We were picked up at Lisa’s house yesterday morning via a private car I booked through International Friends Tours and driven to Stonehenge, and then to the Southhampton port of call. You can book all sorts of coach tours via this company and at the time I did, the tour bus was sold out. So I had to pay more for a private car, but I am glad we got to experience this because we had a wonderful driver named Brian who cheerfully chatted with us the entire time, and was really knowledgable and helpful about things. He also took us off the “main route” so to speak and drove us through Salsbury so we could catch a glimpse of the Catherdral there. I was almost sad when he dropped us off and left because we had such a nice time with him. I highly recommend this company; their service was excellent. Here was the Cathedral at Salsbury:
Stonehenge was very cold and windy and we had pre-booked our tickets ahead of time which made it easy when we were dropped off. We arrived at about 10am and the earlier the better, because by the time we were leaving, hoards of people were coming in and there were long queues for the bus to the site. Basically, you check in at the visitor center and then stroll through a small museum they have there, and then there are busses that make continual loops taking people to the site and then bringing them back.
There are only so many pictures you can take of very large stones, so you get the idea 🙂 It was neat and it’s one of those things you just need to see at least once. There is also a cafe there in the visitor center, so if you are en route elsewhere you can plan to eat a bite there and the prices are reasonable. From there, it was only about another hour to our ship! I’ll only post a few pictures we snapped on the first night- I think everyone knows what a cruise ship looks like and how crazy they are inside.
Our ship docked in ZeeBrugge which is the port on the coast here, and we had pre-booked a shore excursion called “Bruges Sight Seeing” tour. After meeting with our group, we were taken outside the ship to get on our coach and meet our guide. We had an awesome man named Marc who was born in Gent and had been a guide for a long time, spoke many languages, and had a great sense of humor (and some stout political opinions, which was funny to hear seep into his program). The bus ride into Bruges takes less than 30 minutes, and then he provided us a walking tour and an escort to a canal tour which was included in what we paid for the package. The canal boat tour was a great way to see the town! Another popular option looked to be horse drawn carriage, though I would have thought it would have made it difficult to hear your guide in this option. It provided a great backdrop though, and the town noise was a mixture of bicycle horn rings, the clip clop of horses feet, and chatter of the people milling around. And the smells, oh the smells of waffles and chocolate and in some areas, beer brewing. A delight to all the senses for sure.
It was around 45 degrees and overcast which to me, made the town even more romantic and reminded me exactly how it was portrayed in the movie “In Bruges” (we watched that before we came on this trip!). Old gothic architecture, swans, beautiful trees whose fall leaves were beginning to collect below them, and all the chocolate you could possibly want. This medieval fairytale place was so so lovely!This is the bell tower in the city square.We chose a lunch spot in the middle of the square with a good view of everything going on around us. We both ordered regional dishes (Flemish Stew for me and some kind of Chicken stew for Rob). They were both really good! And of course, Belgian beer to go with it 🙂 Flemish stew comes with a side of Pomme Frittes (Belgian fries!). In all fairness, I have had better, but it was cool to eat them in the land where they were supposedly created.There are numerous places in which to procure a delicious and fresh Belgian waffle, and our first choice was a place called the Old Chocolate House, which was a Tea Room and a Chocolatier, but both times we stopped by the wait was far too long. Apparently their waffles and hot chocolate are the best, and clearly their reputation had preceded them (and us). So we settled on a smaller more accessible walk up shop called Chez Albert. I’m not sure how you could do much better than this, and I am glad I did not also order a hot chocolate because it would have been too rich! I could only manage a few bites of my waffle (which came with caramel and fresh cream) so Rob ate his (chocolate and strawberries and cream) plus the remainder of mine. It was rich, sweet, and unforgettable.
Then we wandered to a beer museum and they offered a tasting of 5 different beers of your choice for only 10 euro! Basilica of the Holy Blood, built between 1134 and 1157 and holds a relic container of Jesus Christ blood, which you can walk up and view, and touch the container and pray if you would like. The chapel was gorgeous and reverent and it was amazing to see a symbol of the mortality that was our Savior. That He was descended from Heaven and made into flesh and walked this earth just as we, then suffered and died so that we may be reunited with Him again one day in Heaven.Church of our LadyMost of the shop fronts when walking the streets in Bruges look like this. There were probably 25 different chocolate shops in a 1 mile radius of each other! We settled on a place called Leonidas and purchased a bit 🙂Dani’s travel tip number 3 (or four, I can’t remember). When in Europe, I recommend getting some currency, especially coin. In most all places, you have to pay to use a public restroom. This came as quite a surprise since this concept does not exist in the states. If you get a few dollars worth in coins, you should be well prepared for just this need. Everywhere else though accepts cards if you want to stick to electronic payments (which we have done).Tomorrow is our Parisian adventure, and then we are that much closer to home. While I have loved traveling Europe with my best friend, I grow more and more eager to return to everything and everyone we love back home.