We flew from Strasbourg to Amsterdam and then on to Bruges by train. We arrived at our hotel, Duc de Bourgogne Hotel-Restaurant just in time before the end of the lunch hour in the hotel’s restaurant. This Restaurant dates back to 1648. It is located in the historic Tanner’s Square. You can see carvings of the tanners at work in the alcoves above the windows. After a leisurely lunch we strolled across the canal to the Burg, the central square once surrounded by walls and used as a fortress. Now it is surrounded by the beautiful City Hall (Stadhuis), Saint Donatian’s Cathedral, the Basilica of Holy Blood and a park We wandered a little further into the Markt, the central marketplace. It is surrounded by step-gabled guild houses, the Provincial Palace, restaurants and the impressive Belfort Tower, which you hear frequently throughout the day. If you want to climb up 366 stairs, you would be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the town. There are 47 carillon bells rung by a mechanism installed in 1748. Wednesday is market day with stalls of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses and snacks. Here you might want to take a horse-drawn carriage tour .It had been a long day, so we slowly meandered through the narrow streets and back along the canal on which our hotel was located. Opening the window in our hotel room we were able to watch the swans in the canal.
The next morning our breakfast was included in the magnificent dining room with windows opening to watch the swans and the occasional duck. This was a great way to start our day. Within walking distance is the Choco Story Brugge, a multiple-storied museum of the history of chocolate, starting with the Maya and Aztecs. There were audio guides and interactive displays with a lot of information about the history of making chocolate, how it was used and served. At the end we were treated to a demonstration of the making of some chocolate pralines which were offered to us. And there was a dispenser with dark chocolate rounds, yum! Even after all that chocolate we enjoyed our lunch in a small square near the Markt. We were not using a map so just wandered the cobble stone streets to see the architecture, the stores, the restaurants and frequently small parks, and of course a place to just stop for a glass of Belgium beer. There was a small store we stopped to visit selling handmade Belgian lace that was made during the pandemic using the bobbin method. Following the canal we made our way back to our hotel.
The next day we walked in a different direction hoping to find Minnewater Park. We were in a local area with no tourists and ate a wonderful lasagna and chatted with the man who sat next to us. Everyone was very friendly and most spoke English as their second language. He and Frank shared some of the same views of life in the world today. From there we stumbled onto a lovely park with a bandstand, later learned it was called Queen Astrid Park. But we were in search of Minnewater Park and discovered we were going in the wrong direction. About face and another half hour later or more we found it. This is also called Lake of Love park. The lake and the park is tranquil with surrounding trees, flowers and benches for sitting as a place to relax. This lake seems to be the home of all the swans. The swan is one of the symbols of Bruges. The Lake of Love bridge is a perfect place to take a photo. On our way back we stopped at a candy store that also served wine, beer with little sausages and cheese. It had been a well-liked small restaurant but during the pandemic restaurants were not allowed to open. The owner converted it to a candy store, since stores could sell food, and renamed it Brown Sugar also called Marzipan & Nougatshop. It was a lovely place at the intersection of three streets and we stopped there a few times. The young girl running the store was friendly and with a great sense of humor. Across the street was O.L.V. (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) Church of Our Lady, a catholic church and dominates the skyline as the tallest structure in the city. We did not take the tour, but we could walk around the nave admiring the vaulted ceiling, the sculptures and the paintings. One of the treasures to be seen on the tour is the Carrera marble sculpture by Michelangelo of the Madonna and Child. It was the only sculpture to leave Italy in his lifetime.
Our last day we had tickets to visit the Gruuthusemuseum located next to Church of Our Lady. It was the palace of the Lords of Gruutehuse, wealthy merchants. The museum shows life during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. There are over 600 collections or artifacts from the homes of the merchant classes. Included are musical instruments, handmade lace, exquisite tapestries, stained glass windows, silver, porcelain, textiles, weapons, and paintings. On one of the floors there is a oratory overlooking the portion of the church, containing the choir, of the Church of Our Lady. It was a day to spend time relaxing so we walked back to Queen Astrid Park. That evening we ate a delicious dinner at our hotel. We packed and were ready for our travel to Brussels.