A rather late night (recently started watching Downton Abbey, which has become a bit hard to tear myself away from) meant I got a relatively late start to my day. I said goodbye to Brussels and hopped on the train to Bruges, just an hour away. It wasn’t long before I was making the walk from the train station, along with a sizable number of other tourists. There was a quiet simplicity to the edges of town surrounding the old town.
I didn’t have a clear sense of the layout of the city and didn’t have cellular data on my phone (which I’d admittedly come to rely on in the Netherlands), so I contented myself with aimless wandering. I did eventually come across what appeared to be one of the main streets, lined with a surprising number of big brands for what seems like a relatively smaller town. I soon spotted the famed 13th century belfry, centered in the town’s Grote Markt. I made my way through the impressive town square in search of the canals. It wasn’t long before I found them, picturesque–lined with autumn-leaved trees and charming buildings.
I hopped in one of the canal boats for a tour, which gave a good sense of the town’s layout and interesting viewpoints. Actually taking photos on the boat was a challenge, as it was a very low slung boat and the people sitting in front me were leaning out of the boat to take their own pictures (I was bemused/mildly irritated at the volume of selfies being taken by the woman in front of me). After we’d finished our tour, I walked canal side to re-visit some of the sights we’d seen.
The canals were beautiful, and I eventually wandered my way across a few that were off the more tourist-trafficked path, which made them much more peaceful.
I didn’t have an action-packed afternoon planned. There were of course museums I could have seen and towers I could have climbed, but I opted for a simpler day. I appreciated the weathered corners and cobblestoned streets who have remained, watching quietly for many hundreds of years. In a riotous world, that kind of consistency is reassuring. In my wanderings, I eventually decided on a restaurant to have a quick bite of dinner before heading back–tasty enough though perhaps a little (unsurprisingly) overpriced.
It was a lovely, peaceful day, marred only by the return journey. Getting back to Nijmegen ended up being a bit of a debacle. Due to track work, my journey would consist of train, train, bus, train, bus. Because of an initially slightly late train, I ended up missing the subsequent connections (a product of their tendency to plan itineraries with often just 5 minutes between trains). I eventually returned to my guest house close to midnight, after a long over 5 hour journey.