Our man [formally] of Amsterdam

In Bruges
October 25, 2009, 22:34
Filed under: Belguim, Bruges, Travel

You get the feeling that Bruges has become a caricature of tourist perfection. Its harmonious Gothic architecture, willow-lined walkways, colourful market squares, meandering canals and chocolate-filled shops are almost impossibly quaint. The only litter is the manure from the horses as they draw carriages along the cobble-stone roads and over crenelated bridges. Vehicle traffic is minimal, meaning the most noise you’ll hear in and around the moated historic centre are the camera shutters of the 3.2 million annual visitors spellbound by the medieval majesty of the diorama.

“It’s a fuckin’ fairy tale, dats what it is, ain’t it?” affirms Ralph Fiennes in the movie In Bruges. And he’s right. But for those more accustomed to the grunginess and seediness of your typical urban environment, Bruges comes across as almost too perfect, too surreal, that you wonder if there might be an admission fee to this open-air museum, that at some point you’ll be herded to the exits at closing time.

The 13th century Belfort, on Bruges' Markt Square.

The 13th century Belfort, on Bruges' Markt Square.

This is to say that Bruges can take a few hours to get used to. After that, you just relax and lap it up. And eat. How can a town of only 117,000 residents support so many chocolate shops? Anita did her best to keep a few in business for another day or two. We ate rabbit stew and buckets of mussels; I drank cherry beer and German Rieslings.

And we stayed in the most extraordinary guest house: Nuit Blanche. It’s owner, David De Graef, is a renowned artist and the most gracious host this side of the Atlantic. Breakfast was six courses, and was served in his studio, surrounded by easels and brushes and canvases and other arty stuff. It was finished off with pocket pancakes – shaped like ravioli parcels – flambed in Grand Marnier. He cooked and served the lot. He can because there are only 2 exquisitely themed double rooms in his ‘house’ (no children allowed).

To be sure, the theme park feel soon peels away to reveal the city’s authentic soul.  Then you pass another chocolate shop and even though it’s been many hours since breakfast, you struggle to justify popping inside and sampling another champagne truffle, but the struggle lasts only a short while and you walk out (of the shop and eventually the city) a little bit fuller and a little bit heavier than when you arrived. But that’s OK; it’s the Bruges way.

Here’s the link to the Flickr photo set: In Bruges


2 Comments so far
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ohhh be still my beating heart! so much chocolate, so little time….

Comment by Jan

I was never a big chocolate fan, Jan. Sure, the occasional Freddo Frog or Caramello Bear from the charity box was more of case of it just being there, than any sort of craving. But I can tell you now, post-Bruges, I am a chocolate snob (this to add to my coffee snobbery). Once you’ve tasted the best, how can you even look at the rest? Bon apetite!

Comment by Grant Doyle

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