After staying in a very charming town along the Mosel River we drove to Belgium.
We had a safe trip to Belgium although we got a huge storm and strong winds. During certain times it was a nightmare to see the road. I had to go behind a Recreational Vehicle because it was white and big, so I did not miss the road. It was really tough to drive in such terrible weather conditions. The bikes were “dancing” as they were hanged behind the car and we were praying they stay there because it was impossible to stop, impossible to see, impossible to get out of the car. We had experience such huge storm only twice in our lives: once in Rio de Janeiro when returning from a nearby city and another in Canada when a huge storm near Montreal hit us. These three are our “live memories” of worst weather conditions ever.
After the storm we got very strong winds and the road was very busy with large trucks going to one of Belgium’s ports (Antwerp, Liege, Bruges…). When we were approaching Bruges Port , the conditions got worse due to the large number of huge trucks on the road as they had kind on an aggressive driving and were not particularly friendly to a small vehicle carrying two bikes.
I also must mention that the first impression we got from Belgium was TERRIBLE. We have been traveling around Austria, Switzerland and Germany where the conditions of public toilets are always perfect, or “almost perfect”. As soon as we crossed the border from Germany, getting into Belgium we saw a sign for public toilets on the highway and we stopped. We were in “desperate need” to pee because we have been driving for a long time with a huge storm where we couldn’t see almost 20 feet in front of us.
So… when the storm was over, all we want to do was…… pee!
The facility had good signs and a place to park the car. But………. the toilet … OH MY GOSH… I had never ever imagined such a thing could exist!
Although it was all made of steel…… it was IMPOSSIBLE to enter. There were %#@# EVERYWHERE! On the floor, on the walls… it was a nightmare! It looks like some fanatics did that on purpose? S*** ON THE WALLS??? Like “painting” ?
Imagine someone (or a group of people) vandalizing a public toilet with sh*t. That was it.
I will never forget the scene I saw there (and the smell either).
This was the “Welcome to Belgium” we saw. S**T EVERYWHERE. TERRIBLE.
I see a lot of advertising on tv saying ‘Visit Belgium” , “Go to Belgium” etc. I guess the Government there should spend less in advertising and more contracting a company to keep the bathrooms CLEAN.
Bruges: Where not to stay.
We had made reservations to stay at Hotel Egmond, located inside Minnewater Park. Location was good but the hotel is kind of dishonest as they charge € 15.00 for guests to self-park their vehicles at the parking lot.
This is absolutely ridiculous because there is plenty of space there and if you don’t park there where they “suggest” it’s possible to find free parking close by. So… this is just a “smart way” to make profit on guests.
The hotel is located in an ancient building. In the past this building was used as a laundry.
The guy who was working at the reception desk was friendly and helped us to carry our luggage upstairs (there is no elevator and the wood staircase is a spiral).
The room was dated and shabby. The bathroom was really small. The bedroom window could not be shut due to a mosquito net that was badly installed. This awful mosquito net prevented the window to function properly. Although it was summer, the nights were chilly and we had no way to close the window.
Not being able to complete shut the window could be the hotel’s strategy regarding smelly rooms… Dogs are allowed in the hotel and the bedroom floor is carpeted. We could smell dog’s pee in the bedroom, probably due to previous “guests” peeing on the carpet. Imagine if the window could get closed? That would be really bad… he?
Anyway… despite the bad choice of accommodation, we are supposed to have fun during our holidays. We went out to explore the city!
I have always heard people saying “you should visit Bruges” , “Bruges is gorgeous“, blah blah blah. Ok… the city is pretty, no doubt about that, but it is not “a place you must visit before you die” .
Where to have a good beer in Bruges:
We went twice to Bierbrasserie Cambrinus. They have more than 400 types of beer and excellent fries as well. In fact, “French fries” should be called “Belgium Fries” and the fries in Belgium are better than the ones in France! 🙂
The best way to explore a city when traveling is always by bike! There’s no better way to go!
In a few minutes we were able to pass in front of all main attractions in Bruges.
On September 12th, after breakfast we decided to visit the older brewery of Bruges. De Havre Maan (Straffe Hendrik Brewery). It’s necessary to book a visit. Visits are in English (and other languages as well) and they happen every hour. Our group had approximately 15 people.
What I can say about the brewery tour? Well…. I must give it some thoughts….
If you have visited a “real” brewery before, like Budweiser in Tampa – Florida – USA, simply skip this one.
This “brewery tour” in Bruges has only this tour guide trying to be funny. Sometimes he indeed is funny, but only when he tells the same old jokes you have already listened ten times before. There’s nothing more.
When to visit this brewery? If you happen to be in Bruges in a rainy day and there’s nothing better to do… ok… then you could give this brewery a try.
After the tour they serve a free sample. Anyway, if all you want is drink a beer go elsewhere, ask for a beer and you will spend less.
Brewery Tour: This is not a “real” brewery (as the production is made somewhere else). This visit is more like visiting a museum with a tour guide distracting the audience making some jokes about other brands, etc.
A favorite food in Belgium is “Moules-Frites” and I ate “Moules-Frites” daily while we were there. Most of them were good but I found the ones in France better…. Keep reading our next posts! 🙂
On September 13th, after breakfast we went to the town center and visited Our Lady’s Church where we were able to admire a wonderful sculpture created by Michelangelo: Madonna and Child.
From the city center we went biking to Minnewater Park as we planned to make a long ride (biking) to a nearby town called Damme.
We went again to the same place we have been the previous day (Windmills) as they were on the route to leave Bruges and go to Damme.
On our way we were able to see this ferocious bull but fortunately “he” had no horns and there was a fence between us and “him” …
Damme is a very tinny town, with a church, few houses and few restaurants / shops. It is charming but only if you have plenty of time and have the same opinion as us: the biking ride is part of the adventure.
To go as many tourists go, driving or on a boat cruise… I don’t see a “point” going there…
We had lunch there (Damme) , at a local bar/restaurant, and it was good. We sat outside although it was a little bit chilly. We preferred this way because inside and at the veranda, they have heaters and it was too warm.
We preferred to stay in the cold as we would bike all the way back and it would be better to our health to keep the same body’s temperature instead of becoming pretty warm to return to the cold temperatures while biking after our meal!
So… chilly we stayed! After the cold beers we felt even chillier !!! 🙂
On our way back to Bruges we saw this apple tree with hundreds of beautiful apples! Click on the picture and you will be able to count how many apples are there!
On September 14th it was time to leave Bruges and drive to our next destination: Rouen, France!!!
If you want to travel to Rouen with us, read our next post !
If you want to see more pictures that we have taken while visiting Bruges, visit our Flickr gallery clicking here!