Doesn’t the picture above just convey what you dreamed the Netherlands would look like? It does to me and I was not disappointed! Today we are having a triple treat! We are taking the “Triple Treat Bus Tour,” offered by Quasimodo Tours. The day is overcast with occasional wind gusts and blowing rain, but nothing dampens our tour out into the countryside of Brugge. The Triple Treat Tour features several country homes, the village of Damme, the oldest gothic buildings in Flanders at the former monastery at Ter Doest, where we will have lunch, a tour of a chocolate factory, and last stop, a beer brewery! We are in for a day of fun which started when the Quasimodo Guides picked us up at our B&B and took us to the bus waiting for us in the town square.
The bus takes us out into “Burbs” of Brugge. Then down this narrow lane and deep into the wood, passing the grazing cows we come to the moated castle of Tillegem.
Had to take a picture of the cows! And now for the Castle of Tillegem! Baldwin, the Iron Arm, first count of Flanders, constructed a wooden tower surrounded by battlements where the castle now stands. Since 1980 the castle and beautiful park has been the property of the province of West Flanders. I had to take a picture of the castle from every angle! The castle is not open to visitors.
Next we drove to the neo-gothic Chateau of Loppem, full of artwork and other treasures! Built between 1859 and 1862 for Baron Charles Van Caloen and his family, the castle’s original architecture and interior decoration is remarkably well preserved. The park and castle are owned by the Jean van Caloen Foundation and is open to the public. I took so many pictures inside here, but they were dark, fuzzy and not too good. Trust me when I say this home was a delight to see.
It’s now pouring and really gusty as we get to Ter Doest!
Lambert, Lord of Lissewege, donated land to the Benedictus friers in 1106, to build a priory. In 1270 the Benedictines left and the Cistercienzers Order, who had ties to the Templer Knights, took over. In 1172, Richard, the Lionheart, one of my relatives, was captured by Leopold of Austria on his return from the Crusades. It is said that the abbot of Ter Doest paid the larger part of the ransom in order to get Richard out of prison. It is assumed he came to Ter Doest for a time after his release. He was in fact in Damme, where we are headed later today.
The gothic barn, built around 1280, is the largest remaining barn of its kind, and was used to store crops. In 1308 the barn and abbey were confiscated during protestant religious wars, so the farm we see today was built from the debris of the destroyed abbey. Today a lovely restaurant and B&B also sit on this site! Let’s go have lunch!
After our great lunch at Ter Doest, we made our way to Damme. Situated right along the river Reie, the river has now been canalized into the long , straight, tree-lined and picturesque Damse Vaart Canal from Brugge, just 6 kilometers away, to the Dutch border in Sluis. This makes a great bike trip from the city. Even though it was raining and windy there were bikers doing just that! We all met up in Damme! What exquisite scenery!
The town is a favorite venue for eating and a destination for boat trips. It is also known for being a great “book town” with numerous bookshops and regular book fairs! Just so nice to explore too!
Our next stop was the tour of a Belgium Chocolate factory, but sad to say I was addicted to the Dumon’s Chocolates, and wanted to wait it out until evening to stock up on my favorites. Finally, our last stop back in Brugge, was The Fort Lapin Brewery. There was a variety of Belgium Beers to taste (included in price of tour) but my hand must have been busy holding those pints because I didn’t get any pictures! What a fabulous tour! Be sure to check Quasimodo Tours in Belgium. Enjoy!