Take a decadent dip in to this rich and historical country.
Stepping off the train in Bruges, the most visited medieval city in all of Europe, otherwise known as the other Venice, just one hour north of Brussels, my Pavlovian palette immediately started to water in anticipation of what was to come. My travel companions and I wasted no time when we arrived and immediately found our way to the city center. We successfully navigated our way through the linguistic landscape relying heavily on our friend who was fluent in French.The decadence was well set with our home away from home at The Kempinski Hotel, the first and only five star in an otherwise B&B styled city, in the heart of Bruges. Upon arrival I immediately sunk in and fell in to a deep and regal sleep, as the bed was that dreamy. Once on the street, there were several decadent directions to head in.
Dip deep in to their local liquid beauty. Clearly, beer aficionados will tell you, one must worship all things Belgian. The little country has a big business with its 125 breweries, over 800 types of beer and approximately 8700 one offs to choose from. This is no passing fancy as Belgians drink on average 93 liters of beer a year. Safe to say with all that field experience, they know a thing or two about the brew. They should. They’ve been making the frothy beauty since 9,000 BC. Aficionados and ambitious visitors together attempt to try as many Belgian beers as they can, then get in heated debates with beer buddies and random strangers about which is best and why. Even if you’re new to the brew, the conversion to beer geek is quick, committed and competitive. Regardless of your level and love, everyone wants to try the high alcohol and highly esteemed Trappists beers. Don’t miss their Lambic, a draught, rarely bottled and available only in its area of production. Gueuze, a sparkling beer, known as Brussels Champagne is produced combining young Lambic with mature vintages to cause a second fermentation. Like wine it matures beautifully over time.
Looking for a sophisticated twist to add in to the hoppy mix, head to Den Dyver where they combine fork with froth. It’s a sophisticated spot where they pair your meals with flights of beers. As is the case with wines, the matches are very specific and the chef and beer sommelier work meticulously together to create perfect pairings from plate to pour. De Karmeliet, a three star Michelin restaurant is a more classic option where the presentation and chic ambiance is anything but. Before leaving Bruges we spent the day taking a cooking lesson with local luminary, chef Patrick Devos. It was an intimate look in to the local cuisine and his approach. We finished the layered lesson consuming our own culinary wonders. We toasted our accomplishments on a cool sunny spring day in his garden before heading in and savoring our creations with perfectly paired wines in a sumptuous setting. His historic art deco building was the perfect aperitif.
For casual consumption, indulge in the famous frites (French for fries). This is no passing fancy as Bruges has its own frite museum, right down the street from the Choco-Story Museum, another national obsession. On the frites front, each Belgian city has its own war being waged on which frites will finish first. We found the local Bruges buzz to be true with the cart to the right in the main Markt (market) below the belfry to be the city’s reigning star. Throw some garlic mayo on top and you will be clicking your culinary heels all the way home. Aside from the plates and pours Bruges provides stunning aesthetics to feast on. Its no wonder the city center is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This walking city can also be consumed on water in a Venice style canal tour or by a more traditional horse and buggy. No matter what the mode or the course you will work up quite an appetite for what is to come in this country. Next!
Like any great meal, some times the best dishes are discovered through improvisation, which is the approach I took while in Brussels. The city is most known for being the center of the EU (European Union) and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). What isn’t known or discusseed as much is the cultural and creative virbancy of this city.There are several walking or biking tours that can be taken while in the city, one of which is the Comic Strip Tour, where comic art is viewed in an open air setting strewn across buidlings throughout the city. Even if you are not looking for it, you will stumble upon several of them. It is a complete counter to the politics at hand. Cinematic powerhouse Steven Speilberg and New Zealand’s own film king, Peter Jackson have teamed up to make a Tin Tin film, one of Belgium’s most famed comics. Of equal interest is the Mannequin Pis (Dutch for little man urinating). It is the most famous statue in the city.