Just a few facts about Brugge and Belgium:  Brugge dates back to the 9th century and is considered the best-preserved medieval city.  Today, tourism is the main industry, however, import/export and the metal industry (trains) are also important to the economy.

Belgium’s population is 10 million with 6 million speaking Flemish (Dutch) and 4 million, in the south of the country, speaking French.

For those who complain about paying taxes in the U.S.A., be happy you do not live in Belgium and pay as much as 55% in taxes!  Belgium’s tax rate is one of the highest in the world.

Back in Brugge, what I found so picturesque was the canal that winds its way through the city.  Along the canal are gorgeous homes that date back to the 1600’s; best viewed by a guided boat ride.  

















The cobblestone streets and squares, lined with outdoor cafes were charming; especially the ones tucked away on the back streets in tree-filled courtyards.

Most of all, I thoroughly enjoyed browsing through each one of the numerous chocolate shops that were discovered on every street that branches out from the central Market Square.  The window displays were a feast for the eyes and our entertainment each night was photographing all of the amazing works of chocolate art; everything from mouth-watering displays of truffles to copper kettles filled with chocolate seahorses and shells.




Then, there were the interesting- ummm –objects that were made from chocolate; especially the male and female body parts.  It was interesting to hear what parents told their small children when they asked, “Mommy, what’s THAT?”  I think Mommy preferred diverting their attention to the chocolate ducks, puppies, and kitties, instead…



Speaking of chocolate, our visit in Brugge would not have been complete without a thorough look through the Chocolate Museum; a visit worthy of an entirely separate blog post.  (Stay tuned, after I return…)



Hmmm, and while I am on that often-mentioned topic, we shared the best chocolate mousse for dessert that I have ever had in my life!  It followed the dinner we shared of mussels steamed in white wine served with “frites” (fries); a Belgian favorite dish.  (Belgian beer is also a local favorite, so Mom and I are enjoying sampling the fruit beers.  Yesterday’s choice was mango beer; delicious!






So, I will leave you for now with some trivia.  Did you know that French fries should really be called “Belgian fries”?  Fries were first introduced by a man who made and sold them at the World Exposition, in San Francisco.  They were the talk of the town.  But, when people spread the word, they said they were made by a French man, because he spoke French.  What they didn’t realize was that that the fries inventor was really from the southern part of Belgium and spoke French.








European River Cruise Itinerary- One Week Until Departure!

After my last lengthy post, I thought I would give you a break with a shorter one!  I only have one week to go before my upcoming river cruise, so I will have to return to posting excerpts of my past travelogues at a later date.  Instead, I thought I would post the itinerary for my upcoming trip.

My third European river cruise with Vantage Travel (and my mom as my travel partner) begins with a three-night pre-cruise visit in Bruges and Ghent, Belgium. Next, we join the River Navigator, in Amsterdam, for a 16-day river cruise. Finally, we will wrap up our adventure (and photography/ chocolate buying trip) with a post-cruise visit to Basel, Bern, and Lucerne, Switzerland.

The following is our itinerary:                                                                                              August 20, 2011 – Fly to Belgium for pre-cruise extension                                            August 24 – Arrive Amsterdam / Embark ms River Navigator                                         August 25 – Amsterdam                                                                                                   August 26 – Cologne, Germany                                                                                      August 27 – Cologne and Cochem                                                                                August 28 – Piesport (Luxembourg)                                                                               August 29 – Piesport and Trier, Germany                                                                      August 30 – Trier and Berkastel                                                                                       August 31 – Rüdesheim                                                                                             September 01 – Rüdesheim and Mainz (for Heidelberg): Depart for Speyer in the evening September 02 – Speyer and Rastatt (for Baden-Baden): Depart for Strasbourg, France, in the evening                                                                                                                      September 03 – Strasbourg                                                                                    September 04 – Strasbourg and Breisach, Germany                                                        September 05 – Breisach (For Freiburg) and Basel,Switzerland                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         September 06 – Basel                                                                                                              September 07 – Basel/ Disembark ship / Begin 3-night Lucerne extension

I have been doing some research on our cruise stops and it sure looks like it is going to be a fascinating (and gorgeous) cruise!  If/when time permits, I will blog along the way, so stay tuned!

Meanwhile, If any of you have any chocolate recommendations for these countries, please let me know!  As I posted earlier, I collect wrappers and labels of chocolate from around the world.  And, I also savor each and every chocolate I purchase, so I seek out the best!  (See “CHOCOLATE!” for a complete list of what I have already collected.)