Bruges 2015 – Day 1 (Travel, Bruges)

Saturday, 12th December 2015 – London, Bruges

This trip came about because we’d fancied a “Christmas Markets” type weekend away in the run up to Christmas and as I was hunting for something that appealed a deal came up for a Eurostar and hotel package at a price that was too good to walk away from. We hadn’t been to Bruges together and it was ages since I’d been so we booked, which was how we came to find ourselves parking up at Luton Parkway station and hopping a train to St. Pancras to get the Eurostar to Brussels, from where we would pick up a regional train to Bruges.

We decided that as we were actually going on holiday (as in this was a trip that didn’t involve any motorsport of any kind) we’d be doing this in style, so with that in mind we settled in at Searcy’s Champagne Bar at St. Pancras and ordered a late breakfast of Eggs Benedict (Lynne) and Eggs Norwegienne (me) and a glass of champagne.

searcys-champagne-bar-eggs-norwegienne-008_23167638314_oWe took our time over the meal while we gazed in disbelief at the “Christmas Tree” set up on the floor below which appeared to be made entirely of Disney toys. It was hideous!

searcys-champagne-bar-disturbing-disney-tree-001_23795776275_oWith plenty of time to spare we made our way to the platform, stopping off to upgrade our tickets to First Class (having discovered it was around £20 each to do so) and boarded the train to Brussels. On board they insisted on feeding us, and there was more champagne, which meant the journey passed pleasantly and in a bit of a haze

bruges-eurostar-to-brussels-001_23167635974_oOnce in Brussels we figured out which of the many platforms at Brussels Midi was the one we needed for the next train to Bruges (actually we should have checked to see which was the fastest of the trains to Bruges but we didn’t think of that – probably because of the champagne). We settled in and soon discovered that this was the stopping train, and then some. Something in the region of 18 stops later we finally made it to Bruges, having taking three and a bit hours to get from Brussels, which is not exactly far.

It was time to grab a taxi to the hotel, rather than dragging wheeled cases over cobbled streets, and so it was we arrived at the Hotel de Medici just outside the main centre of Bruges and settled in to what may be the most poorly lit hotel room anywhere in Europe! It was comfortable enough but the positioning of the lights meant that you couldn’t see inside the black wardrobe and if you had the wardrobe door open you couldn’t get into the bathroom! Call it a design flaw…

bruges-at-night-saturday-005_23687329762_oAnyway our somewhat late arrival in Bruges meant we had to rush around to get ready to go out to dinner at De Florentijnen, as we only had 30 minutes before our booking. We ordered a taxi and proceeded to rush around the room, trying not to end up in the wardrobe by accident!

We made it with time to spare and were able to admire the modern space that has been made in an old merchant’s house, and were soon able to also admire the modern take on Belgian and French classics emerging from the kitchen. For a Saturday night it seemed oddly quiet but the maitre d’ informed us that it was because of the time of year – most people were preparing for Christmas not going out in the run up to it.

Anyway despite that they looked after us well, starting with the amuse bouches, which included hare pate, pumpkin soup and a prawn croquette.

de-florentijnen-amuse-bouches-hare-pate-pumpkin-soup-prawn-croquette-001_23427836369_oThey were delicious and it boded well for what was to come. What followed next was in no way an anticlimax, with foie gras, pumpkin chutney, pata negra ham and some superb raisin bread.

de-florentijnen-foie-gras-doie-pumpkin-chutney-pata-negra-ham-raisin-bread-003_23168965223_oNext up was a dish of scallops with a parmesan risotto, green herbs and chorizo, a dish to die for. Scallops can be badly done and then they’re dreadful, bit when well cooked they’re hard to beat. These had a lovely crispy exterior and were just fabulous.

de-florentijnen-scallops-parmesan-risotto-green-herbs-chorizo-005_23713336641_oAnd it just kept getting better and better. A beautifully, wintery dish of fillet of hart arrived with parsnip, red cabbage, bacon and potatoes and a truffle jus and it was wonderful.

de-florentijnen-fillet-of-hart-parsnip-red-cabbage-bacon-and-potatoes-truffel-jus-008_23168964233_oAnd there were still two more courses to come (and the possiblity of port, having seen the “port table”).

de-florentijnen-port-table-009_23687328232_oFirst however we would see how we coped with dessert and cheese. Dessert turned out to be rather more solid than you might have expected, with a solid block of chocolate tartufo, with cookie powder, almond biscuits, and a pistachio meringue. It was gorgeous but we were both running out of steam by now. However we weren’t about to surrender!

de-florentijnen-chocolate-tartufo-cookie-powder-almond-biscuits-pistachio-meringue-011_23687327772_oAnd apart from the cheese we were done…

de-florentijnen-farm-cheeses-bruges-biscuit-fig-mousse-013_23795766685_o

It was time for bed. We walked back through the Christmas-lit streets, failed to fall into the wardrobe by mistake, and took to bed with intent to get up reasonably early so we could get out and start sightseeing.

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