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Published: June 22nd 2017
Geo: 51.2094, 3.22523
Ring ring. Ouch, it's 5:00 in the morning. Time to start our day. The staff at Travelodge were kind enough to have a hot breakfast ready for us at 5:30 so we could depart for Ashford International Station (the Chunnel) at 6am. We pulled out of the lot in our trusty people mover and were off through a series of roundabouts and tree covered sections of road on our way. There was some confusion about what to do with the people mover as the rental car return sign had been stripped from the pole. With a little help, we figured it out, and managed to board our Eurostar train ahead of schedule for our 7:28am departure. The little help was pretty necessary, since it turned out the car had to be returned to the first floor of a parking garage (car park) after drawing an entry ticket, then the keys had to be dropped off on the fifth floor. The Eurostar train ride was amazingly smooth, and within an hour we were at our first stop in Calais, France. It seemed like we traversed the English Channel within a half hour!
We de-trained in Brussels and the posted schedules were a little confusing about our 10:51 train to Bruges. One listed platform 16, the other platform 18. We had to wait for the electronic signs to post and move from platform 16 to platform 18. The elevator we used to get to platform 16 was aromatic to say the least. We had to use it again. Not in the way its prior passengers had to use it. The elevator to platform 18 had been used even more and was even more aromatic. We call the scent, Brusselle No. 2. Up pulled our train and it was full to the brim. We ended up standing between two cars the entire way to Bruges. Thankfully, it wasn't too hot or we would have been miserable.
Upon arrival at Bruges train station, we had the option of walking 0.7 miles over cobblestone streets to our hotel, or taking a cab. The weary pilgrims opted for a cab escort and were happy with our decision. We took a nice break in our air-conditioned rooms, which we needed after our 5am wakeup. After a refresher, it was time to head out for lunch. We walked to the Market area of Bruges with the intention of having a small lunch. After examining the menu, we could have chosen a small plate, or had a three course meal for just a few more euros. It ended up being an easy choice, with all of us enjoying an appetizer followed by Flemish stew and chocolate mousse. By the time we were finished, it was mid afternoon and we'd had more of a dinner than a lunch.
Jeannette suggested a carriage ride, which seemed the perfect way to survey the city center without putting more miles on our weary feet. Half-an-hour later and we had gotten the lay of the land and weren't terribly sore or tired. We then took a Rick Steves' walking tour of the city, which landed us in some scenic places including the Basilica of the Holy Blood (dating to 1150), canal bridges, and city hall. A couple being wed were lucky enough to have Jeannette photobomb their processional. Relatives and friends were gathered outside the public building, rice in hand, when out walked the happy couple followed by Jeannette, who also got riced and then ducked promptly back inside. We continued walking throughout the town, finishing at a brewery that we plan to tour on Sunday. It was then time for another rest back at the hotel. Tonight, we were exhausted and not famished, so our dinner turned into a second dessert: Summer Belgian Waffles with fruit, whipped cream, and ice cream.
Tomorrow we are off to visit battlefields of the First World War. Wish us luck as we continue our adventures!
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