Upon arriving in Bruges, after 12 hours of driving (from northern Scotland), we were delighted to have reached our destination, and immediately enchanted by the beautifully lit architecture. It was 11pm and as we entered the medieval city, our imaginations were sent soaring into distant fairy tales.
We navigated our way to the Europ hotel, located on the north end of the city next to a quiet canal. One of the difficult aspects of navigating the old city is that you can barely tell the difference between the streets and the alleyways. Lots of one-way lanes and not-so-obvious signage.
We finally found a parking spot, arrived to our room, and almost instantly crashed into the comfy pillows.
At first light, we woke (or should I say, I woke, and to the dismay of my boyfriend, insisted on going down to breakfast before the sun rose so we could maximize our daylight).
Continental breakfast by a small fireplace in a beautifully appointed room awaited us below.
After plenty of trips to the buffet, and far too many croissants, I was eager to hit the streets. My passion for street photography energized me from the start. Despite the freezing temperatures, we were blessed with almost a full day of sun!
Without itinerary, we set off wandering through the narrow cobblestone streets. We spent the morning admiring the (very) old architecture, the scents of fresh waffles and chocolate pulling us from door to door.
Every few feet I was busy snapping a photo or capturing video (my goal was to make a VLOG of the trip, which can be seen here).
I had forgotten my gloves at home, so eventually we wandered into a cute little shop to find a pair. My accommodating boyfriend withstood the next few hours of siteseeing and picture taking, but eventually it was time to warm up.
We did a quick phone search for “vegetarian friendly” restaurants and made our way to Hashtag Food, located just around the corner from the famous Market Place.
This place was cool. I mean REALLY cool. The decor was retro, rustic, yet contemporary. The placemats consisted of old vinyl records. There were dozens of unique menu options (yes very vegan and vegetarian friendly!). And even an insect burger.
To my horror, my boyfriend ordered the insect burger, while I chose a very unique vegan lasagna.
Upon receiving the insect burger, he immediately began inspecting what he was about to consume. Suddenly, a profound EW was heard as he noticed they had put sliced tomatoes on it (which he hates with a passion).
"Really...? THAT'S what disgusts you??" I shook my head and started enjoying my dish.
My favorite part about the meal was probably the Vedett Extra Blond beer! Belgians really know their beer.
And waffles… but we’ll get to that later.
Back out onto the cobblestone, warmed and revitalized, we made our way to the Belfry of Bruges (made famous by the 2008 film, In Bruges). This medieval bell tower boasts incredible views of the entire city, but upon arriving, there was a ridiculously long queue. Neither of us felt like standing in the cold just to get a view, so we decided to move on and explore the canals and side streets.
Only 20 minutes later and I made an executive decision that we should head to our next hotel (yes we changed hotels just because I wanted to check out a different area).
We wandered down to the Hotel Loreto and had a glorious catnap, waking up just in time for sunset. I was craving pesto pasta, and with the insane amounts of Italian restaurants in town, we thought it wouldn’t be difficult to find.
Boy were we wrong.
We wandered from restaurant to restaurant, reading menus (sometimes in English, sometimes in French, sometimes both), to no avail. I was ready to surrender, and driven by our grumbling tummies and desire to get out of the wind, we did a quick phone search and found “the best Italian in town.”
A brisk 15 minute walk and we were finally there! Carlito's, situated on the north east side of the city is worth the walk.
It’s hard for me to describe how perfect this meal was. Maybe it was the hunger, maybe it was the shelter from the cold night… or maybe it was just the best damn pesto I’ve ever tried.
Either way, it was divine, and after a leisurely 2 hour meal, we were both fat and happy again.
We had enjoyed a local brew, Brugse Zot, which was an excellent compliment to the heavy pasta dishes. (I’m normally a wine person, but when in Rome…)
I was dying to wander around and capture the city at night after our first glimpse upon arriving in Bruges. So we bundled up and began the quest.
The walk from Carlito’s to the Market via the Groenerei Canal was perfect. The buildings were softly illuminated, and there were several notable stops along the way.
After about an hour of night photography, we were both chilled again, so we decided to meander back to the Market district to find a pub.
We eventually made our way to Bar Des Amis, and shared a few brews, until we were ready to call it a night.
The next morning, we woke at 8 in order to start our journey on to Amsterdam. However I wasn’t done in Bruges yet. I needed to see what the fuss was with those waffles.
Directly around the corner, we found Tearoom Carpe Diem, where I experienced the heaven that is freshly made Belgian waffles.
After a very filling omelette with fresh bread, we each ordered a waffle. I chose caramel syrup, while my boyfriend chose chocolate.
A proper Belgian waffle is served hot. The soft inner breading is moist and fluffy, encased in a flash-fried layer on which they sprinkle a bed of powdered sugar. The dough itself is sweet. It almost doesn’t need a syrup, but the caramel was absolute perfection.
The perfect ending to 36 hours in this very enchanting city!