On a quest

Nothing takes the chill out of a wet spring day in Bruges like a good Belgian beer.

It’s often helpful, when visiting new places, to have a goal, a theme, a project, a … quest. Here’s one memorable example of a port call to Bruges, Belgium, in the spring of 2018.

Traveling with our friends Steve and Deb (No, it never got confusing, why do you ask?), the first thing we did after leaving the bus that brought us from the dock was to choose a route into town that took us over the Lake of Love via Lovers Bridge. Touristy, for sure, but it was fun.

As we walked into town, our spirits were diminished just a tad. The Sunday morning was rainy and the temperature hovered below 50 degrees. However, we all dressed appropriately and nothing was going to keep us from fulfilling our checklist.

Next task was to take one of the popular canal boat tours. Considering the weather, sitting in a large canoe in the rain may have required one or two of us to be coerced into climbing aboard. Again, touristy but fun.

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Once we exited the boat and took stone steps back to street level, what did we find but a representative of another Bruges specialty. The Chocolate Crown provided Leah and Deb with an artisan hot chocolate to fight off the chills. (Of course, they shared!)

Leah displays a tasty chocolate nugget with her hot drink.

We worked our way to the market – Bruges Markt – in the center of town. The open area is about the size of two football fields, surrounded by restaurants and other businesses, dotted with food trucks, and hosting horse-drawn carriages and bicycle rentals.

Our objective at this point was to help Steve track down the surprisingly elusive stoofvlees. Their son had directed them to seek out the food, which he compared to Canadian poutine. Alas, it seemed none of the finer restaurants surrounding the market carried the dish. Leah deduced such a delicacy might more likely be served from one of the food trucks around the square and, voila, there it was. So, this is stoofvlees, basically fries covered with beef stew.

Steve showing off the stoofvlees before we started digging in.

Once we all contributed to finishing off the stoofvlees, we started working on the final item on our to-do list. Let’s see, what else is it Belgium is known for?

Oh, I remember (Sidebar: did you know Belgium has three national languages?) … bier in German and Dutch, bière in French.

I had heard of Belgian beers before but hadn’t truly appreciated them until we spent half a month the previous year in Thailand. It’s a beautiful place and we had a ball, but one does not easily find there the dark, stout beers I prefer. However, our last night in Thailand, we joined two other couples at a nice steakhouse and there I found a wonderful Kasteelbier Dark.

In other words, going to Belgium simply for the beer might easily be a defensible proposition.

During our stroll around the wet streets of Bruges, we visited two drinking establishments. The first was the brewery pictured at the top of the article, Bourgogne des Flandres, where Steve and I each had a beer and nobly assisted the ladies in disposing of their flight of six.

We ventured to another popular brewery and found no room available. Therefore, we just walked the streets until we stumbled (figuratively, not literally) upon a hole-in-the-wall pub that was an absolute treat. There, we joined forces to take care of a flight of 12. True to European form, their flight drinks are a bit larger than ours.

We also had outstanding conversation with a young couple from England who were celebrating their first year together. The four of us old-timers offered our encouragement … we can vouch the first 40-plus years had been great!

Certainly, we’ve had pleasant visits to places strange to us by simply walking the streets and seeing what we can find, but having a checklist lends an element of fun and reduces the amount of time standing on a corner trying to decide what to do next.

As always, we’d love to get your story about a fun quest. Click “Leave a comment” below.

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