Monday, September 6, 2010

Europe Part 2: Brugge

I don’t know about all of you, but I always had a picture in my head of Europe. It was filled with narrow cobblestone streets, small brick houses with brightly colored shutters, serene canals with white swans drifting ever-so-peacefully by, and of course, giant, looming castles with waving flags, pointy tops, and huge wooden doors. I watched a lot of Disney movies as a kid.

Actually, now that I think of it…this image might be straight out of Beauty and the Beast. Regardless of where it came from, it was my Europe. Lucky for me, on my first ever European vacation, I was able to experience the Europe I had always dreamed of, full of swans, cobblestone streets, castles, shiny red apples, princesses, evil step-moms…

Ok, so maybe Brugge (Bruges), Belgium wasn’t exactly like my childhood visions, but it at least looked the part. Evan and I took a quick one-nighter to Brugge, via train from Amsterdam (wherein we accidentally sat in first class and after twenty minutes of luxury, were asked to move). Right when we walked into the picture-perfect medieval town, I knew I was in heaven. Actually, I knew that at the train station in Antwerp, when I had my first Liege-style Belgian sugar waffle. With just one bite of that waffle, I knew Belgium was going to be good.

Brugge was amazingly beautiful and breathtaking…but let’s get back to that waffle! Dense and chewy with hints of vanilla and crunchy bits of pearl sugar crystalized on top. It was amazing. I can’t really even explain how delicious it was because every time I think about it, my mind drifts off and I lose myself in daydreams filled with waffles. If you think waffles are strictly for breakfast, drowning in maple syrup and butter….you’ve never had a real Belgian waffle. We spent roughly 24 hours in Brugge, and I ate roughly 5 waffles… a couple plain, a couple with chocolate, one with ice cream. Not gonna lie…the train station kiosk waffle was my favorite.

Brugge, however, isn’t just about the waffles or the amazing old architecture. It’s also about the beer and the moules-frites! All of the adorable little restaurants had menus out front advertising their moules-frites: mussels with fries! I had the most delicious, steaming pot of mussels alongside a small dish of frites with mayo. Compared with the vlaamse in Amsterdam, the Belgian frites didn’t blow me away (crazy, right?) but the mussels… wow! They were fresh and bright, full of flavor. And I had a huge pot of them, all to myself.

And… no trip to Belgium is complete without sampling the local brew. Our favorite was the Kwak—a really delicious amber-colored beer with a funny glass and a great story. We drank a lot of Kwak. Then we got lost among the castles and towers, in the pouring rain, heads fuzzy from beer, late at night trying to find our way back to our cozy room in a tiny little bed and breakfast. We wandered the dark, quiet little streets of Brugge, dripping wet, literally walking in circles for well over an hour. By the time we finally found it, my only pair of jeans was soaked through and my shoes were squishing…but I’d do it all over again for a sugary waffle and a tall glass of Kwak.

Our stay in Brugge was brief, but it was just long enough to reignite my fantasy of a fairytale Europe, and to give me enough pictures—on film and in my head—to keep the magic alive until next time!
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