When initially plotting this adventure, The Farmer was to be spending his 22nd birthday on the high speed train between Paris and Munich. Though he is rather partial to this mode of travel, we all felt as a birthday treat it was tad shabby and so a juggle of the European leg of the trip was proposed. Where would he love to spend the day? It had to be somewhere in the general Homestead Grand Tour neighbourhood. In that weird way life has, that night a documentary on Belgium – The Home of Chocolate screened on one channel followed by the movie In Bruges on another.
The Farmer’s birthday marked the beginning of a new type of holiday; one that required the negotiating of our Eurail pass. It’s not incorrect to say we were all a little nervous about this as, though we had tickets booked for the first leg of our journey, our travel from Brussels to Bruges was on a local service for which we could not book in advance. While we all tried to be happiness and light in view of the day being one of celebration, the mood lightened enormously once the connection had been made, luggage stowed, and we were comfortably seated, having been heartily reassured by the guard, the carriage attendant, and our soul carriage colleague we were indeed heading in the right direction. Emotions bubbled over for a moment when a couple of goats were spied out the carriage window (there’s no shame in missing them, is there?) but the tears were hastily mopped up in anticipation of our next adventure.
Our first impression of Bruges was of lovely people; as we made our way out of the station people made eye contact, smiled, said hi (or words to that effect). Our traditional post journey argument/heated debate regarding the best route to our hotel was defused in the most polite manner by a gentleman quietly inquiring whether he could be of assistance and then pointing out our way (“walk along this road, in front of that red building, then turn right and walk in the direction of the big clock tower…”) in a way so unambiguous that all hostilities ceased. Later, as we crossed the square in front of the clock tower, red-faced from hauling wheeled suitcases over medieval cobbles, we ran into him again. He cheerily gave us the thumbs up and reassured us we were “going great”.
Our time was limited so we wasted none, dropping our suitcases at the wonderful Hotel Boterhuis and then heading back to The Chocolate Museum where every aspect of the ingredients, processing, and end products of the joy that is chocolate is explained in unmitigated detail
by which time we were all (particularly The Farmer who had skipped breakfast such was his excitement) ready to sample their wares.
Space being slightly limited in the Old Town, this required a small walk to a cafe where your wildest chocolatey dreams actually exist.
After such indulgence, none of us were up to any
vigorous form of exercise so we opted instead for a turn around the Old Town in a Hop On Hop Off Bus, Bruges style
and then revisited on foot the sights Rosie and BB (“like Black Beauty, but cooler”)) had earlier towed us past
until we were once again so footsore the only answer was
a medicinal, wine-soaked Happy Birthday meal.
We all agree, Bruges is delicious – even when it’s not your birthday.