Destinations Magazine

Birthday Celebration in Bruges

By Eyepreferparis88 @eyepreferparis

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I usually travel somewhere for my birthday. I like to do my favorite things on my birthday and travel is one of them.
Bruges has always been on my Europe travel destination list and it was the perfect time to go because it’s a big tourist destination and it was off-season. Thalys, which runs trains between Paris and Belgium and Holland had a flash sale to Brussels for 50 euros round trip, so that cinched the deal. The train between Brussels and Bruges is only one hour and costs 28 euros round trip.
Vincent and I left on January 26th (my birthday) and stayed for two days.
Bruges is famous for its canals and architecture and is an important UNESCO Heritage Site. In the 13th and 14th century Bruges was the most important trade center in Northwest Europe because of its easy access to the sea. The Golden Age of Bruges was in the 1400s when the Royal House of Burgundy took up residence and the great Flemish painters including Jan van Eyck and Hans Meling flourished.
We were guests of the lovely, romantic Hotel Die Swaene, located on a calm canal and close to most of the important attractions. The hotel is in two converted houses form the 15th and 18th centuries.  We were given a generous sized suite with a living room and above the bed was a golden angel surrounded by white swags blessing us. The second floor lounge was fabulous with 30 ft. ceilings and a roaring fire to take the chill and dampness out of our bones after hours of walking the city.
The hospitable front desk manager arranged a free walking tour of the city, which was most welcome. (I truly appreciate having a guide now and look forward to having someone else share their city with me).
The tour guide was a native from Bruges, a petit woman in her 70s who had a bit of a sense of humor, but nowhere as funny as me. She showed us the major sites including The Burg, the square with the 14th century City Hall, The Market Square, surrounded by the old Guild Houses and towering Belfry, and the Beguinage, a beautiful monastery founded in 1245 with its pristine white houses surrounded by tranquil gardens. Along the way we passed the beautiful, picturesque canals and bridges, admiring Bruges in all its splendor. I treasured a special memory of a pond filled with dozens of gracious swans.

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The next day we visited the Groeninge Museum, taking in the exquisite Flemish medieval paintings, the Lace Museum, which had a room designated to women still making lace by hand, the Church of Our Lady, which featured a rare Michelangelo marble sculpture of The Madonna and Child, and finally the Chocolate Museum, a fascinating history of the beginnings of chocolate in South America by the Aztecs followed by the introduction to Europe in the 16th century. (Admission included a bar of chocolate- a sweet touch).
The Bruges Tourist Office generously supplied us with the Bruges City Card, a must when visiting Bruges, because it gives you free access to almost all the main attractions and museums.
We went to a traditional Flemish restaurant for my birthday dinner.  Belgian food tends to be on the heavy side with fried croquettes, French fries, beef stew, and mussels as staples. We shared a perfectly crispy fried cheese croquette, with the hot, gooey cheese melting in our mouths. I followed up with a pork cheek stew with cherries and tarte tatin for dessert with whipped cream AND ice cream. (I told you the food was heavy!). The next day we stumbled upon a charming organic mostly vegetarian café (a rarity in Bruges, as told to me by a local sitting next to me), a perfect antidote to the killer, calorie-laden meal the night before.
My only disappointment with Bruges was the chocolate. Chocolate fiend that I am, I researched the best chocolate shops, eagerly mapping them out before I left. Since Bruges is a popular destination in the summer, businesses don’t close in August like they do in France and close instead in January. I was crushed when every shop on my list had a closed sign on its door. I guess the only bright side is now I have an important mission to return to Bruges for.
Hotel Die Swaene
Steenhouwersdijk 1
http://www.dieswaene.be/index.asp?taal=uk
Den Huzaar –Traditional Flemish Food
Vlamingstraat 36
Tel. +32 50 33 37 9
Lotus- Organic Café
Wapenmakersstraat 5
Tel. +32 50 33 10 78
Bruges City Card
http://www.bruggecitycard.be/index_en.html

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Lounge at Hotel Die Swaene

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The Angel of Bruges above our bed

COOKBOOK-LOGO-little
New! Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes
I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, co-author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook (with Olivia Kiang-Snaije). First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte's professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 195 euros per person (about $240)
Time: 9:30AM- 2PM (approximately 4 1/2 hours)
Location: We will meet by a metro station close to the market
Class days: Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday,Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Minimum of 2 students, maximum 6 students.
Click here to sign up for the next class or for more info.
 

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I am pleased as punch to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I will personally be leading. The Eye Prefer Paris Tour includes many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes & food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks, and much more.

Tours cost 225 euros for up to 3 people, and 75 euros for each additional person. I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you my insiders Paris.
 
Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com 

Click here to watch a video of our famous Marais tour

 

Birthday Celebration in Bruges

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