Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bruges

If you're Irish, then you've probably seen the film "In Bruges" starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Liam Neeson. Farrell and Gleeson play criminals sent by their boss (Neeson) to hide under the radar in the quaint Belgian town of Bruges. Farrell's character is frustrated by the dullness of Bruges and sums it up rather funnily in the line "Ken, I grew up in Dublin. I love Dublin. If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me, but I didn’t, so it doesn’t." Rude comments about Bruges aside, the film does a great job of using the spendid setpieces of scenery available in the town, featuring the Belfry, the Main Square and the canals. The film actually turns out to be rather pro-Bruges and I suspect a lot more Irish tourists have visited the town in the last year than in previous years.


Bruges is only an hour by train from Brussels, making it quite accessibe and the train station is about a 15 minute walk from the Main Square. From the minute you leave the station and enter the clean, paved streets, it's clear that you're being taken back in time. That feeling never leaves you as you wander the town. It's clear that the locals fight to preserve the town just the way it is, with a minimum of the modern world allowed to intrude. (Barring a QuickBurger on the Main Square). Sometimes the tweeness of Bruges is too much and you wonder what modern hi-fis and home cinemas lurk behind those perfect curtains, because surely, the modern world has intruded.


We stayed at the Pand Hotel on Pandreitje. It's a small, family owned hotel with superbly welcoming staff and a champagne breakfast in the morning. The rooms were decorated with Ralph Lauren fabrics, possibly to the point of overkill. We were initially shown to a room with a terrible faded floral pattern and I was resigned to the fact that I had made a bad hotel choice. However, after a few minutes in the room, it became clear that there was a weird odour, and when we complained, we were moved to a nearby room, decorated with a red and white pattern. This was a much better choice, and we slept like logs that night. While the bedrooms may be traditionally decorated, the bathrooms are sleek and modern. Breakfast, while good, was not great, but was alleviated by the charming waiter and the glass of champagne. I enjoyed the Pand Hotel, but if I'm ever back in Bruges, I think there might be better hotels.


The following day, we climbed the Belfry, all 366 steps of it (shown at night in the photo above). As you climb higher, the wide stone steps are replaced with narrower and narrower wooden steps, turning the ascent and descent into a fun experience. You'd bettter pray that you don't meet an overweight or breathless person here. It's well worth the climb though for two reasons. Firstly, the sense of achievement and secondly the view from the top.

I was thrilled to also give my new SLR camera its first proper road trip in Bruges. I've a long way to go in learning how to use the camera but some of my nighttime photos turned out quite nice indeed.

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2 comments

Stephane said...

You should try to stay in the hotel you can see on your first picture. It is amazing. It is the Hotel Bourgondisch Cruyse. The waterview is terrific and the interior just makes you feel like you wake up in the middle ages

Renaat said...

Nowadays there is even a much better option to stay: <a src="http://www.bonifacius.be/>Bonifacius</a>, a very charming 16th century along the canal. It's a private house with 3 guestrooms but with all the luxury of a hotel (minibar on the room, flatscreen TV, free WIFI, jacuzzi,...).

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