Beautiful Brugge…when travel goes wrong

The end to this week is extremely bittersweet. This morning, I said goodbye to my boyfriend Harrison after one of the best weeks ever together! I am so incredibly thankful that I got to see my dad, brother, and Harrison this week! I miss them all already. In an upcoming post commemorating the halfway mark of my time abroad, I will be talking more about my dad and brother’s day visiting me in Oxford! But for now…the adventures in Brugge.

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Harrison and I chose Brugge based on its close proximity to the UK and its small town medieval charm that we’d heard so much about. The entire city is an UNESCO World Heritage Site! Originally, we planned on traveling via the train but picked up some plane tickets on British Airways when they dropped to an unbeatable price. Disclaimer: We still had the most incredible trip EVER and do not regret visiting, but these stories are too good not to share with you all! Travel gets tricky and sometimes it’s just something you can’t avoid.

We began our journey on Thursday night, absolutely pumped to take our first flight together and visit Belgium. Since we had a 6:30pm flight of only one hour, we anticipated no problems with our arrival as our Airbnb allowed us to check in at any time. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Let me guide you through the small (not really so small) series of errors that ensued when we stepped off the plane.

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The Arrival

#1 – This one is minor but we had a small scare when my credit card didn’t work on the train ticket machine in the Brussels airport. Luckily, it was just a security flag done by my credit card company and we were able to purchase tickets from the ticket counter.

#2 – The Brussels airport is not really large, so we made the tragic mistake of waiting to get food, figuring we could get some later.

#3 – Although my phone carrier states that I should have service in Belgium, my phone did not work at all so we had no way to navigate except for what we had looked up in advance. Thankfully, we had saved nearly all of the details we needed.

#4 – Belgium is the first country that I’ve visited that does not loudspeaker their train announcements in English, and says them only in Dutch. I found a new appreciation for those who travel often in countries that do not communicate in a common language when we accidentally got off the train one stop too early and ended up literally in the middle of nowhere at a station that was COMPLETELY deserted. I kid you not, there was not a single person in sight for the 20 minutes we had to wait for another train.

#5 – Starving and exhausted, we finally got off the train in Brugge to discover that the busses were no longer running.

#6 – This one was purely my fault – I had been using my debit account a lot more than usual this week and mistakenly thought I had enough money to withdraw Euros when in fact, I did not.

#7 – Still no open restaurant in sight…

#8 – Hopped on some sketchy wifi to get an Uber only to discover that Belgium does not use Uber.

#9 – Found a cab driver and convinced him to take American dollars and drive us to the Airbnb. American currency is a LIFESAVER in emergency situations.

#10 – Finally rolled up to our Airbnb (still no food) and went to retrieve the key in the key safe. We were THRILLED…until it came time to opening the door. I don’t know what it is with European doors but they are THE WORST.

#11 – After about 10 minutes of struggling with the door, we decided we needed help. We left our luggage in the backyard and wandered to the main street where we found an older local couple willing to help us. THANK GOODNESS that we found them! The husband, Alex, opened the door with ease and taught us a trick to opening stubborn European doors that get stuck from the cold. We ended up talking to him for about 20 minutes and exchanged email addresses.

#12 – Exhausted, we forgot that in Europe the “second floor” is really the third floor and accidentally tried to walk in the bedroom of our host (I don’t think he was happy).

#13 – Still no food…we tried to find ANYTHING open online and failed miserably. We were forced to devour some chocolate bars and Chex Mix and go to bed on empty stomachs. By the time we got food the next day we hadn’t eaten for nearly 24 hours!

#14 – Once we had wifi, we opened my email to find out that our planned hot air balloon trip had officially canceled due to supposed bad weather that never even came.

The Trip

That, my friends, is the story of how we (barely) arrived in Brugge, Belgium.

Thankfully, our day Friday and time Saturday morning was absolutely perfect. Brugge is perfectly maintained and even more beautiful than we expected it to be!

Highlights:

Books & Brunch:

After our 24 hour food hiatus, we INDULGED at the brunch place recommended by our Airbnb host. (I might have had some input on choosing this place). We both ordered the hearty belgium breakfast and were stuffed to the brim with eggs, bacon, and a variety of breads. It even came with a delicious chocolate spread! I also got a Harry Potter butterbeer latte which was the best latte I have ever had. It is never too early for chocolate!

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Markt Square

This is the hub of Brugge! Here you can pick up your horse and carriage (which we did!). I love traveling during the offseason when places aren’t too crowded with tourists.

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Minnewaterpark

Brugge is such a romantic place to visit! I loved walking over the canals and through this field of flowers called Begijnhof – one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

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Brewery Tour

De Halve Maan Brewery is a family owned brewery in Belgium – one of the few left! We took a great 45 minute tour and learned all about beer history and how this particular brewery works. They even have a beer tunnel that runs underground to another location off site! Here is the view from the top of the brewery and the drinks we enjoyed afterwards! Bruge Zot Blond. I highly recommend it!

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Beer flight tasting

Next, we continued our little St. Patrick’s day celebration with a 12 beer flight tasting that consisted completely of local Belgian brews! This was a really cool to try a lot of variety and see what we enjoy!

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The people

By far, our favorite part about the beautiful Belgium was the people! We found that people everywhere wanted to talk to us and hear our story; and we loved hearing their stories as well! We exchanged contact information with several people throughout the trip and are excited to follow up with them!

The food

For some reason I can’t currently find any pictures of the other meals we ate, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one! Besides beer, Belgium is famous for chocolate, waffles, and eating fries with mayo…and NONE of these disappointed. Even though things tend to close early in Brugge, they sure keep you full during the day!

Horse and carriage tour

On Saturday morning, Harrison and I made our way to Markt Square to take one of the infamous carriage rides! Our driver drove us around town for 30 minutes and shared some history along the way. What a fun way to see the sites!

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Pub hopping

We ended our night in Brugge trying out some more local flavors! Brugge has no shortage of pubs and we loved each one that we tried. Some offer over 200 varieties of beer! As they say in Dutch, Proost!

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The Departure

After our rocky start, we were determined and much more confident about getting home. We had a relaxing morning and had looked up trains online in advance and had a ticket to return to Brussels at any point during the day. We allowed plenty of time and headed out to the airport at about 3pm for our hour and a half train ride.

#1 – After about an hour and a half of traveling, we grew a bit concerned when we didn’t seem to be approaching the city. I sent Harrison to consult a train person to ask how much longer it would be – he told us 30 more minutes.

#2 – For some reason, British Airways does not allow you to just download your boarding passes so although we were checked in, we did not have boarding passes.

#3 – After almost another hour had passed, we were nervous. We knew that we were going to have to BOOK IT in that airport in order to make our flight. When the train finally pulled up after THREE HOURS of travel, we took off. Since the train announcements were only in Dutch, we have no way of knowing why in the world it took 3 whole hours.

#4 – We got into the airport and ran to the British Airways desk with 40 minutes to go only to find that there was not a single employee in sight. We had no one to help us and no way to get our boarding passes.

#5 – Extremely upset, we hopped in a crazy long “ticket desk” line, knowing that we had to get back to London somehow for Harrison’s morning flight.

#6 – Slightly broker and a lot sadder, we finally arrived in London approximately 2.5 hours later than we were supposed to on a different airline than we should have been flying.

So…

I am SO lucky that I was traveling with Harrison – my boyfriend and best friend. Despite these difficult and unforeseen circumstances, we shared laughs over the ridiculousness of it all and still had a great time despite it all. Sometimes, you just have to take it all in (hopefully with some Belgian beer and chocolate!)

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