Category: Belgium

Travel Advice – Be Vigilance

Travel Safety

As a frequent traveler, I am careful with guarding my personal effects including my wallet, which is always placed in my front pocket during the warmer months. In the cooler months, I wear a coat that has inside pocket near the upper right or left chest. Throughout all my travels, I have only had one attempt at pickpocketing with someone taking the hotel key (what they probably thought was a credit card) that I placed in my back pocket.

Fanny Pack Wearer Be Warned

Fanny Pack

Photo by M. Garret

I have never been a fan of these fanny packs. They just mess with my style and are just too easy for would-be thefts to gain quick access to your valuable and move on to the next victim. Please avoid wearing such extra items that make you stand out as a tourist and potential victim of the next pickpocket.

Traveling by Train in Europe – My Advice

One of the benefits of traveling in Europe over the U.S. is the exceptionally connected train service. Please don’t let anyone tell you that train travel in Europe is unsafe. Indeed, it is intimidating with some language barriers to manage, but the agents are used to tourist and foreign travelers. When in doubt; just ask ONLY official agents at booth. This will make sense later.
Some of my advice to make your next European train trip make it even safer.
  • Advice #1 – Never Put Wallet in Back Pocket – I haven’t placed my wallet in my back pocket in over 20 years. Never do this while traveling. How will you know it is gone until you reach for it? Instead, move it upfront (front pocket). If you are wearing a jacket, inside the front zipper as most have these areas. While on the metro/train, keep your hands in your pants pockets or near it.
  • Advice #2 – Bring Only What You Need – Cash is often best, but don’t go overboard bring too much so that you stand out in the line when paying. You will also need a credit card. Bring more than just that favorite rewards credit card. I recommend at least two (one for main use-outings) and a back-up credit card (kept safe somewhere). Please look for a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transition fee. They are growing in number.
  • Advice 3: Keep to yourself – I know it might seem like strange advice, but the metro/train is where picket-pockets look for their next victim. It is often through casual, unexpected conversation in your native tongue. You get excited that someone speaks your language and next thing you know, something is missing. Avoid speaking to someone who STRONG wishes to talk to you.  Positively, state you are fine or a “no, thank you….”
  • Advice 4: Avoid High Traffic Hours – you don’t want grab that metro/train that is so crowd that you have to squeeze on like sardines. This is makes for prime grounds for pickpockets. Try and book/move to/catch the next train/metro. After all, you are on vacation and why rush?
  • Advice 5 – Why the Purse? – In packing for your European trip, the purse might seem like a wonderful idea. Think twice (if you can) and avoid bring such an easy target for pickpockets. If you must bring it, don’t bring your Hermès, bring something far less expensive. Pack only things that if snatched would not be end of the vacation. 
  • Advice 6 – The Line 9 of Paris – This Paris Métro Line 9 is known to have lots of pickpockets. If you must take it, keep this in mind.
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Not the Line 9, But Like the Photo!

Hope you find my list of travel tips helpful as you begin to plan your next trip. Enjoy!

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Exploring Bruges in the Winter

Bruges, Belgium

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Our journey begins on a sunny, but cold day in Bruges. This quaint city that is often referred to as the ‘Venice of the North’ due to its many canals should not be ignored during your visit to Belgium. This small city offers a relaxing vibe and a more leisurely pace than the larger city and more industrial looking city of Brussels. While in Bruges, one can stroll through cobblestone streets taking in the sites, sounds, and smells.  During my visit, I managed to see some of the major highlights of this jewel of Belgium. So what is there to do here?

Marvel at the Market Square

You can begin your Bruges exploration in Market Square (Grote Markt) with is majestic Belfry tower that looms over the beautiful and impressive Provincial Palace. This square has served as a marketplace since the year 958; you are walking through history here. Please take this in and enjoy some Belgian chocolates.

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Belfry Tower

Does the image seem slightly askew? It may as the  Belfry leans just under a meter to the east. So, yours eyes are not fooling you….

Explore Bruges from the Top of the Belfry

If you want to walk off some of the Belgian waffles, chocolates, or maybe a few too many beers, head up 366 steps to the top of the Belfry for a different view of Bruges. If you have clear day, the climb is well worth the effort. You can see why this medieval city attracts some many visitors. As of this posting, the fee for visiting the Belfry was around 8€. Please be aware that you must climb up a very narrow, winding staircase with people going both ways, so be prepared for tight spaces and a steep incline.

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Tour Bruges in a different way

If you wish to get a different perspective a Bruges, try touring the city by boat via one of the many canals. You can easily find a reasonable boat tour option with a guide who speaks your language. This is great trip through the city that often lasts around 30-minutes or so.

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Canals of Bruges

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Lake of Love

Minnewater Park

The above image is from Lover’s Bridge in the city’s Minnewater’s Park with views of the Lake of Love. If you take the train to Bruges, you can easily find this tranquil park with the Lake of Love in the heart of the park. Legends tells a story of a young and pretty girl named Minna who was in love with Stromberg, a warrior of a neighboring tribe. Her father did not agree with her love and arranged her to marry a man of his choice. Minna escaped and ran into the forest. When Stromberg finally found her, she died in his arms of exhaustion. The lake was named after Minna and the bridge by the lake is considered the bridge of love, in her honor.

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Indulge in Belgian chocolate, waffles and of course, beer

A trip to Belgium wouldn’t be complete without indulging in some of the local delicacies. Famous for its chocolates, waffles and beer, we made sure to sample ample amounts of delicious goodies! Please be sure to stop at The Old Chocolate House for a delectable selection of chocolates at reasonable prices and the best hot chocolate in the world (so they claim)!

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Beer Tape to Local Bars in Bruges.

Tours Options in Bruges

NiceDay Tours  offers free walking tours on specific days of the week and reasonability priced guided tours of the city. I chose a guided tour and this was with Danny who was entertaining and full of fun facts about his city. I highly recommend exploring NiceDay Tours for your next tour options the next time you are in Bruges or Belgium.

As one of Europe’s best preserved cities, Bruges is definitely worth a visit and has a historic center that is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  What are you waiting for? Add this one to your travel plans today!

Have you ever been to Bruges during the winter? How was your experience? Let me know in the comments section.  I would love to hear from you.

 Viator


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