A museum dedicated to chocolate with plenty of samples, Italian hot chocolates, frites, Belgian chocolates, more frites… Tough day in Bruge.
A sleep in and late start to the day is a great thing on holidays, we were in no rush (very unlike me) and decided to meander down to the Chocolate Museum- Choco-Story!
Inside Choco-story there’s heaps of info about the history of chocolate and its journey from the cacao bean being a currency and bitter drink flavoured with spices drunk by the Mayans to the sugary blocks we see today.
I loved the little info booths at kids height with displays perfectly targeted to little people, without a blink of an eye Lucinda spotted each one and studied the contents. She was interested in all the displays and Grandma and I recounted the stories from the info boards as we travelled to each different section of the museum.
Lucinda is particularly fond of ‘mixing’ at the moment, any utensil becomes and spoon and any suitable vessel a mixing bowl so she was very excited to get to ‘mix’ (or pretend to mix) a foamy chocolate the way they would have hundreds of years ago.
Another favourite was the South American display room with information on the cacao fruit and bean, particularly because there was a cabinet with a monkey in it. Very exciting for a one year old!
And then there’s the chocolate sampling.
At the end of the museum there is a chocolate making demo which was really quite interesting. We were educated about the taste of chocolate being reduced upon exposure to sunlight, the temperate at which it should be consumed and storage- we were told for Australia, store in a bag or box in the fridge that doesn’t let light penetrate nor let the chocolate pick up the flavours of the fridge, take it out prior to eating and let it acclimatize to room temperature for around an hour. When asked about returning the chocolate to there fridge the chocolatier said it could be done but from his research it’s usually so good you will just eat it all- this from a man who put cacao on his spaghetti! True story.
I decided this was a great place for Lucinda to try chocolate for the first time.
No surprises, it was an instant hit! ‘Choc, choc, choc’ was all we heard as I tried to pry the saliva covered remnants of the chocolate from her hands to prevent her from eating the whole thing (I didn’t want too much of a sugar high). In saying that though she was fine and her normal full-of-energy bubbly self after her chocolate indulgence.
Although Lucy was tapped out Grandma and I were ready for more cacao goodness. On recommendation we headed to Choco Jungle, a cafe run but the chocolate museum people, just around the corner in order to indulge in a traditional hot chocolate.
We bypassed the early versions offered without milk and full of spices (it’s like a historical tour of hot chocolate reading the menu) and opted for the Italian version with frothy milk. It was a lot stronger and less milky that the traditional hot chocolates you find around today but honestly I liked it a lot better. It was delicious, so packed full of flavor and not too sugary to over power the cacao taste (am I a chocolate connoisseur yet? I’ve eaten enough in my lifetime).
Trusty Bruge guide book in hand we decided to run our own walking tour around the city. We were already at the Royal Theatre (1869) and we followed a trail around the cobblestone streets to spot a 16th century wooden house front and the most amazing hidden courtyard garden within the Jesuit Monastery.
Lucinda promptly jumped out of her stroller to run around the garden, smell the flowers, chase butterflies and try and jump in the pond to catch the Koi fish. Pure happiness is a toddler running free, smile plastered across her face and hands in the air as she waves her tree branch ‘wand’.
I can’t stress how beneficial it is for everyone travelling to let the little one just be little and burn off some energy. Often you might get caught up with seeing things you want to see and if you’ve got an active toddler sitting in the pram for extended periods of time, it just won’t work. At this age Lucy doesn’t need a playground or a fun park just some open space and she (we) can make her own fun, and seeing her happy is just magic.
Exhausted from her exploring Lucy promptly feel asleep in the stroller (another Mountain Buggy Nano win) and our Bruge stroll continued with lots of learning opportunities, passing over ancient bridges, spotting the famous Bruge bear, meandering through the Markt, seeing the Belfy and of course the two green ‘chippies’ that have stood in front of the Belfy since the 1890s- we definitely couldn’t walk past without trying them!
And of course my little treasure could smell the chippies and woke up to share in the fun. Yum!
After carbo loading up to our eyeballs, the next order of the day was undoubtedly more carbs and more chocolate. We headed to The Chocolate Line, which is supposed to be one of the best chocolatiers in town for our next fix! Oh how I love this town, and the street to get there from the Markt just happened to be the main shopping street- did I say before ‘winning’.
One of my favourite discoveries of the afternoon was the Beguinage, a similar concept to a monastery but for women. It’s no longer occupied by beguiles but by the nuns of the Order of St Benedict- one of whom blessed Lucy after they had a little ‘chat’ and smile at each other.
What a day! And more frites for dinner… Oh if I must!