Getting Blown Away by Bruges

Having heard about the magic of Bruges by a lot of travelers, we couldn’t miss out on the chance of seeing the city with our own eyes. You may recall from our days in Brussels (read about here) that it was raining a lot. We were finally starting to get wise, checking the weather forecast before leaving, and saw that the rains in Bruges were not supposed to start until about 10:00am. Somehow, we managed to haul our very jetlagged selves out of bed extra early, for a vacation that is, and catch the 7:00am train to Bruges.  The train is direct and only about an hour, just enough time to catch a few more zzz’s before exploring for the day.

 

Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

One of the benefits of getting up early, was that the town was still primarily asleep. As we made our way from the train station in Bruges to the city center, we had the entire streets to ourselves and could take as many pictures as we wanted without any pesky tourists getting in the way. On the main square in the center, the vendors at the farmer’s market were only just starting to set up and the big tour buses haven’t arrived yet.

 

Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

 

Bruges is famous for both its canals and for being one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in Europe. We had high expectations and we loved the architecture and canals. The city truly gives off a historic feel and we enjoyed wandering around the cobblestone streets.

 

 

Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

 

Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

 

 

 

The Belgians really love their doors and door knobs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right on cue, the rains began around 10:00am and so we took shelter in our new favourite coffee shop chain, Le Pain Quotidien. The quaint restaurant was set up in a typical Belgian brick building, decorated with rustic wood furniture, bows and flowers.

 

Le Pain Quotidien in Bruges - Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

Le Pain Quotidien in Bruges - Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

Le Pain Quotidien in Bruges - Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

Le Pain Quotidien in Bruges - Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

Le Pain Quotidien in Bruges - Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

Bettina couldn’t resist the turmeric latte and the smoked salmon and egg breakfast, while I was still working on my pain au chocolat fix.

 

Le Pain Quotidien in Bruges - Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

Le Pain Quotidien in Bruges - Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

Le Pain Quotidien in Bruges - Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

Le Pain Quotidien in Bruges - Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

After a bit of window shopping (and real shopping for Bettina) we had passed by our day in Bruges.

 

Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

It is a great little city that you can easily spend a day or two wandering the streets and stepping back in time. We appreciated the early morning the best as it was quiet and uninterrupted, while the city seemed to fill with tourists later in the day, and this was on a rainy day in March!

 

Le Pain Quotidien in Bruges - Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

Blown away by Bruges - The Next Trip

 

In short, we were blown away by Bruges and will definitely be back!


 

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Raining Like Waffles in Brussels

We arrived in Amsterdam feeling surprisingly well rested and were soon on the high-speed Thalys train from Amsterdam-Schipol to Brussels. Check out our trip itinerary here. We were greeted by rain, rain, and more rain. There is always a risk of poor weather when travelling in the offseason, and especially in Europe, March and April can be quite gray and rainy which would be the theme of the European leg of our trip. (You can read about the North American leg of our trip here and here.)

After what seemed to be a slight break in the weather, we set off to explore Brussels. We had only made it a few blocks though before the rains resumed and so we took up refuge in Galeries St. Hubert, which is a beautiful covered shopping arcade, perfect for us to wander through on a rainy day.

 

Raining Like Waffles in Brussels - The Next Trip

 

With this being very close to Easter, the Belgium chocolate houses were out to impress with their Easter displays!

 

Chocolate Display in Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Chocolate Display in Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Chocolate Display in Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Chocolate Display in Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Macarons Brussels - The Next Trip

 

We may have sampled one or two items, and couldn't resist stopping for a coffee at Le Pain Quotidien, which gets Bettina every time with their French countryside décor.

 

St. Hubert in Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Le Pain Quotidien in Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Naturally, we also had cravings/withdrawals for pain au chocolat that needed to be fulfilled!

 

Le Pain Quotidien in Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Le Pain Quotidien in Brussels - The Next Trip

 

We continued our tour of Brussels, and were in awe of the architecture at Grand Place, a huge city square surrounded in 14th century buildings. (Full disclosure: While we did take a lot of pictures on the first day it was cloudy and grey, so these pictures are all from when we returned late the next day!)

 

Grand Place Brussels - The Next Trip

 

European architecture is truly amazing. We could have stood there and admired the square and its beautiful buildings for hours.

 

Grand Place Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Grand Place Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Grand Place Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Exploring more of the city - we stumbled across lush parks and more impressive architecture.

 

Exploring Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Exploring Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Exploring Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Exploring Brussels - The Next Trip

 

And of course, we couldn't resist getting some waffles to keep us going.

 

Raining Like Waffles in Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Jetlag got the better of us in the early evening, and we headed back to the hotel, equipped with a bottle of red wine and some of Belgium's finest cheese and bread.

Bettina and I like to tour cities during day and night-time, as often times, a city completely transforms. We found Brussels to be very lively at night and just as picturesque as during the day time.

 

Grand Place Brussels at Night - The Next Trip

 

Grand Place Brussels at Night - The Next Trip

 

Grand Place Brussels at Night - The Next Trip

 

Grand Place Brussels at Night - The Next Trip

 

And the best part about touring Brussels at night is the mandatory and famous midnight snack - Belgian fries. After doing some research, Bettina found Fritland, which is everything you would think it is by its name - and so delicious!

 

Fritland in Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Of course we couldn't miss out on dessert which was Belgian chocolate samples at almost every chocolaterie. And there are quite a few as you could imagine.

 

Exploring Brussels - The Next Trip

 

On our last morning, Bettina (ever in search of interesting coffee shops) and I (ever in search of caffeine) enjoyed coffee with a view at the café at the musical instruments museum, the mim restaurant.

 

Exploring Brussels - The Next Trip

 

MIM Restaurant in Brussels - The Next Trip

 

You basically need to walk into the lobby of the museum and take a super old school elevator to get to the top floor of the building. We had read online before visiting that the service wasn’t great and that you should only go for the view. Let’s just say the view and the service lived up to their reputations.

 

MIM Restaurant in Brussels - The Next Trip

 

MIM Restaurant in Brussels - The Next Trip

 

MIM Restaurant in Brussels - The Next Trip

 

We enjoyed another leisurely stroll through the city, knowing we would leave the next day.

 

Exploring Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Bettina particularly loved this old carousel which we found in Brussels Park.

 

Exploring Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

Exploring Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Exploring Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Exploring Brussels - The Next Trip

 

And she couldn't resist the spring flowers groing everywhere.

 

Exploring Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Exploring Brussels - The Next Trip

 

Looking for some small-town Belgium charm, we left on a daytrip to Bruges the next day.


 

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A Weekend in Paris

I truly love Paris. I know it's a bit of a cliche, but the city has so much to offer and is so charming in its own ways, I can't resist it. I have been there a few times now but still get super excited when we plan another trip or layover in Paris. Some would say that doing a weekend in Paris is a bit crazy (and they are probably right), especially given that it's an 8 hour flight from Chicago. But it was still totally worth it. The weird thing is when we're out of town on the weekend, it feels like we can slow down time a little bit and that we're actually gone 3-4 days instead of just 2.

We took an overnight flight from the U.S. to Paris and arrived at 9am, supposedly ready to start our weekend in Paris and to explore the city all day. The reality looked a bit different. We both worked on the flight and at best got 2-3 hours of sleep so we needed a lot of coffee to get us through the day. We stayed at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme which was a dream. After we had successfully surprised my parents (read the exciting story and watch the reveal video here) we were off exploring the city on this beautiful spring day.

 

A weekend in Paris - Walking around Place Vendome

 

A weekend in Paris - Bettina and her mom

 

We strolled through parks...

 

Walking through a park in Paris - after the surprise in Paris

 

A weekend in Paris - Strolling through parks

 

A weekend in Paris - strolling through parks

 

Enjoyed the beautiful flowers blooming everywhere...

 

A weekend in Paris - Blossoms and spring fashion

 

Shop My Look

 

I picked up this adorable purse in Venice earlier this year but flower prints are all in trend right now. I link a few options here.

 

Shop Floral Purses

 

And stopped by the Louvre.

 

Exploring the Louvre in Paris during our surprise in Paris

 

A weekend in Paris - exploring the Louvre

 

A weekend in Paris - Lantern by the Louvre

 

I couldn't resist grabbing some crêpes on the way. I don't really have a sweet tooth but I knew if I got one that Kyle would happily eat the rest! 🙂

 

A weekend in Paris - Eating Crepes

 

After our snack, we continued our self-created walking tour to Palais Royal for some mandatory snaps.

 

A weekend in Paris - Photo by Palais Royale

 

A weekend in Paris - Palais Royale

 

Exhausted from all the walking, we took a real break and sat down for an apéro - wine, cheese, cured meats, grissini, and escargots. (I remembered eating escargots as a kid and not liking them so I cautiously tried them and was surprised by how much I like them now! It's weird how your taste buds change over the years.)

 

A weekend in Paris - Bettina and her mom enjoying an apero

 

I was in heaven with this great selection of cheeses.

 

A weekend in Paris - cured meats and cheese apero

 

A weekend in Paris - wine and escargots

 

Because no trip to Paris would be complete without seeing the Notre-Dame, we continued our tour towards Ile de la Cité.

 

A weekend in Paris - Ile de la cite

 

A weekend in Paris - Eiffel tower

 

A weekend in Paris - Notre-Dame Cathedral

 

 

Saturday evening, we grabbed an Uber and headed to Montmartre, a part of town in the 18th arrondissement, for dinner, enjoying the sights along the way.

 

A weekend in Paris - Sunset by the Opera

 

If you're ever in Paris, you have to stop by Le Relais Gascon. It's a cute little restaurant very close to Sacré-Coeur. With little, I mean a lot of tables crammed into a small space - very European style. They have two locations, although I like this one better because of the ambiance.

 

A weekend in Paris - Dinner at le Relais Gascon

 

They are known for their incredible salads. I know what you're thinking - you don't go to Paris to eat salads. Trust me, you don't want to skip out on these.

 

A weekend in Paris - Salad at le Relais Gascon

 

The salads are all covered with home-made potato slices which are similar to chips, and come with melted goat cheese, bacon, and other great toppings. It's anything but your typical salad and it's so delicious! The portion is very large and I've rarely seen anyone finish it. If you're not in the mood for salad, their other creations are also outstanding.

Exhausted after a very long day (Kyle and I hadn't really slept since we left Chicago) and stuffed with salad (didn't think I would ever be able to honestly say that), we headed back to the hotel and to bed.

We started our Sunday with a typical French breakfast - pain au chocolat and coffee...

 

A weekend in Paris - French breakfast

 

Followed by some window shopping...

 

A weekend in Paris - Window shopping at Guerlain

 

A weekend in Paris - Window shopping at Guerlain

 

And some real shopping (no, not for me, we shopped for Kyle) later on.

Although our flight home was at 6pm, which is relatively late for a flight from Europe to the U.S., we wanted to get to the airport early as the line-ups at Charles de Gaulle Airport can be very long and we weren't able to check in online. Sad to say goodbye, my parents left to drive back to Switzerland and we were headed home.

A weekend in Paris - Aerial view of Chicago

 

It was a truly successful weekend in our books. Would you do a weekend in Paris even if it was an 8 hour flight? What was your shortest trip? Let us know in the comments below.

 


 

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