I always appreciate the information on this forum so I try and give back.
Sorry this is long but it is also my own trip report to keep with my photo albums...
March 22- Had an unbelievable easy drive from Connecticut to JFK. Every time we have flown out of JFK we have sat for hours in traffic on the Van Wyck. My husband decided to try a new route and we breezed right in. This was the easiest beginning to one of our vacations ever. Check in at AA was wonderful. The agents could not have been nicer and when we told her our breeze in this time versus every previous trip in, she looked at us and asked, “Haven’t you ever watched Seinfeld? They are always joking, ‘Everything was going along just fine until we hit the Van Wyck!’” Too funny. Now we know.
The flight was practically empty. Both my husband and I ended up with our own row (one in front of the other) and our daughter and niece shared a row. The flight was just fine and the attendants were wonderful.
March 23-Arrived in Brussels on time at 6:40 AM. We headed to the train where we purchased 2 adult tickets to Bruge, with a change in Gent. I had pre-purchased my niece’s (14) train ticket (Go Pass) before leaving home. We paid half price for it that way. The train ride was easy. Arrived in Bruge around 9:30. I called the owner of the home we had rented to let him know we were on our way. As we neared the exit of the station, we came upon a little food shop and quickly scanned the shelves in search of Chocomel. 12 Euros later there were four happy people, with very big smiles, topped off with brown mustaches! Out the door we went and grabbed a waiting taxi. 15 minutes later we were at the door of our new home for the next four days, “de Hoedenmaker.” The owner was there waiting for us upon our arrival and greeted us warmly. Upon walking in, we were all thrilled. The pictures on line do not do it justice. It really is a lovely, warm, comfortable and functional home. It is located a ten minute walk from Markt, but in a quiet residential area. The home has two bedrooms (one with a queen, the other two twins that can be pushed together). There is also a loft accessed via the queen bedroom that was a twin trundle bed. There is a full bath upstairs and a very small half bath located downstairs. The kitchen had been fully remodeled and was wonderful. There was a cozy living room, free wifi, and a lovely little side courtyard. One of my favorite things was listening to the church bells ring on Sunday morning. I would stay here again in a New York minute!
After getting settled, my niece and I headed out to the Markt Square as we had seen the market was there when we drove in. My husband and daughter stayed behind to unwind a bit. Bruge really is everything you read about it, historic, romantic, fairytale-ish and yes touristy (but that did not detract from our trip). Unfortunately 10 minutes into our outing we came upon a horrible scene of an accident where a city worker had been killed. He was still lying under the street sweeping vehicle as we passed by. A heartbreaking sight, but one that reminds you of how precious life is and why it is so important to live life as though it is your last day...
As we passed by store front after store front with displays of delicious looking pastries and chocolates and bottles of beer I knew we had come to the right place for vacation. The market was wonderful. It is always one of my favorite things to do when on vacation. Again, there were pastries and breads, meats and sausages, cheeses and foi gras, flowers and plants and the seemingly out of place, chinese food stand (although it looked delicious). We happily wondered through, taking pictures and sampling some of the delicious items. My niece and I were both in Heaven! As our bellies were now aching for food, we headed back to the house to round up the other two so we could grab some food, and a beer of course. We walked back to the Markt, and against everything I had read chose to eat at one of the restaurants right there (De Carre) as we wanted to the view of the Belfry and my daughter wanted to watch the horse carriages go by. The food was OK but the service was bad.
This leads me to the two biggest issues we had while traveling...the water and the tip. I found it so very frustrating that the only water to be had was 7 Euro bottled water. We all drink a lot of water and so needless to say, this got rather expensive. The tip was another very frustrating part. Some restaurants, this one in particular, verbally told us that, “service is included but the tip is not.” Other restaurants, which I shall mention shortly, never even afforded you the opportunity to add a tip as they stick with the feeling that the service is included.
We walked around some more and then feeling tired headed back to the house again where both kids fell fast asleep. My husband had already napped but I knew better so I grabbed the shopping bag and headed out to the local supermarket to pick up some supplies. The streets in Bruge are tricky, to say the least, and it is a very good thing I had a map. My niece and I had also noticed that the spire on top of the church that was located a block over had a rooster on it, which led us home more than once...
The owners had very kindly supplied coffee, cream, sugar, a few bottles of beer and some Chocomel but I wanted some more breakfast items and of course more beer and definitely more Cecemel (Chocomel’s name in Belgium). I love the local supermarkets and this one was very clean and very well stocked. I already was feeling like a local, walking home with my groceries, through the winding cobblestone streets of Bruge...
I knew that by the time dinner time rolled around we would all be quite tired and hungry. The owners had told us about the restaurant, Tom’s Diner, that was literally 37 steps from our front door, so decided to check it out. I walked in and asked if we could make a reservation. The hostess/waitress was very nice and said no problems just to come back at 6:30 and she would have a table for us. At 6:30 we walked into what felt like an old, quaint, cozy farmhouse. The food was very good, the ambience perfect, and the service excellent. This was one of the restaurants that upon receiving our bill, ran our credit card and handed the slip over to us to sign. There was absolutely no mention of a tip. We did however leave a few extra Euros and announced that we would be back the following night if they had a table.
37 steps later we were at the door, 12 more steps upstairs, and all four of us collapsed, having a wonderful night’s sleep!
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