Once again we took separate excursions. Ron was interested in the WWI site and took an excursion entitled, “Ypres, In Flanders Field” while Paul took an excursion called “Romantic Bruges”.
Bruges is a picturesque community located about 30 minutes from our port with many well preserved or restored buildings, parks, and canals. Belgium is known for its chocolates, it waffles, its beautiful lace and its beer. My goal was to experience three of these four items (I don’t really go in for lace).
This was a walking tour. Care always has to be taken for cars and for tourists who suddenly stop to take a picture, but we added bicycles to this list of dangers. Quite a few people travel through town this way. Listening for the tinkle of a bicycle bell approaching from behind was a useful safety precaution. This view of the market square offers a good chance to see the unique architecture of this city. Tall buildings with stepped roofs, decorated facades, and lots of windows was common in many of the buildings we saw.
The streets were often narrow and lined with colorful buildings. Some huge beautiful homes once owned by people who made their fortunes in trade still exist, but have been turned into restaurants or hotels. We can still see remnants of the guilds on some of the buildings such as the shoemakers symbol on this building that now houses McDonalds.
Walking past the shops we saw beautiful examples of lace and this one display of how lace is made. In the past girls went to one of many schools in the town to learn this skill to augment the household income, but today only one school still exists in the town and lace making is mostly a hobby. On our walk we did pass a map of the city made entirely of lace. It was a little difficult on read, but impressive to see.
After walking, we had a ride on the canal. Many boats were cruising up and down the canals because it is an excellent way to view the interesting buildings, churches, and homes that border the canal. This brick building with its red window sashes really caught my eye.
We passed a tall woodenbuilding which is a great example of what early buildings looked like, but as these buildings inevitably burned down they were replaced with brick structures.
The canals are often crossed by these pretty stone bridges. We had to wait once in awhile however to get our turn to pass under the bridges since only one boat would fit at a time.
After the boat ride, we had some free time. I stopped for a Belgian Waffle with strawberries and whipped cream, but caramel or chocolate or powdered sugar or Nutella were other options. A waffle and a cup of coffee made a nice snack. I could have chosen “frites” or French Fries, but here in Europe they are usually eaten with mayonnaise rather that ketchup. Another popular sauce is Andalouse which was described to me as tasting like tartar sauce and mayonnaise and is made of mayonnaise, tomato paste and peppers. This sauce is a Belgian specialty.
I visited several shops and found a nice chocolate shop (there were many to choose from). I bought two boxes of pralines, which we would have called truffles, to bring back to the ship. Unfortunately, none of the candies will make it back to the USA. My shop even had chocolate beer, but I did not buy any of that.
Finally, I stopped at a cafe and bought a beer to have while waiting for the guide and the other guests to arrive at the meeting point. Earlier in the day we saw a Beer Museum. Our guide told us that there is also a Chocolate Museum and a French Fry Museum. Oh, so many treats and so little time.
We walked back to the bus and returned to the ship. On the canal boat ride I did see this pair of swans (who mate for life, by the way) that made me remember the name of this tour, Romantic Bruges.