It took me two months to share with you, one story at a time, the richness and glory of our September trip to Belgium. Well, here, all in one post, are all those stories and meals and museums and antiquities gathered into one place. After I share this with you, I will just have one more trip, my October trip to Toronto, Canada, to sum up for you, and then I will be caught up and ready to start with all new stories of all new dairy free adventures for 2013.
Day One: Saturday, September 1st: Sleepless in Bruges. After our overnight flight, followed by trains and taxi rides, we checked into our hotel, and then were off almost immediately, to get our obligatory 3 hours of sunlight and start our immersion into Bruges. And what better way to start than with a big bowl of mussels with frites, mayonnaise and beer!
Day two, Sunday, Sept. 2nd: Culture, culture, culture and ah yes, good food! A great day of top museums Groeninge and Gruuthuse and the Our Lady Church with its Michelangelo sculpture, and then a great dinner at a small excellent restaurant, De Pepermolen.
Day 3, Monday, Sept. 3rd: Municipal buildings, canal boat ride and lace demo – what great Bruges tourists we are! For the first time, there was so much that I had to break it into two posts. I planned this day out to the last inch, with it being our last day in Bruges (already!) and we wanted to get in as much as we could. We did a pretty good job of it!
Day 4, Tuesday, Sept. 4th: A Brasserie and a Castle followed by a folk museum and a restaurant named after a folk tale. Our exploration of the trip’s second city, Ghent, begins with a full day of sightseeing and good food. Our hotel, The Ghent River Hotel, turns out to be a real gem.
Day 5, Wednesday, Sept. 5th: The day begins with a jaunt through the historic center of Ghent and ends with dinner in an atmospheric setting. Already into the second half of the trip, we are really hitting our stride.
Day 6, Thursday, Sept. 6: Taxi ride to Ghent’s city museum, then a long walk to the fine arts museum for lunch and art. Our final day in Ghent goes well – we venture outside the historic center to get an in-depth view of Ghent’s history and Belgian art. In the evening, we finally explore the area near our hotel, including dinner in a restaurant in the historic Vrijdagmarkt.
Day 7, Friday, Sept. 7: We arrive in Antwerp and see the Cathedral, then spend the afternoon at the Rubenshuis and Mayer van den Bergh Museum. Our time is limited in Antwerp – just 2 days rather than the 3 days we had in both Bruges and Ghent – so we have to be efficient with choosing where to go and what to see. We were getting a bit tired of the same old Belgian cuisine by then, so we supped at a Vietnamese restaurant, a nice change of pace.
8th and final day, Saturday, Sept. 8: Many ecstatic hours in the morning at a fabulous music museum make an afternoon at an imaginative modernistic museum something of an anti-climax. The Vleeshuis has audio guides with audio clips highlighting all the instruments, ancient and modern in their collection, and we gleefully went from clip to clip, listening with glee. In the afternoon, I finally hit a wall, and try as I could, I couldn’t muster the energy to grasp what I was seeing at the MAS museum. Our trip was done. Our lovely, fun, unbeatable trip to Belgium.
Belgium is an easy place to visit for us Americans. In touristy areas, most people speak English, and restaurant menus are usually in English as well. It’s also an easy place to go dairy free. You may have to stay fairly basic and forgo the rich sauces that are bound to be full of butter and cream. But there’s always frites and mayo to give you the feeling that you are not being left out of the fun!