Bruges and Antwerp

Bruges is the cutest, quaintest town I have been to. Completely a tourist destination, the main square is buzzing with people, horse carriages – drawn by some of the handsomest horses I have ever seen.

The cobbled roads, trams, horse carriages and old stone buildings lend it a charm of the Medieval era. And then suddenly out of the blue, you will see a horse carriage loaded with barrels of beer. It makes you want to run to the nearest bar and sip some ot the cool thirst quenching ale.

 

Barrels of beer being transported. Tempting the tourists I say!!
Barrels of beer being transported. Tempting the tourists I say!!

What had us on the throes of disappointment was that nary a brewery was to be found. We went into alleyways, and near by monk inhabited villages.. Nope! We were not allowed to see any breweries. None existed. The only thing we could do was have a couple of local beers on tap! Belgium and beers on tap! Whats so great? Visiting a few breweries and tasting them, just as they were chilled for the first time, would have been the great experience.

Nevertheless, we had copious litres of beer of every kind.

Delerium, was a great place to visit. They had beers made with coconut flavour and so on!

Lots of Bars all over the town.

Do sample some of the gins in the special outlets.

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These people have it all in the right perspective
These people have it all in the right perspective

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We cycled to Knokke, via Damm. It was a hilarious experience, but only on hind sight. We were told Bruges is almost shut on a Sunday, so we decided to cycle to Knokke, a sea side town, 15 km away from Bruges. Not much, specially as we were stopping in Damm mid way for a bite, and planning to load the cycles on a train, with us on our return.

We reached Damm, and enjoyed the Sunday festival going on, with loads to eat and drink.

Then the confused husband, met an equally confused tourist. And confusion + confusion led to us taking the wrong route to Knokke and we ended up doing 15 km more instead of just 8 more. And the last 4 on an incline with head wind!! Needless to say, our legs were jammed and back sides sore.

But Knokke is a beautiful town. The summer had turned on, and people were deliriously sun bathing in the multiple sea touching restaurants and shacks. Lovely restaurants and shopping. Worth a days visit.

Damm, was also beautiful. Small quaint village. We did not leave the market and venture around too much.

The gorgeous cycling path
The gorgeous cycling path

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Wind Mill in Damm
Wind Mill in Damm

Restaurants

What amazing food!! Surprisingly many many fine dinning options.

Some of the restaurants we visited ..

Jai Bhavani. Dont get deterred by the name. Fabulous Indian food.

Le Petit Patron, Great Swiss food.

Some of the Restaurants I had researched and heard great reviews ..

De Stove

T Zwart Huis

The Olive Tree

T Brugs Beertje

Some more restaurants..

Since we landed up during an odd time of the week, many of these establishments were closed for their weekly off.

Bruges
Bruges Canals

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While roaming the Streets, do go to Go Fre, and have their waffles on sticks – with caramel dripping..

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Of course – waffles all over Bruges are YUMMY!

Canal Ride – personally, I found it a bit boring. But you do end up seeing some gorgeous building, up close and you see this little cutie …

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ANTWERP 

Antwerp is full of  Indians. The first restaurant we went into, asked us if we want any Jain dishes. Since it wasn’t an Indian restaurant, I was dumb founded, till I remembered that we are in a city taken over by the Indian Jain community. City of Diamond Trade.

I have no fondness for Antwerp. The city has no very special history, and nothing special in terms of sight seeing.

 

We had very good meals there though!

I can name only some of the restaurants – the ones we visited.

Tasty Thai Express. Excellent hole in the wall thai food.

Lebanese – many many hole in the wall lebanese joints, but food will be fresh, and the tastiest most authentic you have ever had.

Danieli – High End Italian. Fabulous ambience. Great service and food.

Pizzeria Isola Sarda. Wood fire, excellent pizzas.

Ellis Gourmet Burger. I dont like burgers – this one was outstanding. Very different fillings. Its a chain, small outlets all over the city.

CHOCOLATES  – Del Ray is the best place to buy chocolates in Antwerp.

GHENT AND MECHELEN

A days trip is enough. Nothing great

 

Basically, Belgium is just a 4 day trip. 3 days Bruges. Try and be there from a Thursday to a Saturday. Do Knokke on Sunday. Head to Antwerp (if you want – I wouldnt) via Ghent and Mechelen.

Fly out of Brussels.

 

 

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Amsterdam.

Amsterdam had me dumbfounded and the first day my mouth was hanging open, like a teenager confronted with a pop star. Its a city of pleasures, and sins.  Cycling and food. Walking and museums. There is a museum for everything – Handbags and purses, Hemp and Marijuana, Rembrandt and Van Gogh. We did not visit any museum. The three short days were spent discovering the streets of Amsterdam, and cycling all over the city. Its great, because the amount we ate, we put on no weight.

We stayed in the Hotel Okura. It’s a little away from the heart of the city, slightly secluded but by no means boring. In fact the bars and pubs near the hotel were buzzing with mad FIFA spectators. (Holland was playing again’st Australia.) The crowds were dressed in Orange and they were all out on the roads. Our hotel had the most happening bar. Great music and great drinks.

Coffee Shops. This according to me, is the biggest draw.  Joints are available everywhere. I mean you have to go to a coffee shop, which are everywhere. This hilariously sells absolutely no coffee. Only joints of various kinds. From the mild to very severe. We took one the last day. The mildest one. With great great apprehension. Nothing really happend, but as I was told by locals later, for a good high, one should go towards the local areas and get one there. It was very peculiar experience for us. Standing on the road and smoking a joint – legally.

Legal joint!!
Legal joint!!

Condomerie. Forget the kids, even we were educated. Massively if a bit inappropriately. This shop has only condoms, usable and unusable. They have a window display they change often. You must go in and buy one. http://condomerie.com

Window display of condoms.
Window display of condoms.

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So many to choose from!
So many to choose from!

Window Shopping. Amsterdam is known for window shopping. You must have heard of the women, dressed up– um! actually dressed down and displaying themselves behind windows. We did not enter any of these. There the kids put their foot down (much to our relief). In fact we were having an inner fight between embarrassment and intrigue. They are to be found in the red light district. Unfortunately I have no pictures. It was’nt allowed.

Cycling. Cycling is a must in Amsterdam. It’s the best way to see the city. We cycled every where. All hotels provide cycles, or you can hire them. Everyone drives almost the same type of cycle. 50,000 cycles are stolen per year, so the fancy ones are taken out only for recreation. The only problem we encountered was quite hilarious actually. We had trouble finding parking for cycles! It’s safest to lock them again’st poles, and poles were normally taken!! Everyone in that city is armed. The cycle locks are so huge heavy and vicious, one twang across the head and Whoosh!

We saw beautiful houses by the canal. Small but so gorgeous. One day we bought some cheese and wine and saddled up, and cycled to Vondel Park.

Picnic in Vondel Park.
Picnic in Vondel Park.

You must pick up Cheese. Amsterdam is known for it. The shops themselves are very interesting. They offer free tasting. I loved the “old amsterdam” variety.

Heineken Experience. The old brewery has been turned into a museum of sorts. (This is the only one we went to) One gets a nice 4D experience, water sprinkles and all.

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Canals Of Amsterdam.
Vondel Park
Vondel Park

 

Heineken Experience.
Heineken Experience.

EATING PLACES

We ate in road side joints as well as 5 course meals.

Maoz. Must eat. Located all over the city, a super duper cheap and massively filling meal.

Hotel Okura. Five course meal. Fabulous. Even more fabulous for non vegetarians.

The bar in Okura is very lively too.

Chilled Tomato soup In Hotel Okura
Chilled Tomato soup In Hotel Okura

Cooking Class. If you like cooking, book a class in Taste Of Okura- Hotel Okura. Even if you are not staying there. And if you prefer vegetarian, let them know before hand. They accomodate.

Taste of Okura. Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce.
Taste of Okura. Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce.

 

And that’s the summary of our memorable Amsterdam trip.

NOTE : If going with kids, make sure they are adults or atleast somewhere on the way there.