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Beautiful Belgium

Belgium - Bruges & Ghent

all seasons in one day 12 °C
View Belgium on kmmk17's travel map.

After several months of being at home, it was finally time for the first trip away of 2023. We had wanted to use the Eurostar to visit Belgium last year, but unless you book a way in advance it isn't cheap. So in January we decided to book for April - weather would be iffy, and there was a chance of train strikes but hopefully we'd finally get to go!

As the date approached, we were good for the trains running, but the weather was not great - possibly raining the whole time. Oh well...

Rather than rushing around, we decided to give ourselves a bit more time by booking a two night trip. We would not have to get up too early, and had a train leaving London just after 1pm. I had also booked our train tickets in advance, so that we got a bargain.

Then around half an hour before needing to get up and go, I get an email. It's the hotel - stating that my payment has been rejected and unless we arrive before 6pm then our booking will be cancelled. We were likely to arrive about 6, but it could be later. Was this genuine or a scam? I decided to try and give them a call, but this was a disaster - going around in circles and getting cut off. By now I don't have time to make a call, we are on the move going in and out of signal range. Whilst at the train station we get confirmation, yes this email is genuine and my card does look to have been blocked by my bank on suspected fraud. Great - thanks for letting me know when I need it and don't have time now to sort it out.

Eventually after arriving at St. Pancras and waiting to board the train I have time to make a call to my bank. Waiting for 10 minutes I get though to someone who confirms that yes, my card as blocked yesterday, and that they'll put me through to the right place. Another 25 minutes later, and with boarding now at any moment I finally get through to someone. I again have to go through multiple levels of security, despite still being on the same phone call. They go through a list of payments I've made which are all legit. But the guy is so slow. I can barely hear with the signal being weak and tonnes of background noise, but when I attempt to speed him up he gets arsey and then forces me to go through it all over again... for God's sake. Eventually after confirming that everything is in order they release the card. I ask why they've blocked the card and then not made any effort to phone, email or text me... "we vary methods, and this one was notified by post"... wow, is this 1995? After a very stressful 4 hours I'm now finally free to start enjoying the trip.

After many years of application, I recently received my Irish passport giving me back my EU citizenship. But as the Eurostar has juxtaposed border controls, I decided to still travel on my British passport as it would mean the novelty of getting a stamp entering France, with the crossing named as London!

French Passport Stamp

French Passport Stamp

Boarding time approached, and we headed up to the platform. We found our seats and waited to continue. Not too long later the train headed off. Around half an hour into the journey we were already reaching the tunnel. Another 45 minutes or so and we were whizzing through France. Being from an island it was a weird feeling. I'm used to needing to fly to get abroad, or occasionally on a boat. But a train! Were we really abroad. Well around an hour or so later we definitely were.

Eurostar

Eurostar

We had arrived in Brussels, capital of Belgium. We weren't staying too long - we'd be back here tomorrow to explore properly, but for now we were passing through, buying onward tickets, grabbing some snacks for the weekend and heading towards Bruges.

Bruges is the main reason for the trip. It looked beautiful but I hadn't visited before. It was only an hour on the train from Brussels, and our hotel was just a short walk around the corner. We had already confirmed with the hotel we were definitely coming, and in the end turned up shortly before 6.

We still needed to grab dinner in town, and as the weather forecast was much better for this evening than tomorrow we decided to also take a bit of a look around too whilst it was dry.

The McDonalds

The McDonalds

After grabbing the tastiest McDonalds burger in a long time (the Royal Crispy Bacon in case you're wondering!) in a beautiful old building, we headed for a short walk to the beautiful Central Square, with it's imposing belfry.

Belfry

Belfry

We then headed back to the hotel via the canal - crossing the Boniface Bridge and stopping for photos.

Boniface Bridge

Boniface Bridge

Our final stop tonight was through the Begijnhof (mediaeval homes for religious women), before the short walk back to the hotel, where we rested after what was quite a long day.

Begijnhof

Begijnhof

The following morning we kept an eye on the weather. There was a window of an hour or so before the rain was due to start, so we made a decision to get going earlier and try to dodge the showers.

We headed off into the city again, walking through the parks that run along the outer canal, before heading into the city centre and taking a look at the sights, starting with the beautiful canal.

Bruges

Bruges

We then made our way towards the City Hall, taking a look inside the neighbouring Basilica of the Holy Blood.

City Hall

City Hall

After making our way back to the Central Square, we took a walk around the northern side of the city, still managing to dodge the now imminent rainfall. We then headed back to the hotel, passing back over a now very busy Boniface Bridge.

We grabbed our bags and then made our way round the corner to the station. It was only half an hour down the track to Ghent, where after arriving, we swapped to a tram to take us into the heart of the city.

It was only a passing visit, as we had our bags with us too. Plus it had just started to rain, so we weren't in the mood for hanging around. We stopped outside the beautiful Gravensteen Castle, which uses the river to form a moat on it's western side.

Gravensteen

Gravensteen

It was then only a short walk around the corner to the quays on the river bank.

Graslei

Graslei

But once again, due to to the rain, we only made a fleeting visit before jumping back on the next tram to the station, and making our way back to Brussels for the rest of our trip.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 18:22 Archived in Belgium Tagged rain fort train river canal tunnel belgium border

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