Now, I’ll be honest: when it comes to travel, Bruges wasn’t particularly high on my bucket list – not because I had any negative feelings about the place, I hasten to add, but purely because it hadn’t really made it onto my radar.
It’s easy to get to from Kent, though, and our two nephews had recently been, and raved about it, so we figured why not? I mean, I get excited by a trip to the supermarket these days, so it was very unlikely I’d be disappointed, wasn’t it? So, we packed our bags, then we packed fifteen more bags, containing things for Max, and off we went: “we” in this case being my brother and sister-in-law, Niko and Rachel, our nephews, George and Jonathan, plus Terry, Max and I.
We took the ferry from Dover to Calais, which allowed Max to experience his first ever boat trip, and us time to have some breakfast. The crossing took about 90 minutes, and soon we were driving off, into France. And yes, I was wearing Breton stripes for this, because obviously.
For reasons that seemed to make sense at the time, but please don’t ask me about them now, we decided to take three separate cars, which meant that, once we’d disembarked at Calais, we proceeded in a convoy through the French countryside, with Niko and Rachel in the lead, George and Jonathan next, and me, Terry, Max and Rakshana from Virgin Mobile – who I spent the duration of our time in France on the phone with, valiantly trying to guess the password that would allow her to switch on International Roaming for me – bringing up the rear. We maintained our tight convoy all the way through France and Belgium, and then, once we reached the outskirts of Bruges, we all randomly peeled off in different directions, parked in totally different parts of the city, and yet somehow STILL managed to meet up in the city’s Market Square without any trouble.
And this is my first observation about Bruges: it’s something of a rabbit warren, with tons of narrow, winding streets, but it’s also compact, walkable, and easy to navigate – which was handy, really, given that it was only as we were getting ready to leave that Terry and I realised we had absolutely no idea where we’d left the car. “It’s somewhere near that huge rubbish whale thing,” I said: which was less offensive than it sounds, because this is the whale in question, which is, in fact, MADE of rubbish, rather than BEING rubbish, if you see what I mean:
Its name is Skyscraper, and it’s made from 5 tonnes of plastic, all pulled out of the Pacific Ocean, apparently. And, while we’re on the subject of rubbish, this was my other main observation about Bruges: there isn’t any. Rubbish, I mean. And, OK, obviously there must be rubbish somewhere: if there is, though, we didn’t see it, and nor did we see any run down buildings, messy gardens, or badly-maintained properties – honestly, the city was immaculate, both in the central, tourist area, and in the more modern outskirts, which we drove through to get in and out. As with the rubbish, I’m sure there must be crumbling flats and run-down housing estates, but, again: we didn’t see them, so my lasting impression of Bruge was that it was spotlessly clean, and incredibly well maintained. Even the baby change room attached to the restaurant we had lunch in looked like new to me: and, by that stage, I’d spent most of the week changing nappies in a selection of some of the grimmest public bathrooms I’ve ever been in, so when I walked in and saw how clean it was, I almost fell to my knees in gratitude. Especially given that Max decided to pull his patented, “Waiting until he’s just just been changed, and then doing a giant poop,” move. Thanks, little buddy!
Here’s the view from our lunch table:
And here’s what we ate:
Well, when in Belgium, you gotta have some waffles, right?
(It was about 500 degrees in the shade at this point, and we were all still full from the breakfast we’d had on the ferry, so we weren’t hungry enough for anything else. Good excuse to go back, though…)
And after that, we just wandered:
Honestly, I really wish I could give you the kind of travel post you were probably expecting here (Er, unless you’ve read any of my other travel posts, obviously, in which case your expectations are probably appropriately low…): you know, one with lots of recommendations about what you absolutely MUST see/do/eat in Bruges, but I’m afraid that’s not what I’m here for, because, like I said, we just wandered, with no particular aim in mind other than to soak up the atmosphere, and enjoy a few hours in the sun. And, to be honest, I kind of think that was the best plan of all: we only had a few hours in the city before we had to leave to catch the last ferry back to England, after all, and, I mean, sure, we could’ve spent that time rushing around determined to cram in as much as possible and have some kind of quintessential Belgian experience, but honestly? I’d rather just wander, tbh.
So we did.
As it happens, though, Bruges is the perfect place for a wander, being one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been. That night, as we sailed back to Dover on the ferry, I said to Terry, “You know, I just can’t accept that Bruges isn’t closing up for the night right now, like Disneyworld. They’ll be sweeping the streets, and ushering everyone out so they can get it all cleaned up for tomorrow, surely?”
And that’s how it felt to me: like, if someone had gone to Disney and said, “Here’s a ton of cash: now, go build us a European city!” they’d probably have built Bruges, with its cobbled streets, canal boats, and horse-drawn carriages everywhere you look. As you would expect, there are chocolate shops everywhere (And yes, we most definitely made the most of them…), and they all look chocolate-box pretty, like they’re right out of a fairytale or something. Of course, it being a hot day in August, the crowds were absolutely insane (As I said in my previous post, I was really grateful to our two nephews for carting Max around for me in the heat!) in some parts, but honestly, my only real issue with Bruges was that we didn’t have enough time to explore it properly, and, all too soon, were heading back towards Dover:
We will definitely be back, though: and, now that we’ve experienced first hand just how easy it is to get to Europe from Kent (FOR NOW, anyway. Because, I don’t want to get all political on ya, but… BREXIT.), we’re hoping to be able to explore some more of that part of the world – and hopefully we’ll get to eat a few more waffles along the way.