From Tuesday, October 30th until Thursday, November 1st, I spent time in Bruges, Belgium with my new, and awesome, friend Haley. She goes to school with me, but she isn’t from my university at home. We truly are the perfect travel companions- we laugh that we both are complainers and that’s how it works so well. Plus, we travel at pretty much the same pace. It’s easy. Or we thought it would be, but we were actually wrong, because this trip wasn’t actually what we thought it would have been, not that it was necessarily a bad experience.
The trip started with a lovely metro ride on line four to the beautiful Gare du Nord stop. This is where we were going to get on our train to Brussels. Easy enough, right? Besides not having any room in the train for my duffel bag and purse and how sketchy this station was, yes. We eventually found where to get on our train, but we weren’t able to tackle the issue of accidentally having the wrong date for the trip back, in Paris. They told us we’d have to wait until Brussels to change our train ticket dates, and we only had 18 minutes there until we had to leave for Bruges to deal with that. The train trip went smoothly, and in Brussels, we hurried to find the right counter. This is where we had to take a number and wait until all of the other people were finished explaining their problems. Eventually, we did get our tickets changed and we did get to the train on time to go to Bruges.
When we FINALLY got to Bruges (it’s not that far from Paris), it was definitely dinner time, so we ate a little something in the city square and had some beers that were actually stronger than I would’ve thought. After spending about 20 euro each (UGH!), we headed back home. First off- it was beyond freezing and we were exhausted, and secondly, it was crazy how difficult it was to flag a taxi down when we had seen many taxis circling the square minutes ago during dinner. Where did they all go? No one knows. We finally got a taxi, and we gave the taxi driver the name of the cheap apartment we had booked for two nights on a website called airbnb.com. The driver didn’t even know where it was! This was not a good sign to us, as we were sure that the place was close to Bruges (from what we had read on the site and the information for that offer).
40 euros later, we got to Blankenberge, which is NOT close to Bruges and requires a 45 minute bus ride, or a 10 minute train trip. This was not advertised in the apartment offer, and by the time we spent about 40 euros on this taxi, we were not happy. Also- the town of Blankenberge and the looks of the apartment were, right off the bat, sketchy. After getting into the apartment building pretty easily, we went up the winding and narrow staircase and made it to our apartment, where we struggled to just get the door open with the code! We finally did, and of course we weren’t too pleased with the living situation. No surprise there! What’s worse, is that the guy Amoos or whatever his flemish name was, left the window WIDE open and it was absolutely freezing. It wasn’t even a screen window, it was just a huge “hole in the wall” that didn’t even shut all the way (cold air was still frustratingly getting in), leaving me thinking how safe the place actually is: Who opened the window? Why was it left open in the winter time? After getting extremely bundled up and putting our sheets on our bed (We had to bring our own sheets and pillowcases, what?), we went to bed and didn’t sleep very well because we were absolutely freezing, and freaked out.
In the morning, we had a good day of exploring Bruges by boat and by foot, by seeing the many museums and shops, and by eating some chocolate and fries. Typical Belgian things. This day was Halloween (a not-very celebrated holiday in Europe) and we had heard about a bar/restaurant so we decided to go there to try some funky Belgian beers. We did and we met some Canadian guys living in Saudia Arabia? who were way to excited about our being there. They bought us drinks, so we had ended up having three strong beers that night. They started talking about how we should stay at their apartment and how we should also go to Amsterdam the next day with them. It was getting weird, and it was getting awfully close to the time we had to get out of Bruges and find our stupid train again to get back to stupid, creepy Blankenberge. By some sort of a miracle, we made it to the train station and we made it onto the train back to Blankenberge. We met some Americans on the way to the train station who were rushing as well, to get to their train to Brussels. Without them, I’m pretty sure we would not have made it, and we would’ve had to find a way to get back.
The next day, we were leaving to go back to Paris. I must say I was awfully relieved. I love Bruges, but I think that our experience in the apartment we had chosen to stay at without much thought, ruined the vacation. We were on Toussaints break at the time, so we were looking to get out of Paris and relax a bit. This apartment was not that for us. The second night, the shutters in the front of the apartment were making so much noise, we were hearing people on the streets, the apartment was getting too hot, and things got in general, SCARY. Whether they actually were or not is a different story. But for us, they were. It turns out, the town is just deserted, cold, and windy. It literally felt haunted, and we did not feel safe. We barely got more than 4 hours of sleep. The next day we both felt horrible and were ready to leave. We then wished we would have taken the early train out because we were so done.
Lessons learned: Never stay in an apartment on a trip of two nights without looking more into it, I can survive all sorts of bad situations, there’s strength in numbers, bad living situations ruin your trip, especially a trip in which you had wanted to relax and lay low a bit.
And now to write that bad review to the owner, who had misinformed us…