This very first blog follows a successful and amazing short break to Bruges in Belgium. We hope you enjoy reading this and benefit from our experience.
February 13th 2017 – School half term and a late decision to celebrate our daughters birthday with a trip to Bruges, taking our border collie cross dog, Poppy with us. The build up had been the usual concern that we might be restricted as to what we could do and the places we could go with Poppy but a few positive reviews made us take a chance and we managed to book a dog friendly, family room for 4 nights at the Hotel Boterhuis right in the centre of Bruges itself.
Hotel Boterhuis – Set some 200 yards from the town square right in the centre of Bruges, we were met by Julian on reception. After unloading the baggage to our family room, Julian jumped in the car with me to show me the way to the private garages on the next street where for 14 Euros a night you can park securely right in the city centre. After being given a map of the city showing all the attractions, we settled into our room. It had a huge king sized bed and a single for our daughter Naomi with plenty of space for the large dog bed that we took with us. Satellite TV, tea making facilities and a family bathroom made for a more than comfortable stay. Double, double glazing meant any city life noise could be totally blocked out but it was nice to occasionally watch the world go by outside and take in the fresh air. Breakfast was buffet style with a nice range of options for all tastes. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, orange or apple juice were all on offer, along with a choice of breads, croissants, pan au chocolates, pastries, fruits and cereals – you would struggle not to be catered for. The service was excellent with friendly, english speaking staff throughout the hotel who would offer a choice of freshly cooked eggs to accompany the buffet. The scrambled eggs were to die for. A small bar in the hotel was reasonably stocked but drinks throughout Bruges were expensive when drinking out – around 4 Euros for a small bottle beer. We took to buying bottled Leffe Blonde (beer) and wines from the nearby supermarket for a fraction of the price to drink in our room before we hit the town. Nothing was too much trouble and we could not fault the hotel at all.
Bruges – For mid-February we were extremely lucky that the 4 days we stayed were dry and sunny throughout. This allowed us to spend the vast majority of our time outdoors with Poppy, taking in the sites and sounds of the City and surrounding areas. Being February, we found there were relatively few tourists and this made for an even greater experience when walking around the city centre. Bruges itself is stunning. Cobbled streets throughout and every building seemed to be literally oozing with character and history. We found ourselves constantly looking upwards, taking in the little details of the houses and the magnificent designs of the many church towers. The main point of interest has to be the bell tower that sits proudly in the heart of the main square. Majestic in design, this proves a useful landmark for finding your way around the city and back again. Horse and cart rides taking tourists around the city provide a constant clip clop on the cobbles that just exaggerates the olde world feel of this stunning city. We found everyone so friendly and Poppy soon became the centre of attention with many of the locals, much to her delight, as we tried to absorb the many visual attractions on offer. It soon became apparent that the people of Bruges love dogs and with the exception of the canal boat excursions we found Poppy was welcomed everywhere we went.
Meals and drinks out – We ate in a few places in and around Bruges and not one turned us away due to having Poppy. Quite the contrary really in that many brought over bowls of water for her to drink and we were made very welcome within the restaurant area of all the places we tried.
Carillon Restaurant, Bruges – The first night we were there we were invited into this restaurant by the waiter who was quick to inform us that he welcomed dogs. We opted for the 21 euro, three course menu that included tomato soup starter, chicken in mushroom sauce and vol au vent or flemish beef stew (both served with fries) and ice cream and belgian chocolate sauce for desert. A bottle of Cote de Rhone (red wine) washed down a pleasant meal, nicely. Poppy enjoyed her bowl of fresh water and a few scraps of meat from our plates.
‘t Fointeintje, Bruges – situated in the heart of the city this little restaurant again welcomed us in with Poppy, where we sampled a lunch time meal from their 21 euro menu. Vegetable soup starter, followed by half a chicken with a mushroom sauce with fries and chocolate mousse desert. Bruges is not short of chocolate! Local beers (Leffe Blonde and Tongerlo) washed down this more than adequate meal of huge proportion. Poppy enjoyed the leftover chicken which we struggled to finish and the treats brought to her from the owner.
de Spieghel, Damme – 3 miles out of Bruges is this little village called Damme. With a nice little walk along the river and canal Poppy was in her element. This quaint village is worth a trip to see the old church and nearby windmill and lunch at the de Spiegel restaurant saw us welcomed in to try their 12.50 euro 2 course lunch. A lovely vegetable soup starter was followed by chicken breast with rice and a curry sauce (more of a cream sauce but very tasty). A couple of local beers washed down this lovely meal that was certainly more value for money. Once again, having our dog Poppy with us was never a problem.
Het hof van Rembrandt, Bruges – We looked for a place just to have a couple of beers (no food) in the evenings and stumbled across Het how van Rembrandt, near the main market square. Again, there was no problem with Poppy and they even made sure she had a bowl of water to drink. A lovely welcoming place with friendly, english speaking staff. With free wi-fi, ee sampled a few local beers and returned again the following night to sample a couple more.
Day trip to Ypres
We couldn’t go to Belgium without visiting the world war 1 memorials so took the hour or so drive to Ypres. Having seen many advertisements for guided tours at a cost of around 70 to 100 euro each we decided to just go and see what we could find with Poppy. A little research on the internet led us to the Tyne Cot Cemetery (British and Commonwealth soldiers). This is a huge cemetery on a very grand scale. There was a 6km circular walk to follow the Canadian Soldiers advancements and a visitors centre on site. Although not allowed in the visitors centre, we had no problem in walking around the cemetery with Poppy which was having some renovation work done at the time. This is well worth a visit. From here we made our way to Hill 62 – Sanctuary Wood. We paid 8 euros each to enter the museum and Poppy was allowed in with us. This place has more memorabilia from the first world war than I have ever seen. We then went outside where the wooded area contained a large section of original trenches and tunnels from the great war. Amazingly Poppy was even allowed in the trenches and tunnel with us – no problem. After an incredibly interesting visit (well worth the fee) we made use of the toilets and had a hot chocolate before visiting the smaller cemetery 50 yards down the road. This really is a place to visit and dog friendly too. All the cemeteries are free entry and we felt that the information plaques were enough to give you the history and background without the need for an expensive tour.
Captain Cook, Ypres – A day out to visit the world war 1 memorials saw us enquire at The Captain Cook restaurant, literally yards from the Menin Gate. Despite the owner / waitress being scared of dogs she welcomed us in and even brought Poppy a tub of water to drink. By the end of our wonderful meal Poppy had won her over and she was stroking her belly despite her phobia (Poppy has a knack of winning people over). For the meal we plumped for a pizza each followed by you’ve guessed it…. chocolate mousse!! The pizzas were lovely and the mousse was just incredible – the best we had. I sampled a bottle of Duvel beer and enquired about the lovely glass that it was served in. The owner explained that every Belgian beer has it’s own specific glass and then gave me one as a souvenir from the restaurant. Overall we had a lovely meal and great chat with the owners.
Unfortunately Poppy developed an upset tummy just before we boarded the Euro Tunnel and whilst she seemed fine in herself, we felt the need to visit a vets after 2 days of diarrhoea. We utilised the excellent wi-fi at the Hotel Boterhuis to find the van Kop tot Staart vets in Bruge itself. I called them on the phone to find a perfect english speaking receptionist on the other end. I explained our concern and asked if they could help. I was ecstatic when she asked if we could make our way straight over, which we did. If you’re anything like us, you are particular about the vet that treats your beloved dog but we could not have been more impressed with the service we received. A lovely young female vet checked Poppy over and explained exactly what was wrong in a way we could easily understand. She administered an injection of antibiotics and gave us 5 days worth of tablets and and powder to give with her food. She gave advice as to what food to give her and assured us the diarrhoea would stop within a day. Expecting a huge bill we were pleasantly surprised to find the cost was only 50 euros and as promised Poppy was better the following day – excellent vets.