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5 Random Things From A Weekend in Bruges

It’s been a busy few days in the DCR realm, as my parents came into town and we headed up to Bruges, Belgium for the weekend.  It’s about a 3-hour drive from Paris.  While Bruges is well known to the cycling world as the start of the Tour of Flanders race, it’s known beyond the cycling world as just being a picturesque town.  Oh, and beer.  And chocolate.  Lots of beer and chocolate.

You had me at chocolate shops:

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Ahh yes, chocolate.

So.

Much.

Chocolate.

Pretty much every store you turn to has chocolate goods of some sort.  Be it legit artisanal chocolate, or more bulk-made chocolates – there’s plenty of chocolates to be had of all varieties and in all shapes and sizes.  Basically you can get all the parts for the kitchen sink made here in chocolate.

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Bowls and bowls of chocolate.  I always like the flatter pieces such as below that can be broken apart and you just buy what you want based on weight.

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We found this one shop that stepped it up though.  They made waffles, stuck a stick through them, and then added chocolate on top of that.  Plus decorations like nuts, M&M’s and so on.

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Then there was this other shop that was also weight-based, but you could basically fill up a box for 6EUR.  I’m a fan of that shop, mostly because you were literally like a kid in the candy shop.

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Whenever The Girl and I go to these types of shops we get two of everything, and then do a taste testing later on.

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As with any place you buy completely different chocolates based purely on weight, you’ll get a fair bit of variety in chocolate quality.  Some of the chocolates were good, while others weren’t worth the calories.  The only way to take care of that problem is simply get more chocolate, obviously.

Wandering the streets and canals:

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Of course there’s plenty to do besides sample chocolate and beer (not sure why you’d do those other things though?).  We did a bunch of walking around town.  Though, I wish I had a small bicycle for the weekend.  That was definitely the preferred mode of transport in the city center.

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Lacking a bike, the next best thing would be a boat.  We paid less than 10EUR for a 30-40 minute tour of the city via this boat below.  It was worth the reasonable rate, and a nice reprieve from the busy streets. Plus, since we did the boat on a Friday, we were able to skip having to wait.  On the weekend, the waits can be over an hour!

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It’s definitely a pretty little town though, whether you move around by boat, bike, or just feet.

A Bruges Runaround:

Saturday morning I headed out for a run around the town.  I spent approximately 6 seconds doing research before I walked out the door, but in doing said research I found there was a nice running/riding path that followed the river making a loop around the city.  A bit of a perimeter route of sorts.  It was almost perfectly 10K if executed correctly from city center.  The ‘executed correctly’ part being the key piece to consider.

As you can see below, there was one portion on the northern edge that wasn’t terribly clear.  In looking at other people’s attempts later on, I could see how many didn’t quite know where to go at that particular point either.  I could have downloaded maps to my GPS devices, but that seemed like a lot of effort (and it is a pain, none of these mainstream devices make that simple or quick to do from a phone).

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No worries, it all worked out.  I got to see a number of windmills:

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The trail looped through the trees and along the river – so it was great in terms of getting shade from the sun.

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Plus, once inside the city the streets were nice and calm before the crowds thronged in for the day.

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Not too shabby for a 10K.  I had worn on this run the Polar M600, Suunto Spartan Ultra, and the Garmin FR735XT. Plus some other stuff.  The photos were from the Garmin VIRB Ultra 30.

Got mussels?

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You can never have too many mussels. They’re fantastic.  And Bruges is well known for those too.  I’ve got a long history of ordering and/or preparing mussels – so I was looking forward to seeing how well Bruges delivered on that front.

On the mussels side, they seemed to do quite well.  You didn’t get quite as much variety in sauces as you might in Normandy or elsewhere along the French coast (in particular, my bacon (lardon) cream sauce wasn’t to be found).  But, the mussels themselves were of nice size and pretty well prepared in terms of being cleaned and without cracked shells (we sampled repeatedly at different spots).

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I would say the fries could have used a bit more work.  The trend we saw was more of a ‘softer’ fry than that of a crispier one that I tend to prefer.  But, to each their own.  That just left me with more room for mussels.

Enjoying some beer:

In looking at the ‘5 Random Things’ activities list here, only one out of five included a workout.  Though, at least we walked everywhere.  Unfortunately, everywhere in a small town is still a small amount of walking.  No worries, we walked to the brewery as well.

Like most tourists to the city, we ended up at De Halve Maan brewery.  You pay 8 Euros and you’ll get a 45 minute brewery tour and a free beer at the end of a it. Not too shabby.

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Of course, we didn’t just stop there.  We had lots of beer at all our meals (and mid-afternoon snacks), sampling all sorts of local goodness.

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And in between the beer stops (or, rather, during the beer stops), the grandparents got to spend some quality time with the baby.  She’s still a bit young for the beer.  My understanding is that they don’t start the kids on beer here till at least 3-4 years old.

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We even picked up one of these wooden beer crates – pretty cool.  Though, not filled with beer.  Since this particular beer would have made this crate about as pricey as a new GPS watch if fully filled with bottles.

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Below is the view from the top of the brewery tour. Not too shabby!

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And while we enjoyed plenty of beer, I did squeeze in another ride on Sunday once back home.  So that definitely counts for something, even if the ride was to Disneyland.

With that – thanks for reading!  Have a good week ahead!

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27 Comments

  1. Karl

    “at least 3-4 years old” LOL
    Or sooner when teething…

    …karl, who has fond memories of Bruges and should go back…

  2. Vic

    “Some of the chocolates were good, while others weren’t worth the calories. The only way to take care of that problem is simply get more chocolate, obviously.”

    Or… you could have asked your Belgian followers for recommendations.

    “Since this particular beer would have made this crate about as pricey as a new GPS watch if fully filled with bottles.”

    Westvleteren isn’t more expensive than other Belgian premium beers. But you have to go and pick it up at the brewery,which isn’t far off your route between Paris and Bruges, so missed opportunity. But yes, happy to deliver a full crate to your home in exchange for one of your spare Garmin 735s :-)

  3. Thomas

    Tour of Flanders will start in Antwerp the next years. Could be a reason for your next trip to Belgium.

  4. Sonny

    Check the website every day and this article is so timely! This has nothing to do with bikes but since this is literally the only place I could get any advice about Paris, I will ask.

    My wife and I were going back and forth last night because I found cheap tickets from NYC where we live to Paris for New Year’s and the week after and I suggested that if we went for a week, we could do a side trip to Bruges for a couple of days (we plan to go back to Belgium in the warm months proper when I will take my bike and go to Ghent and do the Flanders roads). But, I find the lack of daylight in NYC depressing enough at the winter solstice and Paris has an hour less of daylight than even NYC. Thoughts on Paris at that time of year?

  5. Mark

    Oh, Trappist. There’s a group of Trappists that make ale in Central Mass ( link to spencerbrewery.com St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA ). Only one in the US, maybe the only one outside of Europe.

  6. Mike

    “Plus some other stuff” hopefully means an AW2 hands on review is coming soon. :-)

    • Working on that…

      It’s ‘logistically complex’. Essentially Apple is only doing media hand-overs of products on Thursday, and only Thursday. Not Wednesday, not Tuesday, nor Today. Just Thursday. No matter if you’re the WSJ or the NYT, just Thursday. No worries, they had everything all lined up for me this Thursday in London.

      Said handovers have to be done in person according to some internal policy. So, they can’t just hand me the watch to figure out myself. That’s ok, they want to have some people on a call including their engineering team and fitness folks too to answer any detailed tech questions I’d likely have. So it’s always good to chat with them too.

      All of which would be fine, except…I’m not in London or San Francisco or New York on Thursday. Rather, I’ll be in the most easterly point of Canada on an island on Thursday. So, we’re trying to figure out a solution. Hopefully it works out.

  7. Westvleteren Abbaye is a common goal during our rides starting from Lille :)

  8. Wouter De Raeve

    When you’re in Ghent, Ray, let me know, would be happy to give you a tour and have a drink!

  9. Raphael

    Hi Ray,

    Yup, the Westvleteren….

    Be aware of really shaggy websites…

    This one seems to be legit but…
    link to westvleterenbeers.com
    349 euros for a Case of 24 bottles Westvleteren Blond ????

    On the real one, where you actually have to make a reservation* at the abbey to buy your beers,
    link to sintsixtus.be
    Trappist Westvleteren Blond (5,8 vol.% ABV) 32,00 euros + Deposit for empty bottles and crate: 12 euros
    = 34 euros

    * From their website:
    The Westvleteren “Trappist” is sold exclusively at the abbey store, and only after having made a reservation by telephone (+32 (0)70/21.00.45).
    How does one reserve beer?
    See our web page ‘beer sales’ for information regarding when reservations will be accepted for which beer and how much beer can be reserved at any one time.
    At the time indicated, call us using the beer phone number (+32 (0)70/21.00.45).
    Then you can make an appointment (date and time) with the beer phone operator, providing the license plate number of the car which will be used to pick up the order.
    Address of our abbey and beer store is: Donkerstraat 12, B -8640 Westvleteren.

    I’m glad you enjoyed Bruges, one of my favorite city in Belgium!

    A belgian living in Canada.

  10. dieter neirinck

    Ah you were less than 20k away from my home in Aalter, exactly in the middle between Bruges and Ghent.

    Bruges has a great 1/4 triathlon around half june, with swimming in one of the canals, cycling along a waterway headed for the coastal town of Ostend, and running in the city center.

    It’s always fully booked in about 1.2 seconds (online registration) but let me know if you’re ever interested and I may be able to squeeze you in one of our sponsor’s slots.

    BTW did the people at halve maen brewery tell you about the beer pipeline they are building to get the beer from the brewery in the city centre to the bottling facility some 4k further ? Next to “beer phone operator”, the business card that says “beer pipeline operator” would also be interesting…

    • Yup, in fact the first day we were there they were working on the hole in the floor to see the pipeline. But when we came back on Saturday they had it partially opened to see it. Supposed to open up later this month. Cool stuff.

  11. Eric

    Watch the movie In Bruges…a great flick!

  12. Franck Villano

    I just went in Brugge past week. A great bike day (189 kms)… what a wonderful city! It’s the one I made my first walk steps… 47 years ago ;-)

  13. I thought Belgium was famous for its chocolate. Surprised you barely mentioned that…

  14. Next time come to Leuven, alot less touristic, but alot cheaper and better food (plus really good fries in most places). Honestly don’t go to Bruges for the food, it’s expensive and alot worse than most other places in Belgium (and that’s a real Belgian speaking).

  15. morey

    link to youtube.com

    Great movie “In Bruges”. worth a watch.

  16. Sean

    What type of carrier is The Girl using with the little one?

    • It’s called LilleBaby, and she loves it (both The Girl and the little one): link to amzn.to

      One of our friends that used to live here recommended it to us, and it’s a great find. The Girl uses it anytime where a stroller would be a pain logistically all day (like small sidewalks in Bruges, going to the beach, walks on trails, etc…).

  17. Vinny Lynch

    But did you see the alcoves?!? [a reference to the pretty awesome movie “In Bruges”]

  18. Dale C

    Dude, if you didn’t go to De Hobbit and get the 20 Euro bottomless baby back ribs, you need to go back to Bruges ASAP! Probably the best food I’ve ever had in my 30 years.

    We went to Bruges a few years back and loved the place. 3 days in that town was enough to see every nook and cranny. We also took a wonderful bike tour up to Ghent and back, very picturesque.

  19. Frank D

    Aaah the memories. I was born and raised there. Yes, the place can be quite toursty, but it is what keeps it going.
    Glad you enjoyed your stay!