our big trip - Day 14: Bruges

Sunday, 17 March 2013


Up early and off to Gare de Nord, we yet again battled the suitcase-perilous staircases of the Métro. We ummed and ahhed about taking a taxi that time of the morning {7.30am} but the girl at Citadines reception insisted the Métro wouldn't be packed with commuters quite yet.

She was wrong.

Having proved my Paris-skeptic husband very wrong about Parisians and their 'ways' {we found them nothing short of gorgeous - and with great service, too}, I was more than a little nervous our exit from Paris would result in some grappling-for-space train debacle, with me {as I did 20 years before} screaming at an en-route office worker for practically insinuating I should be carrying my 25kg suitcase on my head {and thereby make room for HER}.

Yes, the trains were packed to capacity, but we OWNED it and boarded that train with the good old 'do not mess with me - we're travelling with two suitcases and two kids - don't even try it' look on our faces. It worked. Alas, things didn't go so well for a meek little Parisian who pressed herself firmly into the crowded vestibule and begged "y at-il une place pour moi?" Well, that was it - it was on. A Ballsy Female yelled out "Get the next train!" "But I just want a little bit of room," said the Meek One. "Don't get the Métro if you have to beg for space!" yells Ballsy. And so it went on.

Woah. Glad we dodged that one.

Anyhoo - after coffee and croissants at Gare du Nord, I wiped away a tear {au revoir, Paris!} and we jumped on a Thalys train for Brussels.

I love Thalys! We booked a Comfort One seat and it was well worth it - SO quiet, so clean, so comfortable, with Wifi included and even a little air-hostess style trolley with afternoon tea.




A great thing about Thalys is that you can book intercountry travel with local train travel included - so getting into Brussels and jumping on a local train to Bruges is all-inclusive. Very handy. After a short wait at Brussels Central . . .


. . . we took a local to Bruges, admiring the Belgian housing along the way. Upon arrival, we took a look at the map and decided to walk to our hotel, as Bruges is so small.



Kind of deceptively small. With very bumpely streets.


Twenty minutes of hour of suitcase-dragging later, we arrived at the central square and nipped into the Visitor's Centre for a Real Map, and discovered our hotel wasn't too far away, so we dragged our suitcases another 10 minutes through the centre of town.





And town is just so pretty.

We checked in to our two-bedroom apartment at the gorgeous Hotel Aragon. Our apartment was so affordable and so spacious! and only a short walk to the central square - Grote Markt.




This really is the most remarkable, ancient and beautiful square, and of course, the sight of horses with carriages sent Ella into a spin. But first - we had to get some lunch.







Dropping into a very busy restaurant on the square, we enjoyed a delicious lunch, whilst people-watching {or horse-watching, as was the case with Ella} and nattering about what we would do after lunch.





And what did we do after lunch?


You guessed it.




This carriage ride around the old part of Bruges is really well-worth doing. It's not exceedingly cheap {39 Euros for 30 mins, plus 'something extra' for the horse} but it really is a wonderful way to get to know the streets of this amazing town, and Ella was absolutely beside herself {this alone was worth every penny}. The driver gives a running commentary on famous and historical sites, which also makes it great value for money.
















After our horsey tour, we popped into Carrefour, just off the Grote Markt, and picked up some deliciousness for dinner that night. Then, after dinner and a hot shower, we took off into the clear, frosty night to revisit all the amazing places we had seen during the day.

The Belfort on Grote Markt is illuminated gold at night, as are many of the town's historical buildings.



In the streets around Grote Markt, we came across the most divine Christmas shop, selling wooden Christmas pyramids I so utterly covert. Let's just say, it's a good thing the shop was closed, otherwise my husband would have had a credit card conniption.


This street is also lined {as are many of the streets of Bruges} with shops selling Belgium's world-famous chocolate and other sweet goodies. The chocolate fountain in the window of La Belgique Gourmande drew us in quick smart - and the lovely girl inside was more than happy to offer sample after sample of Willy Wonka delight. We didn't have the same lovely experience at another local store - Chocoholic - so took our business back to Belgique several times. Who can resist going back? {And back and back?}



These Cuberdons {we had never heard of them before} are juicy little pyramids with a firm exterior and oozy, fruity centre. Sort of like a grown-up jelly bean.


Keen to walk off our sugar-sampling, we took to the streets again and walked through the beautiful Burg Square . . .


. . . and along the spiderweb of quaint streets, past shop after shop after historic house after canal. Just so so pretty. I was hyperventillating outside Juliette's Cookies - an amazing shop featuring traditional speculoos biscuit moulds, and husband promised we could return the next day.


It was such a bitterly cold night, yet this didn't stop us admiring some of the many places we had seen by horse and carriage earlier in the day - all lit up in spectacular, fairytale fashion. I'm not sure if this lighting is a remnant from Christmas - where local houses are made to look like gingerbread - but it was truly beautiful.










And here we have an imposing statue of Simon Stevin - a Flemish mathematician and military engineer who was born in Bruges {1548} and was credited with the standardisation of decimal fractions.


Back to our apartment to warm through, we couldn't resist delving into our little goodie bag of sweet delights from La Belgique Gourmande. A sweet ending to an amazing day.


distance travelled: 19,238km

our big trip - days 1 + 2: Melbourne
our big trip - day 3: Flying to Europe
our big trip - day 4: London
our big trip - day 5: London
our big trip - day 6: London
our big trip - day 7: London
our big trip - day 8: London
our big trip - day 9: Leyland
our big trip - day 10: London
our big trip - day 11: Paris
our big trip - day 12: Paris
our big trip - day 13: Paris
our big trip - day 15: Bruges 
our big trip - day 16: Bruges and The Hague
our big trip - day 17: The Hague
our big trip - day 18: Amsterdam
our big trip - day 19: Amsterdam
our big trip - day 20: The Hague
our big trip - days 21 + 22: Brussels
Two days lost with travel and travelling east
our big trip - days 25 + 26: Bangkok
our big trip - day 27: Kanchanaburi
our big trip - days 28 - 32: Cha Am Resort
our big trip - day 33: Hua Hin
our big trip - days 34 + 35: Coming Home
 

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