I know, I know. But really, what else could it be titled? Possibly ‘The Battle of Chocolate’ (in our opinion – after robust research in both countries – Swiss wins, but the hot chocolate drinks available on every corner in Bruges made for close competition); or ‘Is Everyone Impersonating The Movie Or Are There Really That Many Brits Here?’ (an alternate theory was that the city employed roguish types to walk around town talking loudly to give a certain hit-man ambience).
Titular concerns aside, we were indeed In Bruges last weekend for a pre-Christmas catch up with Dom and Roh. Given that we’re now a family and all, we opted to do the classic family style travel: car packed at night (complete with thermos, picnic and old school esky water bottle) and a revoltingly early start with the still sleepy kids thrown into the car as early as we could muster. We drove across five countries in the space of a few hours and made it to Bruges in time for lunch. And by lunch, you know I mean lunch Belgian style.
The city itself, particularly as it was decked out for Christmas, was the effing fairytale town promised by the film (and by a stranger on a bus last week at home, who overheard me telling the kids we’d be going there and promptly advised me it’s ‘even nicer than Luzern’).
A world heritage site, known as the Venice of the North due to its extensive and beautiful canal system, the town boasts a beautiful 13th century belfry (also one of the world’s highest brick structures), religious relics and famous art. None of these cultural delights were of even remote interest to the Purlers once we heard there was a Christmas market in town. For us, the attractions were dodgem cars, carousels and Glühwein.
We’d been promised appalling weather for the entire weekend so had mentally prepared ourselves for dashes between indoor activities (ok, cafes), grizzly kids and numb extremities. On Saturday we decided to stroll along the canals in search of the windmills on the outskirts of town, and despite getting caught in a brief hailstorm (much to the delight of Addie and the nonchalance of our hibernating bear), the weather remained chilly but dry. Our excursion revealed gingerbread-esque houses, cobbled alleys and medieval pubs (sadly too small for our somewhat unruly crowd) (by which I mean Dom and Roh, of course).
After a few days In Bruges, it was time for the epic road trip home which we broke up with a late lunch in nearby Brussels. I’d been to the city about 15 years previously and remembered precisely none of it. We made our way to the Grand Place (rendered attractive to the almost three year old not due to its fabulous architecture but rather the gasp inducing enormous Christmas tree in its centre).
As always, we made sure we sampled as many local delicacies as possible: moules frites, frites, and more frites. There was also pigeon, rabbit in beer sauce, a local fish specialty and a world of magnificent pastries, cheese and charcuterie. All this gluttony has clearly rubbed off on the next generation: in our final lunch before parting ways, our lad made his mama proud – and not a little revolted – as he knocked back anything and everything that crossed his path.
The festive season officially kicked off, we’re now back In Luzern. The Advent calendar countdown has started, the ice skating rink is in action, and the Christmas markets are serving sausages and hot wine to the merry sounds of the carousel, all of which are providing excellent bribery tools for young and old Purlers alike. Our next epic trip is of even larger proportions: we head to Australia for a heavenly, sunny six(ish) weeks, departing just before the kids’ birthdays. There are not enough thermoses (thermi?!), picnics and water bottles that can assist us with that flight, but we sure are looking forward to being In Sydney in a few weeks.