I have a passion for all things good in life- be it travel, food, watching plays& films, photography, drinking champagne or just getting pampered in a Spa. Luckily being a Hotel Management graduate, an ex-chef, nutritionist and a journalist, I am eminently qualified to do my job of writing and sharing experiences. My blog is my world and my posts are my straightforward thoughts...come along with me on my culinary voyage!
chocolates are a woman’s best friends, with this thought I went to Brugge and
Antwerp…but I discovered much more…both cities are rich with its historic past
, world- famous panoramic views, centuries old squares invigorated by
contemporary constructions and a lot of
Gastronomy…keep your camera handy..
impression of Brugge (the way they spell it here) will be confirmed by climbing
the 366 step clock tower, Belford, for a view over the town. Further
confirmation that Brugge truly is a special place will be a canal tour with a
very informative guide for just 7 Euros…A must do! However before you get to
Brugge a beautiful, romantic little medieval town, which could possibly be
described as a mix between Amsterdam and Venice, with many waterways and stone
bridges Swans swim through all the canals and horses with carriages trot down
the streets- it’s so cute! - You have to get to the Brussels Airport which is
very organized and the station is just two levels below. From there on it is an
hour north of Brussels by train.
Our Hotel was
just a 2 minute walk from the market square-where all the action is. For some culture one can visit the “Onze
Likeve Vrouekerk”, which houses the remarkable art treasure, “Michelangelo’s
Madonna and Child”, a small marble statue from 1504 and one of the few works of
Michelangelo outside Italy. Back in the medieval times Brugge was a very
wealthy place as boats used to come up the canals from the sea to trade. Much
of Bruges retained intact because there was no huge industrial revolution here.
Hence the buildings and homes were not knocked down to make way for factories.
Nonetheless, Bruges is everything you want in a small medieval town. Lots of
fascinating buildings and homes along many streets that cross over a plethora
of ivy covered stone bridges. The inner city is basically a little island with
a moat surrounding the city. Chocolate and lace shops line the cobblestone
streets, while tourists hop around the town by bike, foot, horse drawn buggy's
or boat along the canals.. It was definitely very touristy, yet didn't seem too
over flowing to bother too much. The town itself really is the attraction. I
finally found some Belgium waffles after this and they were everything that I
expected and maybe a little more. I tried a chocolate Vanilla one – decadent to
the core. It may have tasted better just because of the fact that I was in
Belgium when I ate it, but I am going to say it is possibly the best waffle I
have ever had. While we were here I also visited the “fret museum” where I
learnt that the Belgium actually introduced “French fries” and not the French.
Every restaurant sells fries as a separate menu item. And they prefer to
serve them with mayonnaise, not ketchup. Also true beer capital, when it comes
to brewing. Belgium still has 600 actives breweries that operate like
micro breweries with many following strict quality standards and consistently
winning taste test award throughout the world. I had beers here that
were nothing like anything I have tried before.
Next morning we
hopped back on the train and headed to the city of Antwerp (literal translation
is hand throw), after all I had not even started looking for my diamond yet. For
those who do not know Antwerp is the Diamond capital of the world. A fairly large city, around 500,000
inhabitants and is the second largest city in the country.We had to walk about a mile to our Hotel from the train station and
seriously we passed about 20 Diamond Jewellery shops, all right next to each
other. By the way, the station is beautiful! Do grab your free copy of a witty “youth” map of
the city before you start exploring its squares, cheap eats, deep and
super long pedestrian tunnels, parks, second hand shopping and more. A lovely city with a mixture of new and old, modern and historic
buildings and to me seemed much more like a real city than Brugge, which is
like the original medieval city for tourism, and has no major industry. Situated
on a massive river Antwerp’s main attraction is walking along the river, which
everyone does. Touristy places are the Rockox house and the town market square
with the town hall and a fountain depicting the hero of the city. Legend has it
that the giant “Druoon Antigoon” who controlled the River Scheldt would levy
heavy tolls on all the boats that passed. If anyone refused to pay, he would
cut off one of their hands and toss it into the river. One day, a Roman
centurion named Silvius Brabo killed the giant, chopped off one of his hands
and threw it in the river. Thus the city of Antwerpen got its name! Werpen
means “to throw”. Interestingly all throughout this city there are hands. Hand statues, hand chocolates,
hand gummies, and hand pictures. A great idea is to
also visit the Grote Market, a tribute to the Golden Age, a typical Frankish
shape; it is dominated by the city hall, the guild halls and also by the Brabo
fountain. And of course the Town Hall, surrounded by nicely decorated
buildings. From here one can also see the top of the cathedral. I later went in
and I must say it is the most magnificent Cathedral I have ever seen. Inside
are four glorious paintings by Reubens. Surprisingly, there were no officials
to protect the precious artwork. But given its enormous size - there is no
chance of anyone taking one home. Antwerp is the cultural capital of Belgium with the best shopping ever and
houses all the big names of all the big designers.
For those in between hunger pangs do stop by for Belgian fries... which
won’t be difficult, along the edge of the square, you’ll find some figurines of
fries; go for the one which reads “best friets”.How can one miss out on the best fries, the
most authentic Belgian fries! Yes, they are delicious. Another must visit is the Plantin-Moretus Museum, the current
printing museum and was the first printing warehouse in Belgium. This place was
not destroyed in any civil or world wars so it is practically in the same
condition as when it was used hundreds of years ago. All of the original
presses still exist with the original stamps. One of the highlights of the
trip can be a visit to “Kulminator”, a Belgian beer bar that specializes in
vintage beers. Iam sure you have heard of vintage wine, but this one offers
vintage beer. The bar is replete with a full cooling room to keep the vintage
beer at just the right temp.
Home to the
European diamond trade, but of course there were plenty of the sparkling gems
around. But naturally one has to visit the Diamond Museum, since Antwerp
produces 80% of cut or carved diamonds of the world. It is a simple modern
museum, not many antique jewels, more a walk through of how a Diamond is
processed. Although comparatively cheaper than elsewhere; I unfortunately still
came home without any. Of course, no trip to Belgium goes by without plenty of
beer and chocolates, and I found one that combines the two, chocolate beer -
amazing. Belgium makes about 300 types of beer and tried as I did, I couldn’t
really taste it all. But my verdict of Belgium- beautiful country, nice people–
it is all about the food and beer and Iam not complaining
MUST VISIT/ MUST DO
RUBEN’S HOUSE IN ANTWERP
Rubens was famed
for painting full figured ladies who enjoyed life. One of the main reasons for
thousands of tourists visiting Antwerp each year is this house. No other city
is connected that closely to Rubens as Antwerp. One can find his paintings in
the churches; his statue is on the Groenplats, his grave in St. Jacobskerk…In
Rubens House, where he lived and produced over 2,500 paintings is a must visit
for any tourist.
Timings- 10 am to 5pm. open on all days except Mondays. EntryFee- Euro 1 (below 25) and Euro 6 (above 25 years of age).
LOVE BRUGGE CITY CARD
The Brugge city
card is a smart card with a computer chip. This digital card entitles the user
free admission to or discounts on a range of attractions covered by the
tourist. One saves about 200 Euros or more by buying this card. The more places
you visit the more money you save and is automatically activated on first use.
It can be bought for a validity of 48 hours or 72 hours. One can buy it online
on www.bruggecitycard.be , at the
information offices or at the railway station and at the Concertgebouw.
BELGIAN FRIES MUSEUM IN BRUGES
sketches the history of the potato, fries and its various accompaniments and
sauces. Housed in Saaihalle, it is one of Brugge’s most beautiful buildings.
Timings – 10 am to 5 pm on
all days. Free if you are carrying the city card else Euro 6 for ages 12
upwards and between Euro 1 to Euro 5 for other age groups.
SHOPPING IN MIER AT ANTWERP
pedestrian shopping street in Antwerp and its renovated historically valuable
architecture is home to the luxurious international clothing and leather
brands. One should also take a peep at the prestigious shopping mall in
Stadsfeestzaal. The beautiful Rubens house and loads of brasseries are located
in Wapper, off Mier.
THE FLEMISH PRIMITIVES: WORLD FAMOUS ART FROM
museum houses the world famous and unique pictures by the Flemish Primitives.
You can also witness here contemporary art, poignant and romantic folklore and
majestic town palaces.
Let me try and describe the awesomeness that is a Belgium waffle.
First they make the waffle, then they dip it in a sugary goodness, topped with
a variation of melted chocolate, fruit, ice cream, whip cream, and sprinkles….
a must try!