No visit to Bruges is complete without a boat trip along the canals. Or so they say in every guidebook. Husband and I had done this years ago, remembered it as a fun experience and definitely wanted to do it again on this trip. Not so enamoured with it unfortunately, just a bit disappointed and I wouldn’t do it again. Sometimes good memories should be left alone….
We joined the largest line ever to board our boat. Armed with ice-creams the wait wasn’t actually as bad as it first seemed and the line moved speedily. The boat trips run pretty much constantly and take half an hour. There are lots of different places throughout the city where you can catch the boat, we just picked the first one we came upon. They say viewing the city from the water gives it a totally different feel than on foot. I preferred the “on foot” views.
We were the last to board our boat, Husband got a seat at the side, Son and I had to squirm into the middle and take the final two places. Crammed in like sardines I took no pictures – too many heads in the way. The views are pretty but the commentary was limited (being polite) and poor (being honest). I was glad to get off in the end – a touch claustrophobic and not a fun experience at all. Husband had a marginally better experience, Son paid no attention whatsoever to the scenery and spent the entire half hour chatting to a new found friend. To be fair, I think it was the crowds and crowds of people and the production line feel of the whole experience that put me off. Had it been another time of year, less busy and we’d had more space on the boat it would have been a very different tale.
Back on dry land we had a walk around arcaded Vismarkt, the old fish market and then strolled down to Nieuwe Gentweg and the almshouses. We were blown away by the beauty here, this is a stunning spot. The courtyard garden of these houses built in 1613 is a real oasis of calm in the midst of this busy city.
More strolling past more lovely canals and we reached the Begijnhof – once a large, enclosed sanctuary for women whose husbands were fighting in the Crusades. This is another of those incredibly tranquil places. Today it is partly occupied by Benedictine nuns but you can step inside the courtyard and have a look at the cluster of 17th century whitewashed houses. Quiet and calm behaviour is expected – strangely when that is called for it seems to have the opposite effect on Son, we didn’t linger too long.
Just out the back is Lover’s Lake or Minnewater – so picturesque, it is actually joined to a reservoir and the canal system. Apparently from time to time you might see boats on it. Sitting on the wall and soaking up the tranquil atmosphere was more than pleasant – for five minutes or so anyway before Son wanted to get going again. Gorgeous, the other side of busy and bustling Bruges.