Our third and last day in Bruges was a spectacularly full one. A first-rate lunch at Cambrinus was the centerpiece, surrounded by visits to the Sint-Salvators Cathedral, the Stadhuis (Town Hall) complex in the Burg and the Lace Museum, along with a canal boat ride.
The day began with breakfast from a lovely spread in the breakfast room at Hotel Ter Reien. While I could not indulge in the crepes and cheeses offered there, there was still a lot left over for me: ham and salami, hard-boiled eggs, crusty rolls and fruit cocktail, all washed down with something called a “Vitamin Drink” which tasted like watered-down orange juice and peach nectar.
Before breakfast, I had taken a moment to once again enjoy the gorgeous view from our canal-side hotel room.
Now, as we set off on our last day in Bruges, I paused to take in the vista looking down the canal next to our hotel.
And we were on our way! Our first stop was across town at the Sint-Salvators Cathedral.
Bruges is full of many beautiful old churches, but the cathedral is one of the most beautiful I have seen. It wasn’t always the cathedral – when the former Cathedral of St. Donation was destroyed after the French Revolution, Sint Salvator assumed that role. And it certainly has the monumental grandeur that you expect from a cathedral.
As I remembered it from the last time I visited Bruges, the cathedral has the most amazing pulpit.
Among other treasures that the cathedral displays is a Medieval gold tabernacle.
Our next stop was to double back to the Burg and see the three sights on the southern edge of the square: the Basilica of the Holy Blood, the Stadhuis (Town Hall) and the Museum of the Liberty of Bruges.
We began with the Holy Blood Basilica. Unfortunately, there was a mass taking place in the Romanesque lower chapel, so we were only able to see the upper room, the Basilica with the altar upon which the glass vial containing the drops of Jesus’ blood resides.
Next we entered the Renaissance Hall, the one example of a Renaissance building in Bruges (the rest of the town is mostly Medieval and Baroque structures).
The Renaissance Hall is the home of the municipal government, including an old courtroom that is its main attraction. The monumental fireplace in the courtroom is decorated with an extraordinary wood and marble mantelpiece honoring Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
While I would normally not expect to spend any amount of time looking at a mantelpiece, his one is so richly detailed that it takes a while to really take it all in. And it is not without good reason that the audio guide, which is complementary, has about a dozen entries describing different facets of the mantelpiece.
Finally, we entered the third of the buildings, the Stadhuis, which stands in between the other two. The lobby of the Stadhuis is filled with portraits of important officials in Bruges’ history; however, the main attraction is the Gothic Hall on the second floor, fully decorated with scenes from Bruges’ history. Once again, a very fine audio guide was included in the cost of the ticket, and we listened and gaped at the beautiful murals and ornamentation on the walls and ceiling.
We had worked up quite an appetite and it was time for lunch. Bierbrasserie Cambrinus is not far from the Burg, so that was where I suggested we eat.
Beer is the star at Cambrinus. The menu is really a bible of beers, and there are many food items stewed in beer served there as well. For my beer, I chose a local favorite, Steenbrugge (we like the sound of the name, since Eileen and Therese’s family name is Steen).
For my lunch, I chose two hearty dishes: a duck breast salad and beer sausages. The salad came with frites and home-made mayonnaise (of course), so this was an incredibly filling and satisfying lunch. The salad was a surprise: thin slices of the very rare duck breast laid in a circle around the plate, topped with arugula and strawberries, with strawberry sauce and mustard vinaigrette. The beer sausages were, well, beer sausages: spicy, fatty, delicious.
After eating that lunch, I would’ve loved to have taken a nap. But there were more wonders in store for us, on our last day in Bruges. In my next post, I will conclude my story of our adventures that day!