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Europe : Belgium

When in Bruges

by Hayley Stansfield

If you’re from Yorkshire and like me, you’ll find that the village of Saltaire, York and Hebden Bridge very scenting and wonderful hubs of creativity. And to me, those are the simple things in life I can enjoy on my doorstep.

Although, the greatest thing to me about visiting Brugge is that it is in fact on our doorstep.

After a short travelling period, I soon discovered my excitable self pondering out of the terminal, trying to smell as much air as I could. Always looking for a change, for a difference in another country, I could sense it, but this time remained relaxed, almost knowing what was ahead of me.

Now, what I do need to make of is that my twin sister recently moved over to Brugge, and the fact I was able to see her for a day made this trip even more attractive. Once I had taken the transfer into the village, my partner and I took a small stroll into the town. We had a view of the city’s main cathedral, a beautifully tall standing piece of art which we had to follow to get us where to wanted. After a good few minutes, we caught eye of some back streets, where locals had their windows open, allowing you to admire their window sill flowers. Women were also out on the streets clearing the water from the pavements ( it was pretty wet and windy) which you wouldn’t see over here. It was clearly a place of well maintenance and pride.

Once we had entered the main street, I noticed a rather small market square consisting of a tall sculpture and tree barks which were inside of  a hub of craftwork shops. Typical me then became lots in its unique and charming attributes, forgetting I was meeting my sister any second now, my phone rang then noticed I was in the wrong place. Chatting to her on my phone, I walked and walked into the place we both thought we’d bump into one another, and we did.

After taking a road passing down restaurants, bridges and even more shops I was dying to discover, I became happy for my sister who I had bloody felt sorry for when she first went over! After greeting her with many smiles and tears, I realised I was in the square I used to see my sister pondering about on a webcam looking over the square.

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In comparison to its huge, lurking over expressive buildings I felt small, yet blended well into its other adventurous visitors. The three of us had our heart’s set on taking a horse and carriage ride around its picturesque streets, and that we did. For just 35 Euros, we were taken for a 30 minute cruise, and oh my did we discover some real treats. As we set off from the main market square, we first went up to The Church of our Lady, just one of many important churches in Brugge. We were then taken through the city centre through its winding cobbled streets and onto the Monastarya and gardens, of which were alcoves of small houses built by the rich for the poor to live in. As well as our guide giving us some local tips on Belgium beers and eateries. We were then taken across to the main canal of this ’Venice of the North’ where people visit to acknowledge their love for one another. But the one thing that really caught my eye was the oldest building in Brugge; Sint-Janshospitaal, as well as building made out of real gold.

Watching the scarcely intriguing faces embedded onto building’s doors pass me by, we were returned back to the square from where we decided to shop Belgium style. The main thing I had noticed about its wonderfully elegant shops was the linen baby outfits, carpets and handmade upholstery which all looked extremely expensive in their shop windows. What made Brugge really brilliant was its urban yet 90’s style fashion, selling many old school hippy outfits, as well as modern but small handbags and purses.

And then there’s the chocolate shops… Oh, the chocolate. We’ve all heard the term ‘Belgium chocolate’ at some point in our lives, but here chocolate is nothing compared to what I thought were DE-LICE here. One that stood out the most was a display of Bambi in woodland areas, all made out of beautifully carved, light and fluffy flaky chocolate. No woman here would be able to refuse its tasty treats. When we had used up a fraction of our well hyped energy, we chose a coffee shop which inside was almost a Christmas surprise. Its winding staircase led up to a candle lit Belgium coffee restaurant, where its caffeine lovers were calm.

With many buildings also being hundreds and hundreds of years old, it’s clear that nothing will ever change. After viewing a picture in a local museum of the centre in the 18th century, placed next to one taken in 2009, nothing had changed apart from the people’s clothes. Just wow.

Having to leave the sites for a little while, we decided to take a walk to my sisters new home where she works as an Au Pair in the centre of Brugge. (I know, lucky sod!) This is something I loved to do,get away from the main attractions and see what its homely streets and local pubs really look like. On our walk here, I mustn’t have talked, realising each and every house there was differently shaped and were all home to a unique balcony or sculpture. What made me really think about the romance of the city, though, was its calm air and gentle voices that both tourists and locals used, I believe all out of respect for awe-inspiring sights!

On re-arrival to my favourite place in the world (The market square), which I now call ‘The Square’ like I amsome kind of expert on the field, I had to say goodbye to the city and well as my sister. A little emotional *Cough Cough*

I do have to say that one day here is nowhere near enough to see all that it has to offer, but what I can say is that you’ve got more of enough time to fall in love with it.

To read more from Hayley check out her excellent blog.