Bruges makes the ultimate trip for shopping fun
Christmas shopping is not one of my favourite things. In fact, I am no fan of shopping at all.
I love the festive season and everybody gets huge enjoyment from giving the right presents but heading into busy stores is just not fun. However, when you make it a relaxing trip away full of treats for two generations then it can be amazing. We picked a mode of travel that is just as full as the final destination and hopped on a Yorkshire ferry to Bruges.
We headed to Hull straight after picking up the children from school on Friday and arrived in plenty of time to board before the 6pm sailing. Parking, passports and getting onto the ship is always incredibly convenient with P&O, so much so that even the kids look forward to it. A warm welcome and joke from friendly staff is the perfect start to a weekend away.
Our Christmas shopping trip has become one of the highlights of our family calendar, even for those who don’t really buy anything that isn’t instantly consumed.
Bruges is the perfect place for food and drink fans, in an absolutely beautiful setting.
The festive displays twinkle wonderfully in the streets but it is the shop windows which really catch the eye. Such huge care is taken with each detail that every step reveals a new delight.
It is all about the chocolate, as you might expect, but that comes in many forms.
The children were very keen to sample true Belgian waffles, smoothered in chocolate sauce and ice cream. I went for a more simple coffee with cream, not knowing it came served with delicious handmade chocs, a mountain of cream on top and even an extra dish in case you could fit in any more. Now that is how coffee should be done … when in Rome etc.
This is a place where you find unique decorations, cute creations on every stall and the odd glass of mulled wine seems almost compulsory. That is before you even start on the heritage and culture.
Our overnight mini cruise gave us all of Saturday to enjoy the markets and revel in the party atmosphere. I warmed my hands on gluhwein while the youngsters posed for picture perfect Instagram images – everyone happy!
There are plenty of big name High Street stores alongside the independents so serious shoppers can spend to their heart’s content. We opted instead to visit scores of chocolate shops, watch the experts make sweets by hand and delight in the sweet smells.
The whole theme of this weekend was food and even the ferry was no exception.
These overnight ferries are quite legendary for their restaurants. By far the most popular one is a buffet which has an incredible amount of dishes on offer. Just the starter range would normally be enough for all courses. There were two tasty soups, a wide choice of seafood and plenty of salads plus pickles and olives.
There is always a good roast, pasta dish, curries and Chinese on offer along with all the necessary accompaniments. Unlimited food is not always a good thing but in this case it creates a great opportunity to taste lots in small portions. That means we can officially declare top marks for the vast majority of the amazing mix of ingredients on offer.
Our room was spacious – taking into account that we were on a boat – and the five of us bedded down quite happily after vocal debate about who most wanted to sleep on the top bunks. There is a small TV, mini bar, ensuite shower room, dressing gowns, tea and coffee facilities … basically everything you might need.
Then the ding dong over the speaker system woke us in the morning with the message that breakfast was served. Still full from the previous evening, it took some seriously good cooking to tempt us.
The cereals and fruits were delicious but the children prefered the pancakes and pastries, which none of us could resist some element of the full English breakfast.
We had a fabulous weekend away and were back home mid-morning on Sunday, so plenty of time to get all the real-world tasks out of the way before Monday. This is a trip which gets Christmas off to the perfect start and is a great way to spend quality family time.
Next year, we are thinking of taking more friends and sharing the experience instead of splashing out of presents. I’m not sure we’ll be able to wait quite that long – the festive stuff is great but there are reasons to visit Belgium all year round.
Weekend mini cruises from Hull to Bruges start at £40 per person. Find out more at http://www.poferries.com/en/minicruises/bruges