A Walk in Bruges

Arriving at the train station in Bruges, you get no hint of what a storybook city you’re about to enter.  The station is small and is packed with day-trippers (including us) from all over the Low Countries and beyond. My father and I were visiting from Amsterdam and took three different trains that morning just to get here and we were eager to breathe some fresh air and stretch our legs.  Following the pack from the station, we began to get our first glimpses of a city that can best be described as stunning.  After just a few minutes of walking, narrow cobblestone streets lead towards the city center and the Grote Market (or Market Square) where shops, architecture, and history all combine to make what has to be one of Europe’s most charming small cities.

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Along the way to the city center are beautiful church towers that loom large over the low lying buildings and shops of this medieval city.  Every step you take into Bruges, the sweet smells of chocolate and Belgian waffles start to assault your senses, especially if you’re hungry after the long train ride and the walk that follows. More on waffles after lunch.

The Belfry of Bruges has to be considered the signature landmark of the city.  This tower was featured prominently in the movie “In Bruges” where Brendan Gleeson met his demise. I desperately wanted to climb the staircase that he did to get up to what has to be the best view in Bruges.  The line for the tower was long and it took over an hour before I was allowed to start the climb up the tower through the narrow spiral staircase.   It took me nearly six minutes of climbing 366 steps to reach the top and I was rewarded with a mind blowing view of the market, the city of Bruges, and the West Flanders region of Belgium.  While at the top, a chorus of bells rang and only added to an already incredible atmosphere.

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DA364FD1-5043-4793-BED0-6F5B7672CC7CAfter the climb up the tower it was time for lunch in the square. There are many options for al fresco dining, which I do whenever possible. We were able to sit outside while drinking a flight of Belgian beers and eating Flemish stew, all the while taking in the sights and sounds of this thoroughly enjoyable city.

After lunch, we toured the canals by boat, which was a very different experience than the canal tour we had done in Amsterdam just days before.  Bruges’ canals are more narrow and intimate, so touring them was more up close and personal.

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235BF0ED-6D55-4677-B6DD-649C889734F0Before heading back to the train, it was of utmost importance to us to have a Belgian waffle…in Belgium.  The signature Belgian dessert is available all over the city and I don’t believe that you could pick the wrong one here.  The waffles are made to order so they are fresh and you have a wide variety of toppings to choose from.  I had mine with whipped cream and caramel.  My dad had his with whipped cream, strawberries, and a drizzle of chocolate.  Pure heaven as you can see from the photo.

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Souvenir requests from home mostly consisted of chocolate and there are shops everywhere.  Although I personally don’t really care much for the taste of chocolate, the sweet smells were everywhere.

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My advice to someone traveling to Bruges, linger as long as you can!

Bike: Top Five Reasons I No Longer Say “On Your Left”

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I work in Boulder Colorado and get to enjoy biking the Boulder Creek Path at lunchtime.  Boulder has an interesting mix of people that use the path and it is quite popular.  The path can get pretty crowded with lunchtime athletes, students, and tourists.  As a courtesy, bicyclists commonly say “on your left” as they pass pedestrians or slower moving cyclists to avoid crashing into them.  The pedestrian has the right of way and it is the cyclists responsibility to avoid them.  Sometimes, you could expect to be scolded for not saying it loud enough or not at exactly the right time.  So in the spirit of some of the great wars between outdoor groups like rafters versus fisherman, snowboarders versus skiers, and hikers versus mountain bikers, I offer my take on the cyclist versus the pedestrian.  Here are my top five reasons for not giving the pedestrian the courtesy of the “on your left” shout out anymore:

  1. The vast majority of walkers have their headphones on so loud with their favorite Justin Beiber song cranked up they can’t hear anything else.  Or, more realistically, The Grateful Dead.
  2. Your version of “Rocky Mountain High” is very different than what John Denver had in mind.  Even though pot is legal here now, it still isn’t supposed to be smoked in public.  Many people ignore this, especially in Boulder and they are wandering all over the path without a care in the world.  Just the other day, a guy on a recumbent bike was smoking a joint and discretely put it to his side as he passed me by.  Now that sounds like a great combination: biking and marijuana.  I guess this guy must have a really bad back.  So much so that he has to ride a recumbent instead of a regular bike and needs to smoke a joint instead of taking a Percocet.
  3. You are a tourist and you’re  oblivious to the fact that you are on a multi-use path where you could get plowed over while you look at the creek, the mountains, and the scenery.  Admittedly, Boulder is a pretty cool place to look at but really people, pay attention.
  4. You don’t know what it means when someone says it.  This one I don’t fault people for.  When I first hit the trails in Boulder, I had no idea why people were saying that to me.  Now I know that I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed but I had honestly never heard that one before.  Also, multi-use path rules and regulations can differ from one place to another so I know that it can be confusing.  I know that on a trip to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge a couple of years ago, I was walking on the right side like I would in Boulder and had a cyclist yell at me for being where I shouldn’t be.  When I think about that one, I still can’t figure out what I did wrong.
  5. You think that “on your left ” means move to your left.  I can’t tell you how many times walkers move to the left when I’m passing them, making it a close call for both of us.

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After all of these top five humorous yet sometimes annoying reasons to not say “on your left”, I still find myself giving everyone the courtesy of saying it regardless of how many people may not know their left from their right (after possibly eating too many ‘special brownies’).  I just make sure that they don’t have headphones in, aren’t high, they  aren’t tourists , that they look like they have common sense, and that they know that having a bike crashing over them like a speed bump would be bad for them and the cyclist.  But it will most certainly be the cyclists fault!

Be safe out there 🏃🏻🚴

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