I fell in love with Bruges in 1984. Small and medieval with intricate Flemish architecture, it was the most romantic place I could imagine. Canals, lace still made by hand with wooden spindles, ivy and swans, old city gates, window boxes and baskets overflowing with flowers, even a Lake of Love. I stayed with an old woman who rented out her room, and she was precious. Her husband was from Spain; she said he was a guest that never left. For the next several trips to Europe, I would visit Bruges and stay with her. She made terrific pancakes with leftover bread and apricot marmalade, and she would loan me a bike so I could explore the town. Mark and I went to Bruges years later, in 2009. She was long gone but I really wished we could have stayed with her.
In recent years, we’ve branched out a bit, adding Ghent and Antwerp into the repertoire. Both are beautiful as well but a bit less overrun than Bruges. Bike tours are a nice way to discover an area, and especially when they are combined with the ‘Holy Belgian Trinity’ of fries, beer, and chocolate.
I’ll be honest – we’ve never made it to Brussels, the capital, but it’s on the list.