I’m not sure I’d ever heard of Bruges, Belgium before this trip. So when Zhen moved the date up one week (to secure her travel) required finding somewhere to go before our scheduled Paris reservation, I immediately jumped at the recommendation from my friend Douglas who lived several years across Europe. And we were not disappointed.
little could we imagine that this charming city was once the center of European trade and culture. But in reality, it’s not so difficult to visualize this when you spend time in this city. The architecture and feel of Bruges feels little changed from the Middle Ages as many of the original buildings remain intact over a maize of cobble stone stone streets and winding canals. Although Bruges has barely over 100,000 residents, the streets are teeming with tourists visiting a colorful menagerie of shops selling everything from fashionable clothing to beloved Belgium waffles, chocolates, and beer. All of which gives the city an energized eclectic feel that lets you know you are very much in a European city. And I can’t help but reflect on how America’reliance on box stores and internet shopping deprives us all of the wonderful social experience in wining, dining, shopping, and the simple joy of people watching.
As for my reunion with Zhen after nearly 2.5 years apart, we simply stayed at the Paris airport hotel that first day. She had her own harrowing experience to arrive in Paris, and happily greeted me as I walked out from customs that early Saturday morning. So no need to venture knowing we had 7 weeks to explore and adventure ahead of us. There was lots of pent up emotions to release, and lots to catch up on.
And of course every trip has a a story or two. After our first night in Bruges, Zhen expressed her displeasure over the invading mosquito, cramped room, need to walk up creaky steps to share a bathroom with the other guest and owner, and more. My initial reaction was to grin and bear it. I’ve experienced worse and we’re in this amazing city together. Needless to say our moods that first morning matched the gloomy weather. After some argument and going back to see a dirty kitchen and non working TV, we plotted an out. I messaged the Airbnb owner explaining things came up and we had to depart… we fortunately were refunded the remaining days and able to spend the final 4 nights in two wonderful affordable vibrant hotels. We stayed in our room that night hoping not to cross paths with the owner who lived upstairs, being forced to stumble on an explanation. Counting the hours, we arose early and departed with a quick clean up. We stepped out the door and departed the shoddy neighborhood with a sigh of relief, feeling just a bit like kids who did something wrong and hoping not to get caught. Zhen chose this to capture a story of Bruges with this painting, as she will do throughout our travel.
Author - Andrew Bajda
Since publication of my book in December of 2016, so many amazing things have happened on both a personal and professional level. As the journey continues to evolve, I'll update my travel adventures on this blog, and invite you to join me along the way.