It is about time I get back to writing about our last excursion. Especially because Ryan and I are turning into movie stars tomorrow and who knows if I'll have time once we hit the big time to write on this thing anymore. In the off chance we don't get our big break this go round we also found out we have a three day weekend next week and are planning on going somewhere (we don't know where yet, tell me if you have anywhere you'd like to read about next) and I figured I better finish writing about our last trip before we go on another and I get even more behind. So here it goes...
When we found our way from into Brugge we had the more exciting entrance I've ever had into a town. Brugge is surrounded by a canal, so to get into the town you must cross a bridge and there are many to choose from. The one that we ended up taking, and led directly to our hostel, took us under a castle entrance just like you would imagine from a movie. It was so cool and I am doing a horrible job describing it. And I don't have a picture, so everyone should go to Brugge and check it out themselves because this place was outstanding!
We arrive at our hostel and where thankful they had a bed Parker could stay in since he did not have a reservation like we did. Reneé, Ryan, and I headed to our room and were surprised to find only one empty bed out of 8. We were not willing to all share this bed, so Ryan went back down to the reception and they gave us a three person room at no extra charge. That was awesome!
Then we met back up with Parker and headed to an Irish Pub to celebrate the last hour of St. Patrick's Day. All of us had worn green except Ryan, so of course I pinched him. :) We each enjoyed a Guiness at the Pub while listening to a man sing and play the guitar, it was great. Then is got better... a man who was originally from the States was making things out a balloons and came to our table. He asked each of us what our job was. Parker is an airline attendant, but told they guy he worked for an airline. I guess Mr. Clown thought he was a pilot because he made him a head set with a microphone and everything on it. He made Reneé a flower (I forget why). He made Ryan a broom, you know to help him be a housekeeper. And, if I may say so, mine was the best. He made me a toilet that I could wear on my head. Then he made a ball of poop that other people could throw into my toilet bowl as a game. Gross? Yes. But also fantastic. :) Eventually the music stopped and we realized how tired we were, so we headed back to rest up for the next day.
In the morning we ate our included breakfast at the hostel, bread, cheese, jam, coffee, watery juice, and hard boiled eggs. Then we headed out to our first destination the Choco Story Museum. It is a museum about the history of chocolate. I liked it. I wouldn't go again. There was a lot of things to read and I read a lot of it and it was very interesting although I can't recount anything to share now. When we first paid to enter there was a tray of white, milk, and dark chocolate we could take to enjoy. YUM! There was a short movie showing people in the jungle collecting the cacao pods and that was interesting because how many people stop to think about where their chocolate started while eating a hershey's bar? Not many I bet. And at the end there was a demonstration of making Praline filled chocolates and we then got to sample those as well on our way out. Those are so good. And I found it interesting that Neuhaus was the creator of Praline. There are Neuhaus chocolate shops in Seattle and my friend Stephanie and I discovered them during our senior year of high school and though they were so good. I didn't know until this trip that is was Belgium chocolate. Anyone who has the chance should definitely try there chocolate.
Next we headed toward De Halve Mann brewery for a tour. Along the way we walked through a small market where people where selling their wears, some veggies, and fish. To reach the brewery we had to walk through a park and at the same time we all spotted a play ground that called each of our names. So for at least 30 minutes the four of us played on the playground. We made friends there too. There were two 12 year old boys playing on the playground that were teaching Ryan how to jump from the tops of the play equipment. Then a group of high school students showed up and were telling us their favorite kinds of beer. That was weird to us because they were only 17, but the drinking age there is 16 and most kids start drinking younger than that. It was also odd to see all these school age children in the park around noon, but we learned that in Brugge you are permitted to leave during lunch and go to the park or where ever you want I guess. It was pretty cool.
We had a couple more pit stops the way to the brewery. We walked by the first place I'd seen selling Belgium waffles and it lured me in. These waffles were the main reason I wanted to go to Belgium (although now there are many reasons I want to go back). They are sweet and they serve them hot. Mine had vanilla ice cream with Belgium chocolate sauce on it. It is heaven in your mouth. I can't even describe it, but if you are thinking about Belgium waffles in the States the only thing these have in common with those is the thickness. These should most definitely not be eaten for breakfast, but eat as many as you can after breakfast. Then just as we finished those we spotted a place selling fries. Since the tour wasn't quite starting we had time to go get some. Belgium is known for four foods: waffles, fries, chocolate, and mussels. I was determined to have as much as I could of all of them. What makes their fries so good is that they double fry them and they are extra crispy on the outside. The most traditional sauce they have with them is mayonnaise. Their mayonnaise is more eggy or something. It is so rich. I feel like I sort of let my healthy eating go over this weekend, but even I couldn't do that mayonnaise. Out of the numerous sauce choices they have my favorite was the curry or curry ketchup. Mmmmmm!
So we did stop eating long enough to to on the brewery tour. It was so great. We saw all the old equipment they used to use way back in the day when they brewed. And they are the oldest Beligum Brewer. They have won all kinds of awards too. At the end of the tour we got a glass of their Blonde I think it was. It was really good though. And because we had it on tap it was unfiltered whereas if you buy the same kind bottles it is filtered. If I go back to Burgge I would go on this tour again. It was great!
From there we headed back to the main square and on the way I wanted to see a tea shop that is across the street from a well known chocolatier and owned by the same family. Although I led us the wrong way at first we found it. The tea shop is supposed to have great hot chocolate, but they didn't do it to go and we had other places to see, so I'll have to try that next time. From the brewery Ryan and Reneé each got another waffle, then I got another waffle, and Ryan got fries, and Reneé got gelato. We did a good job of eating our way through Belgium. Then just before we got to the square we found two places from my Brugge book, the first was The Bottle Shop. This place had every kind of Beligum beer made I think. Ryan and I got a package of Chimay beer giving us all three of the beers they brew with a Chimay glass. Chimay is made by monks in southern Belgium. There are 6 monasteries in Beligum that are well known for their heritage of beer making. Reneé got a blueberry beer that she just drank the other night and let me try. It was really good. It was tart and fruity, but I thought tasted more like a wine than a beer. Delicious none the less. Then next to that was a Chocolaterie, I forget the name of it, that was in my book. The book said they were known for lewd designs. Sure enough front and center in the window were boobs made out of chocolate in all different sizes along with a woman's derriere wearing a thong. Other than those designs though I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. We all got a truffle or a few truffles, none of which made it home.
Finally we got the square where we were going to climb the Bell Fry tower and see Brugge from way up high. We walked up to the counter to buy our tickets and stood there being ignored by the woman for a least 2-3 minutes I would guess and when she came up she said we were too late. My book said it was open until 5 and it was 4:20. Apparently they stop selling tickets at 4:15. It was 4:20! 4:20! And she ignored us from 4:17-4:20. Could she not have sold us the tickets? Not our favorite person we met on the trip. But it is one more reason to go back and I really really want to. Then we headed across the square to a church that is supposed to have Jesus blood in it. I forget the back story with that I'm sure you can google it if you are interested. But the church closed it's doors at 4:00 so we missed that as well. Tired and a bit disappointed we sat on the steps of the church for awhile watching buses and people come and go throughout the square. Then we made a decision to head back to car and head for the beach for dinner.
The coast of Belgium is roughly 20 minutes from Brugge. As always we got a little lost, so it took a little extra time to get there. We we arrived and turned onto a street that runns right along the beach Ryan parked and before he set the e brake my shoes were off and I was running across the sand toward the water in the black of night. It was so freeing to be at the ocean. The sand felt marvelous between my toes. The water was absolutely freezing, but I didn't care enough not to let the waves bring it up over my feet. The day we were there was the day the multi event athletes were competing in california for Spring Fling our track teams spring break trip. Ryan and I both were missing the team, california, and competing a whole lot and just being able to touch the sand, something we'd be doing in cali, was a real blessing. Not that is totally kept me from missing the rest of the trip for the rest of the week because I did a whole lot.
Then something bad happened. Reneé had taken off running after me and just thrown her boots, camera, and jacket on the sand. Being a nice guy Ryan tucked her camera into her boots and set it with her jacket up against a random large piece of heavy equipment on the sand. He and Parker walked toward us maybe for two minutes before we all went back to where her stuff was. But her camera was gone. We looked EVERYWHERE. the only thing that makes sense is that someone saw the camera and saw us all walk away from it and came and grabbed it in those two minutes our backs were all turned. I felt awful for Reneé. All she really wanted was her memory card with the pictures from the trip so far. I appreciated her outlook that it wasn't the material item (although disappointing to have taken), but the memories that were captured. But we didn't let it ruin our night.
We at dinner outside under a tent right on the beach. Ryan, Parker, and I all had mussels with bottomless fries. Reneé, who isn't a seafood person gave it a shot anyway and had a entree of several seafoods most of which she did okay with but the sole was not good at all, even I a seafood enthusiast agreed with her. Our mussels came in I think an 8 quart pot. I've never had so many mussels in my life. It was awesome, but that combined with our bottomless fries made for three very very very full people when we got up to leave. We were all so glad we decided to go to the coast though.
Back at our hostel we got our new room. We had only reserved for one night, so in the morning we had booked for another night and got a four person room for all of us to share. We put our things down and lay down for a bit and then went down to the bar on the main floor of our hostel for one last Belgium beer before we left in the morning. We weren't down there long though because we were exhausted. Thank goodness because this time our room was right over the bar and if I wasn't so tired I don't think I could have fallen asleep so fast.
In the morning we had another breakfast like the day before, then loaded up and headed to Brussels to pick up Zack.
Once we got into Brussels we definitely got lost AGAIN and couldn't find where we had decided to meet. Eventually, after being lost for an hour we were able to reach the arch and I called Zack and told him to meet us under it. Since we all needed to go to the bathroom we went into the Automobil World that was located right beside the Arch. I was surprised but the pointed us right to the bathroom which was upstairs. They were having a job fair, so we sort of thought of interviewing for a job if they had one in Brugge, but we didn't. On our way out we took our time to admire all the awesome cars from around the world. They had them arranged by decades and it was fun to see the progression. Ryan's Grandpa Jack would have thoroughly enjoyed this place as a lover of cars. And in his nearly 98 years I bet he had vivid memories of when each of the cars in the building were released new. It was a fun random stop to finish our time in Belgium.
Then sadly we had to bid adieu to Parker who was going to stay in Brussels a couple days and then find somewhere else to move on to. I don't think I really explained Parker. As I mentioned he is a flight attendant for a Canadian airline. He is from right near Calgary, Alberta. He had three weeks off and was able to get a incredibly cheap flight to Europe through his airline, so he decided the day before he left to just go for it. He had been in Amsterdam about 5 days when we met him and brought him along with us. He just got back to Canada a couple days ago. He ended up going to the Czech Republich to somewhere I forget and then Prague and then from their to Spain and traveled all over from Seveille to Madrid to Barcelona where he flew home from. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with him. He was a ton of fun and we also had some really wonderful conversations with him. All of us hope to see him again sometime, maybe a reunion in Canada? :) Also SO RANDOM... Zack went to Madrid for four days to visit a friend he has there and saw Parker for a moment on the street. I love small world encounters.
From Brussels we got on the road and headed to Luxembourg, but we will have to save that story for a later date. Ciao.