Monday, 7 May 2018

Right as rain

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll proceed to tell you about our first full day in Bruges!

Having woken up to an utterly grey and ominously clouded morning, the first drops of rain starting falling while we were having breakfast.

Not to be deterred, we dressed warmly (I'd switched to my Winter coat at that point), grabbed our umbrellas and drove down to Bruges, where we managed to find a spot at the car park near the station. You're getting a really good deal here: not only are you paying a maximum of € 3,50 for 24 hours, your ticket entitles you to free public transport to the town centre for up to four people.

Still raining ... look, there's our bus!


Soon we climbed aboard a crowded bus, which dropped us off at the Dijver, one of Bruges' most popular canals, by which time the rain seemed to be petering out.



Much photographed, the romantic Rozenhoedkaai, where the Dijver meets another of Bruges' canals, the Groenerei, was a mooring place for ships back in the late Middle Ages.

Needless to say, the crowds were thick here, with groups of people waiting outside the museums, accompanied by guides speaking every language under the sun, or queuing on the landing stages for a boat trip on Bruges' picturesque canals.



But we had our own agenda, which involved dodging the crowds (in as far as possible) and doing our own thing, wandering the city streets wherever our feet would take us.

From the Dijver, we entered an archway leading into the compact Arents Courtyard, surrounded by the Arentshuis after which it was named and which has temporary exhibitions of fine art, the Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady), and the Gruuthuse Museum, known for its superb collection of 16th and 17th century tapestries, next door.


In the far corner of the courtyard is the tiniest of humpbacked bridges, St. Bonifaciusbrug, which is one of Bruges' most picturesque and certainly most photographed bridges. No photograph was taken, alas, as the bridge was full of people brandishing selfie sticks. I wonder if any of them realized that the bridge, which is looking decidedly medieval, was only built in 1910?

Looking upwards, we could see Bruges' smallest Gothic window (top left in the collage below), from which the Gruuthuse family used to keep watch on their landing stage below.


Immediately after crossing the bridge (which was't easy because, you know, selfie stick people), we passed through a gate leading to a quiet back street, where we admired two pink stuccoed Art Nouveau inspired houses dating from 1904.



The relative quietness was quite short lived as the end of the narrow cobbled street was blocked by people queuing at the entrance of Sint-Janshospitaal (St. John’s Hospital) immediately opposite. This is one of the oldest preserved hospital buildings in Europe, where you can learn about hospital life in the past. The museum also owns six masterpieces by the Flemish primitive artist Hans Memling, as well as many religious paintings and sculptures.

All very interesting, but on a quiet(er) weekday perhaps?

The hospital backs onto the canal, another one of Bruges' much photographed corners, which you can admire on the bottom right.


Meanwhile, we had reached the inner sanctum of touristland, where shops selling tacky souvenirs, lace items and chocolate lined the streets cheek by jowl. Or perhaps you would care for a waffle on a stick?


Ambling towards the Begijnhof (Beguinage) we came across a couple of bronze horse sculptures adorning a horse trough. Some real life horses eating their lunch from a nosebag made us realize we were hungry so we went in search for a half-decent restaurant to have lunch in.

While we were there, we noticed that passers-by were carrying umbrellas, but having been to Wales, we weren't put off by a little bit of rain, so we continued our walk without opening the cumbersome things. Jos did have his cap, but I'd forgotten the beret I'd brought at our B&B.


After crossing a bridge and entering through a lavishly decorated gate (above, bottom right), the Beguinage enfolds as a rough circle of delightful whitewashed houses surrounding a central green.


The best time to visit is in Spring, when the green is carpeted by daffodils. The bulbs, a total of 8000, were presented to the Beguinage by a Mrs. Sander in 1936, and at their peek this obviously is another much photographed scene.

Most of them were faded and dying by now, but it was still a magical experience to be walking among them, which we later found out was strictly forbidden.

The sun was trying her best to break through the thick layer of grey, enhancing the ethereal atmosphere under the canopy of the slightly crooked elms dotting the green.


Although the sun was beating a rapid retreat, the rain had temporarily eased off, allowing us to circle the Beguinage, which was founded in 1245, and admire the individual houses at peace, helped by the fact that the place was relatively devoid of tourists.


One of the houses, Begijnhuisje, can be visited, providing a peek into Beguinage life. Look at me, being all devout and trying my hand at being a beguine! But the bed behind me was too short, even for "petite" me!



By then, it had started raining again, in earnest this time. The tranquil lake known as the Minnewater (freely translated as Lake of Love), with its resident colony of swans, was looking rather forlorn, with a hazy fog fading out the spire of the Church of Our Lady in the background.



Legend has it that if you walk across the Minnewater bridge and kiss your loved one, it will become eternal love. But oops, we forgot to kiss!  A good thing then that we don't believe in that nonsense, although admittedly, it is a rather romantic thought!

The tower at one end of the bridge is called Poertoren (toren is the Flemish word for tower), which rises more than 18 metres above the water line. It was constructed in 1401 and is a remnant of the late-medieval city walls. At that time, the city used the tower to store its supply of gunpowder.


Back at the Markt, we dashed into Grand Café Craenenburg, one of the cafés lining the square, for a restorative if rather overpriced cup of Cappuccino. 

Our umbrellas finally came out for our walk back to the bus stop. Even though it was a Sunday, quite a lot of the shops seemed to be trading. And look, isn't that a Think Twice shop over there? 

There was no way I could pass the shop without having a browse, especially as it was near the end of the shop's sales and everything was € 3.


I might have gone a bit mad and splashed out on this flouncy frock!

See you soon for the final episode of my weekend in Bruges.

Linking to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style as usual.


38 comments:

  1. What a beautiful and picturesque post about this lovely region. I really enjoyed the photos of the courtyard and canals. Yes it is important to always bring a beret, umbrellas are so cumbersome. I’m glad you avoided most of the rain. I absolutely love your navy blue lace dress. Have a wonderful week ahead ! By the way you are perfectly splashed out !!
    ❤️❤️❤️
    Elle
    https://theellediaries.com/

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    1. Thank you Elle! I couldn't very well leave that dress behind for € 3, could I? And it was perfect for splashing out ;-) xxx

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  2. Beautiful, so historical, so worthy of a trip! Thanks for sharing some highlights with us, xox

    -Patti
    http://notdeadyetstyle.com

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  3. not for 4€! (one waffle!)
    ;-D
    you look like a little elf under the huge trees and among that high daffodils! love your bundled up look with the bias checked coat and the clear blue & red highlights. sweet photo of jos admiring the panama hats :-)
    brügge is full of romantic corners - you did a great job photographing around the tourist masses. one day we will come to belgium and visit brügge for sure - and of cause all the other pretty places too! be warned!
    the blue frilly frock is a big change from your usual looks - but you look totally fabulous in it - sexy in a romantic way!
    hugest hugs! xxxxx

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    1. And not even a big waffle, just some squares on a stick! But I guess there are enough tourist crazy enough to pay such crazy prices! I'd love it if you came over. We'd be your guides! xxx

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  4. Oh the flouncy frock is marvellous! What a pretty dress- you look a vision. Your tour of Bruges is great fun and that is a GREAT tip about that car park!!! I shall remember that!
    P.S. YOUUUUUU should totally join in with Style Imitating Art- you have the wardrobe for it! Go and check our Salazar's blog post on it www.14shadesofgrey.wordpress.com

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    1. Thank you Kezzie! I'll check out Salazar's blog post. I'll give you the coordinates of that car park if you decide to come to Bruges again! xxx

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  5. what is the fashion for putting food on sticks? I don't understand the desire to walk and eat at the same time ;)

    Beautiful buildings and of course that wonderful blue frock/dress.

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    1. Neither do I, Goody! I draw the line at an ice cream cone, though. xxx

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  6. What an amazing place! Your photos are absolutely stunning, Ann! I'd love to see such beautiful architecture one day. I love your flouncy frock! It's so pretty. I know it's not very sophisticated, but I'd actually love to try a waffle on a stick!! ;) XXX

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    1. There seemed to be quite a few varieties, but still I found € 4 to be quite expensive for a waffle on a stick... xxx

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  7. Waffle on a stick.. haha :) You look amazing in this blue dress.
    Thank you for all these amazing pictures. You really forgot to kiss at minnewater ;)
    much love and a very huge hug, Tina

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    1. Only in Bruges! We will have to go back and kiss at the Minnewater bridge! xxx

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  8. Thank you for taking us with you on your first day, I was completely gripped. Those Art Nouveau buildings are beautiful and did I spot crochet (or perhaps tatting) doilies in a window in one photo? And yes, I would've gone for a waffle on a stick! :) xx

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    1. Thank you Cate! I had to look up tatting, but I guess that's what it was. It was the window of a shop selling lace items ... xxx

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  9. thanks for this amazing visit to Brugge!, it's a really fantastic place, despite the typical touristic stuff (waffles on a stick! mwaha!) and I enjoyed a lot when we visited (years ago) even if I was sick at the moment!
    Your pictures at the Beguinage are my favorite ones!, the atmosphere, the daffodils!, and the dress you purchased looks fabulous!
    besos

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    1. Thank you Monica, and I love that you used its Flemish name, Brugge! The pictures at the Beguinage are my favourites too, quite dreamlike! xxx

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  10. Look at you squeezing all of that into a day and still finding some time to buy a new fab piece of vintage!

    Great photos despite all the tourists.

    Suzanne

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    1. In hindsight, yes, we did squeeze a lot in, but we're certainly not hurried tourists, doing everything at a leisurely pace! xxx

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  11. I so wish we'd had more time in Bruges, lovely seeing what you managed to do. We literally did a circuit of the Beguinage on the way back to the coach park, didn't see inside any buildings unfortunately, funnily enough it was devoid of tourists that day too. Don't know how I managed to miss Think Twice! xx

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    1. Next time, you'll have to visit for more than a day! It's quite easy to miss Think Twice, as it was tucked away in a side street of one of the main shopping streets. I knew it was there, or I would have missed it too. xxx

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  12. It was a shame about the weather but the photo's are still great. I love the beautiful stuccoed houses.
    I'm impressed that you fitted in a vintage shop and found time to model your purchase! I love the lace top, you look ready to go out for the evening?? xxx

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    1. Thank you Sally! I modelled the frock while we were running a bath. After that, we just zonked out! xxx

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  13. Oh the damned weather!

    I am definitely going to suggest a weekend away in Bruges to the OH. Maybe for my birthday next year...

    Your flouncy dress looks gorgeous on you!
    xxx

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    1. Oh, you must definitely suggest that to your OH. And I'm willing to send you an English guide book if you ever decide to visit! xxx

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  14. I love this blue dress on you!! What a beautiful trip, even with rain and all. Some places are wonderful in any weather! I wonder how many tourists don't notice that the daffodil field is forbidden to walk on? Probably many! So romantic and evocative, so calling that it's hard to resist!

    Brugge (which is the name I'm used to, as opposed to Bruges) is magnificent with its ancient architecture. 1910 bridge is also a slice of history! Here, at least, it would be considered a real old bridge! Things haven't even started to happen here before 1850s!

    Beguinage (the word I learned from you - I don't even know how to translate it into Russian - a monastery I guess, of some sort?) looks so iconic, I would love to visit some day. But I draw the line on sleeping on such a short bed! :)

    Lots of love!

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    1. Thank you Natalia, and yes, Brugge is the correct Flemish name! The bridge is quite pretty, but it's impossible to take a picture as it's constantly full of selfie stick people ... xxx

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  15. Oh my gosh, I'm just boggled by the beauty of it all. Our town needs to do a parking/transit deal like that to discourage cars in town! I'm like you in a touristy place: I try to just walk around and explore and get a feel for a place. This is such a wonderful post, oh, and I see I missed an earlier one, must go check that out!

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    1. I try to use Park and Ride whenever I can. It's a very relaxing way of visiting larger towns. Even if I have planned a walk from a book, we still manage to do it our own way ... xxx

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  16. Despite the weather you've definitely sold Bruges to me (unlike my brother who, being a man, never took a single picture!) I must go!!
    love that blue dress, it looks wonderful on you. xxx

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    1. We should plan a meet up in Bruges and raid that tiny Think Twice shop! xxx

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  17. Bet you felt like you were in Wales with all that rain. Still you made the most of it and I’m so glad you’ve shown us all the lovely sights you’ve seen. Bruges is certainly a pretty place despite the weather Ann
    Lynn xxx

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    1. Yes, we did, Lynn. The upside was that we are so used to having rain in Wales, this was actually nothing in comparison ;-) xxx

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  18. I would always be up for a waffle on a stick. (As long as it's not one of those annoying bloody selfie sticks!)

    Bruges looks so lovely. Pete and I keep talking about going and so far we've never made it. Perhaps I should nag him about doing it next spring.

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    1. If you ever decide to visit, I'm willing to give you a couple of tips, or even go down for the day to meet you! xxx

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