When Belgium comes to mind, the first three things I think of are: waffles, chocolates and beer. To be honest prior to coming here I really didn’t know much about the country, not even what language they spoke (?Belgish). Turns out the two main languages are French and Flemish (similar to Dutch) with the majority of locals who work or live in Brussels being able to speak English as well.
In celebration of our first wedding anniversary, we decided to pick the country that we’d never been to, is close in proximity to London and could be enjoyed in three days. After a quick 45 minute flight we landed in Brussels and immediately hopped onto the train to Bruges. Now this city was never part of the original plan, but after countless recommendations from friends and family (and because Jason had watched the movie ‘In Brugge’), we knew we had to see it for ourselves.
Bruges is an incredibly beautiful city with stunning architecture, canals, swans and a countless number of tourists exploring the city via horse and carriage. We arrived here with our backpacks and no plan, so first thing we did was grab a map and decide on our route around the city. We walked through beautiful city parks and ventured through the city along the cobblestone footpaths. Note to self in future – wear runners on cobblestones otherwise it’ll be a question of when will by ankle roll next? Overall a great city to visit, only let down was a passer-by muttering ‘ching chong’ as they walked past us which we didn’t appreciate, but we didn’t really let that get us down.
That evening, we hopped back on the train and arrived in Brussels. Now this is a very cool city. Much more modern than Brugge. It is of course known for the waffles, chocolates and beer, but also their Frites (potato chips twice dipped in animal fat), countless museums and their quirky obsession with comic strips. One of the first things we did was visit the Comic Strip Museum which was surprisingly really interesting for someone who doesn’t read comics at all! It went through the whole production process of a comic book and displayed some of the most famous European Comics (sounds really nerd I know).
For those who know me, you’d know I love chocolate, so much so that I would marry it if I wasn’t already taken, so of course we had a chocolate tour booked. Luckily for us we were the only people booked for the tour, so it ended up being a private tour. Our guide Isabella took us around 6 chocolate shops starting at the cheapest then progressing to the most expensive. It was quite interesting to learn of the history of chocolates and also the ethical dilemmas behind it, which is something we never even though about. Approximately 50% of the world’s source of cocoa beans are from the Ivory Coast, which unfortunately is known for exploiting their workers, so often the cheaper stores will source their beans from them.
Prior to going on this tour, I really thought chocolate was chocolate, but there really is such a difference in taste when you compare the different quality of the ingredients. The last chocolate store we went to, we sampled the most expensive chocolate in Belgium, costing €400 per kilo, but WOWEE it was delicious and even served in a Tiffany-like green ring box! I would definitely recommend a chocolate tour for those visiting Belgium, it certainly gave us a different insight into something we consume so regularly.
The next day we purchased a €0.50 map which was a self-guided route of the famous comic strip murals. I think we walked 3 hours in total and covered almost the entire border of the city. The murals are all about 10-15 meters high, but often were hard to miss as they’d be hidden on wall edgings that could be easily missed if you didn’t look out for them.
So overall a great way to celebrate our anniversary, now to start eating our way through all these chocolate boxes…
Til next time
Ann & Jason xo