WIth our second to last trip of the year, we hopped on the train and headed back to beer paradise: Belgium. If you recall, last February, we went to Brussels with Jeff and Kerry. We intended to go to Brugge as well….. but I forgot our passports in the Brussels hotel room so we had to frantically drive back from Brugge to get them. So when Eurostar announced their Nov/Dec sale, we jumped on the opportunity and got some tickets. I’ve probably said it before, but I’ll say it again: The Eurostar is awesome. It’s fast, smooth, and way less hassle than flying.
Brugge is a very fairy tale type city. It’s about as gothic as it gets in terms of architecture, so it was a lot of fun walking around the old-feeling city. The only downside is that is that the secret is out and there were a ton of other people with the same idea. Regardless of the crowds, it was still a really fun trip.
Megan and Hamish of Greece met us in Bruges for this trip. We did a bit of a Top Gear style race with the Schetzels taking public transit the whole way and the other 2 driving the whole way. I think the driving journey actually took less time than our public transit journey since we had an hour layover in London and we had to back track a little going from Brussels to Bruges. However, our journey was more relaxed as we didn’t have to drive. Thinking about it now, the real winner was probably Megan because she made Hamish do all of the driving and she didn’t have to worry about stringing 3 different train journeys together or about driving.
After arriving at the hotel around 10:30 pm, we headed directly for an establishment that served lots of local beers. Hint: They are not hard to find in Belgium. One delicious beer led to another, and another, and we ended up closing the place down. Solid start to the weekend.
The next day, we put on our tourist hats and headed to the main square to do our standard RIck Steves walking tour. Megan and Hamish started calling us Rick and Lisa (from the audio walking tours) because we always seemed to be leading them around and keeping them focused. Anyway, here’s the photo dump:
Here’s the postcard Bruges view. Almost got one with no people in it…
The tour highlight, the Half Moon Brewery!
We didn’t do the tour, but I am curious how the Belgians brew their beer to make it taste so good. I guess I didn’t care all that much because I was perfectly happy to skip to the end and get a fresh Half Moon beer, straight from the source.
Shortly after the brewery, we had to end the tour because we had to get back to Hamish’s car because there is a rule on Saturdays where you can only park for 4 hours at a time. There are no meters or anything. You just have to display a plastic clock type thing on your dashboard that shows when you parked. Interesting system.
December is one of the most popular times to visit Bruges because of the Christmas Markets. I didn’t know this until we arrived and saw the huge crowds that made it difficult to walk down the street.
After some beer and souvenir shopping, we headed back out on to the town. Because Bruges is so popular in December, the only time we could eat dinner was 6:00 pm. It actually worked out well because it was dark, we were hungry, and it gave us plenty of time to enjoy the Christmas Markets that closed at 10:30 or so.
Dinner was delicious and beer filled, just like everything else this weekend. After dinner, we went back to the markets for some gluhwein and exploring.
We passed by a bumper car setup and watched some kids have a lot of fun running into each other. After a few minutes, we started to wonder if there was an age or size limit. After a quick question to the owner and 10 Euros later……..
This is a lot of fun.
After the adrenaline of bumper cars wore off, we decided to try our luck at ice skating. We had all only been once or twice before so there was a high probability of falls. Overall, we did pretty well and I had a great time. I believe Tara was the only one that fell….
After ice skating, we decided to call it a night. The next morning, we parted ways with our travel companions and started our journey home. Our Eurostar train left from Brussels so we decided to check out the Brussels Christmas Market with our extra hour to spare before our train left.
With only 1 hour to spare, it was pretty hectic fighting the crowds. Tara had some pretty specific and hard to find items (as it turns out) that she was on the lookout for, but it proved impossible with the huge crowds and short time window. Still, the market was really nice.
So after a frantic market tour, we found our Eurostar train and made our way back to Derby.
As far as Christmas markets go, we’ve done pretty good. We’ve seen Munich, Salzburg, Birmingham (Tara only), Bruges, and Brussels. I think Brussels was the biggest, but Bruges wins out for atmosphere. Salzburg is a close second because it was also very cool, but it didn’t have an ice skating rink.
Once we finally got back to our car, which we left at work, we experienced a minor fail. It turns out that they lock the RR parking lot on the weekends. We had to ask security to open the gates for us. They were less than pleased with having to help us, but 20 minutes later, we were released.
What trip to beer paradise would be complete without a beer collage….. I really love this beer.