What I ate in Belgium

Moules Frites in Bruges Belgium

You might remember back when I went to Paris, I started a new post series on what I ate whilst I was there.  Half of the holiday is based on the food you eat anyway, right?  So it’s a series I’m going to continue for every trip abroad.

Soon after I arrived home from Paris, David and I set off on a road trip to Belgium!  Another country known for its dishes, more than you might realise.  But, I must warn you, my ‘what I ate in Belgium’ post might not be nearly as ‘cultural’ compared to the dishes I ate in Paris.  This country is believed to have invented ‘frites’, or chips to you and me, after all.

So forgive me and have a little read on things to eat in Belgium if you’re visiting soon…

A Burger from Ypres Burger

Ypres Burger

And now you must know what I meant by this post not being very cultural.  But we all go on those kind of holidays where we just eat a lot of junk and blob out.  (‘Blob out’ – I love that phrase.)  So here it is; I don’t live a perfect life or eat perfect food all the time and my god I love a good burger, I’m not ashamed to admit it.

So when I looked up the best cheap eats in Ypres on TripAdvisor Ypres Burger was number one.  Located in the central spot in town and after our early start, me and my boyfriend went for it.  A simple burger and chips meal is hard to get wrong anyway.  Ypres Burger could certainly give McDonalds a run for their money.  (Speaking of which, we didn’t see a McDonalds anywhere in Ypres!)

Cheese & cold meat nibbles in St. Arnoldus

Things to eat in Belgium

Before heading to Menin Gate for the Last Post, we slinked into one of the cosy bars that lined the street leading to the memorial.  There must have been over a dozen Belgian beers on tap in here – but not a drop to drink for me… I was driving.

Regrettably I did miss out on some Belgium beers and good beers they probably were too.  But to keep me going I was pleased to see a selection of nibbles on the menu.  We munched our way through some local cheese and cold sausage meat.  Although, for the life of me I can’t remember the name of the sauce (maybe a kind of mustard?) and that sprinkling over the cheese? That was David’s handy work…

Another burger from Paul’s Boutique

Paul's Boutique in Ypres interior

I can feel the judging already.  Don’t you judge me.  Paul’s Boutique was another cheap eat favourite, as voted for via TripAdvisor.  Not only that but it made me feel like a kid again.  (Thanks to its decor, similar to that of an indoor laser tag’s.)

We did manage to fit in some culture here though.  Despite it not being a Belgian dish, the Netherlands isn’t too far away and we dipped into some ‘Bitterballen’; deep-fried and crispy breaded balls with a meaty centre.  They weren’t too bad, but I know, still unhealthy.

Bitterballen from Paul's Boutique in Ypres

Moules Frites in Singe D’or

Moules Frites with Belgian beer

Bruges is a cosy city, especially in winter. The weather can be bitterly cold, but it offers two ways to warm up; sightseeing around the city, walking rather briskly, or nipping into one of the snug little restaurants to warm your belly and soul with Belgian beer and Moules Frites!  (Translation: mussels and chips.)

This was my third time in Bruges but my first time eating one of Belgium’s most famous dishes in the land of which it came.  The Belgians are brilliant aren’t they?  Mussels and chips. Simple yet so satisfying.  (We were sat next to a roaring fire too and felt especially cosy.)

Although I didn’t check TripAdvisor this time and to my horror discovered this restaurant’s 2 and a half star rating half way through my meal.  I was shocked for a second, then just carried on chomping on my mussels.

A Belgian Waffle, from anywhere

Belgium waffle and other things to eat in Belgium

I thought it would be quite apt to end the post on a Belgian waffle, should this post even exist without the mention of a Belgian waffle? Again I paid no attention to TripAdvisor this day (to my detriment or not) and we just swooped up a Belgian waffle from the nearest takeaway cafe.

We sat and munched over the bridge from the Beguinage, next to Horse Head Drinking Fountain whilst horse and carriages trotted by.  Which made me think, I’m glad I didn’t check TripAdvisor, because sometimes you just need to buy whatever food from whichever lovely setting you’ve wandered within.

We plonked down here for a few minutes, rested our tired feet before finally heading back to the car to head home.  You were good to us and our bellies, Belgium.  (We’ll be back.)

Have you ever been to Belgium?  Tell me your favourite meal you had there, don’t let me miss out on the good stuff!

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Discovering WW1 History in Ypres

Ypres_Grote_Markt

When most people think of Belgium they probably think of Bruges, chocolate and Belgian beer.  Their first thoughts might not wander to the town of Ypres, a location steeped in First World War history.

Just before Christmas, David and I set off on a Belgium road trip where our first stop was Ypres. We were there to discover sites in and around the town that was unforgettably caught in the whirlwind of World War 1.

Ypres might not seem like a location, or a history, that fits my blog’s theme/aesthetic.  The First World War is often referred to as a ‘senseless’ war, but one we shouldn’t forget and Ypres certainly has a presence to that. This is why I’ve decided to tell you about our time there and what to do in Ypres.

What to do in Ypres

What to do in Ypres

In Flanders Fields Museum Ypres

I won’t pretend I knew all the battle sites around Ypres, known as the ‘Salient’, before arriving. However, I did expect that I’d feel humbled from what we saw and learned.

Arriving in town this had already began.  It was hard to believe we were looking at buildings that were completely rebuilt back to their medieval design (as they looked convincingly older!).  I found the Ypres Cloth Hall to be the most striking piece of architecture in this area, which shockingly was too reduced to rubble.

Impressively it was reconstructed to its prewar condition, which gazing up at its sheer size you can believe why this took a few decades to complete and why its one of the best sights in town.

1.  In Flanders Fields Museum

Ypres Cloths Hall now houses In Flanders Fields Museum.  We could have spent hours in here, with its high and varied volume of interactive exhibitions and artefacts.  Many of which are activated by a microchip embedded ‘poppy’ bracelet given on arrival, (that can also be kept as a souvenir).

View from bell tower of Ypres Cloth Hall

We chipped in an extra 2 Euros to climb the 231 steps up to the belfry, which provides the best views of the town’s medieval architecture and layout.  The exhibition exits through the Tourist Information Centre, where we lingered to find walking and cycling routes of the surrounding area.  (Our plan was to cycle the ‘Peace Trail’ the next day.  Alas, weather or time wasn’t on our side…)

2. Menin Gate

One of the most touching memorials is found at Menin Gate, inscribed within its walls are 54,896 soldiers names who were killed in the war, yet whose graves are unknown.  If that hasn’t hit home enough, as a tribute from the people of Ypres, every night at 8pm the road that passes through the memorial is closed and buglers sound the ‘Last Post’.

A ceremony that has been carried out, uninterrupted, since 1928 (bar a few exceptions).  Despite us visiting at the end of November when the town was quiet, we found it was bustling under the memorial’s arches before the ceremony began.  Silence soon fell among the crowd though when the buglers were about to begin, with thoughts turning to the men who lost their lives.

Menin Gate at night in Ypres, Belgium

Inside view of Menin Gate, Ypres

Inescapably, you walk away with a weight of poignancy, especially knowing this ceremony vows to occur for eternity.  As we sat in a nearby bar beforehand, a local man told us every November 11th sees the service not just fill the memorial, but crowds pour out onto the street covering the city.

3. Tyne Cot Cemetery

Lying just outside of the town in the quiet countryside is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in the world.  Walking to the entrance of Tyne Cot Cemetery‘s Visitor Centre we began to hear names spoken from various speakers dotted along the pathway.  Later we would discover these names, 34,887 of them, were those who were reported missing.

Whilst Tyne Cot can be a very mournful place, with white aligned gravestones forming row after row, the stillness of the surrounding landscape creates a peaceful resting place for the fallen.

Tyne Cot Cemetery in autumn

Battle of Passchendaele Museum in Autumn

4. Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917

A short drive from Tyne Cot is the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917.  Passchendaele was a horrific battle towards the end of the First World War where half a million men were killed for just 8km gain of ground.

Housed in a beautiful chateau, the museum explores not just the battle at Passchendaele but the old weapons and uniforms of soldiers.  Realistic dugouts and trenches can be experienced too.

5. Hill 60 / Caterpillar Crater

Much is to be learnt about the war through museum exhibitions and seeing how many lives were lost in the many graveyards scattered around the area and beyond.  However, seeing battle sites that are still weathering the carnage of the past really instilled a lasting impression for me.

Hill 60 had been fiercely fought over in the war and although the trenches were filled, the land remains scarred.  Close to this lies Caterpillar Crater, which for me was one of the area’s most sobering sights.  Despite grass and nature growing over it, the huge hollow of land where the mine was detonated has to be seen to be believed.

Hill 60 former battleground in Ypres Belgium

Caterpillar Crater Ypres Belgium

6. Talbot House

Another short drive away from Ypres is the sleepy town of Poperinge, which became a place of refuge for soldiers.  Away from the trenches and shelling, a townhouse was founded where troops could recuperate and feel a little more at home (and looked like it too!).  There’s a cafe on the bottom floor, where you’re welcomed with a hot drink (no charge, but donations are suggested) and a makeshift altar that was created in the attic room.

Talbot House unexpectedly interested me the most and felt like a place stuck in time.  Particularly when I read a few soldier’s letters that were sent home describing this as a place of peace.  It has a huge emotional draw, yet tranquility too which is inescapable.

Talbot House Poperinge

Altar in the attic room of Talbot House

Watch where else we explored in Belgium:

Have you ever been to Belgium?  Where did you discover and what did you like about it so much?  Tell me about your experiences in the comments section below!

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