Brugge

Our time in Amsterdam matched up with a holiday weekend, so after we left there we drove a few hours southwest to Brugge, Belgium.  We’ve heard many people rave about the town so we were anxious to see it for ourselves.  It’s a town that has preserved a lot of the medieval style of buildings.  It’s very picturesque with the canals and old style charm.  Stealing some of that charm are the hoards of tourists and tourist shops.  You can definitely feel that that’s how Brugge makes their economy run.  However, it may just be the time of year since Europe is approaching the tourism high season.  Either way, we still had fun and enjoyed seeing it.

Bell tower in Markt Square

We took a canal cruise to see the town.  There are canal tours all over, and the tickets are pretty cheap.  The guide spoke 3 languages on our tour and I wouldn’t be surprised if he could speak more.

going under a bridge

door that leads right to the water

 We passed a street market that we later went back to.  Check out the phonogram!  We were tempted to take that one home with us 🙂

lots of swans and ducks

 This beautiful church houses the only Michelangelo statue to leave Italy (at least that’s what the guidebooks say).  We saw it, it’s a small statue of Mary holding Jesus.  Couldn’t get too close to it though because there was a service going on.

We stopped at the only brewery in town still making its own beer, the Brugge Zot.  We were too late for the tour but still enjoyed sampling it!

I never knew this before but Belgium is known for their beer making.  Brugge has a beer wall that has each type of beer made in Belgium.

the beer wall, oooh…aaahhh…

We were supposed to have a bike tour out into the countryside, but our guide never showed up!  Major disappointment, because when we drove in, the villages on the outside of town looked so cute!  Overall Hubby liked the town much more than I did.  I thought it was pretty but I felt like the town was a little bit too touristy (maybe that sounds a little snobby).  It’s a great place to walk around and look at your surroundings but there’s not much more going on.  However, we had fun and enjoyed the time to relax and explore together 🙂

Brussels

sunset skies

We were excited for a little getaway  to Brussels that was hopefully relaxing, but it got off to a little bit of a hectic start.  We drove our car up with our bikes on the back.  Once we got into the city, it was crazy.  It’s always a little tricky when you’re in a new place, but Brussels was a huge city, lots of one way streets, crazy intersections, and signs we didn’t understand.  Once we got in the general area of our hotel, we found the closest parking garage and pulled in.  Now we had to get all of our bags, our bikes, and ourselves to the hotel.  I had my purse in my basket and a backpack on.  Laron had our big duffel bag of clothes and the bag with wine, water, and snacks (both of the bags were very heavy).  So we’re riding around, frustrated, trying not to fall, using the iPhone to find our hotel, and we’re not finding it-turns out I had the wrong address, oops!  But at least we weren’t too far away.  We finally found the place, locked up our bikes to a pole and got ourselves checked in.

Once we had everything into the hotel room, we decided to head out for a late dinner.  We thought about riding our bikes but, the restaurant was pretty close, so we walked.  The place we went was a tiny little eatery, we were the only patrons there.  We were brought out a little appetizer of smoked salmon on toast (yum!) while we waited for our food.

Eating mussels in Brussels!
I had some fish, literally the whole fish was on the plate-quite interesting

So we finish our lovely meal and head back toward our hotel when we notice our bikes are no longer locked to the pole where we left them.  They were stolen!!  Ugh, we were/are so mad about it!  We loved our bikes and had planned on using them on this trip and more trips to come.  The kicker is we walked into our hotel and told the guy at the desk what happened and he replied in limited English, “you make a mistake”  Really?!  Thanks, that is so helpful, haha.  Poor guy wasn’t trying to be rude but it wasn’t exactly what we wanted to hear.  Come to find out the hotel has a room where we could’ve stored our bikes for free-which never crossed my mind.  In the future (when we replace our bikes) I will always ask the hotel if they have storage for bicycles!  We attempted to find a police station to file a police report, but walked around lost for about 30 minutes instead.  Not a great start to the weekend…

So the next morning we had a bike tour scheduled, we planned on using our own, but oh well.  We were trying not to let it ruin our weekend.  The tour met in the Grand Place, which is the big piazza-like area in the center of the city.

Our tour guide gave us some history on Brussels and then we were off.  We rode around to another square, and then to a famous landmark of the city Mannekin Pis.  It’s just a little fountain of a boy doing his business.  We heard a couple stories about why the fountain was built, not sure which one is true.  There are Mannekin Pis replicas all over the city, chocolates, statues, even wine openers in the form of the little statue.

Really could probably do without a picture of myself at this fountain

Apparently the boy gets dressed up in various costumes throughout the year.  The day after we were there he was scheduled to be a vampire I think.  Seems like a weird choice on Easter weekend.

Here’s the schedule and some pictures of the upcoming outfits

This was also the site of my first bike crash of the day.  And yes, I did say first.  The curbs around the city are pretty straight and squared off instead of being rounded.  So if you don’t hit them straight on, it’s a problem.  I didn’t hit it straight on… and crashed the bike… in front of the whole tour group!  Very embarrassing!  Oh well, life goes on!

 We rode through an outdoor antique flea market, and through some gardens, and around a palace, the parliament, and important European Union buildings. We also made a stop at a french fry stand, Maison Antoinette.  The fries were great and they have about 20 different dipping sauces you can try.
If you look carefully you can see the Atomium in the back
City park with a beautiful arch, was built by the 2nd king of Belgium to celebrate his triumphs in the Congo

Right after this is when I crashed my bike for the second time.  But this time it wasn’t the curbs that got me, it was my coat!  It got caught on the seat when I was trying to get off, and I fell!  Who falls off their bike twice in one day?!?  So I was relieved when that was about the end of our tour.  After the tour we walked around exploring some shops.

Checking out some caramels

Famous belgian chocolates
Bustling streets
Famous Belgian beer

We also walked to the police station to fill out our police reports.  Not a very fun part of a vacation.  We needed a beer after that so we stopped at a cafe to sit in the sun and relax for a bit.

Pink beer!

We also wandered through the “first mall”.  It’s a little more high end than your typical mall.  There are multiple chocolate shops, cafes, and other stores.  No food court or Nordstrom though 🙂

That night we ate at an italian place, Osteria l’Ombra.  It was so good!  There is nothing like fresh, authentic italian food.  Makes it hard to go back to the Olive Garden 🙂  The next day we decided to go to the art museum.  On our way we passed through a little outdoor market.

 The art museum was great.  It’s so interesting to see things that were painted so long ago and how detailed and skilled the artists had to be.  We also saw the Margritte museum which is dedicated to the Belgain surrealist painter Rene Margritte.  That was fun too because we could see progression of his work and learn about his life and what influenced him.  You may recognize this painting of his:

The Son of Man

By the time we finished at the museum, we were ready to eat!  We walked down the street to another museum, the museum of musical instruments.  Our bike tour guide said there was a restaurant at the top that had a great view, so we decided to check it out.

Pretty great view!

 We had one more thing on our Brussels bucket list, and that was to get Belgian waffles!  There are stands and trucks selling waffles everywhere.

They have all different kinds of toppings you can choose

Ready to dig in!

Our last morning in Brussles was spent at a giant flea market looking for our stolen bikes.  No luck, but we’re pretty sure our bikes will be sold there in the next couple weeks.  We then drove from Brussles to Langenfeld, Germany (in between Cologne and Dussledorf) to visit our friends A & E.  They lived very close to us in Austin and were back in Germany visiting A’s family, who are great!  We loved meeting her family, they were so fun and nice to us.  We then drove to Dusseldorf for the afternoon.  Her friends were kind enough to give us a tour of the city and show us around.  My hubby especially enjoyed the “pickled” eggs they had at one of the breweries.  We are so happy that we were able to visit with them and can’t wait for them to come back again!