Chocolate, chips, beer & waffles.... whats not to love?
Beer, waffles, chocolate and chips —Bruges is not just a pretty face you know! If you fancy an ideal foodie weekend getaway, surrounded by some of the finest buildings in Europe, you won't get much better than the cities of Flanders in northern Belgium.
Some of you will be familiar with Bruges from Martin McDonagh's hilarious film starring Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell as a pair of Irish hitmen who find themselves hiding out in the city.
The real star of the film is Bruges itself, with its enchanting cobble streets, snaking canals and stunning medieval buildings.
So it's fair to say my expectations were high, but I wasn't in the slightest bit disappointed.
Getting there is part of the attraction - it's just an hour and 20 minutes flight from Dublin to Brussels, then an hour or so train ride from the International Airport to Bruges.
I stayed in a self-catering apartment in the historic city-centre, just a stone's throw (well, a bloody good one anyway) from the stunning Market Square, which features the city's famous landmark, the 13th century Belfry.
One word of advice though - don't dream of climbing the 366 steps to the summit if you're (a) hungover, (b) a bit steamed after a boozy lunch, or (c) if you're nervous of heights.
Or - in my case - all three. Sure, the view is pretty once you're up there, but it was pretty terrifying to discover I had a bad case of vertigo as I tried to make my way unsteadily back onto terra firma.
But when the going gets tough, I always fuel up. And Jaysis did I make a pig of meself. In my defence, Belgium made it too easy.
Every second shop seems to be a chocolatier or waffle house, and it's impossibe not to drink in the rich aromas that come wafting down the old streets
The restaurants aren't half bad either. It's lovely to sit in one of the many outdoor eataries that surround the old Market Sqaure, and the fare is generally excellent. But it ain't cheap and you'll be lucky to escape with any chunk of change from €100 for a lunch with a nice bottle of wine. Culinary wise, you'll find far better value a bit off the beaten track. On the second night I dined at the Zwart Huis, a very trendy restaurant and live jazz venue that had delicious food, fanstasic beers and a very professional service.
The lovely bearded owner Yannick came over for a chat, and was happy to talk about his passion for food, travel, and his tastefully restored restaurant building, which dates back to the 15th century.
The bars were very laid back and cool, and most of the locals - barring a few weirdos -were extremely friendly.
Bruges city centre is quite small and very easy to get around. Everything on the tourist trail was within walking distance.
And when the legs get tired, take a break and hitch a lift on one of the many half hour boat rides that offer an even better view of the stunning city from it's long and winding waterways.
There are countless beautiful medieval churches to explore, in fact Bruges itself felt like a rant outdoor museum.
Some of the other buildings I visited included the Church of Our Lady, one of the world's highest brick buildings which houses Michelangelo's sculpture Madonna and Child sculpture. I also visited the asilica of the Holy Blood, which contains a relic of Christ's Holy Blood, which was brought to the city after the Second Crusade.
I must have stepped foot in more churches in the space of two days in Bruges than in all my previous life as a lapsed Catholic. In fact I'm surprised I didn't actually burst into flames!
So after two days of being, well, relatively good, I decided it was time to leave beautiful Bruges and get a taste of a bit of madness.
And boy did I find it in Ghent, a much larger, albeit less scenic, city just a half hour's train ride from Bruges.
I checked into a floating hotel barge — The Hotel Boetal — on a canal in the city-centre run by a hilarious chap called Sven, who asked me if I was in town for the week-long festival that had apparently just kicked off. I honestly had no idea. I quickly changes shoes and went to investigate. Now Lolly has always had a good nose for a session, but even I was taken aback by the street carnival that greeted me in Ghent.
The whole place was rocking, with dozens of bands playing on stages erected around the entire city centre and thousands upon thousands of people partying like there was no tomorrow.
It being my birthday, I stumbled upon a Champagne cellar - the Champangekelder - for a wee taster! The Bubbles were nice, but I can't say the same for the oysters. Not Lolly's thing, as it turns out, and the only culinary let down for me of the trip.
After that it was beer (Belgian, of course) and a few gourmet burgers along the way. The craic in Ghent was mighty. It didn't have the same picture postcard appeal as Bruges, but it sure knows how to have a good time.
The following morning I made my way unsteadily from my floating accommodation to dry land, about a stone heavier than when I started my Belgian adventure three days earlier.
My pocket was only thing that was feckin' lighter about me. I'd heartily recommend Bruges and Ghent if you haven't already had the pleasure, but be warned - it won't come cheap. If you're on a budget, wait until the peak season is over until you visit.
And ladies, leave the high heels at home. Heels are notmade for cobblestones, and I luckily opted for nice flat wedges for the weekend. They allowed me to walk the legs of myself over the three days, and probably saved me from putting on a second stone after my chocolate/chip/beer splurge!
Now it's back to reality ... and to the gym. I keep saying life isn't supposed to be lived in the one place, but for once I'll be glad to stay put for a while, at least until I can squeeze back into that little black number I suddenly seem to have outgrown!