Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bruges



Bruges is a small, lovely city in Belgium. KC and I stayed in Bruges for 4 days, but it can be covered in just 2 days. Everywhere is walkable too, which is great because we could save on transportation. It is much less developed than other big cities – there are NO McDonald's in Bruges, only a fast food restaurant called Quick (which looked a lot like McDonald's). I was pretty shocked by that, not because I wanted to eat at McD's or anything, but because I thought McDonald's was literally everywhere in the world. People in Bruges speak Flemish (Belgian Dutch), but most can converse in English. 
Shopping wise, there isn't many international brands, but they have 2 small Zaras. Bruges is known for its lace, chocolates, fries, waffles and speculoos (my fav!). There are chocolate shops at every corner, but according to locals (ie our host family), the best ones are The Chocolate Line if you are willing to splurge, or Leonidas if you are on a budget (but we have a Leonidas in Singapore so I'd make more sense to go for the former). 


Not sure if I've mentioned this in my previous post, but we have taken a liking to staying in a B&B because 1) it is cheaper 2) it is more homely 3) it's nice to speak to the locals (hosts) to learn more about the city and its culture. airbnb.com and roomorama.com are reliable websites to book from. It's not dodgy or anything, guests write reviews on the accommodations so you can be assured that it's not gonna be a creepy man hosting you. 



Our really pretty room for 3 nights.





We were lucky to have bakers as hosts this time. Breakfast everyday was amazing. I had the best Pain Au Chocolat ever, and I don't even usually like flakey pastry.





What we saw when we walked to town everyday :)





Taking advantage of the exchange rate and shopping in Euros instead of Pounds.



Da Vinci, for one of the best ice-creams I've tasted so far. This may have trumped the gelato in Brighton. The texture of the ice-creams were soft and slightly chewy. The hazelnut flavour was exceptionally good! And it only cost 2.50Euros!























The one thing I love about Europe – Markets! Or "markt" in Flemish. This was on a Saturday. Most of the food were for cooking at home (eg: pasta sauces etc.). Locals visit this market to get fresh produce for the weekend.










Unfortunately, the clothes were very much like what we have at Pasar Malams in Singapore (night markets). Granny-style...



Plenty of alfresco dining! Too bad they were too expensive for us starving students.


There was nothing much to do in Bruges, so we paid a visit to the fries museum. I never knew Belgium was known for its fries! Yes kids, fries were invented in Belgium. They're only called French fries because the French soldiers (I think?) enjoyed eating them in the past. 







So this was the only fun part of the museum. Reminds me of playing masak-masak as a kid. Waste of time, waste of money. Mehhh. 


Enroute to the chocolate museum because we bought a ticket for these two museums ("bulk" discount heh). We were dreading it because the fries museum was sooo boring so we figured this would be the same. Surprisingly it was pretty interesting!


I really enjoyed the demonstration too. The chocolatier explained the components of dark, milk and white chocolate, which I found to be quite an eye-opener. The chocolates he let us sample were really good too. 




Buying fries from a van just because. They cost about 4 Euros, and wasn't fantastic at all.


Really good chocolates here! It's apparently really famous too. 









The highlight of our trip: Retsin's Lucifernum. Only opened on Sunday nights (partly why we HAD to stay an extra night). More on that below ;)



The best (and cheapest) waffles are those that are sold from inside a van.


Contrary to popular belief, the round waffle that I'm holding isn't a Belgian waffle – it is a Liege waffle. The rectangular one that KC is holding is THE original Belgian waffle. The Liege waffle is denser and sweeter, and it seems like it's been covered with a sticky syrup. The Belgian "honeycomb" waffle is light, crisp and less sweet.


Resident swan on its nest :)


Speculoos!!!!! Also known as Biscoff in some countries. Apparently Juliette's bakery in Bruges does really good speculoos cookies, but I found them to be a huge disappointment. Am still a loyal fan of Lotus speculoos cookies AND speculoos spread. You need to try speculoos if you haven't already!


The famous dog in the window, from the movie In Bruges :)















LOL I thought that this was so misleading! It's actually a river covered with some sort of moss but it looks so dry and even that it looks like solid ground.


Imagine if someone stepped on it thinking that it was a patch of fake grass.




Rivers everywhere. So beautiful :)




Bruges on Sunday = Ghost town


I don't know why I look so sad, but I was really just admiring this pretty wreath.



Buildings in Bruges are very distinctive, you can tell by the staggered roofing.





During our trip, all we ate was pasta/market food. So we figured that we should splurge a little and try some Flemish food since we're here.



This berry beer was so good!


The Flemish onion soup was mehhh. I say, trust the French.


Flemish beef stew. Pretty good!


The one who suggested Flemish food ended up getting a steak -_-

The highlight of our trip: Retsin's Lucifernum. I found out about this place after I heard my colleague talk about it. Willy Retsin is a 172 year old vampire (or so he claims). We had to ring the bell at the entrance of his house. An old-ish well-dressed man opened the door for us and very politely asked us for 10 Euros each (that's the cover charge). He then presented us with 2 drink coupons, and told us to keep it safe. The "reception" area itself was full of Mother Mary statues and other artefacts, and I was creeped out already. The man told us to explore his museum, which used to be a Freemasons' lodge, and take lots of photos. Enter Retsin's Lucifernum:










I found that the man (front row, second from left) in this picture, was the man who greeted us at the door. I then came to a conclusion that he was Willy Retsin aka the vampire.


Here, he's next to the lady with the long hair, who served us very potent drinks at the bar later on. I'm guessing she's his wife. She was so nice. She spoke to us, asking us where we were from. We learnt that she's from Latin America, and she frequents Singapore because her sister (or was it cousin) lives there. 











The outdoor area/garden, where there was live music. The people dressed in black were either regulars or staff. I got quite creeped out when I saw one of them outside because she was so pale. Well, they all are...












We managed to get a picture with Mr. Retsin. He's really nice. But when he's not smiling (ie: most of the time), he looks like this:


I guess since he's a "vampire", he's got to look the part.


Bruges at night. Our host family said that Bruges is a very safe place. It's so safe that no one locks their front doors. You'd never hear of that in Singapore even though it is just as safe (or maybe even safer) as Bruges!

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