On the morning of my 40-something birthday, I woke up here:
This is Kasteel ten Berghe, in the outskirts of Bruges, Belgium. Just how cool is that? This structure has been in existence since the 13th century, and has belonged to the same family for 500 years. Just the other day, I was poking around the internet for ideas about something to do (my hubby had taken the day off, and the weather in London was going to be crappy, so, thinks I, let’s find better weather). A friend suggested “…….go straight to Bruges and stay at the castle.” So, that’s just what we did. We left town Tuesday afternoon and grabbed the 3:50 sailing from Dover (yes there really are white cliffs) to Calais. From Calais, it was just over an hour to Bruges, and this wonderful Bed and Breakfast.
I can’t describe in one short post how amazing it was. The caretaker showed us around the castle, showed us where we would be having breakfast and then to our room, which was huge, even by American standards (those of you who have traveled internationally will appreciate that). We grabbed a small bottle of wine from the cellar, and settled in for a quiet evening in our room. The next morning, the geese were honking in the moat, (yes, there really is a moat), the sun was trying to shine through the high clouds and we made our way to breakfast here:
What you can barely make out on the walls of this luscious dining room are stunning, original Flemish tapestries from goodness knows when, possibly as long ago as the 14th or 15th century. We ate in a beautiful diningroom, with classical music playing in the background, overlooking the moat, and beneath a painting of the resident family, dating from sometime around 1750, I would guess from the clothing. They were enjoying a day of picnicking and hunting on the grounds, and the castle is in the background. It was truly a marvelous experience (and reasonable, I am happy to report).
One more…..a shot from our window.
So then it was off to the city center. Everything I know about Bruges, I learned here, and it has to be one of the most delightful cities I’ve been to. Many buildings date back to the 13th century, some to the 17th century and all are remarkably well maintained. Our first stop was the market square, and what a market it was; fresh flowers and plants, fresh meats and cheeses, fresh fruits and vegies all displayed in this pretty square–tables and tents and trailers full. We wandered around a bit and then found a cafe for lunch.
From our vantage point, under the green awning, we watched the people go by, and watched the vendors pack up their wares. It was an amazing site; trucks loading up, trailers housing butcher shops and delicatessens collapsed for travel, and in about an hour the square was empty and the street sweeper had cleaned up all the crumbs.
After lunch we did this:
This nice man and his lovely horse gave us a great tour of the old city. I have been wanting to take a horse/carriage ride for YEARS, and so I played the birthday card and got something really special. Such fun.
After the carriage ride, we did a bit more exploring on foot, taking in the Church of Our Lady with the goal of seeing not only a beautiful church, but the only work of Michaelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime. You can read about it here.
Our last adventure, before heading back to Calais, and the boat home was a boat ride through some of the miles of canals that run through Bruges. From the boat you can see many further examples of Medieval architechture as well as newer buildings (new as in 17th century). Some of the bridges we passed under date from the 13th century and are still in use. I took tons of pictures, but I think this might be my favorite:
The boat driver told us that this guy (girl??) has been in this same window every day for the past 5 years. He paused for a bit so we could all snap a photo or two (perhaps the most photographed dog in the world??).
It was a wonderful day….Bruges is an amazing city and I really can’t wait to go back. Care to come along?