When it got to 4:30, I didn’t think they’d make it back for the coach. I was sat in Trafalgar Square waiting for the bus back to the halls, and some other friends were at least an hour behind, still lost in Wimbledon, after we’d been to a friend’s house party. However, at 5:45, somehow, we were all on of the coach starting our journey to Bruges.
The drive to Dover was horrible, I slept on the boat to Calais, which thankfully meant I was feeling slightly better for the ride through northern France. When we eventually arrived in Bruges, I had high expectations for the UNESCO-recognised, cultural capital of northern Europe – quite a claim.
I would describe Bruges as a model village, recreating 19th century Belgium. Tourists were being towed by horse and cart, most of the pavements were cobbled, and there were endless small chocolatiers. After walking through some admittedly pretty little streets, we arrived at the main square and immediately looked for a pub. A couple of leffes later, we went to find the culture. Admittedly, we didn’t look very hard, but it’s not totally unrepresentative that I ate my lunch at Quick, a poor man’s MacDonald’s.
Our second attempt to see what UNESCO were talking about was more successful. Nestled in a small street beyond the main street was a bar that offered to sell hundreds of types of beer. It turned out that they did, but more impressively, each bottle came with a special glass with the beer’s brand printed on the side. The dark, smokey atmosphere is probably my strongest memory of the trip – cigars just seem to make more sense in Belgium.
On the way back to the coach we avoided the Salvador Dali (definitely not Belgian) gallery and gothic churches (couldn’t find the door) to get to the supermarket before it closed. The slabs of cheap beer were nowhere to be seen; in fact everything seemed more expensive than England. Oh the pound!
To top of my culturally diverse day, I had a Cornish pasty on the ferry, which made me feel sick. Once we got through Dover customs – which rewardingly were much more stringent than Calais’ – I settled into my sleeping bag for the journey back to London. We made it to at least south London before anyone was ill, and the last 10 miles of the drive was painfully slow.
So despite the near total lack of more sleep for about 40 hours and ridiculously expensive chocolate, I loved my trip to Bruges. Going abroad for a tenner can never be wrong, especially with a group of friends. The weather was clear, and the town was definitely picturesque. It’s easy to forget only 20 miles separates us from Europe, so I’m going to try and visit it some more.