A Weekend in Brugge
Brugge is filled with canals, cobblestone streets and 17th century houses. If I didn’t know better I would have thought I was still in the Netherlands.
Although Brugge is reachable by train, we decided to head by car and explore some of the surrounding areas as well.
We stopped briefly in Bergen Op Zoom for some lunch at the Grand Bar & Grill de Moor in the center of town. Parking is easy to find anywhere in town. We didn’t explore the town much, but the brief walk to and from the car was lovely.
Closer to Brugge we stopped at Seafront in Zeebrugge. Seafront calls itself a “theme park” but I am not even sure how to categorize it. The Seafront takes up several warehouses with dioramas, historical displays, videos and sea vehicles. There were two indoor playgrounds that kept the kids entertained for a bit. The indoor displays were outdated, dark and uninspired.
The real fun though was the floating stock. You can walk through a Russian submarine and a light house ship. Little O was too scared to go into the submarine so he and I hung out on the dock.
We all explored the light house boat. All in all it was a weird, but entertaining stop.
We found the best farm house cottage to stay in, the Holiday Home Het Walhuisje.
The house is perfectly appointed with two bedrooms and a pull-out sofa. We were treated to farm fresh milk and eggs in addition to a selection of other treats in the fridge that just made our stay perfect. We can’t wait to return and stay here again – how often do you say that about a hotel!
We drove to Damme, an adorable small town and partial star fort. It has become a big book town full of bookstores and book fairs. We found an adorable bakery, filled to the brim with chocolates and baked goodies. It was late in the day, so we bought every pastry they had for sale, which was just enough for our crew of five.
Dinner was down the street from our holiday house at De Groene Wandeling. De Groene Wandeling is walking distance from the holiday house, but there is ample parking. The food is delicious and the hospitality was outstanding. The staff was so kind to our kids, bringing plenty of toys and markers for distraction. The specialty on the menu when we visited was locally caught eel. We instead opted for the 3-course tasting menu and it was delicious. The kiddos got a pasta bolognese from the kids menu.
Saturday was spent entirely in Brugge. Parking early in the day is easy to find and we chose the centrally located underground lot. I popped into the EspressoBar just off the main square for a coffee to go while we admired the main square.
There are so many different ways to see Brugge: Segway tour, horse & carriage ride, walking tour but we chose the canal boat tour. There are several companies that all seem to give the same tour, for the same price and the same time duration. We chose the first one we found when we were ready for the boat tour. The water is a great way to see the city and our guide spoke enough English for us to understand much of the information on the tour.
There is quite a bit to be seen in Brugge. We stopped in to just a few places that were easily found and quick stops for the kids. The Basilica of the Holy Blood is a small church you might miss if you weren’t looking for it, due to its position in the corner of one of Brugge’s squares. The upstairs church contains the relic of the Holy Blood collected by Joseph of Aramathea.
Downstairs the 12th century chapel dedicated to St. Basil remains mostly unchanged.
Across the square we headed into the Marriott and inquired at the desk to see the ruins of St. Donatian’s. The hotel was built over the ruins of the church and preserved them by integrating them into their conference center. As long as there is nothing going on in the space you can visit the ruins for free.
The Church of Our Lady houses Michelangelo’s ‘Madonna and Child’ statue.
We were lucky to catch the Princely Beguinage Ten Wijngarde fields in bloom. These homes used to house lay religious women who lived in community. There are no more women serving there, but the homes now serve as a convent for the Benedictines.
We popped into De Halve Maan Brewery for lunch. They have a nice menu, good seats and a roaring fire. There are tours of the brewery that come highly recommended if you don’t have little ones with you. You can make a reservation for these tours online.
H’s favorite part was the hot chocolate on a stick!
The only think left on our Brugge visit was to pick up some chocolate. We took a page out of the Rick Steves travel book and headed away from the main square to Confiserie De Clerck. You can get a real deal on the same chocolates they are selling everywhere else by having him put them in a bag instead of in a fancy box. We picked up quite a few treats here before heading back to our holiday house.
The rest of our day was honestly quite a disaster. The plan was to nap the littles, and mom, go to the beach and then to dinner. Little O got car sick in stop-and-go traffic leading to no one feeling much like eating. Jeff and H hit a grocery store for a light dinner and played on the beach a bit but everyone was in bed early.
Sunday we had a 9am appointment at Kasteel van Loppem. The castle is actually not open year round, but Jeff was able to arrange a visit while staff was going to be on the grounds. The castle sits on lavish grounds that have been turned into a public park. When the castle is fully open there is also a maze.
The castle is a self-guided tour, although your admission does get you a sheet that talks about the rooms, furnishings and extensive art collection.
We also stopped into Seven Towers Farm for some much needed play time before our drive back to the Netherlands. Seven Towers Farm has converted medieval buildings into a farm and petting zoo for kids. There was an excellent playground with lots of our favorite play equipment. The gardens were a bit sparse since spring has not quite come yet. The petting zoo was dominated by a group of geese that were not thrilled about our presence and chased our kids out of the yard.
We popped into the cafe when it opened at 11am. The food selection was sparse, so we all ordered the waffles and were not disappointed. The table next to us had a selection of pasta that also looked delicious.
We headed back to the Netherlands taking a route through the Province of Zeeland. We did make a quick stop on the North Sea strand at Beachclub Lekker. (**UPDATE** I’ve just discovered, while helping a friend plan her trip, that there was a fire at the Beachclub Lekker and it is currently closed.) The beach here has an amazing pirate ship playground half sunk into the sand. Jeff and H played while the rest of the group grabbed a drink and snack. . .okay, it was a sandwich.
The route through Zeeland takes you through the impressive 6.6km Westerscheld Tunnel under the North Sea. We also crossed the iconic bridge that runs parallel to one of the larger Delta Works gates.
This post is linked up with: