On Sunday we took a coach trip to Belgium.

The thing we forgot was that we don’t like coach trips. It was crowded. There were families and children sitting around us living out their dramas for all the world to see. The Spanish people talked loudly during the English parts of the tour commentary. I had left my iPod in Britain. The seats were too small and Mark and I were squished together – me against the window and Mark sort of perched in an uncomfortable way next to me – both having to cross our arms as we couldn’t fit them by our sides. I couldn’t shift and after an hour I started to go numb. The reality of eleven more hours of this torture loomed ahead of us. Half way to Ghent I broached the idea of escape – we could get a few trains back to Amsterdam. It would only take three hours or so. We could hire a car. How much would it cost to charter a small plane?

As we approached the outskirts of Ghent things looked worse. Ghent is a tired, depressed-looking city, not helped by the low grey cloud cover and the fact that they were cleaning up after a week-long festival that ended the night before. The town squares were full of temporary toilets, muddy paths, decaying foodstuffs and carnival rides half dismantled. It was in Ghent that we lamented we forgot to bring our cyanide pills.

I only managed a few decent photos.

We had some lunch and weighed up our options. We had no map of Ghent and couldn’t find the station. That bus was our only escape and we tried to be philosophical about it: we had already done a long stint, we could try to sit in a different configuration, we would get to see Bruges…

Swapping seats on the bus made all the difference – Mark liked it by the window and I was able to stretch out in the aisle. The children were getting tired and sleepy after lunch and things felt better. We might make it after all.

We were glad we held out for Bruges.

It’s gorgeous.

It has canals.

And medieval turrets and towers.

And canals.

And chocolate!

One out of every five shops in Bruges is a chocolate shop.

We just bought a few chocolates for a taste.

Bruges is also famous for lace-making.

Pretty, but we didn’t buy any lace.

The local beer is very good.

There are many beautiful churches and cathedrals in Bruges.

The Church of Our Lady has a Madonna by Michelangelo.

We had an early dinner and then made our way back to the bus. It was only a three hour journey back to Amsterdam.

Next time we’re going by train.

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