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48 Hours In Bruges

We recently spent 4 days enjoying the Christmas festivities in Belgium and spent 48 hours in Bruges checking out the fairy tale city.

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Bruges Ice Skating

Maybe that’s what hell is, the entire rest of eternity spent in fucking Bruges – (Ray, Colin Farrell, In Bruges)

Sorry Ray, I have to disagree.

Bruges is a fairy tale.

Ice Skating at Christmas Markets in Bruge

The only problem is that the historic city centre is overrun with tourists. There are just 20,000 residents living in  this section of Bruges and on a busy day the tourists far outnumber them. You can see why the locals get pissed off at tourists wandering into their path as they cycle around the city.

Everywhere we looked we were confronted with people from the UK. And they all had the same idea as us… Christmas markets.

We specifically chose to spend 48 hours in Bruges for the Christmas Markets (and Belgium was a country we hadn’t been to yet). While the Edinburgh markets are great, we wanted to experience a “genuine” Christmas market. However I think we were kidding ourselves in assuming it would be any different. Same wooden booths, same lights, same gorgeous smells wafting through the chilly air and the same people.

Don’t get me wrong. We loved every minute of it. But if you are looking for a traditional Christmas market then you might as well head down to your local one.

So while the markets were a disappoint, Bruges was anything but.

The walled city centre is a World Heritage Site of UNESCO with a canal system dissecting Bruges into small pockets of one way narrow streets and lanes. We love small cities that can be covered on foot or bike and Bruges ticked all the boxes with pedestrians and cyclists dominating. Unfortunately Bruges is not yet completely car free although it is in the pipelines so watch your back as you stroll around.

With all the canals Bruges is often referred to as “The Venice of the North” but is also well known for its chocolate, beer and lace. I definitely like 2 out of the 3.

Our hostel was set along half a block with their own bar (no surprise there) so it was quite a scene. On arrival we were told by the Aussie at the counter that we were sleeping directly above the bar! All this with a smile and thumbs up. Being a group of Aussies and Kiwi’s I guess we were supposed to be stoked…

Exploring our room further we quickly realized that not only were we above the bar but we could see between the floorboards to the bands heads! Even with several glasses of mulled wine and Belgian beers to help we knew there would be no sleep tonight so Adela used her persuasive powers to get us moved.

Enjoying a Bratwurst at the Bruges Christmas Markets

Venturing into the heart of Bruges with foot long bratwursts in hand we wandered through the Christmas markets. A beautiful area that was located in the central square surrounded by historic buildings and overlooked by the Belfry tower made famous from “that” movie. With 366 stairs to the top it may seem daunting but every 50 or so steps your climb is broken by a landing. The views at the top also made it worthwhile. Overlooking the city you get the sense you could glimpse the rest of Europe stretching away to the east.

View from the Bruges Belfry Tower

The only problem is that you don’t want to hang around up there too long. The bells rang loud and true and never seemed to cease. And boy were they deafening.

What amazed me is that they don’t just plug in an iPod and let it play. They actually employ some bloke with a fancy name, a Carilloneur, to play on the wooden hand keyboard. He must love his job to climb those stairs every day. You can actually watch him through his little window about 3/4s of the way up bashing out the latest hits from Lady Gaga. Okay the Lady Gaga part is fake but he does play with great gusto.

Mercifully the lines were not too bad so we were in and out relatively quickly. We had heard reports that you can stand around for half an hour or more waiting to gain entrance.

Walking the city streets and canal banks you don’t want to carry a map. Our favourite part of the trip was spent wandering the maze of alleyways away from the tourist hordes. Stumbling upon hidden cafes and bakeries makes up for hours you will spend enjoying the simple surrounds.

And for a quick day excursion from Bruges hire yourself a bike and ride along the canals out of the city in any direction. We ventured out to Damme which used to be the port for Bruges. While you may not be able to spend hours here it is nice to get out of the hustle and bustle.

To top it all off, at night the city looks like a Roman candle with the buildings draped in decorative twinkling lights. Swans drift lazily under the spotlit bridges that zigzag across the canals while couples stroll hand in hand huddling close together to stay warm from the winter chill.

While two days were plenty long enough I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of eternity chilling out In Bruges.

How can this really be hell Ray?

Bruges by night

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Ryan

    December 12, 2011 at 11:42 AM

    Bruges looks like a fantastic little city, I’ve never understood why people have such a downer on Belgium.

    • Cole and Adela (fourjandals)

      December 12, 2011 at 6:25 PM

      It was awesome Ryan. So close to Edinburgh as well so was perfect for a weekend trip. How can you get down about great beer, chocolate and history!

  2. bronwen burmester

    December 13, 2011 at 1:30 AM

    Now I wanna go there!!!!!! Thanks for the blog. x

  3. Angela

    December 13, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Never been to Bruges, looks lovely and particularly apt for Christmas time 🙂

    • Cole and Adela (fourjandals)

      December 13, 2011 at 4:57 PM

      We love Christmas markets! Have you ever been to any in Europe? Definitely make your way to Bruges, it was awesome and we would go back in a heartbeat.

  4. Natalie

    December 13, 2011 at 2:08 PM

    Ha ha. I would have loved to see the look on your faces when you realised you were staring at the band members heads. Bald spots can be deceiving!

    • Cole and Adela (fourjandals)

      December 13, 2011 at 4:56 PM

      We were not amused! Especially as we have rowdy neighbours that play their bass until all hours of the morning sometimes so just wanted a nice relaxing quiet weekend haha. Luckily they moved us!

  5. Pete Heck

    December 13, 2011 at 7:49 PM

    We never made it to Bruges as we wanted to avoid the tourists. Instead we chose Ghent. But, I have to say, In Bruges is one of my fave movies, and the supposedly charming town is still on my to see list because of Mr. Farrell’s performance.

    • Cole and Adela (fourjandals)

      December 13, 2011 at 10:23 PM

      I saw the movie as well when it first came out. Will have to get it out again now to re-watch it to say “I went there”! We wanted to stop in Ghent but alas, ran out of time. Definitely wayyyy overcrowded with tourists. We should all keep it a secret!

  6. DTravelsRound

    December 13, 2011 at 9:11 PM

    I’ve only been through Belgium, unless you count nights at airport hotels and transit from Brussels airport to Charleroi. The country does look charming and I would really like to take time and visit Bruges. It’s on the list for my next trip!

    • Cole and Adela (fourjandals)

      December 14, 2011 at 9:52 AM

      Brussels was not as nice as Bruges in my opinion but there were nice areas. Would love to visit some areas that were not as touristy as I think the smaller towns like Damme are really cute. Let us know if you want any other tips when you end up going!

  7. The World of Deej

    December 14, 2011 at 2:09 PM

    A friend of mine returned from Bruges not long ago and just raved about it. Guess I’ve got to put it on my list. Great post!

    • Cole and Adela (fourjandals)

      December 14, 2011 at 4:07 PM

      It is a truly beautiful place (in regards to cities that is). Chuck it on the list and you will not regret it!

  8. Bret@ Green Global Travel

    December 14, 2011 at 2:21 PM

    It’s funny, I’ve only ever heard of this place through the movie, and knew nothing about it before reading your story. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Stephanie - The Travel Chica

    December 14, 2011 at 11:06 PM

    After I saw that movie, I wanted to go to Bruges.

  10. cheryl

    December 15, 2011 at 12:01 AM

    Lovely lovely photos. Christmas markets are pretty fun!

  11. Laura

    January 9, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    Your lovely post brought me back to Bruges for a few moments. Thank you for that.

    • Cole

      January 9, 2012 at 7:04 PM

      I am glad we managed to take you on a journey Laura. That is one of the nicest comments we have ever had 🙂

  12. Evan McDonald

    September 5, 2012 at 5:35 AM

    Really wish we had gone to Bruges when we were in Belgium. It sounds amazing!

  13. amanda

    February 17, 2013 at 7:58 AM

    Hi I am new to your blog and am reading through alot of your posts and love both your style of writing and your style of travelling! I was wondering if I could ask your opinion? I am travelling Europe in May. After leaving Amsterdam I will be heading to Frankfurt but have time for a day (maybe half day trip) in either Bruges or Cologne. Have you been to Cologne as well? Which city did you prefer? Thanks and I can’t wait to read through all your backlist of posts!

    • Cole Burmester

      February 17, 2013 at 5:37 PM

      Hey Amanda,
      Thanks for dropping by the blog and hope you enjoy reading it! We actually haven’t been to Cologne but highly recommend Bruges to visit. I have heard Cologne is very nice though. Let us know what you choose 🙂 And feel free to ask comments any time.
      Thanks,
      Cole

  14. amanda

    March 5, 2013 at 2:29 AM

    Hi Cole, I’ve decided to go with Cologne but am hoping I can still fit Bruges into another part of my trip, just doing the itinery shuffle dance! I have now read alot of your blog and joined you guys on instagram – where I just saw some ‘photo flashbacks’ of San Gimignano. I’ll be visiting San Gimignano on my upcoming travels and it is so exciting to hear other traveller’s stories and positive comments about such a beautiful location. It has definitely amped up my excitement to go!

    • Cole Burmester

      March 5, 2013 at 8:21 AM

      Thanks for stopping in Amanda 😀 So pleased you are following us on Instagram too! We haven’t been to Cologne yet so can’t give you any tips unfortunately. But if you need any during your travels then please let us know. Welcome to email us any time too.
      Also, if you liked the Photo Flashbacks of San Gimignano then did you see our post full of photos? https://www.fourjandals.com/europe/tuscany-visiting-san-gimignano-photos/

      Enjoy your travels and maybe we will see you on the road somewhere 🙂

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Adventure Travel

Walking the Camino de Santiago Photos

These are my favourite Camino de Santiago Photos from my pilgrimage along the French Way in March. A truly beautiful way to spend a few weeks.

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Puenta La Reina Bridge Camino Arrow

El Camino de Santiago kicked my ass. Well technically it kicked my feet. Turns out my minimal preparation for the Camino de Santiago was terrible. After a miserable effort of only 4 days, the doctor in Legrono told me that I wasn’t allowed to go on until me feet healed. I had walked just over 100 km’s and my feet were bloodied and blistered.

To be honest, I was relieved.

The thought of putting back on my shoes made my shudder. For the last 9 km’s I had stumbled along in jandals and socks. One of the travelling fashion sins I vowed I would never break.

Jandals on the Camino de Santiago

Jandals on the Camino de Santiago

So while I have unfinished business with the Way of St James (an upcoming post), I did want to share with you some of my favourite photos from the Camino de Santiago. Because I had yet to reach some of the more “unsavoury” parts of the Camino that Sherry Ott had discovered, every step of my pilgrimage had been beautiful.

Puenta La Reina Bridge Camino Arrow

Puenta La Reina Bridge – Camino de Santiago Arrows

There is no way you can get lost on the Camino de Santiago. Arrows, scallop shells and signs point you in the right direction at every bridge, road crossing and intersection.

Camino de Santiago Scallop Shell

Camino de Santiago Scallop Shell

Reaching the top of Alto Pedron gave views back the way I had come from Pamplona, as well as views to where I was going. The rocky path on the way down proved to be my ultimate downfall, as my too small shoes caused my toes to smash into the front.

Alto del Pedron Camino de Santiago

Alto del Pedron Camino de Santiago

Metal Pilgrims on Alto del Pedron

Metal Pilgrims on Alto del Pedron

There were so many beautiful old churches along the Camino de Santiago. But since I was walking in early March, it seemed that most were yet to open for the busier summer season.

Church of Obanos

The Church of Obanos

And between every small village the well-maintained pathways of the French Way wound across the spectacular Spanish countryside.

The French Way - Camino de Santiago

The French Way – Camino de Santiago Photos

Puenta La Reina

Puenta La Reina in the evening

Puenta La Reina has one of the most amazing bridges I have ever seen. It was also the 1st village I had the pleasure of sleeping in after busy Pamplona.

Puenta la Reina Bridge and Sunrise

Puenta la Reina Bridge at sunrise

Most mornings I was up and walking before the sun began to sprinkle across the horizon.

Spring flowers on the Camino de Santiago

Spring flowers on the Camino de Santiago

Pilgrims approaching Cirauqui, Spain

Pilgrims approaching Cirauqui, Spain

Every village and town was built on a small hill. Sure it looks beautiful until you realise you have to go back up again to go through them all!

Church of Santa Maria - Los Arcos

Church of Santa Maria in Los Arcos

While there were only about 20 pilgrims walking each section every day, it wasn’t uncommon for you to encounter them all. The people I met along the Camino de Santiago were some of the most inspiring and remarkable people I have ever spoken to. They are the ones that make the pilrgimage so special.

The endless French Way

The endless French Way

Irache Wine Fountain - Fuente del Vino

The free flowing Irache Wine Fountain or “Fuente del Vino”

Hay bales along the French Way

Hay bales along the French Way

Every village had at least one ancient church and it wasn’t uncommon to find them dotting the landscape in remote locations either.

Ermita de San Miguel

Ermita de San Miguel

Iglesia de San Andrés de Zariquiegui Church

Iglesia de San Andrés de Zariquiegui Church

I have travelled through Spain in the past, including cycling in Costa Brava and surfing in San Sebastian with both independent planning and a vacation planner. But having the opportunity to walk at my own pace through some of the most beautiful scenery in Spain on the Camino de Santiago has so far topped them all.

Natural arches - Camino de Santiago

Natural arches on the Camino de Santiago

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Adventure Travel

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

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Trekking through the valleys of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys with Middle Earth Travel feels more like the set of a Star Wars movie than a historical region once carved out and lived in by humans. Churches, homes and pigeon houses are scattered throughout the valleys, all waiting to be explored. The best part is, Middle Earth Travel know all the hidden secrets.

Standing at the top of Cappadocia

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

On the 26th of July (which just so happens to be my birthday!) Middle Earth Travel took us on their private and guided Top of Cappadocia day trek. From Pasabag, along the top of Cappadocia and down through the Gulludere Rose Valley to Goreme, we trekked 15kms in one day! (We recommend getting your bearings with this map)

Upon arrival to the Middle Earth Offices, we were warmly greeted by our new friend Atil whom we had met a few days earlier while mountain biking through the Kizilcukur Red Valley. We were then introduced to our guide and given a briefing regarding the day. Normally, the Top of Cappadocia tour would start from Çavuşin, however, since we had already explored Çavuşin Castle, they adapted our tour to compensate ensuring we would explore new terrain!

With charged cameras, plenty of water and our running shoes on, we were driven to our starting point of Pasabag. We wandered through the fairy chimneys, coming across camels and markets – then the true hike began.

Pasabag in Cappadocia

The police station in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

It was a slow and gentle incline. With no trees to provide shade, I quickly realised why our tour guide had chosen to wear fully covered clothing! As the sweat quickly set in (a waterfall in Moss’s case) we snapped away with our cameras and enjoyed the entertaining shapes of Imagine Valley and the amazing view. We also passed a lot of rock piles, which according to our guide mean ‘father’ and are built to help lead the way.

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Middle Earth Travel, Cappadocia

Making our way to the top of Cappadocia

Father leading the way (rock pile)

Father leading the way (rock pile)

The higher we trekked, the more breath taking the views became! As we walked along the summit of Bozdag mountain (the Top of Cappadocia) we could see EVERTHING – Pasabag, Çavuşin Castle, Kizilcukur Red Valley, Gulludere Rose Valley and Goreme. We were on the Father of Valleys! After a quick nod of agreement to the guide, we pushed ourselves the extra distance and made our way to the flag, as this HAD to be the highest point and was definitely worth a photo and a selfie or two!

View from the top of Cappadocia

View from the top of Cappadocia

Flag at top of Cappadocia

From the flag we looked down upon Aktepe Hill which is known as a popular destination for watching the sun set and could spot Kizilvadi Restaurant, our destination for lunch! Kizilvadi Restaurant is an attraction of its own. With its own historic winery and Grape church, plus some Middle Earth Travel treks even stay there for the night! After having a massive feed of soup, salad and pasta plus a surprise birthday cake, we made our way down into Gulludere Rose Valley.

Kizilvadi Restaurant

Kizilvadi Restaurant

The scenery is amazing, with strong colours visible in perfect layers on the chimneys, you would wonder what an artist was thinking, had it been a painting. Also, hidden to the side of the track we walked across a little bridge and not expecting anything to be there we were wowed by the massive church carved. It was absolutely huge and hard to believe that its most recent use has been as a pigeon house!

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Church in Gulludere Rose Valley

Hard to believe this Church is carved inside a fairy chimney!

Middle Earth Travel Review

  • The team at Middle Earth Travel were extremely knowledgeable and certainly know Cappadocia’s hidden secrets. They have friendships with local tea garden owners which is also of benefit as it gained us entry to locked churches and hidden rooms that we would not have otherwise seen.
  • We covered a lot of ground, however we did not feel rushed. The whole day focused on showing us the region, therefore we had as much time as we needed to explore each church and to take ‘just one more photo’.
  • It wasn’t all about trekking. With a whole day and 15kms to cover, there were a few silly poses (especially in Imagine Valley), and we learnt a lot about the myths, legends and way of life in Cappadocia.
  • In conclusion I highly recommend Middle Earth Travel if you wish to go trekking or mountain biking in Cappadocia.
  • Cost: Day treks with Middle Earth Travel range from 50-90 euro, depending on the number of people taking part. This includes lunch, guide, vehicle transfers and entrance fees to historical sites, but excludes alcoholic and soft drinks.
  • Middle Earth Travel are outdoor enthusiasts and offer multi-day over night treks, mountain biking, abseiling, or custom made itineraries, in multiple regions throughout Turkey.
  • www.middleearthtravel.com

Disclaimer: We were provided with a discount for the trek with Middle Earth Travel, however, as always our thoughts on our adventure travel blog our own.

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Europe

Amsterdam Food Guide

If you think of Amsterdam you don’t think of food. However if you try the food here in our Amsterdam food guide you might get lucky.

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Amsterdam Food Waffles

We are total foodies and our travelling has allowed our passion for food to grow considerably (not to mention our waist lines)!  We love trying new food when we visit foreign countries and always make a huge effort to eat the local cuisine. Check out some of the food we ate below in our cheap and delicious Amsterdam Food Guide.

Amsterdam Food Waffles

We had heard from a number of people that the Amsterdam food was nothing to rave about. To be honest food was not really our main interest in visiting but then again neither was an Amsterdam Peep show and we ended up enjoying that!

However we were pleasantly surprised. I think the people whom we had talked to had it wrong. Sure Holland doesn’t really have a local cuisine but once we got over this fact we realised there is still some damn good food to be had from the various Amsterdam Restaurants.

Amsterdam Food

The best meal we had was actually next door to the Red Light district in Chinatown. Crossing the canal to the east away from the neon lights your nostrils are attacked and your mouth begins salivating from the delicious smells wafting along the narrow cobbled streets.

As we walked into Bird Thai restaurant the enticing aroma hit us instantly leaving us drooling in anticipation. It was definitely up there with some of the best Thai food we have had. We went for the classic Green curry, fried rice and duck combo.

The Green curry was so flavoursome with the richness of the coconut milk blending perfectly with the traditional spices.  The duck was cooked to perfection and for the first few minutes of the meal all you could hear was the crunching of the crispy outside layer as we devoured the duck in minutes. Needless to say the fried rice was a taste explosion too!

Cheap and delicious Amsterdam food is easy to come by. With hangovers and munchies affecting your hunger it is no surprise that there are an abundance of Fast Food chains and takeaways in Amsterdam. In fact it was actually more the way that the fast food was served that surprised us as you could buy it out of massive vending machines at Febo!

Amsterdam Food Febo

Hidden workers stand behind the vending machines churning out burgers, fries and sausage rolls so all you has to do is insert a Euro and “hey presto” you have a hot meal in your hungry hands.

Then there were the frites stores which seemed to be on every corner. The first thing you noticed about these was the tantalising smell. There is nothing like the smell of chips straight out of the fryer and covered in salt to get you tummy rumbling. Served in a triangle cardboard carton and covered in mayo which meant that that you couldn’t reach the chips at the bottom without covering your greedy fingers in sauce. Just a tad annoying!

But there is nothing like hot chips to warm you up on a cold day.

Finally, while hot chocolates are not typically food I feel they still deserve a mention especially because the usually come paired with waffles! Ahhhh the perfect breakfast.

Amsterdam Hot Chocolate

We loved nipping into a cafe or bar like Cafe Bar Eddy in Amsterdam to warm ourselves up with a hot chocolate. It literally tasted like they had melted chocolate down and added cream. Heaven in a cup. And the choice of waffles was daunting as you could have whatever you wanted. Fruit, chocolate, syrups, cream or all of the above!

If you are heading here then don’t expect to find an array of traditional Amsterdam food. Instead treat yourself to a hot chocolate and waffle for breakfast, grab a quick bite from a vending machine and sample some of the different cuisines found near the Red Light District.

If you stick to this Amsterdam food guide then your taste buds will have a great holiday too!

If you have visited before then what did you think of Amsterdam food?

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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