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The Show Must Go On: From The Isle of Wight to Brussels p. 2

This is the second part of my trip to Belgium. You can read the first part HERE

The next day, we woke up the next day in a pretty little Brugge hotel to the sound of bells in the local church.

Then, we went for a walk across the city. As expected, everything was beautiful in the daylight. All the buildings looked like they came from an old movie.

Brugge is located in the northwest of Belgium and is the capital city of the province of West Flanders. According to Wikipedia, it’s sometimes referred as The Venice of the North.

It’s a very big city, but we just had time to be in the center of it, which has most of its medieval architecture intact. Actually the tourist area in the center of the city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

It’s really impressive how, when you walk across the streets, all you see are very antique buildings that still hold up after all these years. Many buildings are there from early as 13th century, and I learned that the early medieval habitation there started in the 9th and 10th century. That’s a very old witch!

One of my friends wanted to see an old Michelangelo sculpture in one of the many Catholic churches around, so we set our g.p.s and walked across the streets trying to find the so called “The Church Of Our Lady“.

That impressive church dates mainly from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. Its tower is the tallest structure in the city and the second tallest brickwork tower in the world.

The Inside is equally impressive, as it has many antique and important artworks. You can also find the tombs of many important Brugeans resting there.

Inside there, we finally found what we were looking for: a white marble sculpture of the Madonna and Child, created by Michelangelo in 1504. It’s a very interesting piece of art because it features the Virgin Mary and Jesus differently from how was depicted by artists of the same era. Jesus stands in the Virgin’s legs almost unsupported, and as if he was about to step away from his mother. And the Virgin, as opposed to most of the sculptures, is featured looking down and away from her son.

Madonna And Child

It’s also interesting because is the only sculpture by Michelangelo that left Italy during his lifetime. It was bought from a family of wealthy cloth merchants in Bruges. After that it was removed several times from Belgium, the last time by German Nazis during World War II in 1944. It was discovered a year later in Austria and returned to Brugge, to the church where it sits now.

So after that history lesson, we left The Church Of Our Lady to get another history lesson.  This one was on the brewery tour of one of the most exquisite beers I’ve ever tasted, the Brugse Zot. An ancient history and a complicated process later, which involved climbing up and down very scary, steep steps in the rain, and we had a sample of it. It was all good!

Park Restaurant Brugge

We were ready to get a late lunch with mussels, a nap, and a nice dinner at a restaurant.  Then, a visit to a local pub.

Later that night, it was our final walk in the city, and the lights and views looked gorgeous. Once again, I wished we had more time to see more of this city, but it late at night and the next day we had the second part of our Belgium adventure: Brussels and a new Queen + Adam Lambert concert.

The Show Must Go On: From The Isle of Wight to Brussels p. 1

After the Isle Of Wight festival was over, I was still in the clouds! The festival, overall, was an incredible experience that ended with seeing Queen + Adam Lambert on stage that Sunday.

goodbye Seaview!

I kind of felt like we were on tour too, because that same night, we had to quickly rush to our temporary home at Seaview, pack our bags, and get ready for the next morning, as we had to get off the Isle of Wight and take several trains to Belgium. A country that, once again, I’ve never seen before.

The initial goal when planning the trip was going to Brussels to see another Queen + Adam Lambert concert, which was another dream-come-true for me, because it was the first time I could ever follow a band this big on tour.

But my friends came up, at the beginning of the year, with this plan to go see another city in Belgium before heading to Brussels. That city is Brugge (Bruges).

In the past, I’ve only heard about Brugge listening to my mum and sister talking about this beautiful city that seems to come from a fairy tale, and how they would like to see it some day. In Spanish, the name of the city is “Brujas,” which means “Witches”.

leaving on the ferry

So I’d decided I was on it, because who wouldn’t want to see a city called “Witches”?!

So, we had a few days before the next concert in Brussels, and our next step was heading to Brugge.

We got up early that morning in Seaview. With sadness, I took the last pictures and videos to remember the Island forever, and we went in the rental car for the last time across the confusing roads to the East Cowes pier to take the ferry back to Southampton. It was the end of the “Wight” adventure for us, but the beginning of the brand new “Belgium” experience.

Once we got on the ferry and crossed the English Channel for the last time, we returned the rental car at the Southampton pier, and took a taxi to the St. Pancras railway station in London.

The St. Pancras Railway Station  (known as “London St. Pancras”) is a big railway terminal where you can take local English trains or international trains going to France, Belgium and Germany. It has this big Victorian architecture and it holds people in transit from all over Europe. In the waiting areas, there are many stores and eating places.

There are also two public upright pianos, which anyone can play (one of them was donated by Elton John!). So I couldn’t resist, and once I saw one of the pianos free, I had to play a little. For me, it was like “wow, I’m actually in London, in one of the most important train stations in Europe. Playing a piano!

That was one of the things I would never, ever have imagined I would be able to do.

St Pancras Upright Piano

So after that little recess, we were ready to pass through Customs and Immigration, and we boarded the Eurostar train heading to Brussels.

Inside Eurostar train

There wasn’t any direct train from London to Brugge, so we had to take the international train to Brussels first, and then take another one to Brugge.

It was all planned out, and there were so many things that could have gone wrong that day! But as magic happens, everything went well and we didn’t lose any train connections, bags, or people. It all went very smoothly.

Our first train from London St Pancras was the most impressive one: the Eurostar is a train that goes up to 300Km/hr and goes into a tunnel across the sea, to finally arrive at some train stations in the South of France, and then to the Brussels station called Bruxelles-Midi, which, as I recall, is the international Belgium train terminal.  Once we got there, we had little time to get onboard a domestic Belgium train at the same station that would get us to Brugge.

At that time, everything was about French. And it was very difficult for me to understand people speaking in English with French accents. So, I was happy and felt very safe with my friends doing all the talking for me.

I learned that in Europe, (besides the UK), the most common language is French. People politely speak English if you don’t know French, but certainly no one knows Spanish here!, which was a surprise, because I thought Spain was a big deal in Europe.  From my experience, I saw that you get to speak Spanish just in Spain, and nowhere else. So that instantly made my native language useless. (Which was actually good, as I had to force myself to keep practicing my English skills!).

As with with what I saw on the train, that part of Europe is so beautiful, a lot of green that reminds me of the roads from the south of Chile (Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas, Frutillar). It looked very familiar. I guess we really live on the same planet after all! On one of the stops on the train, we passed through a French city calle Lille, which is the birthplace of a very successful singer in Chile (Anita Tijoux). It looks like the kind of place that can get very cold and harsh on bad days, but rewards you with one of the most “green” and beautiful sights I’ve ever seen during the whole year. Pretty much like it is for the people living in the south of Chile.

So, after traveling all day, we finally arrived at about 9PM at the Brugge train station. Suprisingly, it wasn’t night yet, and the station seemed to be located outside of the more tourist area. It was all good, and we took a taxi to our hotel, located in the middle of the town.

Then, I started to see what everyone talked about. This was a big doll house! At least, the central tourist area looks like it is locked in the ancient time of witch stories, princesses, and knights. Everything looks and feels like it comes from a fairy tale. Of course, I know that’s the main attraction and they work hard to give the tourists that illusion. But we only had that night, and the next day to enjoy Brugge.

It was night when we arrived,very tired, to the hotel, so we had some drinks and snacks in our room (including a Chilean drink called pisco that I saved from all the way from Santiago!) and we went to sleep.  In our cozy little hotel, we dreamed of castles and fairy tales still to come…

Click HERE for the second part of this journey!