A June 2001 trip
to Bruges by KarenG
Quote: Our family (parents and three girls, 14, 12 and 8) traveled in Europe for three weeks. Bruges is an almost perfectly preserved mideival town located an hour west of Brussels. While popular with tourists, it has the feel of a place where people actually live and work - it feels real.
Soak up Bruge's cobblestone charm by strolling its picturesque streets, ducking into churches, shops and historical landmarks as you go. Rent bikes and ride both through town and into the surrounding countryside. Sample handmade chocolates at shops sprinkled throughout the town. Pass on a standard hotel and stay in a guesthouse or bed and breakfast located in a 16th century row house - live the history. When traveling with children, it's always good to build in unstructured non-touring time and Bruges has several lovely parks featuring swans, lakes, ducks and windmills perfect for that necessary down time.
Our kids (14,12 and almost 8)loved our three days in Bruges as much as we did.
We stayed in the two floor apartment, which has a double futon-type bed in the first floor living area, two twins upstairs and an irresistible loft bed tucked in to the 500-year old rafters - our two younger girls loved it! Recently renovated and sparkling clean, the apartment has a private bathroom with shower, lav and toilet. Also, a better than adequate kitchenette with refrigerator, microwave, cooktop, cabinets and sink, where you could fix a meal if desired. There was a smaller room on the first floor, which we didn''t see. Hosts Annemie & Koen Dieltiens also operate a bed and breakfast a short block away. Our apartment cost BEF 1,500/$70 per night. Visit , Dieltiens Guest House.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 17, 2001
Dieltiens Gastenkamers (Guest-rooms)
+32 (0) 50 33 42 94
One evening, my husband and I left the children in our Bruges apartment and strolled the picturesque streets of this beautiful and romantic town, eventually seeking a place for dinner. We wandered into 't Begijntje rather late to find only one table occupied. The waiter/host welcomed us in and sat us near a window overlooking a small square. The other couple soon left and we had the restaurant to ourselves.
In these circumstances in many restaurants, service may be rushed and food sub-par, since the staff likely wants to close up and get home. Instead, we were treated to a wonderful freshly cooked meal featuring regional dishes, served with attentiveness, but no haste. Our dinner at 't Begijntje was probably the most memorable and enjoyable of our three week trip through several European countries.
When we finished our meal, still the only customers in the restaurant, the chef came out to the dining room, the waiter introduced her to us and we offered our compliments.
Our experience occurred on a Tuesday night in June. Possibly on other nights or later in the summer, reservations would be recommended.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 18, 2001
Restaurant 't Begijntje
We biked both around town and out a popular 30-40 minute route canalside to Damme, another quaint mideival town, not nearly as touristed as Bruges. Biking is daily transportation in Bruges (and in much of Europe) as opposed to recreation or exercise as here in the U.S. This means the town and countryside are set up for biking with easily accessible and navigable bike lanes and paths. Also, and more importantly, local drivers are used to bikes - they will grant you the right-of-way. (In your turn, you must grant rights-of-way to pedestrians).
Biking in Bruges and the Belgian countryside was voted a favorite by all of us, ranging in age from 7 to 51. Fresh air, exercise, idyllic scenery, canals and windmills - who could ask for more?
Attraction | "Brewery Straffe Hendrik"
The second reason to take the tour is to listen to the personable guide switch back and forth between three or four languages. Our guide was fluent in five languages and working on a sixth. (As she said, "You have to. If you know only Flemish, you can travel only to northern Belgium or Holland!")
The third reason is the tall glass of cold Straffe Hendrik beer you get to enjoy at the end of the tour. (Kids get coke.) It's one of the many delicious brews available in this country and well-worth a try.
The brewery is open from 10 am to 5 pm April through September and from 11 am to 3 pm October through March. Tours run on the hour, last about 45-minutes and cost BEF140/$3 per person, including the beverage.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 19, 2001
Beer tasting at the Straffe Hendrick
Attraction | "Belfry Tower"
The 360 degree views of the town and surrounding countryside were gorgeous and a great photo-op. We happened to be up there when the clock struck 3 pm and we were bombarded (I mean serenaded) by a cacophony of 47 ancient bells ringing out their songs and the hour all around our heads. Our ears are still ringing, but we'd do it again if we could!
Open 9:30 am to 5 pm every day during the summer. Ticket costs range from BEF 50 to BEF 100 ($1.10 to $2.20); family ticket available for BEF 200 ($4.40).
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 19, 2001
Belfry Tower/Belfort of Bruges
To our eyes, one of the most beautiful churches in Bruges is one tourists don't hear much about. One night after dinner, our family decided to take a walk. We set out from our lodgings, wandering aimlessly away from the town center. Soon, we came upon a church, whose exterior was only as nice as many village churches throughout Europe. Classical music spilled from the open doorway and pulled us in for a closer look.
The interior of the church is stunning. Built in the mid-17th century and beautifully kept, St. Walburgha's is a wonderful example of baroque artistry. On the high alter, framed in black and gold and supported by white columns, is a large arched painting of Christ's ascension. The marble communion bench is intricately carved and the wooden pulpit exquisite.
Members of this beautiful church open it to the public on many summer evenings and play (taped) classical and religious music as accompaniment. The evening we visited, an older gentleman graciously welcomed us and answered questions from guests.
We learned from our experience the value of taking time while traveling to chart a new path. Many of the best travel experiences are the ones you find yourselves. By discovering St. Walburgha's, we left feeling like just a little piece of this church belongs to us.
St. Walburgha's Church
Aiken, South Carolina