In Brugge - Summer version

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Oct 08, 2009

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Flag of Belgium  , West Flanders,
Friday, August 21, 2009

We took a (all) day trip to Brugge and it is indeed very cute.  In the town proper there are no large modern buildings to speak of and most everything is three stories or smaller (except the enormous churches/government/royalty buildings.).  You can tell it has become increasingly popular because the train station is mid construction on a huge addition.

We probably walked ten miles altogether to see all of it we could.  The cuteness wouldn't stop, so we kept following it. Its bigger than you'd think (especially if you've seen the movie In Brugge), we probably only saw half of it. We took the obligitory canal boat trip and it was OK, but even it was cute compared to the Amsterdam tours.  It was cheap, so no loss that it was brief in nature. It's a good thing it was brief because the Italian woman who just couldn't be bothered to get off of her mobile phone the entire trip was about to be sent over board by several of us just as the trip ended. Such tours, though, are always helpful to get city history Cliff Notes style. 

We visited on a Wednesday and quickly realized half the city is closed on Wednesdays. It's the only place I've heard of that closes shop just on Wednesdays.  Odd.  Lace being an obsession with the Belgians (and Brugge was no exception) meant those shops were plentiful and all open. 

Brugge is only about 9 miles from the sea and we kept seeing ads for day trips to the nearby beach areas and we sorely wished we'd known about it before hand.  It looks like a great place to visit. Especially considering the day was hot and humid and sapped the life out of us mid day.  The beach looked awfully good in those pictures as we downed our luke warm bottled water.

There's a section of the canal that has had all boat access blocked and is essentially a mini lake called Lover's Lake.  It's beautiful and absurdly quaint.  The constant sound of church bells (there are 30 churches in this small town) is only drowned out by the constant sound of horse hooves on cobblestone from the buggy tours that run throughout the town.  Too cute- even if I didn't mention all the swans to go along with the ducks. 
We missed the brewer's museum (being Wednesday and all), but the adjoining micro brewery was open so we sat a spell and tried their blonde and brown Belgian ales.  Pretty good stuff and the court yard was...well...cute.  By 7 pm the tourist crush was over and the streets were much quieter and enjoyable.

We found what we thought was the main square earlier in the day and it was also cute, but in the evening we stumbled across the real deal.  Coming out of a constant maze of small back streets it's always impressive to find  a huge open space like this.  It makes it appear bigger and more regal than it probably is, but the dramatic, almost cinematic effect is exciting everytime it happens.

We thought returning to Brussels after 8 pm would mean not having to deal with a crowded, tourist packed train.  No luck.  Little did we know that half of Brussels did know about the near-Brugge beaches and they were piled up in massive droves on the trains that were arriving from that last stop on the line.  It was a hot day in August, so people have time off and no air conditioning-- the perfect storm for a human tsunami headed to the coast and back. We somehow squeezed on, but couldn't even sit.  We were stuck with all the other miserables in between cabins next to the WC (which I seriously considered sitting in at one point just to get a rest).  It was hot, we were cranky and tired and it seemed like we'd just caught a train mid day in Calcutta.  Thankfully, the trip only takes an hour and people poured out of the trains in Brussels, but the city was still hot, so relief would have to come with cold beer and Marriott air conditioning.

Next time we visit Brugge in the winter.  It appears to be just as cute at that time (at least in the movies), but probably with fewer tourists and a lot less Brussels traffic.
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