Bruges - Sept 18 - Days 1 & 2
Another month and another trip. This time courtesy of 20000 Nectar points which was enough to book return tickets on Eurostar to Bruges. This was Karen's choice and who am I to think I should get a say. Its just that Belgium and I do not get on. It would probably be fairer to say that I do not see the point of Belgium at all (the same goes for Lincolnshire). In both cases I would just let the sea come in and reclaim both.
Every time I have had the misfortune to visit Belgium it has been cold and wet, whether we have just been passing through or staying for a few days. On top of that on two occasions when towing a caravan, Karen has navigated me the wrong way down a one way street in Ghent. The first time I was faced with a tram heading directly towards me and the second time there were three lines of traffic coming at me. Reversing a caravan was never my forte but on both occasions I managed to execute a quick successful reversal retreat. I'm sure we must have laughed about it directly afterwards as we continued on journey completely lost, but for me it sealed my memories of Belgium.
Anyhow back to this trip which I was anticipating with very low expectation. We managed to persuade Neil to drop us in the City on his way to work. Karen had an appointment before we departed so I walked down to Station and waited for her there. The train was on time and we set off in lovely sunshine. As I had booked the tickets to London well in advance I had managed to get First Class tickets for only £4 more each, which I knew Karen would appreciate and also enjoy the free coffee.
The train arrived on time which gave us time when we got to St Pancras to have lunch in a nearby Nando's. We then checked into Eurostar and went through the other formalities. The journey was swift and enjoyable. The only thing that marred it for me was the number of tunnels and I don't mean the one under the Channel. I was looking forward to journey through London itself but I hadn't realised that there was a tunnel through to Stratford where we popped above ground for a while and then again until we passed through Dartford. The Wifi was pretty rubbish though all the way.
We were soon pulling into Brussels where we just had to change platforms to catch the next train to Bruges. There was only a few minutes wait. The train was however very crowded and we had to fight for somewhere to stand which was not easy with our bags. It was a old lumpy bumpy rolling stock and most unpleasant. On top of that the weather was now dull and miserable. It wasn't until we stopped in Ghent that the train emptied sufficiently for us to finally get a seat.
After a hour we pulled into Bruges. It was damp and chilly. Our Hotel was only 12 minutes walk from the station so with the aid of Google Maps we made our way to the Hotel Loreto. This was a small family run Hotel and our first impressions were very favourable. Plus it had excellent Wifi! The room was small but very clean and obviously cared for. We dumped our bags and decided to head out for some dinner.
Literally within 100m of the Hotel was a street with some appealing looking restaurants and so I cheered up somewhat. We ate in one that was very busy called Vivaldi. I had the Mussels whilst Karen had plaice. They were both very good which we enjoyed with a small carafe of wine. We then retired for the night soothed off to sleep by the clip clopping of horse drawn carriages passing below our window in the street below.
Day 2 started with breakfast which for a strange reason wasn't served until 8.30am. We were in the dining room promptly. It was a typical continental breakfast with the usual fayre. One interesting feature was that you could boil your own eggs using a machine like a chip fryer which had boiling water in which you had little baskets to lower your individual eggs.
We hurried through breakfast as we were booked onto a 10am free walking tour which we had to meet in the Market Square (which we had to find). It was very easy to locate and we were there in 10 minutes where we met up with our Guide Louis.
As ever the tour was very enjoyable and we learnt a lot about the history of the place. It also gave us a sense of where everything was located that we wanted to see later at our leisure. Louis was very knowledgable and his turn of phrase initially made me smile. Things like saying 'This is beautiful' as a fact whereas native English speakers may say 'This is considered beautiful'. When stating any facts he always prefaced it with 'I can assure you'. This eventually irritated me.
The tour lasted almost 2 ½ hours by which time Karen was hungry. Fortunately the tour ended next to the best rated Waffle Van in Bruges so Karen decided to try a strawberry and chocolate one which she enjoyed just as a few spits of rain came down. I went hungry.
We decided to have a gentle wander for the rest of the afternoon taking in the sights. The weather brightened up as we did so. We found a small bar to have a drink and people watch for a while. After this we found ourselves in a Beer Shop which had a bottle of every bottle of beer brewed in Bruges behind a glass wall. On the way back to the Hotel we went to the local Carrefour Express stores to get some fruit and snacks for the room.
After a chill we set out to find the Ribs and Beer restaurant which was the other side of town. We were very fortunate to get the last unreserved table. We both had the 'All you can eat' Ribs. They were as excellent as the Trip Advisor reviews suggested. Karen had the dry rub whilst I started with the Beer & Chocolate sauce which was good but not as nice as the dry rub. We were very full as we made our way to meet up with the free night walking tour of Bruges which started at 8pm.
This tour was run by a student called Pascal. He was very entertaining and a good story teller. This tour took us off the tourist route and told us about various myths and legends. We really enjoyed the tour and it ended up with complimentary beer in a locals pub. After these we walked back across town wearily to our room.
Bruges was starting to weave its magic on me. It was a good day but I still couldn't see the point for the rest of Belgium!