19 May 2011

In Bruges

Day 6

Today is travel day to Bruges, and what a day  it will turn out to be...

The day started with breakfast at our morning standard, Cafe Parvis.  From there, we checked out of the hotel and headed on the Metro toward Gare de Nord.  On our map, red and orange look very similar...  After a few stops, we realized that we were not headed to the gare, so we hopped off and grabbed a cab.  But for other reasons (my incorrectly set watch) we missed our train to Brussels and had to buy another ticket.  No worries...  164€ down the tube.  Arghhh...

But it gets better (worse, actually)...  We got to Brussels, finally, a couple of hours later.  We LOVE the Thalys high-speed (186 MPH) trains.  Smooth, quiet, food and drink service.

OH!  I think I forgot to mention that with the EU, there are no passport checks or customs when traveling country-to-country.  And while on the subject...  When we arrived in Paris after Miami, there was no immigration paperwork to complete and only a quick passport check at CDG.  I bet it won't be so smooth next week when we return to Dallas via Heathrow.  But we'll burn that bridge when we get there.

Back in Brussels...  We're just here to change trains to get to Bruges.  On the Belgian trains (state-run) there is no first class (the difference in first and second classes on European trains is not as it is on airlines), no reserved seats, and no reserved schedule.  You buy a 24€ ticket and it's good on any train (to a specified destination) for 30 days.

We found the track, ascended the escalator, and hopped on the train.  [Insert high-pitched conductor whistle here.  Really.]  After about 20 minutes up-rail, the conductor passed to check everyone's tickets.  Tom presented his, and the conductor replied (in perfect English) "This is not the right ticket."  I presented my ticket, which was the same, pointing out the we both at tickets to Bruges.  "The tickets are okay, but this train does not go to Bruges."  Red faces reigned.  The conductor was the perfect gentleman and explained to us that we need to get off at the next stop, swap tracks, go back to Brussels...

In Bruges!  (If you haven't seen that movie, rent it.  Colin Farrell and Ralph Feines.)  We cabbed it from the train to the hotel, where Tom has booked the "honeymoon suite" on the canal.  That is an exaggerated description, but it was an adequate hotel.  (See our canal-view pictures.)  Rick Steves hit the nail on the head with his description of the hotel -- big and basic.

We walked up to Market Square, Bruges' main one.  Bikes, taxis, city buses, and horse-drawn carriages whiz by.  High energy old world.

Dinner was at a "tapas bar" called Rockfort.  I had foie gras (imagine that) and Tom had eel.  The place was as modern and chic as any Dallas restaurant, but architecturally set 300 years ago.  The food and service were fantastic (the latter of which we would learn is unusual in Bruges).

Day 7

We did Rick Steves' walking tour of Bruges, hitting all the highlights, including Michelangelo's "Mary and Jesus" sculpture, "the only Michelangelo sculpture exported from Italy while he was alive".  What a specific claim to fame.

The rest of the day included lunch at a sidewalk cafe (Still lovin' the cafe life!) and turning in early.  We're leaving tomorrow morning and don't want a repeat or the previous day's train fiascos.

No comments: