Tuesday, October 08, 2013

European Vacation 2: Belgium

... continued from European Vacation 1: Amsterdam...

After a wonderful few gorgeous 80* sunny days in Amsterdam, we packed up and headed south to Belgium, through beautiful countryside past windmills and zipping along for a few hours on the European highway in a poshy awesome private taxi. It worked out to be only slightly more than the train, and much easier for Craig and dad (keep reading for more about the train and potential access issues there!).

We arrived in Bruges on a Sunday, in the middle of market, and the street we needed to get to was blocked off with a bouncy house and food booths - quite hysterical, the circling and GPSing and persistence of our driver! - but finally we arrived at the adorably quaint, historic Hotel Navarra! As with the Hotel Krasnapolsky in Amsterdam, we booked Hotel Navarra many months in advance for its single accessible room and perfect location in the city. We were adjacent to the beautiful, also historic, Market Square. The room wasn't US-ADA coded like Krasnapolsky was, but it was manageable, and worth the small barriers to have the location and the historic beauty of this hotel. (Main barrier was the separate small stall for the toilet, but the shower had a hand-held and the sink was roll-under. And the pool, unfortunately, was down a flight of 500-year old stairs, but as I found, wasn't really worth it anyway, brrr!)

Historic, we found, in Europe, is nothing compared to what we can fathom for "historic."  It grabs your soul, this type of history, truly.  But for Craig, it grabs his wheels!  And by that I refer to the cobblestone... everywhere and ever present, the cobbles in Europe are a challenge, but not an insurmountable one! We are lucky for his knobby mountain wheels, stomach-muscles-balance, and ability to look a challenge in the face and laugh!  So very overlook-able when it comes to this gorgeous truly medieval city!

In Bruges, we had two days and packed it in, despite the rain!  The food just keeps getting better~ Pieter Pourbus and t/Zwaantje, waffles, chocolate and the ChocoStory museum, fat fat fries, and what would Belgium be without the BEER! Craig tried at least 20 beers in the 5 days we were in this great country, and every one of them were tasterific!

We did not make it up the umpteen stairs to the Bell Tower, and honestly, it wasn't missed - walking around the city was enough, and the view from the ground was just as spectacular! You could see this amazing tower from just about anywhere we walked to! The romantic canals, the Burg Square lunch, the Church of our Lady~ all wonderful, LOVED Bruges!

On to Brussels - and our lessons with the European train! We took two trains: From Bruges to Brussels, and then from Brussels to Paris. And both times, they wanted a day or two warning that we were coming (in Bruges they got no warning and wanted one day's, in Brussels they got one day and wanted two). Both times we had a bit of a language barrier as well but made it work (note to self, really commit to brushing up on the French!). And but both times we managed to sweet talk our way on - waiting an extra 30-45 minutes longer, all for a ramp that was walking distance from the train - but the issue is making sure the train has the right build and logistics for the ramp.  A plus: for the fast train to Paris, we were bumped up to first class because, oh darn, that's the only accessible car. Double-plus: it was 1/3 the price!

And Brussels: wow, the food! Restaurant Alexandre was unquestionably the best meal of my life. Mussels at Taverne Passage weren't too shabby either!  Food is better when enjoyed together, so it was also a blessing to be dining with family in this far away place! Each cup of coffee, each chocolate waffle, every fat french fry - what a tasty treat, made even better with more to ooh-and-ahh!

In Brussels we were just off Grande Place at the Hotel Ibis. A quaint little mod hotel with a small but accessible room. It had a tub that Craig just sat in to shower, but overall a big big bathroom to move around in, almost as big as the hotel room itself!

It was hard to pull ourselves too far away from Grande Place, and we did walk pretty far to museums and gardens, and were challenged by the hills - a new challenge is a good one, we got some exercise, but a little too much for dad. Tiring way to end their vacation, they were excited to head home and rest!

And then Mr. Craig and I moved on to France!  More to come~

In the meantime, highlights in photographs from Belgium! 




















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