In Bruges (…and Torhout and Ghent and Brussels) – Part One

I thought I’d split this post into two parts seeing as I’ll be telling you about a 4 day trip, and my posts are long enough when I write about something that happened in less than 24 hours!

As you may be able to guess from the title, the trip we took was to Belgium. We managed to visit so many places and see so many things with ease since we always had our free tour guide with us: Caitlin. Yes, lucky for us, Caitlin is both our friend and she’s Belgian. What a great combination.

On Thursday evening (15th November), we began our long journey to Bruges. The travelling wasn’t that bad because we all had things to keep us occupied. Layton and I, for instance – having been inspired by one of the more old-fashioned trains we had to take – decided to sort everyone into their various Hogwarts houses: a very worthwhile way to pass the time.

Nijmegen trainOnce in Bruges, Caitlin’s mother met us at the station and drove us to Torhout, a nearby town where Caitlin’s family live. Upon arrival, we were met by the whole family, and a delicious meal of homemade Vlaamse Frites – perfect! Caitlin’s family were so kind to us and generous too. I’m amazed they managed to put up with us for so many days! But they did and I definitely felt very lucky that we got to meet and stay with them.

Friday morning was spent vying for the bathroom and eating a delicious breakfast, before heading out to Bruges. I’d heard so much about it already and I was not disappointed. It was as though I had stepped into a fairytale, except that in this fairytale there was scaffolding around the square in preperation for the Christmas market, and you have to pay 50c to go to the toilet. Despite those two things though, it was pretty magical, and made even more so due to the fact that many a window was adorned with Christmas decorations and the like.

christmas christmas toysxmaswindow2xmassandwishes

Even the sandwiches were magical!

We whiled away the day looking around the city, taking in the historical sights and the ornate architecture, as well as trying some of the local Belgian delicacies. In other words, chocolate and waffels! When in Rome (or Belgium), eh?

friendandtourguidelookingatpostcardslacemapblackandwhitedifcrazydumon morechocbootsnongreenchoc laytonchoccarealbelgianwaffel

Of course, as is necessary when one visits any new town or city, some shopping did take place. We then rounded off our time in Bruges with a delicious meal in a hipster-chic sort of restaurant and then alas, before we knew it, it was time to leave.

xmaslightsbruges

The night, however, was still young (unlike Bruges). Back in Torhout we went for a few drinks in a local cafe and met up with some of Caitlin’s lovely friends. ‘Twas a jolly eventide before we all returned home and retired to bed due to an unfortunate yet necessary early start on the morrow.

…I don’t know why I decided to write the last part like that…just something about Bruges giving me that old-timey feel, I suppose.

Until next time, good sir/madam!

A Terrible Halloween Party and Other Stories

After Cologne, some more things happened.

Layton and I threw a Halloween party a few days before Halloween. Although our decorations were pretty phenomenal (not to blow our own trumpets), we both agreed that it was the worst party in the history of parties and concluded that we should never work together on party-planning ever again. Ever.

tvcobweb pumpkinsThe attendees did really make an effort with their costumes though and looked scarier than Marilyn Manson in the morning. Others just looked pretty darn good!

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Layton’s invention: Pin the Eye on the Zombie

vampiressterhi katyshannon heherachmatt redridinghoodromanZombie Little Red Riding Hood (who ate her own Grandmother) and a sexy Roman!

On actual Halloween, we went on a big bar crawl in the centre of Nijmegen. I got to dress up and pretend I was Hermione Granger (or ‘Hermelien Griffel’ in Dutch) for the evening, which was pretty fun. I felt studious and yet brave: a true Gryffindor! My costume was pretty easy as it was mostly items I already possessed (apart from the tie), but finding a stick to use as a wand proved to be much more difficult than I had expected. I had to pull over to the side of the cycle path on my way home earlier in the day as I finally saw the perfect one, poking out from some leaves. DEQ (Daily Excitement Quota): REACHED.

Some more lovely things happened as well. For example, Caitlin and I went on a walk in the autumn leaves.

autumnwonderlandautumnleavesLayton, Shannon and I went for lunch at Cafe de Opera (I think that’s the one) and the food was so scrumptious! I’ll have to double check on the name, but if you are ever in Nijmegen then I highly recommend this place. Their food is delcious, it has a ‘gezellig’ atmosphere, and it’s even got a great range of drinks if you’re just going for an evening swig. And I promise you, I do not work for them!

hotchocagainlightwindowsouplaytonuitsmijter

Layton tried an Uitsmijter

coolplaceOh, and Caitlin had some friends visiting from Belgium and cooked for the 5,000. Seriously, I don’t know how she managed!

And now finally we get onto the part about our trip to Rotterdam. Summary of the day: we went, we saw, we went back home. Seriously, if I wanted to be concise, now would be the easiest time for me to do so…

No, no, no. I’m being way too harsh on Rotterdam! It is a really interesting city but I was rather tired that day, the weather was dismal which, in turn, made the city seem rather gloomy. It definitely has its good points.

We began our time in Rotterdam trying to find our way from the train station to the centre of the city. As Terhi navigated our way through the streets, I got a chance to take in my surroundings. I had been told by many people that Rotterdam is “de lelijkste stad van Nederland” (the ugliest city in the Netherlands) and I could definitely see why. It’s so different to all the other Dutch cities and towns you visit. The quaint little houses and idyllic scenes are gone and replaced by looming skyscrapers and giant slabs of concrete that enevlope you and cause you to lose all sense of where you are at any given time.

Not that I ever know where I am. That’s what Terhi’s for!

terhiumbrellaDespite the architecture being such a huge change from everything else I’ve seen in the Netherlands, and despite that fact that it involved a lot of the colour grey, I actually grew to like it by the end of the day – especially in the dark (and no, that is not a joke about how I like it better when I can’t see it. It’s just nice when it’s all lit up!)

Anywho, once Terhi, Caroline, Elisa and I found our way into the city, we jumped right into being tourists. We stumbled across a little market so we wandered round there for a while. We later saw a statue of Erasmus (because he was from Rotterdam, don’tcha know?!) and then went to take a look round the famous Cube Houses. They looked pretty spectacular from the outside so we chose to continue our investigation into their cubic nature by paying a small entrance fee and observing the inside. The investigation lasted a fair amount of time as we found a comfy sofa on the top story, where we managed to hide from the rain.

rotters records cubehousesOur next port of call was the port (GET IT?). It’s the largest one in Europe so we thought we’d be missing out if we didn’t. We battled the wind and rain to get there, but we made it. It was pretty impressive and we got to see the Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge).

doublebrolly infrontofharbour rotterdamharbour_edited-1 After walking along the port, the sound of the wind began to resemble the sound of our rumbling tummies so we decided lunch was in order. Unfortunately, it took us a long time to find somewhere we wanted to eat and which wasn’t too expensive. We finally found a bagels and burgers place where both the food and the decor were divine. I would definitely go back there.

Once we had filled our stomachs and regained our adventurous spirits, we hit the pavement once again. We soon discovered that Rotterdam has a lot of shops. A lot of really good shops. And that pretty much sorted out our plans for the rest of the afternoon.

A few hours later we hit up La Place for a quick caffeine kick, and then it was off to the station.

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The view out the window of La Place 

All in all, Rotterdam seemed – on the surface – like a very different, but very nice Dutch city. However, we didn’t really get to see all the much of it, and I felt like we just managed to scratch the surface. If anyone reading this has been to, or even lives in Rotterdam, then please let me know some of the places we should have visited and perhaps I can try to be a little more cultured on my next visit!