Belgium: Brussels, Bruge and Ghent

Hi all,

Thanks again for reading and enjoying my recaps of my travels. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again- I love sharing my trips so much. It’s a great way to relive them, and share the back-stories of where the pictures come from.

Belgium was different for me than my other trips, as this trip I went on my own. I back-packed through SE Asia by myself for 2 months after University, but that was the last time I traveled on my own. I have to admit that before going to Belgium, I was feeling nervous. Nervous that things would go wrong, and I would be alone, or just that I would feel lonely- even if it was only for 3 days. However, beyond my nervousness, was the belief that I could do it and it would be fine. And it was a great trip- with a few tourist fails but in the end, it was a great trip and I’m really glad I did it.

Since I was going to be on my own for this segment, I decided to travel a bit more at my speed, and planned to visit 3 different cities in 3 different days. Belgium is a very small country, so it was a good way to see more of the sites. Obviously I didn’t see everything at each place, but I felt like I had a good flavour of all the places.

So first up, Brussels. The capital.

I arrived in Brussels to a wet, rainy day. After having recently been in Lagos and +34 weather, this was a shock to my system. The airport is a distance away from the center of town, so I ended up taking a train to where I needed to go, and I had on google-maps the distance I needed to walk to my hotel.

I arrived at my hotel, feeling pretty proud of myself to have arrived. I went to check-in, but they had difficulties checking me in to the room. Eventually, they realised why. It was because I had booked my hotel for Friday night, but had arrived on Thursday. Huge fail on my part. However, in all the ways that it could’ve gone from there, I feel like I ended up with the best option. I had arrived too late to cancel my booking for the next day, so I had to pay for it. However, I had got the room on a great sale (from booking.com) where a room there usually costs 250 Euros, but I had got it for 70. The man at the front desk (despite laughing at me a bit) obviously felt kind of bad for me, as he gave me the rate that I had paid for the other night. Therefore, I ended up paying 140 Euro for a hotel room that should’ve cost me 250- still needless money spent, but in the grand scheme of things, I still had a hotel room and was incredibly grateful they hadn’t been fully booked that night. It’s all perspective, right?

It felt even better, once I arrived to my room, looked out the window and was greeted with this view:

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I was less than a 5 minute walk away from Grand Place, the main square in Brussels. It was the perfect location. I quickly changed into some warmer clothes, grabbed my umbrella, and left my hotel to go exploring.

First up, was the Grand Place. This was beautiful to see, as the buildings were stunningly beautiful, with many having gold details.

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However, I think my favourite part of Brussels was the narrow roads. Walking down the roads, the shops were basically either a chocolate shop, a pub, or fry shop. There was definitely no shortage to the food that they are known for.

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As it started raining harder, I tucked into a pub, and enjoyed my first Belgium beer. I was worried that I wasn’t going to enjoy the beer in Belgium, as I had been told it was a stronger type of beer, and my favourite beers tend to be beers that don’t taste much like beer. However, I figured I had to try a few of them while there, and randomly selected a beer off the menu

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It was called “kwak” and it was delicious. It was also quite strong, so after one, I headed back out for more site seeing.

For some reason, that I do not understand, there is a statue that is incredibly famous in Brussels. It is called “Manneken Pis” and there are so many mini-statues, magnetics, tourist crap that you can take home to remind you of it. I still can’t figure out why it’s such a big deal, especially after seeing it. It’s a little fountain, but yet so famous. Can anyone tell me why? They dress him up in different outfits depending when you’re there, so I saw him dressed up rather than just the statue itself.

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I wandered around the streets of Brussels some more, but I was quite tired from my 4:30 am wake-up that morning, so I headed back to my hotel pretty early that night, and headed to bed.

I was up and back to the train station the next day, as I was taking the hour journey to Brugge. Everyone I spoke to about Brugge told me that it was stunningly beautiful. It’s known as the Venice of the North, and is a very romantic place for people to go. I think I went with too high of expectations, but I was not blown away by Brugge.

Living in Cambridge, with a beautiful river running right through the city, with beautiful bridges, and Universities lining the water, I kind of felt like I was back in Cambridge rather than being in a new location.

I don’t want to underplay Brugge at all- it was very beautiful. The water was very pretty- and thankfully, the sun had come out so it was a nice day to wander around.

 

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I enjoyed some more beer in Brugge (unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of it, so I don’t remember what kind) and it was fantastic again. Brugge is also known for the mussels and fries you can eat at almost any of the restaurants, so I found a restaurant and had exactly that, with some Belgium beer (which based off my servers face, was not a good pairing), but I enjoyed it.

I also wandered into quite a few chocolate shops, watching the men and women in the back-room making various chocolate treats. I also had my first Belgium waffle (well, officialy Belgium). Growing up, waffles were always my favourite, so my mom would always make waffles for my birthday. It was so exciting because we would put whipped cream and strawberries on them- it always felt like eating dessert for breakfast. It’s been a trend that has continued into my adult life- with my mom usually making me waffles for breakfast one of the days I go home and visit. Therefore, I was incredibly excited to have the authentic, real deal.

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They were sooooo good. However, I think since I had just separated from my mom, the waffles made me feel very home-sick. I think my mom’s might be better- they have love in them ❤

The next day I was up very early again ,partially because the hotel I was in was quite old and the person beside me was very noisy and the walls were very thin, and headed back to the train for my final destination- Ghent.

Of the three places, I think I liked Ghent the most. It felt more like I was experiencing the country- Brussels was very touristy in that all the shops were geared for you to buy things, and Brugge was this magical place which seemed to exist for tourists, but Ghent felt like I was actually in a foreign country, experiencing it.

I spent the day wandering around, checking out the sites, including some churches and an old castle, which great views of the city.

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There was also this one area, which is known as “Graffiti street”. There is no graffiti anywhere in the rest of Ghent. But for this one area, it is legal to put up graffiti on it. You can buy a can of spray-paint and graffiti the area if you want. I didn’t- and I’m a little sad that I didn’t. I missed my chance to feel like a rebellious youth!

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My final night in Belgium was my absolute favourite. The hotel that I was staying in was having a beer event that night at 8 pm. Now, I misunderstood what the event was, as I thought we were going to be trying different Belgium beers, however that was not at all what it was. But it was still fantastic.

There ended up being 8 of us playing- 2 people from India (a couple who lived in the US and were both environmental engineers), a girl from Czech Republic, a girl from the US who was completing her Masters, and a group of women (3 of which were playing) which played on a roller derby team in Scotland and were there with their team. We were all partnered up, and started the night out with a Belgium beer and a beer quiz.

We then transitioned to playing beer pong (and drinking Stella- another Belgium beer). My team lost the first game, but won the second game, so we were happy with third. We finished up the organised event portion by heading outside, and playing a final beer game. Essentially, you had to take a sip of beer, then run about 20 feet, run around a bottle three times and run back to where you had started. Your partner could then take a sip, and complete the same process, which went on until you finished the bottle. When done, you had to put the bottle over your head upside down, to prove it was empty. I think we placed second, but it was hard to tell as one of the team’s seemed to have dumped 1/2 their bottle on themselves to say they were done.

It was a really fun evening, and sadly, I don’t have a single picture from the entire event. I spent the rest of the evening chatting with everyone who had come out for the event, and having a couple more beers at the hotel bar. It was a great break in traveling on my own, and was just a really fun time.

I was up early the next morning to head back to Brussels, so that I could take the train back to London.

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All in all, I loved my trip. It was a great two weeks, with a few tourist fails, but mostly just great site seeing, exploring, and a really nice holiday with my mom.

Currently, my next trips are heading to Switzerland for work this week, and then it’s looking like I might be sticking around town until the first week of August when I’ll hopefully be heading to Bulgaria and Turkey for a visit.

Has anyone else been to Belgium? Are there countries that I haven’t been to yet that I need to visit?

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