Exploring More of Bruges

After an incredible day 1, we started our second day in Bruges with some pep in our step and caffeine/chocolate on the brain.  Similar to day 1, we didn’t have much planned, we were just hoping to explore and eat well along the way.  Again, Bruges did not disappoint.

We left our hotel before 10am and set out for I Love Coffee, a spot not too far from Lizzie’s Waffles which touted the high praise of making “the best flat white outside of New Zealand.”  As you can imagine, this caught Jim’s attention (it’s his new, favorite coffee order since Andie introduced him to it in Berlin).  Since I don’t drink coffee, I ordered a hot chocolate and an orange juice.  All three were tasty and Jim agrees they make a pretty phenomenal flat white.  This hot chocolate was also great, but I’d say Lizzie’s was better, still.

After our coffee we decided we’d go for a walk and see all the windmills along the canals.  So we set out down Ezelstraat and walked until we hit a major boulevard, then began walking along the canal with the windmills.  All together this was probably a 3.3km walk, which felt really nice.  But, in hindsight, we think this probably wasn’t the best route to go, so I’m not sure I’d recommend it.  Though, it does allow you to see some more residential aspects of Bruges as well as walk along (eventually) a bike/walking path.  We, however, seemed to be the only people walking in our direction and everyone else touring the windmills seemed to have started on the other end.  So, maybe keep that in mind.

There are four windmills:  Sint-Janshuis Mill, Sint-Janhuismolen, Koeleweimolen, & Bonne Chieremolen.  I read you could take tours and that these are operational, but none were touring or moving while we were there.

At this point we’d worked up a nice appetite and found a restaurant in an area we hadn’t explored yet called  Belgian Pigeon House.  This place was super tasty.  In typical American fashion, we were the first people there for lunch (probably arrived at exactly noon) and the kitchen wasn’t open yet.  So, we both got a beer and ordered lunch.  Jim had the Paljas Brown with a steak & salad while I had a Wild Jo Blonde with rabbit stew.  Along with sours, I’ve also discovered I love beers brewed with wild yeasts (like Wild Jo).  If you see this one, get it.  It’s really crisp and great.  Plus, the little pigeon has an eye patch.

After lunch we made our way to a highly rated bar called de Garre.  This was one of the spots on my long list of beer places to try.  It’s three floors with a bar on the first and second floor with large tables.  We estimate we were in there close to 2 or 3pm, and found a table without an issue (but when we left that was another story – it definitely started to get busy around 4pm).  What’s interesting about this bar is (1) it’s kind of hard to find.  It’s down a little alley squeezed between tourist souvenir stores and candy shops.  If you see a little sign for “Tapas,” that’s the alley you want to take.  Then you’ll see de Garre immediately.  Anyway, they’re also known for their house beer (below) – the Triple De Garre.  It’s an 11 percent blonde, and it’s amazing.  This was was easily one of the best beers we had the whole trip and Jim said it was his favorite on the trip.  With that said, we recommend you give this place a visit.  But, even though it says they serve lunch…I don’t think it’s true.  We only saw little cheese and sausages.  So maybe make it a late afternoon or evening spot.

Following our beer, we started to purchase our souvenirs for the trip (a little lace, a little chocolate, and a fancy beer stein) and wandered into a lovely candy store called La Belgique Gourmande.  We kept seeing the colorful cone candy everywhere and wanted to try it.  The shop guy told us the candy is actually from Ghent (about halfway between Bruges & Brussels) and is hard on the outside, gooey on the inside.  They taste a little bit like Dots, but not quite as hard.  Jim was most intrigued by the chocolate that looked like rusty wrenches, bolts, and nails.  Everything we sampled was tasty and pretty.

Looking for something a bit more substantial to help soak up some of that beer, Jim had his eye on bread pudding from a spot not far from the Markt with a huge chandelier called Aux Merveilleux de Fred.  The bread pudding was a bit of a bust, but I got one of the mini merveilleux, and it was delicious.  So delicious.  I wished I’d gotten a bigger one.  I’d recommend getting some of these, maybe even one of each flavor to try, then head out to the Markt and take a seat amongst everyone else in the square.  Perfect afternoon activity.  So tasty.

After our treats, we retreated to our hotel for a quick rest before figuring out our dinner plans.  We had our list from Koen, but unfortunately the spots he recommended were all booked up.  So, we settled on a fondue spot called Pietje Pek.  As we were ordering in the restaurant, we discussed the last time we had eaten fondue.  I thought mine was when I was in high school, and Jim mentioned his might be similar, but that his parents had a fondue set when he was growing up.  We ordered the meat fondue, and I have to admit my fondue cookery could use some work, though Jim’s always seemed to come out perfectly cooked.  The meat came with turkey, steak, veal, and sausage.  The sausage was the best, in my opinion.

Following dinner we made our way to Le Trappiste, another one of Koen’s recommendations with the instructions to ask for Thomas and tell him Koen sent us.  I love locals.  This, my friends, is a phenomenal bar.  A HUGE beer menu (reminds me of Eulogy), great American pop music playing (we heard Bon Jovi, 80s Chicago, Phil Collins…some pretty great stuff), and the option to build tasters of various beers.  Normally, I’d be in favor of a taster, but I think those had to be from the tap options and I’d already had a bunch of them and those I hadn’t had weren’t my favorite types of beers.  So, we opted to get bottle beers, instead.  Our first beers were the Viven Porter (for Jim) and the Oude Gauze Boon Sour (for me).  Jim LOVED his porter and I enjoyed my sour.  Our second beers were the Hercule Stout and La Guillotine Blond (for me).  I didn’t love my beer, but not only was Jim’s beer tasty, but hilarious.  It came in a mug and is made for the Hercule Poirot character.  I had no idea he was a Belgian figure.  Hah.

Something else worth mentioning, on Fridays/Saturdays they do not have table service (you have to go up to the bar because it’s so busy), but other nights they do.  As such, I think I’d recommend heading there on a weeknight where you can really ask some questions/get some great beer recommendations.  Maybe you can even ask for Thomas.  Ideally, I’d probably sit at the bar.

After our second beers, we wandered out of the bar and back into the crisp night air.  There was something really satisfying and perfect about this trip.  It’d been too long since Jim and I had enjoyed, laughed over, and tried new beers together.  It was the perfect end to a wonderful day 2 in Bruges.

The next morning we woke up (again) surprisingly early and decided we’d get a proper breakfast before catching the train back to Brussels.  We figured we’d get breakfast, do a little more exploring, and then head over to the train station by noon.

Jim found a great breakfast spot – Gingerbread Bagel Coffee & Tea House.  He was most interested in a bagel, and I was interested in eggs.  I’d say this is a pretty great spot and would recommend it.  They have a brunch option that comes with eggs, yogurt/muesli, a fresh fruit cup, baked beans, and toast with local jams.  They also have hot chocolates (which of course I got) and fresh squeezed juices (which I also go).  It was the perfect amount of food and incredibly satisfying.

From brunch we wandered around down streets we hadn’t wandered down before, popping our heads in here and there then made our way to Astrid Park (below), which I later found out is named for Belgian royalty (makes sense).  I can only imagine this park is quite lovely in the late spring/summer or even fall months.

We made our way back to the Markt and noticed (to our surprise) that Chez Albert was open and selling waffles.  Now, this is a spot that was said to have THE best waffles in all of Bruges, and I have to agree.  In fact, this was the best waffle I’ve ever had, ever.  Jim and I both ordered plain waffles, but you can also add all kinds of crazy toppings.  I wish we’d tried one of those earlier in our trip, as I would’ve eaten one every 6 hours, I think, if we had.  Jim has one suggestion for Bruges and Chez Albert…and that is to sell waffles as a late night treat.  We think that’s a missed commerce opportunity…as he was really jonesing for a waffle around 11pm or midnight.  Do not under any circumstances miss getting a waffle from here.  It’s worth the hype.  It’s that good.

 

Then we made our way back to the train station and ultimately back to Brussels then Toulouse.  This was, I think, one of my favorite trips we’ve taken since we’ve been in Europe.  We would both go back in a heartbeat anytime.  So much to love about Belgium!

 

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