Bruges conjures up thoughts of chocolate-box buildings, serene canals and pretty cobbled streets, not to mention the beer. And swans. It was one of those places that seemed so unbelievably quaint and romantic, that when my then-boyfriend said we should go there for his 30th birthday, I jumped at the chance! Little did I know then that it’d deliver romance in spades, and that we wouldn’t end up just boyfriend and girlfriend by the time we left…
We decided to drive down and get the ferry across to the continent, a journey that was made even better by the fact that we booked into the (first class?) lounge. It costs a bit extra, but for me it’s totally worth it – for all of about £10 you get free tea, coffee and juices, together with pastries and snacks, and it’s just so much more peaceful. Definitely worth the extra, particularly if you think you’ll drink more than a cup of coffee or two.
We settled into our journey by watching In Bruges on the laptop. I mean, what other film could it have been? It was the perfect prelude to our trip, and left us quoting lines and spotting filming locations throughout our time there. (If you haven’t seen the film, do!)
We chose Hôtel Oud Huis de Peellaert, one of the hotels in the Swan Collection. And I’m so glad we did. Stepping through the doors makes you feel like you’re in an elegant stately home; cosy yet completely luxurious, you can tell it was once the home of a baron. From the marbled floors to the chandeliers and spiral staircases, to the fine art adorning the wall – it almost feels like you’re stepping back in time, but it manages to do it without feeling stuffy. I could definitely get used to it.
The room itself was impressively large trust me when I say that the pictures don’t do it justice – with beam detailing, a large seating area and a great en-suite, and the champagne and fruit basket on arrival were both very welcome. Not much of a view, but it was so close to the main square, it didn’t matter! We were literally five minutes’ walk away, the ideal location – close enough to walk there easily, but far enough away that it was peaceful.
Dinner at a nearby restaurant was amazing, as were the beers and snacks in the lounge before we left. We found out the official beer of Bruges is the Brugse Zot, which literally means the Bruges idiot – probably only if you drink too many, but still. It quickly became our beer of the holiday, so we made plans to head to the brewery the following day for a tour.
Which was so much fun! Earlier in the day we simply got lost exploring the streets (one of my favourite things to do in any new city), before we headed to the potato museum. Yes, Bruges actually has a potato museum! The Frietmuseum chronicles the history of the potato, from its humble beginnings to its more recent fame in the form of the chip. It’s one of those places that’s so bizarre it’s actually good – not a must-see, but worth a look if you fancy something a bit different.
From there we went to the De Halve Maan brewery, the home of the Bruges Zot and Straffe Hendrik (strong Henry). If you’re a fan of Belgian beer, definitely give it a look – you learn all about the process and history of beer-making, and see the modern brewery where everything’s created today. Plus you get a free beer – definite win. Cue more walking around this charming little city, with plenty more canals along the way.
It was from then on that my other half started to get more and more affectionate. I just though he’d had too much beer, but it turns out he had other things on his mind. He was strangely adamant that we had to find Minnewater, aka the Lake of Love, so we set off in search of it, passing canals and swans aplenty on the way.
It didn’t take too long before it was in our sights, and it was truly stunning – picture perfect in every way, the clear still water reflecting the castle-like building on its banks. We walked across the bridge and – you can guess what happened next.
Yup, he proposed!! It was so completely out of the blue, and it couldn’t have been in a more perfect setting. The walk back to the hotel is a bit of a blur, but the rest of the evening was just as magical as the day – we drank champagne in the hotel bar, followed by dinner at Dukes Palace, the sister hotel to Oud Huis de Peellaert, and it was beautiful. I’m a big fan of fine dining without too much faff, and it certainly delivered (it was so good there are not pictures to show for it!).
The following day we checked out the Belfry, the Basilica, the Beer Wall and its accompanying bar, together with several chocolate and lace shops – who knew that Bruges was famous for lace? – and got wonderfully lost exploring the side streets. We went to churches and admired the gorgeous architecture of just about every building we saw. We ate waffles and drank beer, and had dinner at a lovely little place near to where we got engaged. It was all fabulous, and will forever have a special place in my heart.
Bruges. It really is like a f**king fairytale. (Quote from In Bruges, not just me being sweary)