A few weeks ago right before my friend Imogen was due to return to New Zealand, we decided to have one last wee trip together and see the waffles of Belgium.
Getting to Belgium was pretty simple. Eurolines does a quite reasonably priced bus route to Bruges for a mere £20 over five hours. Coupled with the novelty of going on the conveyor belt under the Chunnel again, this was definitely worth it. We arrived in Bruges just as darkness was beginning to set in. The Christmas lights slowly turned on as we made our way along canals and cobblestoned streets to our hostel. Only getting a little lost thanks to my CityMaps2Go app.
Bruges is a small medieval-like city hugely popular with tourists in Belgium. It is well known for its picture-perfect canals and pretty streets filled with many chocolate shops and lace. We visited there one week before the Christmas markets started (:O) but still had a great time. The whole inner city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The hostel we picked to stay in was one of the St Christopher’s chain. After my good experience in the Paris one, I was quite happy to stay with St Christopher’s again. Although one thing to note is that there is not usually a kitchen so I would only plan to stay in this hostel chain if I was okay with eating out every night. However St Christopher’s hostels do usually have a warm friendly bar with discounts for guests. The Bruges one had these awesome massive melted candle wax sculptures unlike anything I’d seen before.
As you can see in the above photo of the outside of the hostel, it had a classic ‘step’ roof which was quite typical of most buildings within central Bruges. It was to do with how roofs used to be designed in order to allow easier access to chimneys for chimney-sweeps back in the day. Best thing about this hostel was that I guess with the time of year, there weren’t so many guests staying so on the second night, Imogen and I had our whole dorm room to ourselves! Luxury.
The first night we started with a free walking tour promoted by the hostel. It was quite a terrible tour to be honest and I can’t remember what the company was called. But I would recommend going through the tourist office or with the well-known Sandemans company to get a more enjoyable tour. Our tour guide seemed knowledgeable at first, but then it became quite clear he was making stuff up for his own amusement, and then got quite bitter about how much he was receiving in tips for the ‘free’ tour.
Hm. Maybe time to change jobs buddy?
Some photos from that first night:
The next day was freezing cold so we popped in and out of chocolate shops to ‘check out’ the merchandise, but really just to warm up. We wandered the street admiring the many horse-drawn carriages prancing around along with a little bit of wistfulness at the set-up for the upcoming Christmas market. As nice as it would have been to wait a week for the markets to start, Imogen had her flight home which she couldn’t really miss. I think her boyfriend back home might have been a little upset to be apart from his girlfriend any longer which I hugely sympathise with. We toured the Chocolate factory and sampled some delicious praline-filled chocolate to make ourselves feel better.
Next day we headed to Brussels for our final day in Belgium. Brussels is the main capital of the country and for some reason makes me think of yucky brussel sprouts. It’s only a short train-ride away from Bruges. It’s quite an industrial city which I think is why tourists mainly flock to Bruges instead for some ‘Belgium quaintness’. We only had a few hours here before our Eurostar train back to England so decided to maximise our time with a Sandemans free walking tour.
It was quite a good tour. The guide was funny and liked to dance little jigs to my amusement. However it was so cold that I found it hard to concentrate and take in many details. The main things I remember included the peeing boy statue that nobody really knows what it’s famous for, some pretty awesome street-art graffiti, eating a waffle, and lots of walking. That’s it. It was too cold with not enough popping into shops to thaw out.
Then it was time to catch the Eurostar back. I was a little sad to be heading back to England so quickly but also quite looking forward to sleeping in my own bed again. It’s amazing how much I love sleeping in my own room in the same bed every night now. I think that may be something I rather miss when my time in Brighton comes to an end.
Some sad goodbye hugs with Imogen in London, and I was heading home and asleep in my bed before I knew it with an early shift the next day.