Monday, April 24, 2017

Spring Break, Part II: Belgium

From Amsterdam, we made our way to Belgium via a series of trains - we have become quite competent at train, metro, and bus travel and it always makes me want to sell our cars and move somewhere where we can hop a Metro to work (well, except that I really like my new car). Our first stop, for lunch and afternoon exploration, was in Ghent. The city center, like so many we have visited, was a  be-speckling of long uninhabited building and pristine churches - along with the touches of , shall we say, modernity - carnival rides and McDonald's restaurants. We did what we were best at this trip - we walked to and fro, up and down alleyways, along canals, and toward the smells, sights, and sounds that make Europe great.  


Belgium has its share of great canals, too

Balls and Glory, a meatball restaurant 

After our midday meal, our choice of one of four daily special meatballs, yep, that's a thing - we made our way back to the Metro station and then onto Brugge, which proved to be my favorite Belgian town (despite my long-held desire to visit Brussels). Our hotel was just off the city square and had a fabulous canal view.  We checked into our new digs and immediately headed out to explore.  Brugge was bustling with life - and one morning, when we headed out to breakfast, we even happened across a mid-week market with plenty of local treats: fruit, cheese, meat, waffles, you name it. 

Bourgognes des Flandres Brewery Tour

We spent our few days in Brugge walking, biking, and relaxing in true European fashion (well, aside from the cigarettes). I was a bit uncertain about biking around town - mostly because watching the bikers in Amsterdam dodge other bikers, tourists, and vehicles gave my heart palpitations - but I was really glad Brian suggested we pedal about town.  We biked nearly 10 miles, which for a pair of non-bikers who were making their way across cobblestone streets, wasn't bad.  Before heading out of town, we also made it a point to stop off at a local brewery.  While I am no beer fan, Brian was a big fan of the post-tour tasting, and the whole experience reminded us of our trip down the Kentucky Bourbon Trail - time to make a trip back there, I'd say... 

sights from our bike trip  around and through town

As much as I was looking forward to Brussels, I certainly didn't want to leave Brugge.  I loved it there, and would happily return (the same holds true for Amsterdam).  When we arrived in Brussels, I was immediately struck by the contrasts - the centuries-old buildings and the modern multi-story buildings; the busy streets and the quiet park-side paths; the quaint little restaurants and the series of chains.  Despite the fact that I would have happily headed straight back to simple, sweet Brugge,  I was so thrilled to make my way to Brussels. The spirit of exploration was strong this trip as we ambled about from one town to the next. 

We were sure to reward ourselves for all the hard work (walking all over everywhere) with just the right rotation of fry cones, waffles, and gelato.  During our few days in Brussels, we checked off all the must-see items (aside from taking a tour of the EU Parliament building -- they were not in session, so the tours were not running), including a meet-and-greet with the Mannequin Pis (what a strangle little fountain that is replicated in every souvenir shop the whole town over) and a stop-off at the Parliamentarium, which was loads of interactive fun.  Learning all about the EU reminded us of just how many places we still need to visit.  

With that in mind, we closed out our time in Belgium and got set to make our way to our next and final destination for Spring Break 2017, Germany. 


Mannequin Pis - a little guy taking a tinkle draws quite a crowd in Brussels 


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