Thursday, November 24, 2011

'Intocht van Sinterklaas' (Arrival of Sinterklaas)

As what seems to now be typical on a normal, quiet Sunday afternoon there was a parade outside our house.

This parade was due to Sinterklaas arriving in Bruges. The arrival of Sinteklass into town is a huge event and is often broadcast on television.

It is said that Sinterklaas travels from Spain (because he brings mandarin oranges) by boat. Once he arrives he parades on his gray horse, and his Zwarte Piet assistants throw sweets into the crowd.

Sinterklaas delivers gifts to children on 6th December, with the help of Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), a servant of Sinterklaas. Belgian children put a shoe in front of the fireplace with a treat for Sinterklaas and his horse. The 6th December is very much celebrated like we celebrate Christmas Day with presents from Father Christmas. This day is mainly for children, and Christmas Day is is for family and presents for everyone.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Basilica of the Holy Blood

We recently visited the Basilica which is situated in the corner of the Burg. It is named after the relic of Christ's blood which the Basilica was built to house. The Flemish knight Derrick of Alsace returned from the Second Crusade in the Holy Land in 1149 and is said to have brought with him a phial containing some drops of Jesus's blood. It is said that at various times the dried blood became liquid. This phial is carried through the streets of Bruges in the Ascension Day procession. People can go up and touch the relic, for a small voluntary contribution of course.

The Basilica is divided into two chapels. The more recent Gothic Upper Chapel has lots of mural decorations dating from the 19th Century.

The Romanesque lower chapel has preserved its original style.

The Basilica is definitely worth a quick visit and is free to enter.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Staminee De Garre

One of our favourite bars to take people in Bruges is Staminee De Garre. They have around 150 beers on offer but recommended is their own house brew which is 11.5% (and limited to three glasses per person).


They also serve seasonal fruit beer which is popular in Belgium.

The bar is down a blink-and-you-miss-it alley between the Burg and the Markt, and is usually fairly busy, but the drink, service, and atmosphere makes it well worth a visit.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Saturday Market at the 't Zand Bruges

First stop when Matt's family came to visit was the market at the 't Zand to stock up on meats, cheeses, olives etc.

Although it has a lot less charm than the Wednesday market in the Markt, this morning market has a lot more stalls, including more rotisserie chickens, olive stalls, and stalls selling clothes.

There other part of the market, aimed more at locals, is just left of Smedenstraat just off the 't Zand.

This part of the market sells fresh fruit and vegetables, live chickens, ducks, and rabbits, pets supplies and pets, and plants and flowers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Damme again.....

We have still been enjoying the walks around Damme. We have found somewhere more quieter to walk (by accident when Kerri was learning the drive the new car).

We also came here on Saturday for our post-engagement, hangover-curing, morning walk.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Our weekend in Paris

This weekend for Matt's birthday we went to Paris for two nights, arriving late Friday night. and leaving lunch time on Sunday (Matt's birthday). It took under 3 hours to get there by car. We stayed in a good hotel in Montmartre (the highest hill in Paris) near the Sacre Coeur and the Moulin Rouge.

Friday night we stayed near the hotel and went out for a few (expensive) drinks. In most of the places we went to in Paris a 50cl of beer was €8! Wine was fairly reasonable so we mostly stuck to that.

As it was our first time in Paris as adults we visited all of the touristy attractions on Saturday. We started off at the Abbesses Metro station in Montmartre (above). This Art Nouveau station has one of the only two remaining original Hector Guimard metro entrances in Paris.

We walked along the River Seine to the Eiffel Tower, passing Pont Alexandre III, one of the most ornate bridges complete with Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, and nymphs, linking Place Des Le Invalides and Le Grand Palais.

We had an early lunch picnic under the Eiffel Tower (provided free by the hotel - great idea)! We would have liked to have gone up the Eiffel Tower but pre-booked tickets had sold up, and it would have taken up a lot of our one day of sightseeing so we decided to give it a miss this time. It was lovely weather so we were happy to sit on the grass in front of the Tower. We found a quiet spot away from the hawkers and the deaf/mute girls who want money (yet somehow they could talk to each other when they thought no-one was listening). Not sure whether the army guys walking around with guns made us feel uneasy or safe.

On the way to the Arc De Triomphe we wandered through the Photoquai Exhibition which was next to the river, part of the Musee du Quai Branly. It's aim is to give non-Western photography a chance and compare points of view. We would have liked to have seen more of the exhibition rather than just the displays out by the river, but we didn't think we could fit it in to our day.

We noticed that someone has their house underneath the exhibition....

We unintentionally wandered past the Statue of Liberty Flame, which was offered to Paris in 1989 and is an exact replica of the flame carried by the Statue of Liberty. It's situated above the tunnel where Princess Diana died so the area has now become a sort of shrine to Diana.

Finally we made it to the Arc De Triomphe after spending ages trying to find the subway to get us to the middle of the 'no-rules' roundabout.

The views from the top were amazing! It was interesting to see that people had proper gardens with woods on top of their buildings.

We then briefly visited Notre Dame but decided not to go inside and went for our first beer of the day instead.

Our final destination of the day was the Sacre Coeur (the white church) on top of Montmartre Hill.

The views from the top of the hill were pretty impressive. We looked around inside but only briefly. Due to the number of people we found that we were herded around quickly.

We saw this sign near the sacre Coeur:

We walked back to the hotel which was nearby and caught the end of some carnival with music.

In the evening we went our for a meal somewhere near Montmartre. It's very difficult to find anywhere that does a decent vegetarian meal. We ended up at an Italian called Victoria Station which imitates an old fashioned train carriage. Sounds tacky but it was actually quite cosy. We watched the pizzas being made, the service was good, and we weren't paying a fortune for a simple meal.