Riding the Rails: Brussels to Bruges
Have you ever taken a Eurorail ride?
No, I had not until this trip. We were staying in Amsterdam and wanted to go spend a day in Belgium. My boyfriend had spent a semester abroad in Belgium at Mons and our plan was to go there. He was going to show me around the city and the places he had been while staying there. Instead, we decided to head to Belgium and decide which city we wanted to visit most based on our tourist guide books.
But first we had to get there. Getting on the Eurotrail at the Amsterdam station was not difficult. We both packed backpacks for the day, unsure if we would come back that night or stay in Belgium. We chose our seats and began our ride. A man checked our tickets, which my boyfriend had ordered before we left. We bought the tickets that allowed for travel among the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg and wanted to go to Luxembourg but didn't make it on this trip. So I'm setting in our seats and I notice a beautiful small baggie in the magazine holder on the seat in front of me. Yes, this baggie was plastic and in it was probably 2 grams of a lovely bud of mary jane. I wanted to keep it so bad but my boyfriend and I were so paranoid about traveling in Belgium with it that we left it there for someone braver.
From Amsterdam to Brussels we rode the same train and I mostly stared out the window at Holland landscape. It has its beauty all its own. Entering Belgium from The Netherlands is not obvious but it is in certain ways. I hate to say it seemed dirtier the closer we got to Brussels. There was much more graffiti and small cities along the ride. I was relieved to get to Brussels and was immediately overwhelmed by the size of their station. Amsterdam's was large but Brussels was larger and so much busier in my opinion. We made our way out and off to venture around Brussels.
Riding from Amsterdam to Brussels.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Brussels: A quick visit
When we left out of the Brussels train station we took off walking. This is how we travel. We just choose a direction and start walking. Sometimes this works out well and we find amazing treasures, other times we take a wrong turn and end up on Skid Row in Vancouver with our 9 year old but that's a different story! This time it worked out well thankfully and we went right to the Plaza or center square. This may have also been due to my boyfriend simply knowing exactly where to go but I like our random method. After spending days in Amsterdam and becoming accustomed to the Dam I was in awe by Brussels Grand Plas. The area seemed smaller to be because of the size of the Dam in Amsterdam but that could have been because it was crowded. The Guildhalls on the Grand Plas and the Museum of the City are majestic beauties. They not only astonish you but show you the different historical eras that have left their imprint on Belgium. A country so rich in history and Brussels is no exception!
We stopped for lunch at a small sandwich shop and were amazed at how cheap our meals were. We both had sandwich, chips, and drinks for less than 5 Euro. After we ate and wondered around the Grand Plas I had to find a tourist shop and get my magnet. I also had to find a restroom! Helpful hint that I was not aware of when traveling in Belgium. You have to pay to use public restrooms. For those that have not traveled to a country where this is custom I am not kidding. My boyfriend handed me a Euro, I forget the denomination, but I looked at him inquisitively. He said I would find out and to go ahead into the bathroom in the large shopping area beside the Grand Plas. There I found one of those spinning people counter that you have to walk through and a lady sitting on a stool. I handed her the Euro and she allowed me into the bathroom. Now I know what I was thinking and what you may be thinking now. I would not pay to use a restroom. After the day, however, I had changed my mind and liked walking into a public restroom that was usually empty and use a clean restroom. And I'm not joking when I say clean because I was washing my hands at the Bruges train station and the lady was already scrubbing the toilet I just used!
But back to Brussels and its beauty and history. Overall I was impressed and would like to spend more time there one day. The atmosphere and culture was so different with the French influence unlike Amsterdam and the Dutch culture. I highly recommend simply based on the clean bathrooms and cheap food!
Brussels to Bruges
BrusselsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Brussels to Bruges
We stayed in Brussels around an hour or two at the most before heading back down the railway. We past Ghent, somewhere we both wanted to stop, but had decided that Bruges sounded more our style. I look forward to going back to Belgium one day and visiting the sites of Ghent.
Each Belgium town seems to have its own distinct style as you pass by them on the train. History has marked each of them differently and its culture, architecture, and people show that difference across the country. I don't recall how long it took us to get from Brussels to Bruges since you are allowed to drink in public in Belgium and my boyfriend had introduced me to Jupiler. One important fact I forgot to mention. The beer machines in the train stations. They are exactly like a coke machine that pops out a 20 oz bottle or old coke can machine but it offers beer. So he got us a couple for the ride and we enjoyed the scenery and each others company as we rode on towards Bruges.
Brussels to Bruges in picturesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Bruges: My retirement plan
Where to begin with Bruges? This city was the highlight of my trip and I spent the week in Amsterdam if that tells you the impact this small city made. When you get off the train and leave the train station you have to cross a busy road but once you do you enter another world and era. The Medieval architecture and canals that run through the city will leave u wondering what path you are even on because you are so lost in the beauty. As I have mentioned, we just choose a direction and wander the streets, no destination in mind, just see what we find. Bruges did not disappoint in our method! Every turn we made took us to something more breath-taking or delicious. Have I gotten to the chocolate? There were chocolate stores around every corner and they were absolutely divine.
Aside from wandering the streets eating chocolate and drinking Jupiler, we visited the Gallary XPO of Salvador Dali. We also wandered around the market and debated taking one of their horse drawn carriage rides through the town but decided to keep wandering. The Basilica of the Holy Blood, The Church of our Lady Cathedral and St. Salvator's Cathedral were stunning and indescribable. Again, I can't stress the architectural beauty of Bruge. It's as if the city hasn't been aged and you have stepped back in time. The Belfry, or their bell tower, is something of beauty and listening it to it along with the other cathedral bells was a sound that everyone should hear in their life.
It was such a hard decision on whether to stay and take the train back to Amsterdam in the morning or to get a train and head back that night. We chose the second due to price and the simple fact we wanted to get back to the Amsterdam night-life. We slowly wandered back to the train station and it took us a while because we got ourselves so lost within the city. After paying to use the restroom again and grabbing more Jupiler we boarded the train again and took off for Amsterdam.
The Beauty of BrugesClick thumbnail to view full-size
After leaving Bruges, we rode the rail with some Jupilers back to Brussels to change trains. When we got back to the Brussels train station we had to find restrooms once again after the long train ride and the beers. While waiting on my boyfriend, I saw a train to Amsterdam that was leaving in 4 minutes that was close to our location in the station. I stood there impatiently, waiting for him to return from the water closet, knowing we would be waiting another hour or more for another train to Amsterdam. Did I mention it was 10 pm and I was ready to get back and find coffee shop? I must admit he didn't make it in time for that train and he found a disappointed me telling him we had just missed the train and had to wait on the next one.
While waiting, we wandered around the station and found some food and I proceeded to fill my backpack with as many Jupiler as would fit for the ride back to Amsterdam. Looking back, I now realize who cared if we took a later train. We were on vacation! My boyfriend was quite amused when I returned from the water closet with a backpack full of beer for the ride back. I can't recall everything about our final ride on the Eurorail back to Amsterdam but I know we had fun and I knew I was leaving a place I would have to return to at another time in my life.