find one for some time. It left us looking like this..
Until we took refuge in a cosy cafe where literally every person was warming themselves up on carrot soup, and we did the same
Refreshed and a little bit drier, we set off exploring properly - once the rain stopped Bruges became much more attractive!
Excellent croissants from Le Pain de Sebastian - it had a huge queue of people waiting patiently in the rain, so we knew it must be something special (it was).
Having seriously underestimated the size of Bruges, we had a rest on a peaceful canal boat trip, meandering through the beautiful buildings, tiny roads and swooping under low bridges.
Definitely recommended, although a little packed & cramped, it is a beautiful way to see the town and scope out the bits you want to visit most.
My favourite thing we did in Bruges, and possibly in the whole trip (non-food related, of course) was attending the harp concert of Luc Vanlaere. I knew it was something Dima would enjoy, being music obsessed, but I actually loved it. Luc was really touching, he puts on 3 totally free concerts everyday (except Sundays I believe) and explains why (for people who can't afford to attend concerts), and how you can purchase his music directly from him in support, to quote him 'you'd be buying your potatoes straight from the farmers'.
A 35 minute concert, with 4/5 very touching songs, it is definitely worth going to if you are ever in Bruges. Luc is insanely talented and played a tonne of different kinds of harps and instruments he had picked up on his travels (like a Chinese harp) - really interesting and excellently played. More info here.
Then we proceeded with more cultural activities, discovering the chocolate of Bruges! We made regular hot chocolate stops, due to the odd showering of rain..
Dumon chocolates - the spoon with chocolate is swirled into the hot milk!
We found the top rated chocolate shop on tripadvisor (I am something of a tripadvisor geek, and if you go on holiday with me I will have memorised it - incidentally their app is really great, it works offline if you download the relevant city before going) - The Chocolate Line. It is filled with bizarre chocolate concoctions - chocolate massage oil, lipstick, pills.. and chocolate flavours including absinthe, maize, bacon, iced coffee, cookies and so on.
Me & Dima got a selection of the most intriguing ones and sat down on a bench to share them and gleefully exchange the 'OMG' face. Although Dima is not a chocolate fan, he loved all of this chocolate which is quite an achievement. Up there we have the raspberry, blueberry, ganache, caramel, mint, maize and bacon chocolates. All were amazing, but the clear winner was the bacon chocolate - increeeeeedible.
Before we knew it, it was dinner time, and we needed food that wasn't chocolate. We went to Gruuthuse Hof, a beautifully tiny, cosy restaurant. Dima prebooked (as the restaurants seem to close from 3-6pm) which is definitely recommended as it was fully booked when we ate there, as they only have 22 seats. We were given a romantic window seat to watch the people try and escape the rain outside, very happy to be inside!
They had a very good offer on which was basically 3 courses for 17 euros (and when one main costs 17 euros, this is very good) but we decided to go for the Flemmish stew, which unfortunately wasn't included in the deal.
It was worth it - the beef was incredibly tender and the stew was amazing. There was also a giant bucket of chips next to us (the best I ate in Belgium)!
For dessert I went for a super tasty waffle, 'Belgium style' - just plain with sugar. Dima opted for Creme Brulee, which was also excellent.
Gruuthuse is highly recommended, the food was all amazing!
Definitely make a trip to Bruges if you have time, it was a really romantic place (when it wasn't pouring with rain), beautiful with a lovely vibe to it. The only thing I regret is not staying there longer!