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Croissants Are Always Worth It

BELGIUM | Saturday, 30 April 2016 | Views [516] | Comments [1]

Beautiful Bruges (...and Lille and Brussels)


Went on my first vacation since moving to Prague and it was fantastic!!  Took my first Ryanair flight in 9 years and forgot how obnoxious they can be by making lots of announcements during the flight and trying to sell products and raffle tickets and whatnot.  But the flights are cheap and I dozed most of the flight, which was pretty wonderful.

Landed in Brussels at the south Charleroi airport and it was very clearly still on high alert, as it had only been a month since the attack at the main airport.  It was a Thursday afternoon when I arrived, so it wasn’t particularly busy, but the airport shut down most of the doors so that you could only exit through one door and enter through another (and only after travel documents were checked by airport security).  So I got myself a chocolate croissant and waited for my bus to Lille.  It was 30 minutes late, but the sun was shining, so I read and waited and then dozed on the bus ride because I was apparently too tired to keep my eyes open while traveling that day… met up with my friend Kierra at the train station in Lille and we headed back to her flat—our friend Channon had friends visiting as well, so after a tasty dinner we had a chill night drinking wine and chatting together.

Friday morning was relaxed and I ate the most delicious chocolate croissant from a little café around the corner from the flat.  Kierra had to prep for and do a phone interview, so her flatmate Pat took me on a little tour of Lille.  We went to a kebab shop and enjoyed some tasty falafel while people watching in the Grand Place, then we walked through Vieux-Lille (the old town)—like most European cities with an old town, this is the most quaint and beautiful part of the city (the classic Europe that you see in all the advertisements).  Our wandering took us to the Lille zoo, which is free… saw a tortoise and snakes and monkeys and lemurs and rhinos and zebras, OH MY!  It was a nice way to spend the afternoon--walking through an unknown city while chatting with a new friend.  Pat told me that the reason many of the buildings in Lille are brick is due to the clay deposits that are plentiful in that region of France.  The rest of the evening was again relaxed with a home-cooked meal and local beers (Ch’ti amber and triple) and good conversation with wonderful people.  All in all it was an excellent trip to Lille—a city I probably never would have visited had I not stayed at the same hostel in Stockholm with Kierra and Channon and Alex.  It’s neat how things work out :-)

Headed to Bruges on Saturday morning after eating more chocolate croissants because I just couldn’t get enough of the French pastries!  Bruges is beautiful.  It’s very small and the buildings seem to be untouched by time.  The sun was shining, so I spent as much time as I could walking around and exploring without a destination in mind… found a little park to sit in and people watch for a little bit before heading back to the hostel.  I stayed at Snuffel Backpacker Hostel and it was great; very clean, friendly staff, safe and secure.  They also offer a “beer card,” so for 11 euro you could have 5 beers (which was well worth it, as most beers at a restaurant or bar were 3-6 euro each).  Over my 2 days in the city, I had the local Brugse Zot, brewed just down the road from the hostel; La Trappe Trappist Quadrupel; Brugs Witbier/Biere Blanche; Duvel; and Westmalle Trappist Dubbel.  All very delicious, but my favorite was the Westmalle Dubbel—rich and malty with a very slight semi-bitter finish.  Delicious!

Day two in Bruges started with a crisp stroll along the river while listening to Les Miserables.  I came across the Traitor's Skull at the Smedenpoort gate--a bronze replica of the skull of a traitor who opened the gates from the inside in 1688 to allow the city to be taken.  Then clouds rolled in and after a short hailstorm I found myself at the Beguinage--the place where Beguines used to live.  These women didn't take formal religious vows like nuns, but promised not to marry, so they lived in the Beguinage together.  Throughout the rest of the day, I dodged rain showers and saw the Church of Our Lady, sampled some chocolate in the Belgian chocolate shops and found myself sitting at the historium bar overlooking the old town square.  Later in the evening I made friends with a hostelmate, Britta, and we wandered around some more and got fries and a waffle (SO GOOD).

The next morning Britta and I had breakfast and chatted and then took the same train towards Brussels--she got off at Ghent, but I continued on.  I only had the afternoon to explore and it was rainy, so not entirely pleasant.  BUT I had another waffle, saw the Grand Place, the Manneken Pis statue and did the free tour of the European Parliament building (which was pretty neat).  It really started storming around dinner time, so I spent the rest of the evening at the hostel and made an early night since I had to get up quite early to get to the airport.

I'm really glad I was able to take this little vacation.  Got to see friendly faces, meet new people and learn about a few new cities.  I think my favorite part, though, was the croissants.  My final croissant count for the 5 and a half day excursion was 14.  No regrets!

Tags: adventure, bruges, brugge, croissants, exploring, hostels, lille, pastries, travel



Why does 14 croissants not surprise me?

  Johnny May 20, 2016 6:24 AM

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Utah, USA, 2015

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