Sunday, August 28, 2011

I was not aware that there were any prostitutes in Bruges.

So I never told you about Bruges, really! I went for three days, which is too many but just right for me. I didn't have to rush and I got a chance to have more food, chocolate and beer, so it worked out great. It's hard to sample many beers because they're all Belgium beers with alcohol content of at least 8 or 9% most of the time! So I'd have two and have to take a break and go walk around to another place further away!

But the train leaves den Haag Holland Spoor bound for Antwerp, where you change trains.

Great station. You have to go up a LOT of escalator stairs to get to the Bruges platform, so no, you aren't going to catch the one leaving five minutes from arrival. (There is one.) But having 30 minutes gives you leisure time...

So you can have your first Belgium waffle! I don't know why I didn't take a picture, it probably would have looked gross, anyway. It was smothered in either regular or white chocolate goop or strawberry topping or whipped cream or probably all of the above. Or plain. I went for white chocolate. It was pretty damn tasty.

I got to Bruges without a map on me, but didn't think I would have a problem. And I was right! It is about a fifteen minute walk from the station to the town center, but you can see the church top from the station and you can follow the masses. Finding my hostel, Charlie Rockets, was a little more challenging. They have city maps all around, however, and that was all I needed.

This is my kind of place, if I am going to be slumming it. It used to be an old cinema, so the place is huge, and now it has been converted into a pool hall/bar/hostel. I walked in but couldn't find where to check in. So I walked up to the bar and asked. He said, "You check in at the bar!" Yeah, baby. My key (which you have to leave with the desk when you go out) had a mini mirrorball attached to it, ftw. And you just have to be back in by 4am. (Or wait til 8am.)

I was worried it would be impossible to sleep and be horrendously loud--I mean, it's on top of a pool hall--but you know what? The sound was completely muffled and it was just fine. Hot water, on the other hand, appeared to be too good for the first floor. We had our own shower (there were 5 other girls in my room and they were all together) but there was a central one in the hall as well, so I just started using the one on the second floor.

Anyway! I set right back out and decided a canal tour was the way to start. You can take in the whole town and relax a little. Summer is the time to go, so there's a bit of a wait, but not a deal-breaker kind of wait.

Pretty place.

Ducks! Mama and babies.

I think most of you have seen my canal tour pics elsewhere, so I won't go too crazy!

This is the hotel from In Bruges, if you'd like to stay there. ;) I wouldn't mind sometime...

After the tour I wanted to do something else before going in search of Belgium beer, so I thought I'd give the Belfry a go.

It was just 4:00, however, when it closes for the day, so I was going to have to save it. Since most other things start to wind down around then and it was going to take me a bit to find anything, I decided to go in search of de Garre, an infamously difficult but worthy pub to find. I thought daylight could only be a plus...

I actually found it fairly easily, mostly since others had posted clues on the interweb...but for perspective, this is the Main Square...(the bell tower is to my immediate left).

And this is not even at its fullest.

This is City Hall, which is between my hostel and the Main Square.

The pub is located between a Gift Shop and a little place with a red awning. You can barely see the alley.

And once you do go through the door, this is the alley (below); if they don't have their menu board out (which they didn't at the time, see it inside the door?), just know that it's the door at the end there...

And I got the last seat in the place, upstairs. It was a table for four, but I didn't have much choice. Two of my chairs were usurped shortly thereafter anyway.

These glasses are actually fairly awkward to hold. But tasty beer.

Inconspicuous shot.

There is a very detailed menu which also seems to have a lot of history in it. However, it also appears to be in Western Flemish.

Of which I speak none. I got a little cheese dish which was meh but acceptable.

Beer #2. Last one here. Oh, and that is not my cheese dish. ;) They bring you cubed cheese with each beer you order. Nice touch.

Afterwards I went to a little joint called L'Estaminet, a restaurant near Astrid Park and very close to my hostel. I had simple French onion soup (decent) and a couple Belgium beers. The place has a ton of vinyl albums along the walls, it's darker and supposedly a big local spot, not much of a touristy one. (Yet I found the write-up in Lonely Planet or something like that.) But nice wind-down to the evening.

I wrapped up the night with a last beer at my pool hall and chatted with others at the bar before hitting the sack. My party-animal roommates did not come back til curfew, 4am, which was great with me because it made for a very quiet night!

The next morning I went out early, around 8am, and the town was very quiet and dead. I got a little tiny breakfast near the bell tower. As part of the little breakfast deal, you can only have ORANGE juice, not apple juice, goddammit. I said I wanted apple juice ANYWAY. So he brought it, convinced I did not understand, and also brought me orange juice AS WELL. Whatever.

Also, I may have bitched before about how precious they are about their liquids in Europe (and let me take a moment here to stress how much I am not exaggerating, thank you). In Holland, when I asked for water, they would bring me a thimble full of water. (Ok, an exaggeration, but not by much.) And the Cokes were 8 oz, not 12. BUT. They would at least bring you tap water most of the time without charging you.

Do not try that shit in Belgium. Just don't even try. I did not. I was forewarned. If you ask for water, you are getting a bottle of water and you are paying 2.50EU and if you don't like it, don't ask for fucking water. I had to start carrying a bottle around with me from the shop.

So anyway. I just wanted something small in my stomach before I climbed the Belfry. I was fine, but I would not eat much if I were you. Certainly nothing heavy. And I certainly wouldn't climb the goddamn tower again, in any case!

I'm glad I did, don't get me wrong. But once was enough. And JESUS, do it EARLY! How people can possibly navigate this during the throes of the busiest part of the day is insane. Towards the top it gets REALLY NARROW and STEEP. (They weren't shittin' in the film!) And even I had to stop often to let others pass who were going down. There is just not room for two people to even pass sometimes. Often.

Also, luckily, there are occasional floors where you can stop and look around or pretend to look around while you catch your breath.

The views are pretty incredible, though. (And see? This wiring goes all around, so you can't off yourself Ken-style.)

And you can see the Basilica Church--the one with Christ's blood...

I think I mentioned before, but these views--or rather the rooftops especially--really reminded me of the ending scene from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

So I am really glad I climbed the Belfry, but it is most certainly something you need do only once in your life...

A pretty big town from up here! And there's City Hall again.

Time for lunch. More later!

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