After spending 4 days in London, 1 unintentionally, the journey continued. Apparently making reservations the day before leaving London is frowned upon. It only cost us 1 day, but we weren’t complaining either way. We did have to sleep in the lobby of a hostel, but it’s all part of the experience. Unfortunately the pound was a bit expensive, but now we were moving into euro territory, which was still expensive. We took the tunnel underneath the English Channel. Have you ever wondered what traveling under water is like? Well, it’s like traveling in any other tunnel. I actually slept the entire time, but at least I can say I slept with the fishes and lived. Our first sight of land was Lille, France. This was finally my chance to use my 5 years of studying French. I learned quickly that I’ll probably need another 5 years of French to understand. The people were nice enough to slow down for me and I was able to exchange some conversation. Most people actually spoke a good amount of English. Many people in Europe speak English as a second language, which made getting around a lot easier. Our first stop was Brussels, but that was a short stay. We got lunch, checked out some architecture, and went right back onto the train. We decided a smaller city would be nice to take a couple days off away from the larger noisy cities. We decided on the spur of the moment that Bruges would be the perfect stop. I had also seen the movie In Bruges, starring Colin Farrel, which made the decision much easier. The movie won best scenery, so how could we pass that up? Apparently, when a popular movie is made in a quiet town, it becomes a big tourist attraction. We fit right in with everyone else.
It was not exactly the town we were expecting, crawling with large groups of people filling into the chocolate shops and climbing the famous tower. Still, there was something unique and special about this town. The train station was slightly outside the town and the first person we met offered us a ride. Could this be dangerous? Possibly, but we were willing to take the chance considering we were tired and needed a place to stay. He told us to load our things in the back of his car and he would drive us into town. About 10 minutes later he was driving off with all of our luggage without leaving us anything. Of course, I’m just kidding, but this thought did cross all of our minds. He safely rode us into town while complimenting the ride with a guided tour of the city. Bruges was starting to seem like a great decision before we found out every hostel in town was sold out. Considering there was only 3 in town it was not too surprising. Our options were to get back on the train or stay in a nice clean park for the night in the middle of town. Yes, I said park, but it seemed like a nice enough place. We decided to test fate again and sleep on the grass like true European backpackers. First, we would take in the sights and enjoy the city. People slowly left town the closer it got to dark. As evening rolled in, the streets and the town were lit up like a fairy tale. Quiet streets, calms canals, with bright lights gave the city a majestic feel.
This is what was described to us from the start, but until the sun went down we were unable to see what lied underneath the touristy scramble of people. We spent the next few hours in a new world taking in all the sights again. Seeing the sights in this new point of view made everything new to us. We met multiple friends from different countries, not just Belgium. Time passed very fast and we soon realized it was 5 in the morning and we were still without a place to stay. We tested our fate again and we seemed to have lost the battle this time. We thought we would try the same hostel once more and out of sheer luck empty beds awaited. Sleeping in the park would have been an interesting experience, but I’ll take a warm bed any day. We enjoyed our first day so much we needed another day to take in the town. Similar to the first day, it was a great decision to explore Bruges. I don’t know if I’ll ever visit a town like Bruges again. It’s a town like no other, so I’ll never forget this tourist town that quickly turned into a real life Disney World. It was hard to leave, but it was time for Amsterdam.
-Mike Minnock (Senior studying Integrated Marketing)