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European Vacation – Bruges, Belgium

The next stop on our trip was Bruges, Belgium. We stayed at the Hotel de Goezeput, the only hotel typical hotel we used while in Europe.

This was the most laid-back and relaxing leg of our vacation – not because we didn’t do anything, but because nothing was really planned ahead of time.

We started with our traditional McDonald’s meal.

The best part of Belgium in my opinion was Chez Albert. We ended up grabbing snacks from this shop many times and got to know the owner, Sabine.

I particularly liked this statue. It might be called “The Lovers” or some variation on that, but I couldn’t find definitive information on the Internet.

We did some wandering around the city, including some exploration of windmills.

Here’s a closer look at my friends. It looks like they were up to something.

There was a hill near one of the windmills that gem couldn’t help but roll down! I might have done so too 🙂

When we got back to the hotel, we got ready for bed. gem and Anela played Papers, Please on my laptop while I showered. Glad they enjoyed it!

We started the next day with more Chez Albert. I told you Sabine would get to know us.

Chocolate is a must in Belgium, so we did some shopping. I really liked a shop called Chocolates & Happiness, which put cute quotes on their boxes of chocolates. I bought a few boxes to take home.

Next up was the “In Bruges” walking tour by “Can You Handle It? Tours” with our tour guide, Steve. It was a fun a little tour, and the highlight was probably the beer museum. I enjoyed Arthur’s Legacy (Limited Edition), Kriek Boon (a delicious cherry beer – my favorite), and Rosso Red Fruit beer. The tour also took us to Chocolaterie de Burg, a chocolate shop that came recommended to us.

Sometimes we have to take a quick break for a photo!

Here we all are with a canal behind us.

This is the Madonna and Child, sculpted by Michelangelo, in the Church of Our Lady.

And this is a touristy photo in front of it. Honestly, it was a bit lackluster to me, but I’m glad I got to see it.

Here’s another nice shot of us together.

We found a shop with a chocolate fountain and bought some sweets mostly so we could use the fountain. I dropped some of my chocolates though. Sad times.

Oh no! We were running low on sweets! Sabine could save us though.

We had dinner at ‘t Vagevuur because it offered a discount to people from the walking tour. The discount applied to a limited menu, and I wasn’t that impressed. However, we did run into Stevie again. For those of you not keeping track, we met her on a train in the Netherlands a few days earlier. How awesome is that?

After dinner we got some drinks at a bar and then stuffed ourselves with fries covered in various toppings from a little stand before heading back to the hotel.

The next morning we got some delicious bagel sandwiches from Sanseveria on our way out of Bruges. We met a couple from Atlanta who had breakfast with us. They were in Belgium for a conference. One of them worked for the CDC and was a public health professor at a university – pretty cool. After our tasty breakfast, we took a train to Kortrijk. We were supposed to continue by train to Paris, but that’ll be a story for next time.

European Vacation – Amsterdam

We left Ireland in the morning with our egg sandwiches courtesy of gem and flew to the Netherlands four our single night in Amsterdam. There were flight delays due to closures in Amsterdam, but we made it eventually. We also met a woman named Stevie on the train, also from the States. It was fun getting a chance to talk to her!

Here I am playing live action Papers, Please. At least that’s how I saw it.

We didn’t have much planned in Amsterdam, so we wandered around a little and took in some tourist shops.

When it was lunch time, we stopped at McDonald’s. As a reminder, Anela wanted to try McDonald’s in every country.

Chicken nuggets are weird in the Netherlands. Just kidding, that’s obviously not a chicken nugget, but I don’t really remember what it was.

Antonio fell in love with stroopwafels back in Ireland, so we had to stop for some at this outdoor market.

Now I’m really craving stroopwafels. I could go get some from Trader Joe’s, but they’re just not the same unfortunately.

After really enjoying our canal cruise in Copenhagen, we decided to take Blue Boat Company’s Amsterdam Canal Cruise. Honestly, it was a let down. Unlike the one in Copenhagen, this cruise used an audio guide rather than live tour guide. The boat also had a roof, which made photographing less fulfilling.

Despite the tour being less than stellar, the canals were very beautiful. How cool would it be to live along these canals?

If I’m remembering correctly, you can’t anchor new houseboats, which makes the demand for the ones that are already there much higher.

I don’t have anything in particular to say about this building, but I liked it!

Next we took Sandeman’s New Amsterdam walking tour, Red Light District Exposed, with our tour guide, Lisa. As you can conclude from the name, it was a tour of the Red Light District. One of the first things we saw was this condom shop, the Condomerie. Part of the reason it exists was to make using condoms more acceptable.

While not technically part of the tour, we did pass this delicious looking dessert shop!

Here’s an interesting little plaque on the ground. Also you can see a bit of Anela and gem in the corner!

It was fairly interesting learning the history of the Red Light District. It seems like it’s still a bit of a political issue, and not everyone agrees with its existence. As most people know, the red lights in the windows indicate that the woman is a prostitute. We also learned that a blue light indicates that the woman is trans. The rooms are connected to each other on the inside and can’t lock from the inside. This keeps people from entering, locking the woman inside with them, and getting out of hand. We also learned that the city tried to get male prostitutes as well. When they put advertisements out for male prostitutes, no one was interested. When they asked for men to have sex for money, then they got people interested. Apparently “prostitute” has a feminine connotation. Anyways, it didn’t work out. Men couldn’t go repeatedly and had trouble performing with women to whom they weren’t attracted. Pretty interesting, really. The tour took us throughout the area and gave us some interesting history before ending near a location called Theatre Casa Rosso. Apparently the owner of that establishment owns a large number of the shows, has a lot of money, and uses that money in politics to keep the laws and zoning in his favor.

After Indonesian food for dinner, we headed back to our hostel. When we were looking for a ride back, a found both a taxi and a rickshaw at the same time. The taxi driver seemed to get mad at us for considering the rickshaw and even talking to the driver (rider?). He actually started yelling things like “f— you you f—ing idiots! I’ll let you ride for half price! F— you!” Yeah, no thanks. You can give us the ride for free, but I’d prefer the man not cussing at me. We went with the rickshaw, got our ride to our hostel, and got ready for bed so we’d be ready to continue on our journey to Belgium the next day!