day 2: bruges

Brugge Travel Blog

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though my alarm was set (theoretically) to go off at 8am so we could be out the door by 9. note to self: do not set your alarm when you can barely keep your eyes open—you might set it for the wrong time.

at 8:30ish, i started to hear some noise in the hallway followed shortly by deb calling my name. erin’s luggage had arrived, which meant we really could spend a full day in brugge. it was an unexpected victory, so we quickly got ready and got out the door around 9:30. after walking to the tram station, taking the tram to the metro, and taking the metro to the train station, we checked out the train schedules, and determined that our train would be taking off around 11:30am, and we had some time to kill.

we grabbed a delicious breakfast (quiche and an éclair), and determined without too much painful effort which platform we would be departing from. i decided to wander around for a little while, mostly to stay warm, and in my meanderings was approached by a french man who had a question for me. i quickly esplained that i didn’t speak french, and he asked me where i was from. i told him, and mentioned that i wish i spoke french, and he asked if i had email. our conversation moved to how long was i staying, what sort of plans we had, etc. i asked him what was going on for new year’s, given that based on train schedules and our flight departure times, we would have to be in brussels for new year’s. he said that he would love to invite us to a party, and gave me his card with his email and phone number. oddly enough, we may end up accepting jean-william (my new frind’s) invitation.

i joined up with the girls and we headed to our platform. i was excited about the fact that i was about to take my first train ride ever--i've been on trains before, but they were ‘tour’ type trains, not trains meant to take you from one place to another. and getting on board, it was exactly as i imagined it..although the dancing waiters with hot chocolate were nowhere to be found.

the train ride was enjoyable. we watched the belgian countryside pass, and after ghent were joined by a man on his way to the ice sculpture exposition in brugges. originally from turkey, he married belgian (french) and his family now splits their time between the two countries. our conversation with him reminded me that visiting another country is not so much about the landscape passing by your window, as it is the people who inhabit it.

an hour later, we arrived at the train station and looked for a bus. we found the kiosk for tickets, and chose the ‘english’ option. what followed was a series of flemish directions. however, through trial and error, we were able to figure it out. we hopped on a bus, deciding to get off it a little bit before the market square, and were pleased with our decision. instantly deb and i fell in love with the place. smaller than brussels, and larger than expected, brugges had more european quaintness and charm than brussels. although in all fairness, that could have had something to do with the fact that we hadn’t had any sleep and there was no sun for our grand brussels adventure.

at any rate, we spent most of the day wandering the streets. literally. one could never be sure what would be found around the next corner. a castle-like structure suddenly rising up? a lovely sandwicherie or choclate shop? shopping options as far as the eye could see? yes. all of that and more.

it was an adjustment having left the primarily french speaking brussels and traveling into the flemish domination of brugge, where guessing the meaning of words was no longer an option. and again, we were all surprised at how little english was spoken by the locals. it’s not my intent to sound arrogant in identifying that realization, i had simply never heard it reported as such, and subsequently, it has come as a surprise.

we did take a break from our shopping and meandering to climb the steps of the belfort tower and breathe in the rooftops of brugges. we also took a quick spin through the arentshuis museum by accident, which was worth not mentioning at all as a matter of fact!

back to aimlessly wandering the streets, we had several entertaining encounters. most notably, as we were passing an asian market late in the day, erin and deb noticed a picture of the salt lake temple on the wall. we took a few steps back to confirm when the lady behind the counter noticed our interest and mouthed, i’m mormon (or the flemish version of that), we indicated we were too with various hand gestures, which she presumably understood, then were on our way.

of minor note, we had all heard that the french fries in belgium were excellent and my good buddy rick steve’s recommend either of the vendors at the base of the belfort tower. i trust rick, so we took him up on it. i ordered the ‘special’ version which came with mayonnaise, a curry ketchup, and onions. all i have to say is that with the ‘special’ stuff or without, they were the best french fries i have ever had. once again, rick did me right.

we headed off to do more shopping. deb bought frames for her glasses, and i finally found some success in the swarovski store. it was after that that we all agreed that we had done everything we wanted to do in brugges, and returned to market square to catch our bus. i was glad for the opportunity to see it at night--with all of it’s christmas decorations. i was grateful that we’d had the opportunity to see it in both morning and evening, each having it’s own special feel.

we caught a bus back to the train station and once again determined the appropriate train platform. i continue to be impressed by our public transportation savviness, whether anyone else is or not.

after arriving back in brussels we went in search of dinner. although none of us were hungry. we keep trying to get ourselves on a ‘normal’ schedule, and have done well so far. we stopped at a diner, where we realized a couple of things. actually, some of them we realized before, but being so exhausted, hadn’t really processed. one, all restaurants are seat yourself. two, there are no preset place settings, you receive your placemats, napkins, and utensils after you’ve been seated and based on what you have ordered. i.e. you don’t get a spoon unless you order soup. and three, apprantly, the belgian french think that americans call crepes sugar pancakes. at least that is how it was translated on the english version of the menu.

after dinner, which, typical of our eating experiences here, was quite lengthy, we opted to take a taxi home instead of braving the cold tram platforms and walk back to the apartment. best €4.50 i have spent this trip. although the waffle was awesome, and so were the fries.

we’ve altered our schedule a bit, and we are on for amsterdam tomorrow. lots to do and hoping we have enough time to do it. we have an early morning ahead.
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photo by: Chokk