In (and OUT of) Bruges

In (and OUT of) Bruges

On Tuesday morning, we left our host’s place in Brussels to catch a train that would take us to Bruges in a little less than an hour. While it wasn’t far away, we quickly noticed that this was a very different place. Bruges is a part of Flanders, the netherlandish-speaking part of Belgium. However, we are now used to be faced with signage in a language we don’t understand, so it wasn’t that much of a shock for us anymore.

Couch Surfing troubles… again!

As we had planned in advance, we called our host when we got to the station. He came to pick us up and, unfortunately, we were instantly put off. Both the car and the man himself smelled sickeningly bad. When we got to his place, it was more of the same. We had never been in such a dirty place before. There was also barely any place to move or sit or whatever because our host had LOTS of collections (the kind of collections you might see on Hoarders or something!). We also had to pay 30 or 50 cents to use either the toilet or the shower, which was in the middle of a room, totally in view. After regretting to accept his offer of tea and water (because, surprise, the dishes were dirty), and getting some helpful tips about Bruges, which was nice of him, we left the place for the day.

“Kill me now”, said Laura. We immediately agreed that we would cut our stay in Bruges short, visit everything we could on that day, go back to his place as late as possible so as to not have to hang around there, and leave as early as possible the next morning to catch a train to the Netherlands, where we quickly booked a last-minute hostel. We couldn’t imagine staying there for two nights.

Canals and kisses

We set out on our tour of Bruges, trying to stay in good spirits. The sun was shining bright and the old city is really beautiful, so we still enjoyed what we saw. Bruges is crossed by lots of little canals, which are really pretty. With the coloured leaves on the ground or falling from trees, the whole place was really gorgeous. On the map our host had given us were, funnily enough, little hearts that marked the “places to kiss”. Indeed, these places looked especially romantic. We even saw a couple taking their wedding pictures on the side of canal, with tourists on tour boats clapping as they passed them.

Nuns and kisses

Another beautiful spot in Bruges is a nunnery, the grounds of which people are allowed to go through. The place was really peaceful, and silent of course. There were some beautiful and tall trees, and a lot of tourists again.

Horses, Quebecers and kisses

After a good portion of our walk, we were starting to get really hungry, so we quickly found the less expensive in a series of really expensive restaurants. We quickly regretted sitting outdoors though, as the restaurant was next to a watering spot for the carriage horses of Bruges, and it smelled like poo. The food was really good. I especially enjoyed my Flemish beef stew, although Laura nearly burned off her tongue on her lasagna. We also liked dessert, which was vanilla ice cream, which weirdly enough is kind of yellow in Belgium. We were delighted when, upon leaving, a couple seated a couple of tables away asked us, in French and in a Quebec accent, if we too came from Quebec. It was so nice to speak even for only 5 minutes with fellow Quebecers, who spoke with the same accent that we did.

Chocolates and kisses

Even though our bellies were full from our lunch, we stopped in a chocolate shop as, still being in Belgium, there obviously were a lot of them. The one we found was cheaper than those in Brussels, and we greatly enjoyed eating our “pralines” for the rest of the day.

The Pointy One

Our only indoor visit of the day was inside a beautiful church that you should supposedly recognize if you’ve seen the movie “In Bruges”. It was really pretty inside, although it was a stark contrast with the cathedral in Brussels, because this church was really gothic. Everything was in dark colors. In the church, there is also one of Michelangelo’s only sculptures not in Italy. “The Madonna and the Child” was really nice, even if we could only see it through a glass case.

Burg and Markt Place

Our tour of the city ended in Burg Place and then Markt Place, which are really big squares where you can see great architecture. This includes a magnificent church with a really high tower, big official buildings that were vaguely reminiscent of the Grand’Place in Brussels, although less impressive. I liked one of the particularities of Bruges architecture: the tops of the facades are in steps.

Astrid Park

We decided to kill some time sitting in a park, so we decided to go to the one that was advertised on the map as having “frisbee and cute asses”. When we got there, it really wasn’t that kind of park. We expected some kind of flat open space where people could play sports in summertime, but it was this really peaceful park, mostly covered by trees or plants or ponds of fountains. We used our time there to look up an hostel in Amsterdam in our guide book and making the necessary phone calls.

A miserable night out

Since we didn’t want to spend any time at our host’s, we spent a really really slow night, first eating dinner in a hamburger joint, then spending a few hours in an Irish pub, eating really fattening foods and lamenting our back luck. Feeling sorry for yourself can sometimes be funny though, so we still had some fun laughing bitterly about the situation. This includes a memorable game of “anywhere but here”. We walked in the rain to get to our beds, told our host we would be leaving the next day instead of staying two nights, almost didn’t get any sleep, and left as early as we could without making any noise. We then sat relieved in a train that would be taking us out of Belgium and into Amsterdam!!!