I hated the movie. Let's just get that out in the open. I didn't think it was funny, and I did the the violence was gratuitous and weird. Granted, I was a sophomore in high school when I watched it so maybe my feelings would change if I watched it again, but I was not going to Bruges with the mind to trace Colin Farrell's footsteps.
I mentioned before how I think walking tours are great. Nerdy and touristy, but also really helpful to kind of shake hands with a city and get oriented before you start wandering around blindly on your own. So when K and I arrived for our 48 hours in Bruges after another overnight bus, and it was raining and cold, we still decided to brave it out and take the tour. OH MAN. What a simultaneously great and terrible idea. We were frozen and crabby by the halfway mark, and skipped out on the end, but we also got the most comedic mileage out of this tour guide than from anything else on the trip. This guy was a character. A Real Character. (Eh?) His style was basically swearing, sex jokes, talking about the movie, and lies about architecture that he then followed up by a "Just kidding!" and moved on to the next location. But he did tell us about the place to get the best chocolate in town, so kudos there. At the time, we didn't feel too bad not giving him a tip, but then we proceeded to run into him a couple more times before we left. Bruges is small, you guys.
FOODAlert, alert! It is very important that you go to The Old Chocolate House. I read about it on another blog in my pre-travel research about Bruges, and I couldn't be happier that we went in real life. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but upstairs is a little tea room with bowls of hot chocolate that I'd drown in happily. Let me spin you a yarn: you creak your way up a narrow staircase, are seated in this tiny parlor and handed a menu. I got my waffle, K got some ginger bread, and we both got "a hot chocolate." A few minutes later, we're handed these bowls of hot milk and a tray with some biscuits and little chocolate cups. You drop your chocolate cup in the milk and whisk to your heart's content. I am not speaking in hyperbole when I say that this was the best thing we consumed on the trip, and possibly in my entire life. I was stoked the entire time we were there. Mmm. Mm. Mm. Mm.
Other necessary Belgian foods include (but are not limited to. I mean go crazy, people.) frites and waffles. In the main market square near the Belfry, there are two frites stands that battle it out for the title of best fries in town. We went and asked for some garlic sauce, which was a stellar idea we heard from two Canadian tourists staying at our hostel.
Our weird walking tour guide told us about a waffle truck parked in the Burg square that supposedly has the best in town. And you get a coupon on the tour, which is never a bad idea when trying to scrimp.
FUNAs I said, Bruges is pretty small, and while there are tons of places to drink beer, and a couple places to go look at art, the first isn't my scene and the second seemed too expensive when combined with our other upcoming museum fees for places we knew we definitely wanted to go. So Bruges became a shopping and walking city.
The first store I want to rave about is The Old Curiosity Shop, located at Walstraat 8 8000. It is an ephemera mess masterpiece, filled to bursting with piles of vintage postcards, war propaganda and movie star posters. But in my mind, the character who owned the place won the laurel; the whole while we were exploring he was puttering away in the back of the shop in his purple sweater, smoking a cigarette and softly singing along to the mix of 1940s big band, and modern American pop that floated out from his radio. When I asked if he'd allow me to take a photo in his store, he replied "Of course! I will become notorious in America!" Indeed yes, sir.
The second is Madame Mim (Hoogstraat 29), which was simultaneously one of the coolest and cheapest vintage shops I've ever been in, which is saying something considering it's on the Euro. Handmade lace in a stupid souvenier store? Obscenely expensive. A much larger, vintage handmade doiley for grandma from Madam Mim's? 4 euros. Deal. The store is a mix of vintage and beautifully upcycled items that Madam Mim makes herself from her estate sale finds. It's also charmingly arranged and is the best kind of touchable museum there is.
SLEEPNothing can really compare to our cheap and stylish Prague hostel, but for our two nights in Bruges, we stayed at Hostel Lybeer, which we felt was a good choice. The common room is decorated in a mix of old world and "young-hip-travelers" style, and the dorms feel like you're sleeping on a spaceship. Your beds are inside these rectangular pods, and stacked on top of each other. Check out K's instagram for proof. I've slept on cleaner mattresses, but it was kinda fun regardless.
IF YOU'RE GOING:
Check out this map. There was a stack of these maps in the foyer of our hostel; it's funny and really seems to know where the good stuff is. I had my nose in one of these for the majority of our time here, and without fail, it steered us toward the cool stuff.
All in all, Bruges is really a fairy tale city in a lot of ways. On one hand, it's stunning and doesn't feel real because everything is beautiful. On the other, it feels like a pop up town for tourists, and I had a nagging feeling I was on my own version of The Truman Show. But I'll trade my privacy for some swans and gable steps, so I'm incredibly glad we went. Next up, a brief stop in London.