Saturday, May 12, 2012

Belgium - Bruges - Beer - Brydens

We took advantage of a Tuesday holiday and made a long weekend of it in Brugge, Belgium with the Bryden family. Martin and I had only been to Brussels for a night in November, and we were really excited to see and experience more of Belgium. My Lonely Planet guidebook describes it as "Tourist, overcrowded, and a tad fake" so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But for our good friend, travel companion, and Belgian beer connoisseur Todd Bryden this would be his 6th visit to this beer-boasting city. He couldn't be wrong.

The boys reveling in their beer wisdom.
We were not disappointed. Lunch and dinner at lovely bistros or cafes with scrumptious Belgian beers, carefully selected with Todd's gentle guidance. On several occasions our beer selection even received compliments from the servers or restaurant owners, as they didn't get many tourists with clearly cultured Belgian beer knowledge. It is amazing that we live in a country where the beer flows like water, yet I had to cross the border to really enjoy a beer for the first time in a long while. Belgian beer is not widely available in Germany, even though it's so close. But since we drove we just packed our trunks with beer on the way home.


The first two days were rainy, but we wandered around the city nonetheless, sampling tasty chocolates and Belgian waffles. The city is extraordinarily beautiful - it really looks like a movie set. It's quaint, clean, and full of beautifully historic architecture. But when the sun finally came out on Monday, I understood what the guidebook was saying, and was actually grateful for our rainy days. The city was packed with tourists, which does indeed take away from the charm. Maneuvering the streets with a stroller requires full concentration, and makes it hard to focus on the beautiful surroundings.

A pub from 1515, where Barbara and I headed for a girls' night out.
But we did take advantage of the sunshine and took a fabulous canal ride. It was a quick (30 minutes) and easy way to see the city, rather than capturing it all on foot. One of my favorite tidbits that I learned was that taxes for properties on the canal used to be based on the number of windows in a dwelling. As people couldn't afford taxes, they boarded up their windows, which we could still see as we cruised the canals.


Before heading back home on Tuesday, we headed to the Belgian coast for lunch. I managed to get a last goat cheese salad in, as well as waffle. And we even took off our shoes and put our feet in the ocean. (Simon's first time, if I am not mistaken!)


This was my third trip with Barbara Bryden in 5 months, so I already knew we are great travel companions. But I wasn't as sure about what to expect traveling with 2 families together. The Bryden kiddos are 4 and 9, while Simon is 2. Maybe we have different interests or ideas of what's fun? Turns out, traveling with another family is really ideal. First of all, the kiddos get attention from each other, so they aren't always bugging you. That means that you have a bit more peace and aren't worrying about the kids as much. It somehow felt more adult to be going out to dinner with other adults, even with kids in tow. And of course, we each got to go out for beers at night while someone stayed home and watched the kids. I can see why people plan vacations with other families - it really has a lot of benefits. I highly recommend it!

Here are all the pics!

Where we stayed: La Home at Bed and Bruges - About a 10 minute walk from the city center, beautiful HUGE garden, lots of space, sand box and toys for kiddos.

Fabulous garden at our rented house.
*Upon returning Martin learned that he had been there in 1994, when he was 14 years old. No recollection. Not surprised.

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