I’d been looking forward to visiting Bruges, firstly because a lot of my friends had told me how pretty the town is but secondly (and possibly more importantly?) because my friend Debby had given me the address of a shop that sold very tasty hot chocolate!
We were a bit nervous about driving into a large town with the van so Darren looked for a Park and Ride car park on the GPS. It turned out not to be quite the same as the Park and Rides in the UK. We were expecting a large car park with a coach to drive us into the town. This car park was very small and next to a park with a play area, it was in very pretty surroundings. There wasn’t a bay long enough for us to park in so we had to park across 4 car bays and hope that was acceptable! The car park was virtually empty except for a tatty old caravan that was sitting there so we figured it was fine. We never did find the ‘Ride’ part we did hazard a guess that maybe it was the train station up the road but in the end we just walked into Bruges.
Our timing was perfect, we arrived at the entrance to the town to find the traffic at a standstill because the draw bridge (road) was up to let a huge barge though, we couldn’t have asked for a better start to our trip to Bruges, it was a lovely thing to watch while we waited to cross the canal into the city.
Unsurprisingly our first stop was the Old Chocolate Shop for hot chocolate which was brought to the table as a HUGE cup of hot milk with a little cup made from chocolate with chocolate beans in it to mix in as much as you liked and a couple of Belgium chocolates on the side, it was very good just as Debby had promised however I felt a bit sick from the chocolate overdose, serves me right for being so greedy!
After stuffing ourselves with chocolate we desperately needed to walk it off so we set off to explore the city which is as pretty as I’d been told, unfortunately we were still very tired and when we got back to the van we discovered we hadn’t done the town justice when we looked at our Dream Routes of Europe book, we’d completely missed the part that they’d photographed in the book! We’ve decided that we are going to visit it again before we return home only this time we’ll take our bikes!
After we’d wandered around for a while we settled in the main square to people watch.
Darren went off to get take away coffee and I was lucky to be in the square as a group of tourists started singing the most beautiful song, their voices were so harmonious that I assume they must be a choir. I tried to video it to show Darren but it picked up sounds that were closer to me and obliterated the beautiful music. Unfortunately by the time Darren had returned they’d finished singing.
We sat and drank the coffee and watched the horses and carriages that were providing tours of the city for a small fortune as they came back to drop their customers back in the square. We were most impressed by the fabric slings that hung under the tails of the horses to catch their poo, ingenious!
On our way back to the canal we walked up to one of the windmills, the first windmill we’d seen since we arrived in Belgium and possibly the windmill that we’d spied as we were waiting for the bridge to lower so we could enter the town earlier.
When we got back to the van we were relieved to see that we hadn’t got either a ticket or a clamp!
We had decided to stop at an ‘Aire’ for the night, we were rather nervous because we didn’t really know what to expect. We chose one near a village called Aalter which was half way between Bruges and Ghent because we wanted to visit Ghent the next day, the ‘Aire’ was a beautiful spot by a canal. There were 2 other vans parked on that stretch of the road, we didn’t want to disturb their peace so we parked further forward by the bridge which had the added advantage of being able to watch the swallows swooping in and out of their homes, I tried to photograph them but they were so fast they’d usually left the nest by the time I’d pressed the shutter!
It was an entertaining place to stay, we saw some enormous barges go past while we were there, I had no idea that barges could be that long we also saw some smart motor boats, lots of joggers on the opposite bank as well as a weird looking red ‘car’ moving along the opposite bank on the cycle path, we wonder whether it was a bike with a shell over it.
After we’d eaten dinner we went for a stroll along the canal, the path eventually ran through a field full of cows so we turned round there and ‘jogged’ back in the lovely evening sun.