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Bruges By Boat
Richard Trinder, Editor
All 31,598 tonnes of Pride of Bruges. 1050 passengere, 850 cars / 180 lorries
There's no doubt that Bruges should be on everybody's bucket list. It's a beautiful, fairytale town with a vast number of buildings that have survived since it was the beating commercial heart of medieval Europe.

The gorgeous part of the city is only 100 acres and, with car traffic mostly excluded - and Belgium's pancake flatness - it can be easily walked around in a day.

There's a lot to see; stunning architecture, great restaurants, galleries and enough artisanal chocolate to keep the NHS in diabetes candidates for decades.

Then there's the Belgium beers: Not to my taste I must admit but there's a stonking variety to be found and it was hard to form a clear opinion of the best ones for several reasons.

Don't try this experiment yourself: There's a near infinite number of varieties of Belgian beer, these beers are very strong (between 8 and 12%), by the time you've had your first few you really can't remember what the first one tasted like. So you start again...

Now that may not be a sensible way to proceed (unless you'd like to join the NHS queue behind the diabetes patients), but a few of my fellow travellers were doing their best to complete the experiment satisfactorily.

On average, Belgians drink 84 litres of beer each year, down from around 200 each year in 1900. One or two Brits saw that as a target to aspire to.

Places to visit

Such a beautiful location is not short of places to visit. You could easily spend a day walking the streets and admiring the stunning architecture. If that 'floats your boat' (see the nautical theme developing here) then I strongly suggest a 'stroll' to the top of the Belfry at the heart of the old town.

The belfry of Bruges is a medieval bell tower and one of the city's most prominent symbols. It cost me €8 to be tortured by 366 steps climbing 272ft vertically to the top. It's a long, long climb but the view, when you finally get there, is spectacular - not only of the whole of Bruges but, because of its aforementioned flatness, most of Belgium.

A less arduous approach to seeing the sights would be to take a scenic tour in a canal boat. These are very popular with tourists and quite rightly so. It's a splendidly intimate way to see the architecture of the town from close quarters.

If you love Art then you'll be spoilt for choice as there are many, many galleries to choose from. I went to the Groeningemuseum (Groeninge Museum) and was amazed at the vibrancy of the Flemish Primitive paintings on display. They stand testament to the central role that Bruges played in the cultural life of Europe at the time.

Alternatively, you could visit the fine display of Salvador Dali drawings and paintings at 'Gallery XPO Salvador Dali'. It's not something I can recommend myself because - well it's Salvador Dali, and, yuk, he was just weird wasn't he?

How to get there

You can fly from Manchester to Brussels. Tickets prices are hugely variable but seem to oscillate around £130 on Ryanair + the usual odds and sods. Then you'll have to travel across Belgium and find somewhere to stay. That's all fine and dandy but I thought I'd try a different way to travel.

Also by Richard Trinder...
Phoenix Dance, Male Machismo And Ancient Greece
They Don't Pay. We Won't Pay
Carbon Monoxide Is Deadly - Be Warned
The Private Lives Of Harrogate Rep
Tosca In Leeds
P&O have been running a number of 'mini-cruises' (their words not mine) to Amsterdam and Bruges for a while. Of course these actually go to Rotterdam and Zeebrugge as boats (sorry ships) of that size would not be welcome on the canals of those fine cities.

As part of the ticket price, P&O arrange coaches to ferry passengers between the port and the city centre, and on my visit this all worked a peach.

The deal from P&O is a round trip from Hull to Bruges (or Amsterdam) with 2 overnight stays on the boat/ship and coaches to and from the city centre - all for about 79 quid. And as long as you enjoy a slow boat to Belgium then you'll be well looked after with bars, restaurants, an evening show and even a cinema. Look for deals for breakfast and evening meals before you go, perhaps as part of a package as these can be pricey when bought onboard.

If you need Internet access on your crossing then be prepared to pay £12 each way, which, to me, felt like being charged for water.

The cabins are small but perfectly comfortable and as long as your neighbours are not the hen-party from hell (mine were) then you'll sleep like a baby and awake suitably refreshed for 8 straight hours of brilliant Bruges.

Prices

A mini-cruise from Hull to Bruges is £79 per person return (if booked during March P&O are doing a 2 for the price of 1 promotion, so two people could travel for £79.
For a short-break from Hull to Zeebrugge with car plus two passengers and a cabin the cost is £240 return.
The car park in Hull is £7 per night - so for the duration of a two-night mini-cruise it would be £14.
Breakfast is £11.50 but is often included as part of a package.

Bruges By Boat, 8th March 2016, 12:17 PM