2000-02 (FEBRUARY, 2000)

Bruges, Belgium

Our three day Valentine's weekend in Bruges began in a leisurely way on Friday morning. We started late and had a relaxed breakfast before trundling up to Waterloo for the midday Eurostar to Brussels. We brought a picnic lunch (Tuna Salad) and a bottle of Champagne for the journey, and thus were the envy of a our fellow passengers (the Eurostar is very good in general but probably would not win any Good Food Guide awards).

We arrived in Brussels Midi with a 40 minute wait until our local train to Bruges, so we had a little time to look around. Brussels Midi was the epitome of UK/European train stations in that it is filled with a great variety of shops - but absolutely none of them offer what you happen to be looking for at the time (in our case, a cash machine and somewhere that sold cans of Coke). The train ride to Bruges took less than a hour and we arrived about a half hour before the sun set. Our hotel (a large canal barge) was within walking distance of the station, which was good. Once we had settled in to our room, we toyed with the idea of a stroll into town for dinner, but decided that we would try the restaurant in the hotel instead and delay our first brush with the Bruges Tourist Map, which we had purchased in the station, until the morning. Dinner was delicious - lots of very fresh seafood and some great beer!

On Saturday we awoke to the gentle rocking of our hotel as working boats began their day on the canal - a most pleasant way to start your day. We breakfasted in the downstairs restaurant and were entertained by the ducks swimming past at eye level. Our tourist map of Bruges contained three different city walks, and we decided to do all three over Saturday and Sunday before we departed. Early on we decided to concentrate on the walking tours rather than doing the museums, etc. (which we have done a lot of recently). In hindsight, the Bruges Tourist Authority was stretching the truth just a tad when it decided upon three walks as all three had generous overlaps, differing only in which side of the same streets you walked down. They city is very pretty, though, and seeing it on foot was most enjoyable. The sights we took in included the Burg (central square), the Basilica of the Holy Blood, the City Hall, Provost's House, the Church of Our Lady, "Minniewater" (Lake of Love - site of a fourteenth century ammunition dump), St Saviour's Cathedral, St Peter's Chapel, the Church of St Anne, Jerusalem Church, and the windmills and city gates (Kruispoort) on the Eastern side of the city.

During the weekend we ate copious amounts of yummy food (including great beers and 'to die for' chocolate). Our journey back on Sunday evening was uneventful (I reclaimed my sunglasses which I had left on the train on Friday) and we were tucked up in bed by midnight. A most relaxing and enjoyable weekend!