A September 2001 trip
to Bruges by Irene
Quote: Located 55 miles northeast and 1 hour train ride from Brussels, medival Bruges rumbles with horse drawn carriages, spify quaint canal boats, an active fish market and historic gothic halls and cathedrals.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 6, 2002
Gastenhuis Het Wit Beertje
Witte Beerstraat 4
32 (0) 50/45 08 88
First you see the cafes and restaurants to the right facing the square right off the canal, and observer all with menus chalked on small framed blackboards, MUSSELS, A-framed doubled sided menus quoting the expanded daily menu with all the hopeful owners beconning from doorways hoping to intice the customers to choose their cafe. Really hard choices to make with Waffle Wagons, Wurst Wagons and Roasted Chicken Wagons sending wonderful smells our way from the entrance near the Nordzandstraat. Herded together near the perimeter, one Waffle Wagon clustered with other food wagons near the perimeter quelled our hunger pangs as we delved into the melee. You got to try this, a fresh baked waffle about 7 inches by 4 inches with all those little deep seated crusty brown squares to hold the strawberries (or chocolate or whatever) and a little sugar, then lots of whipped cream (real cream), and then more berries with sauce and all handed to you with a tiny napkin.
Clothes, coats, sweaters -- rows of them -- hang front of tents and on tables piled head high, dresses in all fabrics and textures, then the nighties, make-up, carpets, plus notions, toys, car mats, knives, kitchen ware, And let us not forget the carpets. Miles and miles of them. Turkish, Oriental, small, long, short, round, oval. Sorry no magic carpet.
At the end of The ''tZand, the market takes a different turn and spills on to Boeveriestraat and into the Beursplein. This my kind of market, plants, fruits, vegetables, and white nectarines, which I have seen before, but never this size. Tip here! when you wish to buy, you tell the vendor which product and they will choose and put it in a bag for you. It''s politically incorrect to handle the produce, any of it. The market quacked, honked, squealed, chirped, was beautiful and lively, with brocolli, lettuce, apples, onions, (a supermarket outside)spilling down stands in the sparkling sunshine, to the tune of live animals for sale, parakeets, pigs, chickens, surrounded by vivid bouquets of fresh flowers and potted plants.
As we gathered our pickings for our picnic by the canal, the crowds parted and cheering began as a beautifully dressed bride and groom strolled hand in hand from the local church and took a tour of the fair as vendors offered them samples and honored then with token flowers. They politely posed for us. After giving them our congrats, we smiling, took our booty to the nearest park bench along the canal and indulged.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 30, 2002
Markets and Brides
As inspiring as the ocean slick sand was, the beach front on the the other side of the highway was as depressing. You could almost transport the area to South Florida, condos and condos, resturants and taverns, Hotels, and Souvenir Shops, except everything was strangly deserted with only the condos sporting large VERKAUF(for sale) signs. This is where Europe goes for the weekend and holiday and this was Thursday. We continued west toward the French border in hopes of more and were mercifully rewarded. Remarkable rolling dunes and tasteful villages returned as we approached Nieupoort and Ostduinkerke. White sand spreading higher than one's head and sprinkled with sea brush, sea oats and a few nude tourists, so we took a relaxing, tumbling walk in the sweeping dunes. Here in Ostduinkerke one of the more rustic and rural towns, the tour books say you can catch an old tradition on a good day, the locals shrimping from horseback in the surf; well, it must not have been a good day.
At DePanne we discovered even more, the Coastal Dune Park and Wildlife Refuge,(Westhoek-open always-free), 840 wild acres nicknamed "The Sahara," with miles and miles of walking paths, huge mountains of sand and shrubs, splashed with wild roses. As we had searched for this park, more rows of condos appeared and as we were about to give up, the buildings abruptly ended and on the other side of the sidewalk is the wild park. Just like that. No space in between and no warning. We ventured only a short way as we had already picnicked and were short of food and water, none here. At the entrance, maps of the hiking trails are free and a display board shows the trails with distance and time marked. If you do not like to drive, the coast has a tram that runs the entire length and you can hop on and off the Coast Tram all day for 250F($6.50) each way, from Knokke-Heist to DePanne. Connections are at Oostend from Bruges. Be sure and take your jacket, for the weather at the beach can change from sunshine to a northeasterner in a matter of a couple of hours.