Let’s See, Now, Where Were We? Oh Yeah, Belgium!

On Sunday we took the train from the beautiful Ghent to our next destination, Oostende. This is a smaller coastal city facing the North Sea. Our hotel was a short cab ride from the train station (we took trams the rest of the time when we weren’t carrying luggage). Our plan was to check-in (it was shortly afer 1PM), then take the train 17 minutes to Bruges for the afternoon/evening.

The hotel had different plans, however, as they refused to allow us to check in until 3pm. On the outside, and on the website, the hotel looked like a great old waterfront palace (hence the hotel’s name, Thermae Palace). But inside you could see that the hotel had seen better days, not the least being poor management (but more on that later).

We stored our luggage in a storage room then walked along the boardwalk to find lunch. We returned to the hotel at 3pm and were allowed to check-in (finally). Randy’s company had reserved him (and paid for) an ocean-side room. When we unlocked our door, we had a room overlooking the parking lot. Since we’d reserved and were paying for an ocean-view room, we went downstairs to have our room changed.

The bonehead behind the counter said that there were no such rooms available because they were all occupied. Now, this was an obvious line of bull since it was now just 3:05pm and they were refusing check-in to everybody until that time (two of Randy’s colleagues had the same check-in problem and were sent away). It became more obvious the more the clerk played with the computer (through various things he’d say), that we were booked well in advance at a discounted conference rate and other guests reserved more at the last minute, at higher rates, and he wanted to give the waterfront rooms to the people who would be willing to pay even more for their rooms to be upgraded to waterfront.

Long story short (well, at this point my story is long…so long story long), he miraculously found an empty waterfront room (which he annoyingly refered to as an “upgrade”,  making things even more annoying since that was the room we were to have in the first place).

The room was fine, the view was nice (when it wasn’t foggy), and that became my home for two days, and Randy’s for four days.

We then grabbed the camera and took the tram to the train station and trekked up to Bruges. Now, Beligum as a whole is known for bad weather. It’s nearly constantly drizzly and overcast so I expected the weather to be less than stellar. We were lucky in that it never poured while we were there. In fact, it barely drizzled. However, it was mostly overcast the entire time which resulted in some drab photos.

But weather aside, I have to say that I wasn’t all that impressed with Bruges. Everybody says it’s gorgeous, and it was truly mobbed with tourists both days I visited, so most people must agree. But I found the architecture much more spectacular and impressive in Ghent. Then again, I never seem to love things that other people love (Pulp Fiction, Titanic, Beyonce). Bruges had some charm, but it wasn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.

We strolled around Bruges all afternoon, then settled in for dinner at a great little place near a canal (even sitting next to American tourists from San Francisco and striking up a conversation with them). The next day, Randy began his conference so I took the train back to Bruges to give the city a second chance (plus, Oostende didn’t have much to offer, either). I explored some of the less touristy areas and did enjoy myself more, but was still underwhelmed…even when, for about an hour, the clouds disappeared and I was provided with blue skies.

That night, Randy returned from the conference with a glass of beer in his hand since the conference organizers with hosting a social event. He handed me the beer then went back down to socialize…returning 15 minutes or so later with another (half empty) glass of beer. OK, now I get it….Randy wanted to keep the glasses (in Belgium, beer is so important that most come in their own unique style of drinking glass).

He went back down (leaving me now with two half-empty glasses of beer). Within 15 minutes I heard my name yelled from outside the balcony. I walked out to see Randy on the boardwalk below, another beer in hand, yelling for me to come down. I did, and we walked onto the beach and took some pictures.

In the end, I left Oostende with three sturdy Belgian beer glasses and a kilo of chocolates (purchased in Bruges).

The next morning, I was off to Paris while Randy finished his conference.

1 Comment(s)

  1. Comment by Randy on October 11, 2010 3:42 am

    So I go away again on 2 more trips.. NYC and Korea and Taiwan and theres nothing to talk about.. you have had a busy social week and interesting food.. but nothing to say?

    did take the chocolate to your mom and dad too?

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