My last blogs have been on the topic of being a Mother and my times at home, both wonderful and gritty, tough yet tremendous. I feel I want to develop further from this theme, if just for a while so I can really immerse in the happiness exercise. Therefore, I choose to fantasise about food moments gone by! Myself and Mr Paper spend many an hour happily immersed in the nostalgia created from a conversation opener such as ,’ Do you remember when we ate at…(fill in fabulous eating experience here!)’. We indulge in memories of foodie feasts from our pasts and on our times travelling. We promise we will bring the girls on adventures in the future to revisit these manna havens. We try to eat out at the many beautiful places in our country, but with such young children it is not always comfortable and also unfair on them when the local cafe is much more suited to youngsters. The good old sausage sandwich is an excellent long standing friend but we must add variety! So today, I am furnishing a list of some of our more marvellous mealtimes. We hope to bring you to some of these places,Gigi and Betsy, when you will enjoy them! Here is to creating a little bit of food envy to those who may read. I will publish each one in turn, so as to really give proper credit to each food memory. Today I will focus on Bruges, Belgium.
Belgium was the destination for our ‘Mini-Moon’, a short break taken directly after our wedding that would act as starter to the main event later that year. Travelling has always been a passion. We felt our marriage should be marked by journeys!
Bruges was selected as it was not a far flight, appeared deliciously olde world from images we perused, and not overly large. Relaxation was key to this holiday. Many a trip has been spent ‘walking the legs off ourselves’ trying to take in every aspect of a large city such as Rome or Barcelona, but not this time. We also have watched ‘In Bruges’on many occasions, as I am a fan of theatre and Martin McDonagh, and this went someway towards the choice we made. Not the most romantic movie I will grant you!
Whatever my expectations of Bruges, my first sensory impressions were knockout. Stumbling from a taxi after a red eye flight, two days after three day wedding celebrations and in dire need of rest, we were overwhelmed by the aroma of baking biscuits. This was not a once off smell. In fact, Bruges smells largely of chocolate and biscuits at all times and this makes it akin to a land in Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree series. Energised by the waft of sugary happiness, we indulged immediately and before rest. Waffles, cream, strawberries and chocolate. The reason we have faith in a higher being.
Our food adventure didn’t end there. It was only gloriously, magically beginning!
If you have ever lost a significant amount of weight, you may understand what I am about to say. In Bruges, I was packed with a whole new wardrobe for a smaller, indeed healthier me, created for a wedding day. Oh the joy of dressing up, eating marvellous gastronomic delights, feeling a tad bloated but being able to genuinely ‘walk it off’ with a stroll around those fantastical streets…what a memory. On Sunday in Bruges, music is also piped through the streets acting like your own personal classical soundtrack. That nasty weight returned with baby one and two, but I will get there again. I just want to revel in the memory of dresses fitting me and feeling no guilt when dipping that last strawberry into a puddle of chocolatey joy!
Bruges is crammed with bijou biscuit stores, piled high with freshly made nibbles of all kinds. To add to this, the lover of cutesy knick knacks will be in raptures here as the choice is not just what biscuit to choose, but what precious keepsake tin to buy.
Chocolate needs more discussion…as always. Belcolade is the brand of magic molten excellence that Bruges calls chocolate sauce.
There are many museums, tiny ones, in Bruges on all types of subjects, yet many are missable and indeed forgettable. This does not include the Chocolate Museum! Aromas lead you from room to room with historical facts, exhibitions of implements for making chocolate and a really fantastic display of chocolate work models. What really makes this marvellous? The choclatier at work making these delights, and the gift of a piece to eat yourself. This one piece is undoubtedly the most lovely sweet I have eaten…still warm on the inside.
These clever men and women then lead you into my favourite room in this museum-the giftshop. I piled high. Bags of Belcolade buttons come home with me and for weeks our evening treat included melted chocolate and a fruit platter of pineapple chunks, strawberries and grapes for dipping. Heaven! Not desperately unhealthy either! Weeks after our return from Bruges passed before I returned to the old favourites, the Cadbury bar and the Bourbon biscuit. My palate had been retrained in Belgium, albeit for a short time.
Bruges does not just hand you dessert. Far from it! We had many beautiful lunches and evening meals. Stews feature heavily, often with game. My husband preferred the beef meals. Moules frites are of course everywhere to be found and the square boasts many food trucks selling their favourite hot snack, essentially fries with a mayonnaise dip. Mayonnaise and I are not friends, so my husband was in heaven with his extra dip. Hot chips clasped in gloved hands beside an ice rink in a fairytale city was enough for me!
Beers are a central part of Bruges’ gastronomic offerings and we
‘tasted and tested’
as Patrick Kavanagh once said, choosing the more lighter lagers as our favourites over the darker or fruitier ales. Quirky names and bottles made the beer experience even more enjoyable. Wine was always an excellent option in a variety of prices and vintages. Excellent accompaniments with our meals. Or for an evening tipple.
Bruges is a food town that makes you cherish and savour and stops you eating for the sake of gluttony on holiday. As it was our Mini Moon, we went in style, staying in an exceptional hotel (it featured in the movie!)and were pampered with champagne and celebratory giant cookies as we resided through New Year’s Eve. I don’t think we would be able to repeat the expense we lavished on Bruges, but we would definitely not lose the experience if we went again as the city is so wonderful. People were friendly and helpful. This is a food blog post, but I cannot leave out mentioning the historical tour we took of Ypres and Tyne Cot alongside many other sites of battle and tragedy. As an English teacher, I am drawn to the poetic reminders.
Belgium suffered through location and it is heart-rending to see but very important not to forget what happened before in this lovely place. Visiting the Beguinage, wandering the beautiful streets and feeling as an extra might have felt in Audrey Hepburn’s ‘The Nun’s Story’ is powerful to experience.
I once saw Belgium as a victim of war, but now I will forever associate Bruges with the aroma of delicate vanilla and spun sugar whilst remembering the strength in its people. Belgium will always stand out to me as a wonderful nation. Honestly too, a little part of me will alsi see Bruges as a wandering fairytale land from Blyton too! It will be a privilege to bring the little Papers to this town of sweets, biscuits, history, lace, faith and beauty.
Next on my list of food memories to share include Dublin. Stay reading to really engage with the green eyed monster of food envy!