Sunday, 12 May 2019

Bruges on the quiet

Are you sitting comfortably? In this post, I'll continue where I left off, and tell you what we did on the third day of our little holiday back in April.

But before I regale you with an account of our adventures on Thursday, let's have a look at what I was wearing. 

I'd packed a choice of short-sleeved dresses, and that day I picked out one of my beloved Diolens, in bright tomato red printed with white flowers and green dots. Additionally, it's got a V-neck and one hell of a dagger collar!

A jade green cardigan went on top (it's looking decidedly greener in real life), to which I pinned a red cat brooch, a recent Think Twice find. Further accessories were a green beaded necklace, a green ring and a white vinyl belt with an oddly shaped buckle.

I'm in my gold slippers here, a pair of ballerinas which are faithful travel companions. Obviously, I didn't wear them out that day, although the ankle boots I did wear didn't do my back any good after a day's trawling of the city streets.

Seeing these photos, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was another glorious day, but alas it was not. We took the photos in the early evening when we were back at our B&B, sitting out on our little terrace when the sun had decided to pay us a brief visit after all.

Unfortunately, it had been a cloudy and rather chilly morning we'd woken up to, and while we were having breakfast, we noticed it was raining lightly. Thankfully, it had stopped by the time we started out, but due to the weather's uncertainty, we changed our initial plans for the day and went to Bruges instead.

From the car park, we wandered through a maze of cobbled back streets, soon losing our sense of direction, until we spotted the lofty spire of the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady), which dominates the Brugian skyline with its 115,5 m high tower. Building work on the current church began in 1225, and it was crowned with its spire in the 15th Century.

Shortly afterwards, we passed a private car park on our right, with a complex of weathered brick buildings behind it, where groups of people could be seen strolling through the courtyard.

Consulting our map, I saw that this must be the Oud Sint-Jan (Old St. John) site, a former hospital, its origins dating back to the 12th Century, and the spot where one of the earliest infirmaries in medieval Europe once stood. When the hospital closed down in 1976, its spacious wards were revamped into a unique cultural site, as well as a congress and events centre.

We emerged from this peaceful oasis upon the busy Mariastraat (Mary Street) which, with the much visited Beguinage virtually around the corner, is lined with chocolate, waffle, lace and souvenir shops jostling for clientele. Here, you have to be careful not to be swept up by the never-ending stream of people crowding the pavements or be trampled under the clip-clopping hooves of the poor horses tasked with drawing the many carriages which pass this way.

Pranged between two of the streets' shops is a whitewashed gateway, ignored by most of the tourists intent on spending their money on postcards and sweet or tacky souvenirs.

Shall we go inside?

Hidden away from prying eyes and the hustle and bustle in Mariastraat is one of the 46 small groups of almshouses which can be found all over Bruges, most of them, like here, clustered around a cosy courtyard.

As good an opportunity as any to show you the teal vintage coat I was wearing, chucked into the car minutes before we left home, in case the weather turned cold. It's a good thing I did, as that day I was glad of its warmth.

Back on Mariastraat, we soon spotted a narrow alleyway between houses, which led to another group of almshouses, its courtyard entered through an iron gate in a creeper-clad wall. 

Jos was wearing his warm Loden, which he too decided to bring at the last moment. Note the splashes of colour provided by his ochre trousers and orange shirt!

The courtyard backed onto a canal, from where the magnificent Sint-Janshospitaal (St. John's Hospital), which backs onto it on the opposite side, can be glimpsed and from where, hidden away behind a bank of wisteria, the tourists in the passing boats can be spied upon.

Below is a better view of St. John's Hospital, taken from the spot where Mariastreet bridges the canal.

Rather confusingly, this is a different building than the Old St. John mentioned earlier.

St. John’s Hospital has an eight hundred-year-old history of caring for pilgrims, travellers, the poor and the sick. Now it is a museum where you can  marvel at the impressive collection of archives, art works, medical instruments, as well as six paintings by Hans Memling.

After braving the crowds in the epicentre of tourist-land, we neared our first destination, the enchanting Groenerei (Green Quay), whose tree-lined, cobbled quayside borders a particularly romantic stretch of canal crossed by several old stone bridges.

This has to be one of Bruges' most picturesque locations, yet, apart from those on board of the ubiquitous canal boats, there were relatively few people about.

Admittedly, we too had never made it here before, and might not have done so now if we hadn't been prompted by the lithograph by a French artist we bought at last month's flea market.

It was lunch time by now, so we made our way towards the Markt, where we once again joined the crowds. Finding ourselves a table on the covered terrace of our favourite of the tourist restaurants, St. Joris, there was an American couple who'd landed in Bruges while on a cruise seated at the table next to ours. I might have gained a fan there, as the lady positively gushed over my outfit, nodding knowingly when I told her my dress was vintage!

The thick blanket of grey above us didn't show any sign of dispersing and at some point, the sky seemed to be darkening, with a promise of imminent rain.

Still, we were determined to start a walk I'd earmarked and which would show us the quiet side of Bruges, where hardly any tourists venture, as most of them aren't inclined to leave the golden triangle of tourist attractions.

We'd hardly walked 10 minutes before laying eyes on the imposing St. Walburga's Church, the building of which began in 1619.

It is the most richly decorated church in pure Baroque style in Bruges.

Its literally dazzling interior boasts stunning architectural details and elaborately decorated church furniture. 

As we entered, we could hear baroque music playing through the sound system. A sign admonished us to be quiet, so we tiptoed around the church, hardly daring to make photographs lest our shutters would make too much noise, when suddenly the silence was rudely shattered by a particularly resonating organ point, which almost literally made us jump!

Continuing on our way past the atmospheric Hansa Quarter, where the former mansions of the wealthy international merchants, who established themselves here between the 13th until the 15th Century, line the wide canals, the dark and moody clouds had increased in intensity.

The rain held off until we were safely inside the Museum of Folk Life, housed in the row of whitewashed 17th Century single-room cottages on the top left. The sign on the bottom left belongs to the traditional on-site café (which is actually what a pub is called in Belgium), and - should there be any doubts - translates as "In the Black Cat".

Looking back the way we'd arrived on this quiet, cobbled street, you can see the tower of  the 15th-century Jerusalem Chapel, a jewel of medieval architecture which we must put on our itinerary during a next visit.

The museum's contents, laid out as  a classroom, a milliner's shop, a pharmacy, a confectionery shop and a grocery shop, amongst others, are a feast for the eyes.

I swooned over the child sized green tapestry coat!

The tailor was not the only occupant in the tailor's shop! I wonder, is he or she the black cat the café was named after?

It had stopped raining by the time we'd gone around the museum and had a drink in the café. 

However, we still had a long way to go, and my feet were starting to hurt me - I know, wrong footwear, but the ankle boots I was wearing never gave me grief before.

Anyway, we thought we'd call it a day and cut our walk short. It was still quite a trek back to the city centre and our car park, though, so we made a stop for cappuccino and cherry crumble along the way.

Now, if I haven't been able to convince you that Bruges is well worth a visit, maybe the city's official video, called Bruges in 60 seconds, will do the trick! 

Please do join me again for the final episode of my travelogue.

Linking with Patti's Visible Monday and Mica's Weekday Wear Linkup!


  1. Oooh, I love seeing Bruges again! We did hope to go there but am really glad we went to Ghent instead- it was lovely too! Your dress IS gorgeous!!! I love it! I really want to get a jersey dagger collar blouse in a cappucino sort of colour for a Clara cosplay and a brown suede/velvet waistcoat so everytime I see a dagger collar blouse, it makes me think of that!
    You showed us some great places!!x

    1. Thank you Kezzie, and good luck with finding that dagger collar blouse you're after! xxx

  2. Thank you Ann for this wonderful trip to Brügge ❤️
    A huge hug Tina

  3. Wow! What a fabulous place, Ann! Speaking of fabulous, I love that cat brooch! What a purrfect find! (Sorry! You know I can't resist a cat pun!) ;) I love the colours and print on your dress. So pretty! Love your accessories too! Hope you have a wonderful week ahead, Ann. XXX

  4. It looks like a beautiful place, even if the weather wasn't the best and the shoes gave you a little trouble! Your outfit does look great! :)

    Hope that you had a great weekend! I just posted my weekday wear linkup, I'd love you to join! :)

    Away From Blue

    1. Thank you Mica, I've learnt my lesson with the shoes now! xxx

  5. I want to go to Bruges - but only if you and Jos are there to guide me!
    What a gorgeous place - despite those ominous skies and your painful feet. Love the tranquility of the almshouses and the fairytale prettiness of the architecture.
    How amazing is that child's coat on display? I love it. The tailor's cat is remarkably realistic, too.
    You both look wonderful, showing the tourists how to dress! xxx

    1. It would be a pleasure to be your guides, you just have to say the word! Not sure that you realized the tailor's cat was the real thing? xxx

  6. Oh, it looks such a beautiful place to visit! I can feel a city break coming on...

    Such fantastic buildings and quirky little places.

    I loved your outfit; the cat brooch was lovely and talking of cats;the black cat in the museum's tailor shop made me laugh. Typical cat in on everything!

    You would make a wonderful Ambassador for Bruges...

    Have a great week.

    1. Thank you Vronni! I hadn't even noticed the cat at first, it was Jos who pointed him/her out to me! xxx

  7. You convinced me in the first installment! You find such lovely quiet corners, off the beaten track. Did you use any guide or just wander? You certainly both added some colour on a grey day xx

    1. Thank you Sarah! We - or rather I - consult some guides before we travel, and sometimes we try to follow a walk, but we have a tendency to wander ... xxx

  8. It's a shame that the weather was rainy and cold, but it's great you didn't let that stop you from exploring Bruges. It really is a wonderful city. I enjoyed reading more about its history. Your photography is wonderful. It is fascinating to see all those historical buildings and structures. Such a neat and romantic city it seems.

    You look lovely in that printed dress and a coloured cardi. I really like the cat brooch too. Great styling.

    1. Thank you so much, Ivana! We've had much worse weather on last year's trip, and on our holiday in Wales in 2017, so some clouds and a couple of rain-drops certainly won't stop us ;-) xxx

  9. I love that you and Jos avoid the tourist areas - my city is a tourist town, and I always want to tell the tourists to go a little further afield to find the really interesting spots! Bruges looks amazing...*sigh* but I'm afraid a trip to Europe is not in the cards for us any time soon.

    Love your dress - that collar! - and what an interesting belt buckle. Thank you for the picture of the adorable tailor's cat! I loved that!

    1. Thank you Sheila! We always try to avoid the crowds! I loved that tailor's cat too, although he/she made us miss Phoebe a bit ... xxx

  10. how cute is the black cat - making home in the lap of the doll!
    again very beautiful sights! i love me a dazzling baroque church, such a feast for the eyes.
    very chic blue coat - and the red/white/green underneath is lovely and fresh <3
    big hugs! xxxxx

    1. Thank you Beate! that's cats for you, and I thought you'd appreciated the baroque church! xxx

  11. You have convinced me several times over that I need to make a visit to Bruges.

    I love your outfit with the red and blue coat. No wonder why the woman was complimenting you. Isn't it nice when people notice your efforts?

    I've also taken footwear that were good previously and turned out to be terrible for my feet. I think my feet are changing as I age. I've also found that changes in humidity will affect my feet.


    1. Thank you Suzanne! I think it were the cobbled streets which made my boots feel a bit uncomfortable ... xxx

  12. That coat in the display case, I would love to see the detail on that one!

  13. I've been once to Brugge, what a beautiful city. I love the canals. And that cat brooche! But the red dress and green cardigan is perfect too!

  14. You have definitely convinced me to go there at some point. I don't think all those chocolates would do my diet any good, but if we do as much sightseeing as you I'd walk them off. It looks like such a wonderful city.

    Do the cruisers come in from the coast, or down the river on a river cruise?

    1. I think those cruisers came in from the coast or perhaps from Antwerp, Mim. There's a cruise ship terminal in Antwerp. xxx

  15. You and Jos have the same traveling tendencies toward quiet spaces that I do. Seeing your photos and reading about the less trodden paths you chose would be exactly how I'd want to see Bruges, or anywhere else for that matter.

    Oh, and I'm pretty sure your beautiful dress and cardigan, paired with Jos's fabulous trousers and orange top, had a lot to do with calling the sunnier weather into being later that day. You both look so chic! How could the sun not seek you out???


    1. Thank you Sherry. Yes, we definitely prefer the quiet spaces. I for one can get quite claustrophobic when I'm in a crowded place. xxx

  16. Enjoying your travel posts so much!

  17. You in that gorgeous blue coat and Jos in his ochre trousers cut quite a dash.
    It's a beautiful place. Shame about the weather but it looks like you made the most of it.
    Bad weather is the perfect excuse to go to nice restaurants and cafes and you found some good ones.
    I'm looking forward to the final instalment. xxx

    1. Thank you Sally! We always try to make the most of our time, even if the weather isn't playing nicely. We've been to Wales, so we know it can be much worse ;-) xxx

  18. How lovely that you found the location of the lithograph, what a fun thing to do.
    And you found a museum cat, that would've made my day :)

    1. Finding the cat did make my day, even though he/she made us think of Phoebe ... xxx

  19. what a fab post, I love all those details that caught your eye, the alleys and courtyards, the hidden beautiful buildings and architectural details!
    And you look lovely in your red floral Diolen dress and matchy accessories! that brooch is so cute!. And also loving your coat and glad that it was also comfy and warm!. Jos rocks in his orange and ochre outfit too!
    Looking forward to see more!