When In Bruges

Trip Start Sep 11, 2008
Trip End Dec 19, 2008

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Flag of Belgium  , West Flanders,
Monday, October 6, 2008

Last week was another insane week at the Castle. My time here is very busy and therefore goes by way too quickly! The way the weeks are set up here, it little or no time at all to relax. We all travel every weekend, and then get back Sunday night. Monday we have classes again and then we are busy with school until before we know it, it is Thursday night again and time to leave on another trip.
This week Vanessa's parents came to visit! On Thursday they came to the castle and saw our room and the grounds. Then, we all got dinner here and then we left for Belgium! The first city we stayed in was Bruges. It was about a 2 hour drive (since Vanessa's parents rented a car) from Well, and on the way we got to see a lot of the countryside and scenery nearby. We also basically filled in her parents on all the goings on at the castle. When we finally got to Bruges...oh my goodness was it pretty!! We were driving along, and then we turn left and all of a sudden there are these two gigantic windmills! We crossed over a drawbridge under this huge tower, and entered Bruges. It was almost like when you cross the bridge, you enter another time period. All the buildings look so old and antique. They look like buildings from people's Christmas villages the decorate with, you know? It was adorable. I feel like I compare every city to a disney movie, but for real...that's what Bruges was.
Anyway, we drove into Bruges and found our hotel. Now let me just start by saying that Vanessa's parents completely spoiled me this weekend. Like, they had no right at all to do that because now nothing will live up to the treatment I got this past weekend. Haha. They booked rooms at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Vanessa and I got our own room all to ourselves with 2 huge, super-comfy beds. Amazing. More amazing? Because its Belgium the hotel gave us free chocolate and hot cocoa. Oh My God. What was even cooler was the view from our room. It overlooked one of the main squares in Bruges, right next to the Stadhuis (which is basically the city hall). But we didn't know that when we got there the first night, and so all we saw was this absolutely beautiful Gothic (I learned that in art class!) building lit up in the dark. And we nicknamed it "The Thing!" All we could do was stare out the window at The Thing and eat our free chocolate. After only 2 weeks of hostel living, this felt like heaven. Thursday night, Vanessa's parents took us out for drinks, and I tried my first Belgian beer. Now, I don't really like beer a whole lot, but Belgian beer was really good. So if I liked it, just imagine! Then we went back to the hotel and I slept like a rock in that comfy bed!
Friday morning we woke up and headed out into Bruges at 9:30. Too bad nothing in Bruges opens until 10! We got to walk around the city a bit before anyone was up and see what the city was like. We watched shop owners set up and explored the area near the main square a bit. The, once things started to open, we found a cute cafe in front of the belfry to get our first Belgian waffles. Mine had bananas and chocolate on it, and I'm pretty sure it was the most incredible waffle ever. In the whole world. After breakfast, we decided to work off all the waffles by climbing up the belfry, or Belfort, which is home to 47 bells that ring throughout the day. It was 366 steps to the top, and going up they got skinnier and skinnier, and I got dizzier and dizzier, but finally we made it! When you emerge from the staircase, all you see is a sea of orange rooftops made up of the buildings of the city of Bruges. It was beautiful. While we were up there, the bells started ringing and played the song "Danny Boy." It was a pretty memorable moment from this trip.
After getting back down all 366 steps (which was much easier than going up) we finally got to check out The Thing (which is when I found out its real name!). Man, I wish Shelton's town hall looked like that. The inside of it is just as gorgeous as the outside. It is completely decorated with murals and gold and tapestries. It was pretty mind-blowing to think that this place was a town hall. We spent awhile there learning about the history of Bruges, which incidentally used to be a major port city bigger even than Amsterdam. Did you know that? Haha. After checking out The Thing, V's parents continued the spoiling and took us on a horse and carriage tour of the city. The horse kinda took off really fast, and I almost fell out! Bumpy carriage ride on cobblestone while trying to take pictures is not the best idea! But the tour itself was gorgeous, and we learned a lot about the city. We also got to see a lot of things that sounded really cool and which we decided to check out further. When the tour ended we went to an area of town called "Love Lake", which is a really popular part of the canals and which is next to an old convent which used to house nuns and single women. We went in and looked around a bit. It was very serene and peaceful in there, with lots of trees and little cottage-like houses. There was also a huge church we poked inside of.
We got lunch there at a restaurant that Vanessa and I would never have been able to afford on our own, and which was delicious beyond words. I got Flemish Beef Stew since it was really cold and rainy outside. Best meal I've had here so far, I think. After lunch, we went shopping for a few souvenirs. Belgium is famous for lace, among other things, so we went into a cute lace shop to shop a bit. I was going to buy myself a beautiful lace handkerchief that had my initial on it, but then Vanessa's mom insisted that she buy it for me! These people just did not know when to stop with the spoiling! Vanessa got one too with her initial on it. We started talking to the woman who owned the shop, and she was adorable! She was this little old Flemish woman and she insisted that we buy the "Bobbin lace" handkerchiefs and would only sell those to us. She said we should buy them now because it won't exist much longer. She told us all about how lace-making is a dying art here because the who make it only get paid 1 euro and hour! Because of that and the fact that they have machines that can do it, no young people want to learn the craft. It is such a shame because the handmade stuff is so much more beautiful than the machine made. We kept talking to her and she told us she has lived in Bruges her whole life and she loves it there. "Any time I go anywhere else, " she said, "I say 'It's nice, but its not Bruges.'" She was very interested in the fact that Vanessa and I are studying in the Netherlands. We explained what we were studying, and she wished us luck before we left. I loved her. Its stuff like that that I love the most about traveling.
At this point in the day, it started to torrentially pour. I was so glad I had my raincoat, because even with it, my legs and feet were soaked! To escape the rain, we went into St. Jans' Hospital Museum, which sounded a lot more interesting than it actually was in my opinion. It was pretty cool to see all the crazy things they did to people that they thought would cure them in the old days, though. We saw a picture of "cataract surgery," which was basically someone getting stabbed in the eye. The hospital itself was cool because it was crazy old. It was started in the 1100s, and was used all the way up until the 1970s! Some of the artifacts that they have were pretty insane too. We stayed in the museum until it closed, and then Vanessa's dad headed back to the hotel. He was the smart one. Vanessa, her mom, and I kept walking around and got literally drenched. It was a mistake. We headed back to the hotel around 5:30 because Vanessa and I had to meet up with Anthony and Chris there because they were coming there to hang out with us for the night. Through a strange coincidence, they wound up bringing Noel too. It was weird and I didn't understand. Whatever. The group of us (minus V's parents) braved the rain to go out to a bar. We found a really nice one with a warm fire that we got to sit right next too. We all got some beers and had a really good time. It is so weird how here we can go out and do that, but at home it is illegal. It was so nice to just hang out at a bar with friends, and it is so moronic that at home its such a big deal. It was really nice to relax at the bar and have a nice talk with friends. We met up with Vanessa's parents at the hotel later that night, and they took us out to dinner at a nice Italian restaurant. We all had some wine and food and enjoyed each other's company. The boys had to leave early to catch a train to Brussels. It was a great time, though. At the hotel that night, Vanessa and I once again enjoyed are awesome hotel room with free chocolate and comfy beds.
The second day in Bruges began with waffles again, this time with strawberries. After breakfast we went to the Gruuthuse Museum, which is the medieval home of a lord in Bruges who owned the Brewery and recipe for beer in the city. Basically, a very rich guy. In his house there are now collections of medieval artifacts from the area. It was very cool, but the home itself was the coolest part. It was very reminiscent of the castle in Beauty and the Beast (to reference another Disney movie). Beautiful. After that we went to the church across the street. It was beautiful too, but the house was cooler. Then, Vanessa's parents continued the spoiling by taking us on a canal tour. We got to see some amazing scenery of the city. From the water, you get a whole new perspective of life here. After the tour we grabbed lunch and began chocolate shopping! It was pretty epic. We went to a famous chocolaterie called Dumon. The lady at the counter let us try some chocolate and told us her brother is the one that makes it all. Vanessa and I each bought some...yummm. After that we walked around a bit more, before heading back to the hotel and getting ready to leave for Brussels, which is going to be a separate entry since this one is so long and I have a meeting to go to now. To be continued.....
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