Mid week city break, anyone?
The thing I love about Europe is that everywhere is quite close – relatively speaking! Cheap flights on budget airlines and you can discover the Art Nouveau capital of the world! That actually surprised me! Okay, so this wasn’t my most planned or researched trip! I hadn’t even noted down the address of my hostel or how to find it! I sort of just decided to head to Belgium for a few days, then decided to stay in Brussels and visit Bruges and Ghent. They, pretty much make a triangle! Despite not knowing where my hostel was or how to find it, this turned out to be a great trip.
I landed in Brussels and had the realisation that I had done zero – and I mean zero -research! I didn’t even take a note of the address of my hostel or how to get there! An empty stomach and no idea where to go… not a great combination! But thanks to a cheeky wifi connection – thank you O2 for dropping roaming charges to Europe – I was able to find my hostel which ended up being only 10 minutes walk from the station I was at!
Seriously unprepared for my first foray into Solo travel in a while! No travel charger, wrong plug connection, no bag for water, although walking around with only my MK traveller bag was awesome and light! SO I decided to introduce – THE EMERGENCY TRAVEL JOURNAL – an A5, 96-page soft cover book that fits in my handbag with my selfie stick, phone, hand cream, pen, passport and gum. My trendy umbrella hangs nicely off the bag too!
After the hostel debacle, I headed into Brussels for the afternoon. Which means I navigated myself from my hostel to the Grand Place, in a meandering orientation style walk! These are my favourite – unrushed and you see some strange and wonderful things. Searching for specific landmarks comes later in my tours, I like to get a feel of the local area and find the big landmarks that make navigating the city easier! The Grand Place is exactly that, the heart of the city.
Brussels is filled with identifiable places from the Atomium, the Mannekin Pis, Palais Royale and Central Station. We have all seen Place du Luxembourg on TV at some point!
One thing that I enjoy doing is finding good places to eat or drink and returning for seconds or thirds. This is easy in Brussels with the L’Roi on the Grand Place, a great place on the corner of the square with a gorgeous view where you can drink beer and watch the tourists! Another place is the Moeder Lambic on the place Fountainas, a fabulous beer house with over 40 crafted Belgium beers! You can find one that you like or keep tasting until you fall over!
After watching In Bruges, I have wanted to come to Bruges to see if it really is that beautiful! It is! Even when overcast and threatening rain! The canals are simple and stunning while the Begijnhof is amazing. The Begijnhof is a silent, square of giant trees planted by Beguines, emancipated women who wanted to live a life of quiet contemplation. The square is surrounded by the Beguinage Ten Wijngaarde, pretty housing for those independent ladies, now home to monks and a museum.
Bruges is an easy city to walk around even with my bad sense of direction! There are tourist maps placed along the route from the station to the Centre Markt. Which is straight out of the film and beautiful even without the market in full flow. All I could smell was strawberries as I walked through it!
The buildings are old, brick-cobbled along small streets.nThe churches tower over the buildings – some are so tall that you can’t get the full weight in a photo – not enough space to step back! There is a similarity to the buildings but they are not uniform.
Both McDonalds and Pizza Hut are not clad in their usual brightly coloured showy exteriors. I walked right past the McDonalds – only identified by a small sign outside. And yes it is a cheap place to eat while travelling!
Such a pleasure to stroll along the canal listening to the wind!
Ghent and the hard to find castle!
The train to Gent St Pieters was really enjoyable – I like trains – calm and chilled. I enjoy that. Peaceful, I forget how much I like train journeys. Definitely, something I miss living in KSA.
Ghent or Gent – WOW!
So unexpected and beautiful!
The churches, trams and shops all squeezed into tiny, windy streets that stretch for ages. Then it’s churches and cathedral – stunning. I spend much time meandering through the small streets looking for a castle that is not on a hill – most castles are on hills, or set in easily defensible places. Ghent Castle is not – you can’t even see the castle over the buildings. It’s kind of odd, although the castle overlooks the city, well the upper ramparts do due to their height but the actual castle is hard to find as it’s sort of hidden in a dip by the canal. Definitely, my favourite part – I even spent ten euro to see inside its dark halls and wander the ramparts. It is full of little displays of old weaponry, clothing and historical nuggets of information!
I have discovered that I really like walking around cities as seeing the architecture and getting a feel for the city!
What’s your favourite thing when travelling? Do you prefer feeling the life blood of the city or viewing museums and galleries?