Everything in Bruges closes at 5p.m.
Stores, museums, restaurants, tours. Not-so-shockingly, we learned this the hard way. Granted we visited on a week day so maybe the weekend hours are a bit... extended? All I know is that on Monday, June 6th, 2009, everything closed at 5p.m.
We arrived in Bruges, I believe, just after Noon. We first bought our train tickets for the next day's trip to Paris (tres important!), stopped by the tourist office for a local map and then trekked on foot to our hotel. Upon finding it, we learned that we could not check in until 3pm. I'm sure I had that highlighted somewhere. Huh. Anyways, we then made a quick change of clothes in the bathroom (we were a bit ripe after the walk), stored our luggage and set out about Bruges to find us some food!
After much deliberation, we decided on... Pizza Hut. I know, I know. I can hear what your thinking because we too were like, Pizza Hut? Really? In our defense, Shawn was on the recovering side of food poisoning (seafood pizza) and we needed something cheap, easy and something we knew would be good. Plus, we needed to restore our faith in unauthentic greasy Italian/Americanized food. It was great. We were revived and ready to go. First stop, canal boat tour. Oh wait, before that, dessert run. Shawn purchased ice cream while I chose some delightful little chocolates with marshmallow inside. Can't come to Belgium and not get some chocolate! Two thumbs up!
Back to the canal tours. We found the tour entrances easily enough, bought our tickets and waited our turn. While we waited we got to witness a little tourist girl hurl on the deck of the canal. Poor thing. We knew it was coming; she did not look well. They rinsed it off in time for us to walk over to our boat. Aside from the mental images of the little girls lunch, the tour was lovely. Our guide spoke many languages, including English. Note: English is always translated last and requires about 25 less words than every other language. The guide would rattle of something very elegant sounding for about five minutes and would finish in English with something like, "This is the oldest bridge." We giggled.
Towards the end of our canal boat tour, we learned that the Belfry tower was actually open until 5pm and with 30 minutes to go, we felt we could make it on time. According to our guidebook, which was obviously outdated, the Belfry was closed on Mondays. I KNOW I had that highlighted. In any case, we gambled on our good fortunate and took off for the tower. At 15 minutes until 5pm we came to the stair entrance and saw a sign that said we were too late. No more people were allowed up. I'm telling you, if we had been 15 minutes earlier for everything up to this point on our trip, we could have seen a lot more. However, we would've spent a lot more so... hindsight's 20/20.
With the Belfry climb scratched, we went in search of the chocolate museum. That's right. Being an addict, I was pumped! It took us a while to find it but when we did we were greeted with a familiar sign. The museum closed at 5pm. Grrr. I believe we tried one other stop, I can't remember what it was, but when it too failed, we conceded. We headed back to the hotel, checked in and Shawn took a nice, long nap.
When he was good and rested, we ventured out for supper. By this time it was close to 9 or 10pm so our options were limited. I believe we ate at a place equivalent to McDonald's. Continued shame, I know. With our train departing halfway early in the morning and all our other efforts turning up a bust, we wanted to squeak out as cheap and simple as possible and gear up for Paris. On the upside, we got to eat outside and people-watch. My favorite. We were in the Market, the main square of Bruges. The Belfry was lit up as were all the gorgeous street lamps. Very old world. Very calming. We ate, sat, meandered about the square and then headed in for the night. Beautiful, charming city. Would've been great if more things were open late. I'm not asking for Taco Bell late either... heck, we'd settle for 15 minutes.
The Market Square in the middle of the city. Not sure what the monument was...
The infamous Belfry. On second thought, maybe missing the climb wasn't such a bad thing.We did learn on our tour that the a person's wealth was displayed by how many windows their house had because taxes were figured per window. Also, at the top of nearly every house was a tiny little hole for, you guessed it, passenger pigeons.
P.S. No, we have not seen the movie. A lot of people ask. Since we just cancelled Blockbuster, we'll have to wait for it to appear on cable.