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Published: September 30th 2017
Breakfast at the hostel in Antwerp. Counterclockwise from R-L: Crystal from Montreal, some random hottie that always seems to be traveling around Europe, Lars from Copenhagen, Graciela from Panama, and Caroline from Virginia. The hand that seemingly floats in the left side of the picture is actually a celebrity - it's "Thing" from "The Addams Family"!
Sadly Katrine, the Montreal cutie had left the table by the time I took this picture :(
Geo: 51.1942, 3.84637
Yet another bad sleep - the bunks are VERY cheap and even my breathing would cause it to rattle and squeak. I had a brief chat with the Montreal girls - both are occupational therapists doing a practical term in Nancy, France and are traveling for a short time before starting it.
I almost convinced Crystal to go to Amsterdam, but it would have been a waste as she only had time to do a day trip. I packed up and was ready to go - I was going to skip the crappy hostel breakfast but when I saw the Montreal cuties sitting down I decided that I might as well join them! Toast, jam, and Nutella - nothing special.
Walked to the train station with the lost Spanish girl, Graciela - turns out she's from Panama, has been studying French in France, and is traveling till the end of May before going home. I was jealous! She told me that she was originally going to skip breakfast because she saw some bread in the kitchen that was covered in mold. But then they brought out some fresh stuff and she decided it was safe enough to
Time for another chocolate break. Sorry, the chocolates got a little bashed around in my backpack but I'm sure you'll still enjoy them.
Got in a little Spanish practice - her accent is very easy to understand. We had an amusing moment - we descended down into the Metro station and followed the signs for an appropriate line ... yet we magically appeared above ground again, and on the opposite side of the street from where we originally descended! We finally got to the right spot.
We finally got to the correct spot ... some nice old guy tried to help us out. We didn't really need it but it felt rude to decline help from such a nice old man. We arrived at the train station, where Graciela was off to Brussels and I to Bruges, with a quick stop in Ghent.
The other night I was marveling at my luck - no blisters so far! They usually develop after the 1st or 2nd day. So of course as soon as I start thinking about my luck, I start getting a few. It wouldn't be a vacation without them!
On the train to Ghent I noticed a very attractive girl sit down a few rows behind me. There was something about her ... I couldn't quite put my finger
This is the life - tons of students were out and about (was it a school holiday?) and just basking in the hot sun.
on it. She was very cute, with a beautiful smile and nice eyes. I also overheard her speaking on her cell phone - she had a very sweet, soft-spoken voice. Then it dawned on me - though was a little bit taller and slimmer, had blue eyes and blond hair instead of brown hair and eyes - she was the Belgian equivalent of Isabel! Well ... almost, but not quite! So lightning didn't strike in the same place twice - there will be no tales of returning next year and randomly riding the Belgian rails in search of this girl!
Ghent - I arrived at the station but didn't have any change for the luggage locker so I needed to buy something. I had a Swiss pastry, dotted with raisins, filled with cream, and covered in icing. Too sweet!
Friggin' Let's Go directions - it tells you to take the tram to the castle, but not which direction. And reading the maps at the station don't show any stops named for the castle. Anyway - from the tram Ghent looked pretty cool and had some pretty lively-looking shopping streets.
I sat on a square between St. Bavo's cathedral
St. Bavo's cathedral.
and the Belfry munching on some chocolates (oh baby ...) Apparently it's quite beautiful and lively here at night, but I'll never know since I'm not staying the night. In hindsight spending the night would have been a good idea.
The interior of St. Bavo's was ... just another Gothic cathedral. I guess I could also coin the phrase "just another Belgian chocolate" ... but it's never like that. Each piece is a unique journey into complete and utter ecstasy! There's a big museum in the basement, though I didn't find much of interest. Back upstairs there were paintings hanging between the pillars - similar to Milan's duomo. Inside the cathedral you could also view the "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb" for a few Euros. I didn't bother - the only mystic lamb I'm interested in is one that's frenched and served on a plate with a glass of Shiraz!
Some guy was running a petition scam. He asked me to sign it but I declined, gesturing that I didn't know what it was for. So he gestures that it's OK and to just sign it. So I fill it out until I reach a column indicating amounts
I was disappointed by the fountains in Belgium. Based on what I've heard, I expected them to spout beer or chocolate sauce, not water.
in Euros. Up yours, buddy! You can't explain to me what it's for and you expect money??? Whatever!
Back outside for a walk - it's pretty hot out again. At least it wasn't as bad as last year's European heat wave, so I wasn't afflicted with "swamp butt" (see Euro 2006 blog entitled "Bellagio is Bellissima"😉, only with a little "marsh butt".
I came across a fancy little grocery/deli and had some caprese salad. Then I did some shopping - I saw a nice shirt in a window and went inside to find it. It took awhile, but I managed to find it, tried it on and liked it, so I bought it. After I left I looked at the window display once more - and realized that I had bought a different shirt!
Off to St. Niklaaskerk - a very claustrophobic church because it's dominated by very large pillars. I continued walking around town - I did have a bit of a plan for the day but I kept going off course as there was quite a bit to see. I should've stayed the night!
Back to the train station - I grabbed a beer (Palm) on
Finger painting-quality artwork in St. Bavo's.
the way. Good, but I still prefer Maes. On the train to Bruges - I still haven't cracked open "A Tale of Two Cities". Eventually I'll finish it! Bruges - a little confusion as to which way the hostel was. I finally found it - pretty charming and rustic. It's funny as there's a fine line - Antwerp's hostel was a little more run down but was dirty and therefore a complete dump.
I could only book a single room here so it kind of sucks - it's always easier to meet people when you're in the dorms. But it appears the hostel is overrun with a school group this weekend so solitude probably isn't the worst thing.
Out for a walk - there are a lot more big-chain stores around than I expected. I pictured Bruges as being more of a quaint little town that was stuck in a time warp. I browsed a bit and walked to the Markt square and the Burg. Most of the sights on the Burg were closed as I didn't get to Bruges until almost 17:00.
I was hungry so I grabbed some frites with peppersauce. Good stuff! I did
Ciao, Bella ... caprese salad ... mmm ... but what have they done to you? Serving you with a pesto sauce? It is like a stunning and naturally beautiful woman wearing too much makeup ... it's blasphemous!
No matter ... though your delicate canvas of beauty has been fouled with excessive sauce I will still love you like no other ...
a LOT of walking in Bruges - it's a nice place to stroll because it's so compact and is such a charming little town. I'll have to come back and re-trace my steps tomorrow to see the places that were closed today.
Off to dinner at the "Flemish Pot". I had the famous local brew, the Brugse Tripel - cloudy and a little yeasty, but with no aftertaste. Very good! But at 9% I didn't want to have any more.
They brought me some nice, crunchy, dense multi-grain bread. It was a strange presentation - served in a paper bag. I ordered some asparagus soup - I can't get enough of the white variety! But they forgot it! Instead, they brought out my eel stew first. I informed the waiter of the mistake so he took it away, only to return moments later and say that he never entered the soup order and dropped the stew back on my table. Not even an apology or an offer to bring the soup out later. I later also asked for tap water and was told that they only had bottled water available. WTF??!!? Terrible service! The waiter never even came
Another cool Belgian mall and another ubiquitous "Mango" store. I laugh every time I see them - do you remember the "Mango" character from Saturday Night Live?
back to check on me - perhaps he was embarrassed that he was such a bad server?
The stew had a slightly runny cream sauce that was filled with potatoes, celery, carrots, and leeks. Excellent flavour. The bony eel was difficult to eat. The stew became too rich and disgusting at the end - it simply was too much so it turned out that it was a good thing that they missed the soup. I was writing in my journal as I ate but had to stop as I became queasy from the stew. There was only one way to cure this queasiness - a waffle!
I walked and I walked but had no luck - I couldn't find any stands that were still open. Bruges is nice but is a little too quiet. Back to the also-quiet little hostel - it's very quaint!
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