Beer & Bruges

Sunday, March 06, 2016
Brugge, West Flanders, Belgium
This morning we woke up and had breakfast at 8 am. Paula said she would give us a ride to the bus stop, and we were scheduled to pick up our rental car by 10 am. We had a great breakfast and bid farewell to her. I loved the peacefulness of that farm. If I headed back to the area, I would totally stay there again and explore the towns nearby. It was also very easy to take the bus into Amsterdam. We noticed yesterday how one minute we were in the "country," and then all of a sudden, in the city. Paula told us that cities like Amsterdam have limits and most cities in Amsterdam don't have the urban sprawl like ours. It was crazy! 

Paula dropped us off at the end of their road, which is where the bus stop is located . We had our luggage, and saw on the sign that we had a good 11 minutes to wait for the next bus to the central station. We were standing there for about a minute, with all of our luggage, when a man came out of nowhere and stood with us at the stop. He was a tall, thin African-American man with an accent that didn't sound Dutch. He started talking to Dad, and Dad, being friendly, engaged in conversation. He said he was from Somalia and had lived here six years. The more he spoke to Dad, the more Missy, John and I went in defense mode. Dad's passport pouch was right over his shoulder, but right out in the open, so Missy went over to interrupt. Meanwhile, John, a former wrestler and coach, was thinking of wrestling moves he could use on him if this man took off with a bag. At first I thought they were overreacting, but then Somalia showed them the change he had and was complaining that the drivers don't let him ride the bus for free. Of course, he then asked my sister for more bus fare money, and she politely declined . Meanwhile, John was still thinking of potential wrestling moves he could use on this man, if needed. Dad was wondering why Missy interrupted the conversation between he and Somalia. Me, being the task-master that I am, was focusing on our bus arriving and paying for our tickets and getting to the rental car desk on time to pick up the car. But at this point I was also suspicious of Somalia, especially when he told us how if we walked around with bags like we were in HIS country, people would shoot us. O. K.  

The bus pulled up and we started to get on. I told the driver we needed 4 one-way tickets to Central Station, and he just motioned for us to get on. We saw other people who got on the bus flash their cards, so we were pretty sure that it wasn't a free ride day or anything. We came to two possible conclusions: 1) the driver looked at us, clearly saw we were tourists, and didn't want us holding up the show with selling and swiping tickets or 2) he saw Somalia and didn't want to deal with him . Whatever the reason, we were cool with him just letting us on. We arrived at Central, took the 15-minute train ride to Schiphol, and picked up our Ford Focus rental car to head to Bruges. 

We decided that John would do the driving because he wanted to and can drive stick shift, which is the norm over here. We also made sure we had GPS, which was a huge help. The Netherlands highways are well constructed, smooth and well made. No bumps, no pot holes, excellent engineering on the turns. The Belgian roads felt similar. It took us a little over 2.5 hours to arrive at our cute B and B in Bruges. It's a loft that sleeps six, with wooden beams and old, hardwood floors. It has a ton of character! We met Frieda, the owner, and her husband, Benno, who were very welcoming. 

We had a brewery tour scheduled at De Halve Mann, so we ventured out. The weather was interesting today - one minute the sun would be shining, and the next there would be rain/sleet. This changed about 8 different times. We walked to The Burg and bought some Belgian waffles with chocolate and berries, then made our way to the Markt, the big marketplace. Before this, Dad liked Bruges but was still feeling partial to Amsterdam. Once we hit the market with the big bell tower, he said, "well Jamie, this is pretty impressive, too." After our brewery tour, we sat and had our free beer. He said he wasn't expecting these cities to be so impressive. He really wasn't sure what to expect, but so far everything has exceeded his expectations. He said, "where in the U.S. would you see anything remotely like this?" Agreed. 

Tomorrow we are off to Bayeux, France, in the Normandy region. 
Thanks for reading!

P.S. We were happy to read online that our brother Jeff's wrestling team from Kaukauna won its third consecutive state title on Saturday night. The match was going on when we were already sleep!  If we hadn't been in Europe, we would've been in Madison, cheering them on. :)


Judith A.Hartman

Love reading these for many reasons! Wondering if you will get any questions or comments about our election fiascos.


Pretty much everyone thinks Trump is crazy. :)