"It's a fairy tale town" In Bruges far from genial gangster Ralph Fiennes insists in an expletive-riddled rant.
Crime lord Harry Waters ain't wrong. Well, technically he is. Northwest Belgium's West Flanders capital has city status.
But fabled folk lore is bang on. Even though the 2008 darkly comic cult classic is more ruthless than romantic, more madcap crepuscular than medieval mythology.
Ten winters on, courtesy of Super Break hospitality, we walk misty pre-Christmas lamp-lit cobbles alongside 12th century canals debutant contract killer Colin Farrell and co trod.
Most evident is locals' love-hate relationship with infamous film noir's assassins' creed celebration.
Tourism chiefs celebrate connection with bespoke 13 pistol-pointed locations. Restaurateurs and licensees also welcome visitors' revenue, remaining rich decade since shooting.
What they like less is movie's script, consistently colourful as crow-stepped gables and mottled multi-shade leaves that fall at our feet like snipers' prey.
Where to go: Grote Markt's 13th century Belfort belfry and carillon, central to citizens and cinematic coverage, towers 83 metres high, home to 47 melodious bells and impressive clock atop 366 steps via old treasury dust-encrusted charters and seals. Most majestic, once we "bunch of elephants" breath easy again, is panoramic views over what could be Disney-Pixar Middle Ages storyboard.
Equally enjoyable vistas are afforded from intoxicating surrounds of second storey Duvelorium Grand Beer Café. Ground floor Historium was impressive, Tourism Centre informative, but "vat-nav" sensed ale around, abounding in the world's only bar dedicated to arguable king of Belgian beers Duvel, whose balcony offers aerial appreciation of magnificent market square, best seen through fruit brew Rosetta tinted glasses.
No Venice of the North visit is complete without embarking on cruises from five landing stages for trips to appreciate architectural delights from different angles. Mascot swans enjoy freedom of the city since 16th century uprising that saw oppressed folk dispatch despised administrator Pieter "long neck" Lanckhals. Then there's Minnewater, mecca for romantically inclined from far afield, Lake of Love legend living on in memory of beautiful sailor’s daughter Minna, who died in arms of star-crossed warrior lover Stromberg. Water way to propose, as many couples do.
Bruges bursts at seams with museums, 26 such institutions celebrating likes of Kantcentrum lace-making heritage, sweet success of Choco-Story's confectionery, Frietmuseum homage to (not French) fries and Bruges Beer Experience, toasting best of sweet 16 blonde to dark draughts, while it would be crazy not to sample local hero Halve Maan brewery fool's brew Brugse Zot.
To murder a meal, rather than *spoiler alert* innocent bystander, follow fine food trail to set scenes such as Cafedraal, Restaurant De Beurze and, still lit by atmospheric red lights, Restaurant Diligence, as well as protected monument merchant house redbrick celebration of wooden beams, iron latticework and stained glass that is Bistro Zwart Huis, whose signature waterzooi fish stew shares eclectic menu with exotic specialities ostrich and kangaroo. And we could waffle on forever about criss-cross desert delicacy.
Where to stay: Guns of Navarra have long fell silent since a century ago German occupiers wrested building from Red Cross requisition. Rich with history spanning more than 400 years, the historic monument today houses four-star boutique hotel, whose central location can't be beat, boasting 94 bedrooms and jazz bar, whose more-ish morello Schaarbeekse Kriek cheery beer allows guests to sample one or more of their five a day.
Way to go: Eurostar London St Pancras to any Belgian station return via Brussels proved transport of delight, civilised rail trail that not only let's train take strain but trumps flights by saving time and cash swerving airport transfers, three travel class tickets for all budgets, and two-bag travel allowance with no extra fees or time-consumptive liquids control checks.
Last words return to Ralph's paraphrased, suitably censored, apoplectic assertion "how can all those canals and bridges and cobbled streets and churches and swans not be somebody's thing?"
Agreed, never one to argue with an East End kingpin killer, Bruges is everybody's thing. Give it a shot!
How to go: Bruges – from £218 per person. Simple, convenient and great value for money, Bruges by Eurostar is wonderful way to experience all this medieval city has to offer. With regular departures from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet International and Ashford International, all of Super Break’s Eurostar getaways to Bruges include accommodation and allow you to travel in style and comfort before wandering your way around busy squares, beautiful parks and quiet cobbled streets the city is famed for. PRICE: £218 per person for two nights’ accommodation at 4* Hotel Navarra Bruges and return Eurostar travel to Bruges from St Pancras, valid for arrival on March 17 2019. To book visit www.superbreak.com/travel/eurostar-breaks/eurostar-breaks-bruges or call 0800 0420288.