I’d wanted to visit Bruges for some time (it has the resources of a City, and the atmosphere of a village) and I’d always wanted to travel on the Euro-rail.
I was due to go on the Euro-rail about 18 years ago to Paris with my friend Frank.
A fire prevented it, so we went on a coach and got the ferry.
It stayed with me, and I’ve always been determined to travel at 200 miles an house under the English channel.
Obviously, the first leg of the trip involved the virgin train from Chester to London Euston.
Great thing about it, was unlike airports, there’s no messing about with Taxi’s as I live walking distance to Chester station.
Arriving at London Euston, its about half a mile to the beautifully refurbished St Pancras station.
The “check in” is fully automated then you have to show your credentials to French passport control.
A bit of continental breakfast and nice coffee, and then its time to board.
It’s hard to believe that the Euro-rail has been running for nearly 20 years (remember when it featured in the first Mission Impossible film, or the Saint).
More expensive than comparative budget airlines but once in a while its ice to travel with a bit of style.
A quiet carriage with loads of room, we’d upgraded to bigger seats and complimentary drinks and food.
I’d stocked up on magazines for the journey (Viz and FHM, with Nikki saying “your such a child” again).
One thing I’d always wanted to do, was travel at 100 mph, under the English channel, while drinking champagne.
I pour out the Champagne Nikki has bought me just before we disappears into the tunnel and under the sea.
Our train arrives in Brussels, and from here, its an easy trip by train (90 mins) from Brussels to Bruge.
A short walk into the town, and above, our first sight of the Markt (main square).
Also in the photo are some bicycles which are everywhere in Bruges. Most people there dont put on cycling clothes, nor have special bikes.
It was common to see someone peddle into town for dinner, on a 50 year old bike, wearing a jacket, slacks and polished shoes.
Part of me thinks, that’s how cycling should be done.
To quote the now discredited Lance Armstrong, in a different context: Its not about the bike !.
First thing, get to our 15th century hotel, Ter Brughe and drop off our bags.
While there we see our beautiful hotel room for the first time (not much in Bruges was cheap, but practically everything was lovely).
But were not here to sit around in hotels, we head straight out to explore (and the weather is fantastic).
We find a nice spot in the sun and have a few drinks while we review our guidebook and decide where to go next.
Superb quality Belgian beer as expected.
We have lunch in a nice cafe outside the art gallery.
This art installation entitled “Undercurrent” looks like a power pylon has collapsed into the river.
There was a real arts culture to Bruges.
Standing in the Markt (main square).
On the left of the photo is the Historium. Its an interactive museum of the history of Bruges.
It uses live video as you “walk through” a love story of a student of Jan Van Eyck, who goes to pick up Anna and a green bird from the docks…
We had to put on headset, and watch/listen to set peice events as the story unfolded.
After each set piece, a door would open and we could continue to the next.
I honestly found it fascinating and a brilliant way to tell the story. Much better that a “normal” tourist centre with just pictures a written exhibits.
Above picture shows all the characters. At this point, I hadn’t realised the significance.
At the end of the interactive stuff, there was a more traditional museum, and the picture above.
The exhibition finishes with a nice bar and a terrace with spectacular views across the Markt.
They serve amazing Belgium beer and a chalk board showing how to classically pour the beer for optimum taste.
The first bit of bad news on the trip.
The Gruuthuse museum showing all kinds of artefacts from between the 15th – 19th century was closed for a refit and wouldn’t open for 9 months.
We decide to go on a boat tour of the city.
It gives the best possible view of the Church of our Lady and everyone photographed it.
The Groeningemuseum (not to be confused with the guy who does the Simpsons, although he’s pretty good at art as well 🙂
It has loads of amazing pictures especially by the Flemish masters.
When I saw this picture, I realised that the characters from the Historium, were all taken from this original Jan Van Eyck picture Madonna with the Canon van der Paele. One of the most famous pictures in the world 🙂
This picture interested me.
It shows Lord Byron on his death bed.
Another museum, this time Sint Jans hospitall or old st John’s hospital.
Built in the 1100’s its one of the oldest surviving hospital buildings in the world.
It was filled with fascinating art and sculptures.
Upstairs was more contemporary art.
In quite austere surroundings, the exhibition: Right, before I die.
It showed photographs of about 40 people in a hospice about to die. They were interviewed, and each asked a similar set of questions like have you ever been in love ?.
Quite thought provoking, considering I’d entered the bulding expecting to see classic old paintings.
The queue for the belfry is ridiculously long, so the next day we got there first thing.
The view from the top is worth the money (and the effort of walking all the way up there).
Some of the timbers have been replaced, but the Bell’s are original.
A rotating wheel with holes in it, is used to “program” the different tunes to be played.
Outside, I’d been looking for a souvenir of Brussels since we arrived.
Eddy Merckx is a famous cyclist and synonymous with Brussels, so I bought a small model of him cycling.
The archaeological museum was a bit tame to be honest.
The one part I thought was really interesting was the display above which shows how dinner was layed out in the 1600’s, 1700’s and 1800’s.
I think the place was mainly aimed at Children, as there were boxes with dressing up clothes and stuff like that.
We were the only people there and the woman selling tickets seemed delighted someone had visited.
We finished off with a tour of De Halve Maan a 500 year old brewery.
We were shown how the grain and hops are selected, given a tour of the vats and how the beer is fermented and even given a talk on the history of the family that runs the brewery.
There were balconies showing amazing view of the city, and our guide explained that the water for the beer did not come from the river, but delivered in tankers.
A crowd-fund project had been set up, to have pipes constructed underground so water cold be pumped there directly :).
The tour came with a ticket to get a drink at the end in a really atmospheric bar.We got some lunch and head back to the station, our trip over.