After 22 hours on the go and 10 miles of walking, I had one of the best sleeps EVER last night!
I drifted off at midnight to the sound of rainfall, and woke at quarter to nine as the hustle and bustle of Saturday morning in Brussels unfolded beneath my window.
The rain had been forecast to continue into Saturday however, when I pulled back the curtains, I was greeted by the lazy smile of the sun.
I actually had three breakfasts today, and you know what? I don’t even feel guilty! Roughly around 10 seconds after I’d opened my eyes, I knocked back three chocolates truffles from last night’s hoard. When in Belgium, and all that!
Then, I headed down for breakfast round two at the hotel and was presented with the most delicious plate of eggs – sunny side up – atop of a gorgeous seeded baguette. OMG it was heaven!!
And, I'm not usually one for croissants, but the basket of complimentary pastries on the table were too tempting to ignore, so I indulged, slathering them in about four different types of jam.
... There’s nothing like self-induced diabetes the day before a Half Marathon!!
Once I’d finally finished eating the whole of Belgium out of house and home, I headed to Brussels Central Station and caught the train to Brugge.
I know this sounds geeky AF, but this was the part of the trip I was most looking forward to...
Sitting on the train between the cities, headphones in, pen poised, falling in love with the thrill of a brand new landscape. Despite the sun making a surprise appearance, we did have some light rainfall, and I revelled in counting the droplets dancing down the windowpane.
It was the perfect opportunity for me to collect my thoughts and just completely switch off. Moments like that really are my happy place.
Writing on the train between Brussels and Brugge ✨
Obvs, I had one of my epiphanies. 💁🏻♀️🤣
God, I really do pity anyone who clicks on my blog for the first time, expecting a comprehensive guide to European solo travel. 🤣 Instead of hotel recommendations and lists of the best veggie joints, they’ll instead be hit with nonsensical rambles about anorexia and my relationship woes.
But you know, in a way, it’s all relevant. Those who travel solo do usually have a story to tell!
Anyway, during my latest epiphany, I was hit by a quote from the film PS: I Love You.
If you’ve never seen it, you probably won’t get it, but it’s when Gerry – referring to the version of Holly that he first met and fell in love with - says in one of his letters:
"I don’t worry about you remembering me, but it’s that girl on the road you keep forgetting.”
I mean, obviously my [ex] husband isn’t dead (although I can’t promise this fact if I return home to find that he’s eaten my 3D crisps...), but I did find the context of the quote relatable.
As I mentioned yesterday, life can sometimes get in the way of... Us. Ourselves. Life’s complications and the negative energy of others can seriously impact our ability to remember who we are and what’s important to us.
It’s very easy to inadvertently shed layers of ourselves under the scrutiny of other people and the pressures of life.
One bad day is enough to make us recoil and withdraw, casting huge shadows of doubt across our precious foundations as we start to question ourselves.
Hello Brugge! 😍
Over the past decade or so, I have worked hard to become a confident, independent, self-sufficient individual. I have always been proud of the fact that I don’t really care what people think of me, and one of the best gifts I ever gave myself was the assurance to just be myself.
I refuse to lose touch with this version of me when life gets tough.
So as I sat on the train in my glitter-ball, sequinned top, leather trousers and glittery fur coat, listening to Ja Rule and writing about bunions (again – don’t ask. I shouldn’t be allowed to carry a journal), I made a pact with myself.
No matter what life throws at me, I must remember this version of me: the solo traveller. The runner. The writer. The content, genuinely happy version of me.
I can’t, won’t forget me.
... Jeez, heavy stuff, that! I think I might have another truffle! 🤣
After a seamless, picturesque hour long train journey, I arrived in Brugge around midday.
Again, this wasn’t my first time in the city – I visited on a ferry when I was about eight years old. I do have some vivid memories of that trip, including eating a whole bag of truffles, before jiggling around on a horse and carriage ride and getting back on the boat. I’m sure you can guess how that ended...! 🤮
My Mum, on the other hand, appears to have some varying recollections of our time in Brugge...
“Do you remember the toilet with the revolving seat in that restaurant?” She asked when I told her I was heading back to the city.
Weirdly, I actually do remember that toilet! 🤣
Autumn in Brugge! 🍂
Brugge in autumn is just a delight!
My plan was to just walk in the direction of the many steeples and spires on the horizon, but as usual, I found myself wandering away from the crowds and getting lost.
I meandered through a park on the edge of the city, marvelling at the autumn leaves beneath my feet; a carpet of scattered golden pennies.
I kept intending to turn back and head towards the town, but I was enjoying the serenity of the park too much. The autumn sun contrasted wonderfully with the sharp wind, blowing the remainder of the cobwebs firmly from my mind.
Five miles later, I finally found myself in the city centre!
The 'standard' Brugge view 📸
Although famous for ‘that’ one particular view capturing the bridge and the weeping willows, Brugge is pretty from every angle.
Combining cobbles, striking floral displays and infinite quirky buildings of a hundred different, fascinating structures, Brugge won me over with its humble demeanour. Small, yet perfectly, prettily formed.
Brugge beholds a much slower pace than Brussels. Every wall, park bench and patch of grass is taken up by gathering friends and families, clutching waffles or bags of chocolate. Embracing the last hit of sunshine, time seemed to lapse this afternoon, as a tranquil vibe swept the city.
Beautiful Brugge 🥰
Although tiny, I challenge anyone not to find their ‘sweet spot’ in Brugge. The city proudly covers everything from history and gastronomy, to relaxing and sport. You can rent a bike and take in the city on your wheels, or you could round up the troops and sign yourself up to a beer tour! Horse and carriages are available at the rate of 60 euro for a half hour ride. Oh, and the shopping is mega. I can sniff out an H&M in any country, and my bank balance is £30 down as a result of today’s spree.
As well as the 'big name' brands such as H&M and Zara, many streets were also lined with boutiques, including two Harry Potter shops!
I stumbled across a store solely dedicated to selling German Christmas decorations. My Grandma Barbara was German, and stepping inside that shop today transported me back to the magical Germanic-influenced Christmases of my childhood. The decorations twinkled and enticed, as the wall of traidtional cuckoo clocks ticked away, casting their spell.
It was both a nostalgic and emotive experience for me.
Literally every single building - be it someone's house or a shop - is stunning!
I’m back in Brussels now, and running the Half Marathon tomorrow.
I was supposed to buy some sensible pre-race food at the supermarket before, but ended up coming back with a tub of Belgian chocolate cookies and a bag of sweets shaped like Smurfs.
The shade of blue that has been used to process these particular gummies is actually quite startling.
So yeah, that’s a reassuring start to my race prep, isn’t it?! Smurf sweets and e-numbers. Fab.
Wish me luck...!! 😬🤣
Happiness is... Horses! 🐴
Cara Jasmine Bradley