Story and (most) photos by Barbara Bagnell.
A visit to the medieval city of Bruges had long been on our wish list, so last spring when my husband Ken and I were in Europe for five weeks, we finally took the time to visit.
It was an eight-hour train journey from the South of France. We enjoy Europe from the window of a train but
were glad at the end of a long day to exit a taxi in front of Hotel Heritage; chosen because it’s literally “in the heart of old Bruges”.
The hotel was built as the home of a prosperous banker in the 1860’s and over the years housed a series of banks and offices – until 1992, when it was purchased by a very young man named Johan Creytens (“After, he says, “a trip to the bank”).
Johan and his fiancée, Isabelle, lived onsite as renovations were done. It eventually opened as a 24-room hotel in 1996. During this time, Johan and Isabelle married and it was only by the time they had produced three sons did they stop living on site and move to a home nearby.
On our first morning at Hotel Heritage we took a walking tour with a retired teacher-economist named Louis Vande Kerckhoue, who, we learned had once taught Johan in school. Now certified as a guide, he was smartly dressed and astonished us by admitting to his 80 years.
He kept up a challenging pace in covering his city’s sights – there’s no doubt that Bruges is made for walkers. We started in Market Square, the city’s medieval and commercial centre where the Belfry tower, with origins in 1220, stands.
If you’re feeling up to it, you can climb its 366 steps and perhaps meet Frank Deleu, the carillonneur of its 47 bells. We passed on the climb and instead took our guide’s word for it that the view over the city – a UNESCO World Heritage Sight – is superb.
We then continued into Burg Square where we stood in the centre and admired the many different types of architecture. First is