Welcome to Day 4 of Janet and Randy's Brussels Adventure 2016
Wednesday, December 30th, 2015
Woke up at 2:00am due to jet lag. Tried to get back to sleep, but wasn't able to do much but doze for a few minutes at a time. Finally just got up and out of bed at 5:30am.
Got showered and ready and headed down for breakfast at 7:00am. Today was the day that we had a tour to Bruges and Ghent, so we left just before 8:00am to stop for some cash and head to the Central Station.
We met up with our guide (Miriam) at 8:30am. Our tour group consisted of ourselves, a gal from London and a family of 4 from India. We caught a 9:00am train from the Central Station to Bruges - which was about an hour's ride. I watched the scenery out the window for a while, then popped in some ear buds and listened to an audio book for the rest of the way. Randy dozed off and on which was typical of most of his travels
When we arrived in Bruges, it was around 8 degrees (Celsius), but it was windy. If you were out of the wind, it was okay, but in the wind it was quite cold. We spent the next 2.5 hours walking around Bruges, and so we were both frozen by the time the tour stopped for our 1.5 hour free time. We saw several churches and historic or notable views. For the most part this was lost on as we shivered along the tour route. We were told that eating in a proper restaurant would take the full hour and a half, so we just grabbed a hot dog and a hot chocolate at the Christmas Market. At the markets, there are usually tall/stand-up tables to stand around when eating food or having drinks, and we ended up at a table with some local guy who proceeded to tell his his life story (with his 4 children, blah-blah-blah). We just wolfed down our hot dogs and nodded at him while he chatted away to us (most of which I couldn't understand what he was saying). Once done our food, we wished him well and then got out of there. We also stopped at one of the shops in the market to buy another scarf for Randy and me. I already had a scarf, but used this one as a shawl. Randy hadn't brought a scarf, so got one to help keep him warm. Best 18 Euro purchase thus far.
Let me just say that Bruges is a quaint little medieval town. However, the quaintness is ruined by the swarms of tourists that are everywhere. You didn't even want to try going into some shops because there were just so many people you couldn't even move. Every street you walk down is packed with people and you have to weave in and out of traffic just to get anywhere. Our tour guide said that in the summer it is so crowded that you are moving mere inches at a time - which would drive me insane (that would definitely make going there much less fun than this tour)
Bruges is called "Venice of the North" because there are a number of canals throughout the town. You can take boat tours through the town - and our tour guide said that was an option for our free time. However, after being miserably cold for 2.5 hours, the last thing we wanted to do is sit in a boat with a nice cool breeze coming off the water.
We had been told by our guide that we would meet up at 't Zand Square fountain at 2:00pm. So, we decided to start wandering in that direction from the Grote Mark to check out any shops and to see if we could find a coffee shop to sit in and warm up. The shops along the way were mostly just your typical chain clothing stores - nothing you couldn't find in any other city (or our home town). We did find a little coffee shop (Li O Lait) down a side street. This was a charming little cafe that was away from the maddening crowds. Randy had a latte and I had a hot chocolate (the best one on the trip so far). It was warm in there, and we had some comfy seats, so we just sat and relaxed until it was time to meet up with our group.
At 2:00pm we met up with our tour guide and we walked back to the train station to head to Ghent. The train ride was around 30 minutes. In Ghent, the city centre is not right next to the train station, so we had to take a tram. For some reason, the tram took over 20 minutes to arrive (while we were waiting in the cold wind). Once it arrived, we had to cram ourselves on with the large crowd that had accumulated. We finally arrived in the central core of the city and spent the next 1.5 hours touring around.
Ghent is also a medieval town, but modern developments have been allowed. So, it is a mix of old and new. It was late afternoon while we were there, so the temperature was starting to drop as we were touring around. After walking all day in the cold, my lower back was starting to seize up. So, we were very relieved when the guided part of the tour was done at 4:50pm, and we then had an hour of free time. Randy and I managed to find a Starbucks to get some warm beverages, sit down and warm up. On the way to our meeting point, we did a quick run through the Christmas market to see what the shops were like. There was a Ferris Wheel at this Christmas Market as well, but we were way too cold to consider taking a ride.
We caught the tram back to the train station and then it was another half hour back to Brussels. We bid our tour guide goodbye and walked back towards our hotel. After being miserably cold all day, it was a relief for the day to be over. It was nice visiting those two cities, but having to be outside in the cold, windy weather all day was not pleasant. When we were in Bruges, I was ambitious and was taking pictures with the big Nikon camera. But, by the time we got to Ghent, I was tired, and just used the point-and-shoot camera to take a few shots. Even that seemed like a chore near the end.
As it was 7:00pm when we got back to Brussels, Randy suggested we stop for a bite to eat along the way. He figured that if we went straight to the hotel, we wouldn't want to go out again (which is probably true).
We randomly stopped at a place called Aux Gaufres de Bruxelles. Since it was a waffle place, I ordered the Brussels waffle - which is supposed to be less sweet than the more common Liege waffle (I believe it was a Liege waffle that we had for dessert our first night here). Randy had a chicken souvlaki and frites. I had just a plain waffle with icing sugar on it (which is how the locals have it). It was crunchy, but light. I really enjoyed it. Randy's chicken was okay, but nothing overly exciting.
We got back to the hotel around 8:00pm. After having very little sleep the night before, and walking around in the cold all day, I was exhausted. I downloaded pictures from the cameras onto the laptop, but started dozing off before I could even start working on the journal. So, I was in bed and sleeping just after 9:00pm.
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