Before I begin I would like to say that I have never seen the film In Bruges. Anybody who knows me knows I’m incredibly guilty when it comes to watching films. And while I can see “I must see it” until I go blue in the face, chances are I will never see it. Anyway, it seemed fitting to have it as the name of the blog so I step away from the arrogance and narcissism titles of my previous posts.
Bruges. I visited here several years ago as part of a music tour I did at university. I was only there for 6 hours but I’ve always had it in the back of my mind as somewhere to revisit. So back in September when a Eurostar sale message came through my inbox I couldn’t resist. Christmas market in Bruges seemed perfect.
I really like travelling by train, none of the faff of airports and more leg room. I arrived in Brussels 2 hours after leaving London and then I had another hour to get to Bruges. It was pretty dark by the time I got there so I decided to head down to the bar to get something to eat. At this stage I’m pretty confident about going to a bar on my own in a hostel, I’ve done it a few times and I’m open to striking up conversation with people. In this circumstance, nobody was taking the bait. It’s very easy to take this personally but sometimes that’s just what happened. It happened in Salzburg before I met the French Canadians. I got the hint and went to bed.
The following day I woke up pretty late and went into the centre of the city for lunch. The Christmas market called and it was very sweet. Of course I had a chocolate waffle for lunch because when in Bruges. After that I just went for a wander and came across this hilarious but charming Christmas shop.
Bruges was extremely cold and the best way to warm up was the pop into chocolate shops. Not only did you get warmth but also FREE SAMPLES.
Later in the afternoon I did a walking tour, I was hoping that from this I might have better luck with meeting people. The walking tour was great and I learned a lot about Bruges and its history including the times the city had to deal with Maximilian the Holy Roman Emperor. It was him that gave the name ‘Brugse Zot’ (Bruges Fool) to the now local beer. When Maximilian visited Bruges in 1488, the people decided to revolt. They were able to imprison their monarch for over four months in Bruges. Out of vengeance, Maximilian imposed a prohibition to organize festivities and fairs. To calm him down, the people of Bruges decided to organize a celebration to honor Maximilian. Afterwards they asked him for permission to build a new mental hospital. Maximilian advised them to simply close the gates of Bruges, because the town was already filled with fools. [This was taken from the website, I could have retold the story but obviously they do it better than I would]
So I expected to meet people on the tour. But, the tour was full of couples and very closed groups that had no interest in talking to anybody but each other. I finished the walking tour solo. The first time that’s ever happened. I’m very grateful that this travelling solo experience wasn’t my first because if it was I would imagine that I would have given up and gone home by then. I was cold and fairly fed up as it occurred to me I had decided to visit a beautiful city at Christmas time which is typically something people do with other people. People that they are in love with for example. I’m very passionate about encouraging people to see what they want to see and go where they want to go and not needing to worry about constantly having someone with them but bloody hell this was depressing.
What could cheer me up in this circumstance? Some mulled wine and some frites. Because what else can warm you other than love? Warm alcohol. Excellent.
I then thought about trying again and decided to attend the night walking tour. Maybe I would be luckier this time. And I was! There were plenty of people willing to chat and the walking tour was much more enjoyable because of this. The tour conveniently took us back to the hostel and from there I thought to join in on the beer tasting event. I don’t typically drink beer but that doesn’t mean to say I’ll ever say no to one.
The beer tasting event was attended by a lot of girls similar in age to me and we had a hilarious time. None of us were beer drinkers and the beer in Bruges is very strong so we all got drunk fairly quickly. The music in the bar was amazing and we were all singing and dancing to Madonna and ‘Lady Marmalade’. Single girls to the extreme.
The evening certainly cheered me up and I felt more positive about the following day. I did wake up with a pretty thick head though..!
The next day was mainly about the shopping. The wonder of travelling by train is that you don’t have to worry about luggage limit as much and you can bring liquids too! I was also feeling rather smug as the euros I had were exchanged in May which were well before the referendum and before the UK pound turned to poo. Hooray! I bought everybody loads of chocolate and bought my Dad some local Belgian beer. Of course I didn’t have a boyfriend to give chocolate to so I gave all that hypothetical chocolate to me.
Between shopping I went on a boat tour which was something I wanted to do last time I was in Bruges. The views were gorgeous but I was sooooo cold.
I totally see why they call this the Venice of the North. Many Belgians would rather think than Venice is Bruges of the South but anyway, I can understand why many couples venture here. It’s unbelievably romantic. Here are some more photos of the city of Bruges-itful (sorry)
Something else I did was revisit parts of Bruges I remember from my visit 3 and half years previously. The first photo was taken in 2013 (that’s me and Tash), the second in 2016.
The Christmas market is cute on the surface. But, as always, it does get infiltrated by the other end of markets. “Roll up, roll up, come and win a teddy bear”. Never mind.
I went back to the hostel to warm up and drop off the shopping. A girl came into my hostel room and was on the bunk opposite, she explained to me that it was her first time travelling solo and this was her first stop before going to other parts of Europe. I know how important the first person you meet is when you’re travelling solo and so I felt it was necessary for me to be the smiling face and the pleasant company for her first evening.
She was very obsessive about taking photos and had 3 different devices for doing so. But Bruges was beautiful that evening and it did seem a little magical. She insisted on taking a photo of me in the market square and you know when you have your photo taken and it’s not the best photo ever but you smile sweetly like it’s the best you’ve ever seen? Yeah, this but bless her anyway.
Apologies also for referring to the girl I met in my hostel as ‘she’, it was 3 months ago and I honestly can’t remember her name, sorry! Anyway, she was very insisting there were a large gathering of boats with Christmas lights and that we must find it and that we must take photos. It was really cold and frankly I can be lovely but I was getting a bit tired and really wanted to go to bed (I know, aren’t I boring). We finally found the lights and they were lovely and my phone camera certainly doesn’t do it justice.
Off back to the hostel. When we arrived back in the room I left to go to the bathroom and when I returned I found the girl sitting on my bunk. Even though her bunk was opposite mine and also the bottom one. I want to go to sleep but you’re on my bed and I don’t want to be a bitch because this is your first time travelling solo but you clearly don’t know hostel ettiquette and I want you to get the hell off right now. But really it was more like “Ah so what are your plans tomorrow? Mine include having to catch an early train from Brussels, my word is that the time!?”
Not sure if I’ve sounded so bitchy while writing these blog posts before but I wonder if it was the mix of being utterly single in a very romantic location and also having Mother Nature greeting me that weekend too. I know, I’m basically a moaning spinster.
On the train from Bruges to Brussels I bumped into Jolie who I met at the beer tasting event. Jolie is from Australia and working as a freelancer in London. We had a great time chatting on the train and hope to see each other back in the UK at some point.
Bruges was lovely indeed and I would highly recommend it for couples. Never for solo travellers. Especially at Christmas.