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  • Writer's pictureKate Woodman

Voyager encore avec Patrick...Bruges (Traveling again with Patrick....this time Bruges)


Il y a deux semaines Patrick m’a rendu visite. Pour la plupart on a resté à Paris, mais j’ai décidé, contre mon avis, de prévenir une voyage à Bruges en Belgique. On dit que Bruges est la Venise du nord, avec les canaux, l’art et l’architecture. On dit que c’est une ville avec beaucoup de charme et d’authenticité. Visiter Bruges est « de passer un moment hors de temps. »

Alors, je ne visiterai jamais encore en été un endroit qui est populaire avec les touristes. Ils étaient partout ! Et les groupes….beaucoup de groupes de touristes. Patrick a dit : « c’est le Disneyland belge! »

Toutefois, on a deux jours là-bas, et pendant notre séjour, on a découvert plusieurs endroits qui étaient calmes, intéressants et charmantes.

Two weeks ago, Patrick came to Paris for a quick visit before his football coaching duties started at Peddie. For the most part we stayed in Paris, but I decided shortly before he arrived, that we should have a short trip to Bruges, a city neither of us had visited before. I had heard Bruges referred to as the Venice of the north, so I imagined a charming city crisscrossed by canals filled with art and architecture. Well, yes, there are a few canals, but nothing like Venice or even Amsterdam. And yes there is the marvelous Groeningemuseum and its charming post-medieval step-gabled buildings are fascinating. But in the middle of August it is also crawling with tourists….and GROUPS of tourists in particular. As Patrick said: “it’s the Disneyland of Belgium.” And "Venice of the north?" Yes because it's equally as overrun with tourists!

Nevertheless, we had two days there and during our stay, we managed to find several attractions and parts of the city that were tranquil, interesting and charming.

Le « Ten Wijngaerde » Béguinage. Un béguinage est un lieu monastique qui fut autrefois (dès les XII-XIIIème siècles) construit par de riches citoyens, pour permettre à des femmes seules (célibataires ou veuves) d’y vivre, pieusement mais sans être nécessairement des religieuses.

Le béguinage de Bruges date de 1245. Ce lieu clos est constitué d’une trentaine de ravissantes maisonnettes blanches bordant un immense enclos arboré. La dernière béguine est morte en 1930, et il est depuis habité par une congrégation religieuse de bénédictines.

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L’atmosphère du lieu est d’un charme et d’une sérénité absolus.

The “Ten Wijngaerde” (vineyard-notice the bunch of grapes on the sign above) Béguinage. “Béguinage” is an architectural complex created to house beguines: lay religious women who lived in community without taking vows or retiring from the world.

The béguinage in Bruges dates from 1245 and includes a gothic béguinage church and about thirty white painted houses dating from the late 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Practically all of these are built around a central yard. The last beguine died in 1930 and since that time, the complex is home to a community of Benedictine nuns.

We were stunned by the simple beauty, charm and absolute serenity of the béguinage. Thankfully, few others were there and we were able to explore and enjoy in peace.

The central lawn around which the buildings of the béguinage are built

All béguinage buildings uniformly white with black trim and red tile roofs, a pallet seen frequently throughout Bruges

The statue is likely St. Elisabeth of Hungary, patron saint of many Belgian béguinages

Benedictine nun leaving the church

Sint Janshospitaal. À l’Hôpital Saint-Jean, représentant plus de huit siècles d’histoire, des soeurs et des frères soignaient les pauvres, les pèlerins, les voyageurs et les malades. Les salles des malades médiévales et la chapelle qui en fait partie abritent notamment une collection imposante de pièces d’archives, d’oeuvres d’art, d’instruments médicaux et six peintures de Hans Memling.

12th century Old St. John’s Hospital is one of Europe’s oldest surviving hospital buildings. The medieval wards have been turned into a museum which tells the story of life in this house, about faith, healthcare, and art from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. The monks and nuns tended not only to the physical needs of their patients, but to their spiritual needs as well. Interestingly, patients had to prove their poverty to be treated there.

A beautiful chapel figures prominently and it’s alterpiece is a stunning triptych painted by the celebrated 15th century Flemish artist Hans Memling.

Hans Memling triptych in the hospital chapel

Hospital attic which was a dormitory for hospital staff. Upon seeing the immense wooden rafters I immediately thought of the "forest" of Notre Dame.

A "soeur" or sister from the 19th century

Early ambulance!!

Apothecary jars from the hospital's 17th-century pharmacy:

Back of hospital

Bien sûr, la Belgique est très bien connue pour la bière. En fait, je pense que la plupart des touristes sont en Bruges pour goûter et boire la bière. Et pour Patrick, la bière belge est certainement une attraction. Moi je n’aime pas la bière. Mais quand en Bruge on doit visiter une brasserie.

De Halve Maan. Cette authentique brasserie historique du centre de Bruges est une entreprise familiale avec une tradition de six générations, c'est-à-dire depuis 1856. C'est ici que l'on brasse la bière de la ville de Bruges, la « Brugse Zot » : une bière corsée de haute fermentation à base de moût, houblon et levure spéciale. En 2016, la construction d'un pipeline souterrain unique au monde de 3 kilomètres de long a permis de relier la brasserie à son usine de mise en bouteille située à l'extérieur de la ville.

Of course Belgium is famous for its beer. In fact, I think most of the tourists in Bruges were there to taste and drink the beer! And for Patrick, Belgian beer was certainly an attraction. I’ve never liked beer, but when in Bruges, one must visit a brewery. And so we did. We were both pleasantly surprised that our tour group was small and our guide very well-informed and personable. We were surprised to learn that the Half Moon Brewery (located right in the historic center of Bruges) is a family business with a tradition stretching back through six generations to 1856. It’s where the Bruges city beer - the Brugse Zot - is brewed: a strong-tasting, high-fermentation beer based on malt, hops and special yeast. Interestingly, in 2016 a unique underground beer pipeline, some 3 km long, was laid from the brewery to the bottling plant in the suburbs.

Four generations of Henri Maes (I-IV) have run the brewery. In the 1980's, lacking a Henri V, Véronique Maes, assumed the helm.

Copper storage tanks no longer in use

Gears for outdated machinery

View of the rooftops of Bruges from the brewery roof

Les moulins. Sur un chemin autour le bord de la limite de la veille ville sont quatre moulins. A l’origine, il y avait 25 moulins, mais aujourd’hui seulement quatre restent. Le quartier est St Anna et après voir les moulins, on a marché sur les ruelles étroites et tranquilles, loin des foules déchaînées de la centre historique !

Although one doesn’t necessarily associate windmills with Belgium, they exist! In fact, in the 16th century, Bruges was home to no fewer than 25, of which only 4 remain. The windmills of Bruges sit on a pathway around the edge of the old city boundary. The surrounding neighborhood is called St. Anna and we spent a lovely morning wandering through its narrow, quiet and green streets, far from the maddening crowds of the historic center.

View of the St. Anna neighborhood from one of the windmills

Patrick checking out the menu of restaurant where we had a wonderful dinner... in St. Anna neighborhood. Typical step-gabled architecture.

Noticed a lack of flower boxes....these lovelies were an exception!

Canal houses

Quiet St. Anna street

....and another one

More canal houses....

What we ate:

Kaaskroketje - cheese croquettes

Moules frites - the best!

Dinner at charming Pro Deo....best music!

Bruges city beer - Brugse Zot from Half Moon Brewery

We had a few pieces of Dumon chocolates (reputedly the best) but not for breakfast as we observed some Belgians enjoying 5 or 6 morsels (per person) at the breakfast table!

What we did NOT do:

Miscellaneous Bruges:

Waiting for a boat ride....

Bruges' bridge of sighs.....

Belgian lace

Interior courtyard of community for seniors....nice

Busy Market Square

Building on Market Square....tent was for dancing

Patrick in Market Square with the multitudes.....but warm sun, lively dance music and a cold Brugse Zot made for a pleasant afternoon in Bruges.....

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