Belgium · travel

Christmas in Europe: Bruges

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I think I will always have a special place in my heart for Bruges. Many people think it’s too touristy- too kitchy, too pretty, too dolled up for reality. Bruges is beautiful and, frankly, I don’t see what all that snobby cynicism is all about.

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Hotel Patritius 
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Hotel Patritius

The first time I travelled to Bruges, it was mid spring and the canals were jam-packed full of flirtatious, stupidly good looking Belgians, trying their luck with any tourist climbing aboard their ship. This time, they must have all holed up somewhere warmer- the canals were docked and everyone bundled in their wools and furs. No casual striped muscle tees to be found.

That isn’t to say that the city is without its charms. The Chocolate Crown still sells by weight (and you’ll take your weight home in chocolate), the markets light up with kitchsy knick-knacks, and mussels are still stewed in wine and garlic. If anything, it was prettier in this state- all glowy and sparkling and crisp.

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My advice is this: skip the market. Not only was almost everything at the Bruges market disappointingly from China, it was unequivocally outshone by the brick and mortar stores that bordered in. Bruges is a well-moneyed town and the shops show it. Our favorites were Dille et Kamille, an economical Williams Sonoma with a Belgian flair, Classics Jewelry and Antiques, and Accessoires La Rose.

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At Dille et Kamille, I got most of my Christmas shopping done- little robot tea infusers for Mike, hand mixed teas and German rock candy stirrers for his dad, fancy whisks, soaps, gorgeous linens and aprons, papier mache ornaments. We absolutely loaded up. The sales girls thought we were dead crazy.

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Classics was full of actual antiques- the kinds most Americans dream of, the kinds that absolutely can’t fit in a carry-on bag. It’s also full of in-house designed and produced jewelry for all budgets. Little sterling dandelion bursts for $45, hand-hammered drops for $70, chunky semi-precious rings for $150-300. It was very, very tempting and very, very beautiful.

However, my favorite was Accessoires La Rose which was packed, floor to ceiling, with gorgeous sweaters, chunky strands of bright beads, embroidered pillows, and Dori Csengeri jewelry. I couldn’t afford the psychadelic-colored sweaters (nor did I have any room left in my bag) so I splurged on some hand-embroidered earrings.
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