Maastricht & The Three Countries Point
The last section of our trip was disrupted from the start. It took too long to get a “low-emission” permit for Aachen, so we went via Maastricht instead, and what a gem. We parked in a hidden underground car park by the river Meuse and had a burger for lunch before moving on. It is a beautiful town that deserves more recognition, though, of course, that would bring more tourists and all that goes with it.
Teeny tiny rooms of no coffee
After arriving in Bruges and driving over narrow cobbled streets, we eventually reached the hotel and parked up. This was easier said than done, due to a closed road outside the car park, but we managed.
The room itself was… disappointing. The smallest room of the three we stayed in by far, there was no fridge and worse, no coffee-making supplies. Now, I could cope with no espresso machine, but here, there was no kettle, no water, nothing. To add insult to injury, they wanted €20 each for breakfast and an extra €3 to upgrade their regular coffee to espresso. Disgusting, and this will be reflected in my review.
In addition, there was only a place to put one suitcase (of which we had two) and the space for hanging clothes would not allow for hanging anything longer than a tunic. Of course, they did have a “luggage room” where you could store cases… for a fee. Even the car park was the most expensive and least well equipped. We were getting the impression that Bruges was full of money grubbers.
So I was upset and not exactly quiet. Louise thought I was blaming her and got upset and well, it was not the most prodigious start to our stay.
We needed a drink, so I hit up Google Maps and found a bar called @ThePub around the corner, literally one minute from the hotel door. Turns out it was the local queer bar and served about 100 or so different Belgian beers until about 3am. We settled in to drown our upset and headed back for sleep several hours later.
Bruges Trek III: The search for caffeination
The following morning found us with less than wonderful heads. Still, after a quick shower, we felt able to strike out in search of coffee – there was no way we were paying the hotel’s breakfast rates. This led to the discovery of Espresso Bar – I Love Coffee, which while not cheap, served a selection of coffees, teas, and pastries for a quarter of the price the hotel wanted. A flat-white with two shots of espresso for less than a fiver, tea made from leaves, not a bag, and fresh pain au chocolat was great to get us set up for the day. We ended up coming back here every day.
Now that our heads were steady and we felt more human, we headed in the direction of Choco-Story, the Bruges chocolate museum to kill a few hours. It turned out that they did a multi-ticked for two other museums as well for one price, so we went for it.
After a walk around a three-story tour of the history of chocolate in Belgium, we passed through a door into Lumina Domestica, a museum of the history of domestic lights from twigs to LEDs. They had a selection of some 5000 or so oil lamps from various parts of history, and a few videos. At the end of this, it was back into the chocolate museum for sampling and an optional demonstration of modern chocolate making.
The third museum, dedicated to another Belgian product was about 300 metres or so down the road, the Frites Museum where the history of Belgium’s obsession with potatoes (especially the deep-fried variety) finished up the morning for us. Of course, there was tasting at the end!
Meatballs and beer
After retreating to our room for the hottest part of the day (at least it was air-conditioned), we headed out for food. Meatballs (with Belgian Fries) were my choice, while Louise had smoked salmon with salad. Local beer accompanied this repaste, and we had a quiet evening to let ourselves fully recover from the previous evening.
Beer tours and massive waffles
Wednesday, after coffee, we paid a visit to the Bruges Beer Experience, a beer museum. A fun little tour of various brewing styles in Belgium and around the world, the history of beer, and of course at the end, samples.
We followed up with a tour of the Borgoine des Flandres brewery (with more samples) and then diverted to the House of Waffles for lunch. I had a Brussels-style waffle with chicken, egg, and salad, while Louise’s was a BLT. Then we both had a Liège-style waffle with chocolate and ice cream for dessert. We were both stuffed, as you can imagine.
We went back to @ThePub in the evening but didn’t stay long as it was smokey and Lou’s belly was playing up. We retired early and watched a few videos before sleep.
The last full day
After coffee and sitting around typing up some more of this blog (no, not this bit silly – that would be too meta even for me), we got some bottles of water for the journey home and priced up takeaway beers in a supermarket and bottleshop to decide what and how much we would bring home with us.
Above the Historium on the market square sits the Duvelorium. A temple of beer dedicated to Duvel and associated brands. We spent an hour or so sipping beer and watching the crowds on the market square below.
In the evening we headed back to @ThePub for a few more drinks to say farewell to Bruges. This was our sendoff since we were leaving first thing in the morning to come home. Of course, this meant we couldn’t drink too much. An early night got us ready to face the drive back home.
The Voyage Home
Coming home took longer than expected. We made it to Calais in good time thanks to some good road conditions, but the queue for customs was pretty chaotic. French Passport Control was a breeze though, a quick look, a stamp and we were though. British Passport Control however was another thing. We were fairly lucky and got through with a minimum of fuss (which was still a lot more fuss than with the French side), but they did seem to be singling out a lot of traffic for special attention.
Once on the UK side, the traffic problems started. The Dartford Tunnel, for instance, took us longer to cross than did the Channel Tunnel, and the M25 … well, the less said about that, the better. The traffic eased up after that, however, and we made it home in the early afternoon.
I wish we’d taken more photos in Bruges as it’s a beautiful city. However, we were tired by the time we got here and didn’t bring the camera as much as in Ghent or Koblenz. I think we’ll just have to come back another time to spend more time sightseeing and less time in tiny museums and breweries.