Bruges is beautiful

A step back into many times past,tourist-crowded but tourist-friendly Bruges was a low-key interlude from the big cities of Paris and London. Food and drink were superior and budget-priced - love those frites! The locals were welcomers and rescuers and I love their city! Bruges has the best of the "new" and "old" worlds;its beauty is that of both Nature and Man preserved for our delight.


Bruges is beautiful

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by travelprone on November 14, 2001

The Groeningen Museum is for lovers of 15th to 17th century realist painters and the English audio-guide is helpful, not intrusive.

The Gruitthaus Museum shows how the wealthy lived in the late medieval heyday of Bruges.

The Burg and Markt illuminated at night are splendid. AND THE OMNIPRESENCE OF CANALS AND GREENERY CAST ROMANTIC AURA over a real place of really hard-working people like our host who runs a restaurant and rents rooms and apartments.

The beer is fantastic, I'm told ,(I don't drink alcohol)but I know the waffles with cream and the chocolates are, too.

As a footnote, I just recently learned the the city motto is "Beautiful Bruges",adopted because the city fathers wanted to counteract the impression left by the early 20th century writer of "Bruges le Mort",that it was a dead city.What he emphasized in his book was the astonishing preservation of medieval buildings that he had found in Bruges. Certainly, one could never make that"dead" charge today. Bruges even in October was full of tourists.

Our three days were too short, as this is a city for slow exploring. Above all, I'll remember the people I met - hospitable and friendly and very hard workers.${QuickSuggestions} Do explore side-alleys to avoid tourist throngs in the main shopping areas. You'll get lost, but probably will find something- a quiet restaurant, an interesting modern furniture store, or a quaint moss-covered house. Browse - the atmosphere is conducive to slowing down;take as long as you like to gaze at the Michaelangelo Madonna and Child. Appreciating presences from the past impels one to see more of less "sights". Especially, enjoy the Minnewater, once the scene of commercial bustle and docks before the river silted up, now, a serene green sward.${BestWay} Walk! Buses run regularly, but we didn't need them. Driving in narrow-double-parked streets seemed to us best left to locals. Taxis are best to and from the train station as walking with luggage over cobblestones as we did on arrival is not fun. Wearied from our Thalys journey from Paris, we forgot to look at the very clear directions our host had sent us ! Korte Vuilderstraat is miles away from Vuilderstraat!{We learned that distinction the hard way).


Lokkedize

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travelprone on November 14, 2001

A good-sized room with two twins side by side and a bath with shower cabin was off a hall and facing a small inner outside patio. A small TV with CNN and BBC informed us the world was still a mess of wars and disputes. Location was near the 3 main squares - Burg, Markt, and t'Zand - but far enough to be quiet for sleep. Our host answered questions cheerfully and left us on our own otherwise. The room also had twin bunk beds so normally would accomodate 4 persons. One night we had a problem with mosquitoes although there was repellent in the room - the downside of many canals is they are perfect breeding grounds for the varmints. No breakfast, but many cafes including the Sandpiper are only steps away. Good value in a hot tourist town.

On our host Erik Broos's website, REFERENCE,the room my husband and I stayed in for about 40 euros a night is pictured under studios. Erik has revamped the site to include virtual tours of the studios and the flats (apartments with full kitchens).Everything will be as pictured; Erik is an honest, enterprising host very proud of his Flemish heritage and Bruges. For those worried about noise from his adjoining restaurant which stays open late - not to worry. We are early-to-bedders and never heard sleep-disturbing noise, as the restaurant is really not that close to the studios and flats which I think are a bargain. Also, I'm sure if you have a mosquito problem and mention it to Erik, he and his wife Marie-Anne will do everything they can to eliminate the varmints. As we first encountered the mosquitoes on our last night and everything else had been more than O.K.,the price so reasonable and the location so convenient,my husband didn't mention it at check-out, for our host had just obligingly checked for us all details for our Oostende-Dover-London connections.

Lokkedize
Korte Vuilderstraat 16
Bruges, Belgium

Het Bargehuis

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travelprone on April 28, 2002

The section of this large restaurant called De Berenpub which is decorated with lots of bears(bears & beers,anyone?)is great for a quick snack after one's strolling through the Minnewater. Through sliding glass doors one can exit to a patio with tables for eating in warm weather & directly ahead of this area is a playground,the Belgian version of those provided at Mc Donald's or Burger King here in the states.When we were having a mid-afternoon snack & drinks there,3 contented children were using the slide & the swings,while their mother watched as she ate inside. Our young waitress told us what "Kip" was when we saw it on the menu ;their speciality,"Kip ain't spit," which we should have been able to figure out, except for spit's other,unfortunate meaning in our language, was chicken on the spit, roasted, of course. For 2 Leffe Bruins (beer), a parasol lemon drink and a croque monsieur, the bill totalled 8.43 euros-not likely to break anyone's bank .

A tranquil spot set right near the beautiful Minnewater & its swans, in the warm weather this villa-like restaurant with its welcoming family atmosphere would prove a godsend to parents with hungry, tired children. A well-stocked bar, and several beers on tap, also suggested this pub-restaurant would provide as warm a nightly welcome as we received when we visited in the afternoon downtime. Het Bargehuis is on www.brugge.be with a link to its page with pictures of its playground and comfortable interior. On Sundays they feature brunch at 35 euros per person, reservations required, so I surmise that the restaurant is more upscale than the pub section we were in.

Het Bargehuis
Bargeweg 2 de Katelijne Port
Bruges, Belgium
050/33 26 04

the Sandpiper

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travelprone on December 6, 2001

Thirsting for a wake-me-up cup of coffee, we headed out of the Lokkedize,walked up the block and turned the corner to see a sign of a sandpiper at a local bar-restaurant. We ordered 2 black coffees and were pleasantly surprised when it arrived served with a very good-tasting cookie that the Brits would call a biscuit. It was softer than a cookie and had a consistency like a brownie. When the bill arrived, it was so cheap we made a mental note to try this place for dinner as this was our last night in Bruges and we had an early wake-up to catch the train to Oostende.

Dinner was superb. Nevertheless, my husband looked longingly at the table next to us when a British couple and their two sons dug into a huge bucket of steaming mussels (my husband LOVES mussels). He just hadn't seen the mussels on the surprisingly large menu we had been given. He had already eaten most of his delicious stew and even he couldn't have eaten any mussels,or anything more that night.

The place was warm, crowded with a mix of locals and tourists amazingly served speedily and helpfully by one waitress. She clearly explained what a dish was like when we asked (the menu was in Flemish and English) as several of the dishes were indigenously Belgian,that is,Flemish. For days after we ate at the Sandpiper our son compared new meals unfavorably with the rabbit he had at the Sandpiper. Unfortunately, I didn't jot down the address of this real "find" and, as we paid cash,we hadn't a clue as to its address, so I e-mailed my host at Lokkedize and he e-mailed the particulars to me. He knew the owners personally.

Not unkindly,I can say the Superwoman waitress wasn't a day under 60! I'm an oldie too and applaud anyone of any age who performs with finesse. This to me is marvellous dining - excellent food and service at a reasonable price in a welcoming atmosphere.

the Sandpiper
't Zand 33
Bruges, Belgium
32 50 341346

St.-Amandskelder

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travelprone on March 28, 2002

On a street just south-west of the Markt, we "shopped" for a restaurant, bypassing the take-away Pasta Presto & De Lange Chinese. We were in the mood for something classier and we found it -another cellar restaurant similar to the JB Club in Prague. This restaurant consists of 2 rooms , both from the 16th century, one of which was a nuns' cellar. With arched ceilings, stone walls and soft lighting, the over-all effect is romantic. When we arrived, earlier than most as usual, the cook and waitperson were playing Scrabble, my eagle-eyed son noticed. During the course of our leisurely dinner, couples drifted in , and,when we left, the place was about half-full. The venison was especially good with a dark wine-based sauce. Vegetables were very fresh and crisp. Service by the sole waitress was efficient, professional, and non-obtrusive.

We picked up their card which indicates they have "Regularly Live Music." As we ate there on Sunday night, this music was absent, but I doubt if the music would be raucous, as the kelder is a classy place with a French chef(Patrick Flagel) and bills itself as Belgian-French in cuisine. On departure, we saw a couple looking in from the outside as we had done earlier and were able to recommend that they go in and enjoy with "Bon Appetit."

For a splurge, this restaurant offers three special menus. The Chefs' Menu is a three course one; you start with an apertif that combines white wine, cassis and cola, and then you chose from a list of available items for the next two courses(35 euros each, wines included). A changing Seasonal Menu is a three course one starting with a kir and wine apertif(37 euros each). The BIG SPLURGE is the Champaign Menu (at 138 euros for 2), which starts with champagne & has four courses, all accompanied by a full bottle of champagne.

St.-Amandskelder
St. Amandstraat 11
Bruges, Belgium
050/33 99 75

Groeningen Museum

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travelprone on April 11, 2002

Marvellous museum with superb audio-guide included with admission price.

Basically features artists who worked in Bruges from 14th century to present, but the glories are to be found in the religious but humanly realistic works of the Flemish primitives.

My favorite was Jan van Eyck's "Madonna with Canon Joris van der Paele," an early 15th century triptych that shows the comissioner of the work, Van der Paele, complete with furrows and wrinkles, his spectacles at the ready over his book. As he gazes at the Madonna, flanked by St. George, his patron saint, and St. Donation, he is realized in his somewhat abundant flesh. Here, the two phase guide really helped; after listening to the general description, I pressed for a more in-depth coverage and found out a cathedral dedicated to St. Donation , which had been in Bruges since the 9th century, was destroyed by the French in 1799. The presence of an African parrot, gorgeously colorful,elaborate vestments and equally resplendent carpets in the scene attested to the cosmopolitan aura of trade-wealthy Bruges during the Canon's time.

Van Eyck's portrait of his wife, as well as other portraits , notably by Peter Pourbos, an artist new to me, demonstrated technical ability and interest in depicting real people with exquisite felicity to telling details. Though most of the works here are religious in theme, the details convey human faces so very vivid they seem alive. No one who sees David's "The Judgment of Cambyses" will ever forget the contrast between the horrible flaying while alive of the judge, surrounded by nonchalant witnesses going about their everyday business scarcely noticing what's going on. What impact on the viewer this contrast has!

This is the "must see" museum in Bruges.The treasures here are worth far more than the treasures one can pick up in the chic shops where most tourists seemed to be when we were visiting a sparsely attended museum. All the better for us - just 2 hours of unhurried perusing.

Groeninge Museum
Djiver 12
Bruges, Belgium

Hossein Socotti

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travelprone on April 11, 2002

Usually,we buy a poster that evokes the essence of a place that we especially enjoyed, and,upon returning home,spend $200.00-$300.00 to have the poster framed.

This time, in Bruges, for $400.00 + $70.00 for shipping,we purchased two beautiful watercolors,framed very suitably to enhance the winter and summer scenes depicted in each. The horizontally oriented winter scene, signed by Mr. Socotti,who was painting at his site outdoors when we happened upon him,focuses on a bridge over frozen canal surrounded by snowy trees and roofs-framed in a simple but elegant dark-grey metal bordering frame. This winter scene contrasts with the vertically-oriented summer scene which depicts a typical narrow street with a few human figures strolling upon it, surrounded by several buildings with the "steps-down" upper front of roof pattern seen often in Bruges. This scene is framed in the same gray metallic. Of the two, I prefer the winter scene, but both will adorn our walls soon.

I wracked my brain, pored over maps, and searched the net, but I couldn't be completely sure of where Mr. Socotti's "spot" was until I saw a photo of the Duc De Bourgoyne by Joantri right on our IGOUGO site. I knew Socotti's "spot" was just off the Burg where you enter an alley (Blinde Eizelstraat?)next to a chocolate shop & directly to the side of a restaurant. I reasoned that these remembered details would place it in Huidervettersplein in front of the Duc de Bourgoyne restaurant-hotel,and the photo proved I'd remembered correctly for I recognized that was the hotel I was standing before as my husband was buying the pictures. But no one should have to agonize & tweak the brain as I did. Jot it down immediately in a journal! I've given his e-mail address as we can recommend him whole-heartedly.We paid in Am EX traveller's cheques, told him when we would be home so he could coordinate shipping to arrive when we could receive it, and we were completely satisfied when the paintings arrived very carefully packaged and in perfect condition.

It was a pleasure dealing with this gentle man and we will be most happy with our "souvenirs" of Bruges. His "address" is just to the right of the Duc De Bourgoyne at 12 Huidersvettersplein.And, now you can see his photo and the autumn beauty that inspires him.

Hossein Socotti Arts & Antiques
E-mail: hossein.socotti@pandora.be
Bruges, Belgium

Gruuthuse

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travelprone on February 15, 2002

This museum brings to life the historical 15-17th centuries in which the tiny Lowland countries flourished and a class of wealthy merchants enjoyed luxuries such as tapestries to warm their cold walls, musical instruments to help them while away leisure hours, porcelain dishes to dine from, and paintings to embellish their homes.

The house itself is impressive in its exterior, set back, with courtyard, from the street which must have been bustling then with trading activity that may have rivalled the burgeoning tourist activity now. Some telltale signs of age (missing cornices, weathered mullions, etc.) in the exterior suggest ongoing need for restoration but the interior shows much evidence of restoration having been done. Old wooden furniture gleams and the exhibits of small artifacts used by the inhabitants seem carefully laid out. We enjoyed it especially because we visited when it wasn't crowded: in the early afternoon after lunch break when it reopened at 2 P.M.

Gruuthuse
Dijver 17
Bruges, Belgium

Lokkedize

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travelprone on April 27, 2002

After dinner(early because we hadn't had time for lunch on our train trips to Bruges from Paris),we stopped for a nightcap at our accommodation host's bar. As it was the prime eating hour, this was a bit ill-advised, as the place was crowded, mainly by groups of young people,all eager for some home-like food and lots of superb Belgian beer.People were waiting for tables. You could see, however, that the bar was well-stocked and the cozy, brick-walled interior was conducive to intimate after-hours gatherings over a few good brews.

On the website click here there are five pictures that accurately depict the warm atmosphere and show that sometimes live bands perform here.The bar is open till 3P.M. on Fridays & Saturdays, and the kitchen also stays open late to accommodate after-theatre crowds. A "fixture" on the Bruges night scene, the Lokkedize is a good spot to combine eating & drinking in a convivial setting.

All the food that passed by us looked very good indeed and everyone around us seemed to be digging right in. Both locals & tourists made up the patronage and the scene was quite bustling. Tired as we were & already full, we stayed a short while, regretting we were too tired to return later to enjoy the ambiance, maybe meet some locals, and drink to the background accompaniment of some mellow jazz which was playing while we were enjoying our drinks.

We thought menu prices were very reasonable and found a vaiety of offerings on the menu.We noted one of our favorites, moussaka, was on the menu, so the Lokkedize serves more than just Belgian food. Our total bill came to a little over 14 euros for 2 Westmalle Donker, 2 Diversen (both of these are kinds of beer) and 2 Ginis for me. Gini is the Belgian facsimile of Schweppes Bitter Lemon.

Lokkedize
Korte Vuilderstraat 33
Bruges, Belgium

Madonna in Church of Our Lady

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by travelprone on March 8, 2002

Michelangelo! Michelangelo! Would you believe my son saw several groups of tourists wandering about aimlessly in this once resplendent church and they totally bypassed its most overwhelming Madonna and Child by Michelangelo? A mere glance to the front right side altar,in its center,surrounded by other statues that absolutely pale by comparison, transports you to this gorgeous,gleaming, intensely realistic sight. The marble speaks; the face of the Virgin is so complex with emotion, but simply human in its visage. One must really see this statue to appreciate it fully. Photos fail to capture its extraordinary marble. Its haunting effect is difficult to describe; its memory will linger on and on.

Seeing the Madonna was the highlight of my experience in Bruges.The rest of the church is interesting, but the Madonna is riveting. As you gaze on it, all the other "competent" statues around it disappear. By chance,a wealthy and pious parishioner snatched this gem when the original buyer bowed out. Reputedly, it's the only Michelangelo north of the Alps.What it is -stunningly beautiful in composition, execution and materials - is an embodiment of the Renaissance spirit.

Church of our Lady
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerkhof Zuid
Bruges, Belgium
050/34-53-14

Experience teaches

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by travelprone on December 6, 2001

Since one of the most frustrating tendencies of the human mind is to forget data like the exact location of a surprisingly good restaurant or an odd sight that just seemed for the moment to capture the essence of a place one is a traveller in,I have resolved to pack a small(everything weighs at the check-in,especially for intra-European flights),but practical Journal book so I don't stutter when I start to write about my travel experiences.

This is the procedure I most wish I'd followed on our European trip. Bruges was the most satisfying place I visited on my last European trip because people were so hospitable,the food was excitingly different,and the whole atmosphere was an historical reminder that other beings have passed their human lives before us.

And,I will never forget the man who gave us a lift to the Lokkedize when he saw the three of us struggling with our luggage in the pouring rain,lost,because we were on Vuilderstraat, in the northeast section of Bruges, when the Lokkedize is on Korte Vuilderstraat,in the southwestern section. On the way with our rescuer, we learned he used to frequent Lokkedize when he was a bachelor and he'd picked up his excellent English while working in Saudi-Arabian oil fields.In weary haste on our arrival at the Lokkedize, we never learned his name, but I'll never forget his kindness-that you don't need a journal for.

No wonder I'd love to visit Bruges again. Thank goodness, my husband kept the card for Sint-Amanskelder restaurant or I'd have forever nagged myself about forgetting its name & location! Above all, I regretted not noting the location of Mr. Socotti's stall as our experience with him was so satisfying, but I had luck when I found a fellow IGOUGO guide's photo of the restaurant right next to his spot. Then to my rescue, came our host, Erik Broos, who supplied me with the Sandpiper's address.

Next time, independent of luck, the good nature of others, and detective work,written nudges to memory, facts such as travelguide writers need to command, all written down soon after the fact, on location, will eliminate much frustration.


The Coffee Link (Internet Cafe)

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by travelprone on April 27, 2002

Bruges may strike most visitors as a medieval theme park, but all the "mod" conveniences are available at The Coffee Link, a wood-floored & panelled cafe at Mariastraat 38 in the complex known as Old St. John's where the old hospital of that name was until it became a museum. This complex also includes the Memling Museum which was closed when we visited but due to re-open after extensive renovation in time for Bruges's big year-2002.

One of the nicest internet cafes we visited on our trip,this spacious cafe has 18 ASL speed with LCD screens at a cost of 1.24 euros for the first 15 minutes,& then .07 euros per minute thereafter.Away from the front circle of computers, in the back of the cafe, are several tables at which you can be served a wide variety of drinks(over 50 kinds of coffee, 15 kinds of beer, a dozen apertifs or harder drinks like whiskey, cognac or vodka, along with a variety of chocolates & teas.) A most congenial place to check your e-mail or just enjoy a quiet sit with an unusual drink, this cafe's closeness to the main tourist spots makes it a convenient place to stop for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up after shopping or sight-seeing. Their well-designed web site is www.thecoffeelink.com


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