So last weekend (Saturday), I went to Bruges… just for the day. It was so amazing! I went with a tour group called International Friends. The daytrip was absolutely incredible. I got some time with myself, which—unlike I expected—turned out to be just what I needed. It was nice to just go at my own pace and do what I wanted to do in Bruges. We were only in Bruges for three-and-a-half hours, but it was still worth it.
It was a long long day. It started at four in the morning when I dragged myself out of bed, got ready, and met the tour coach at Hammersmith Tube station in London. From there, the coach drove towards Dover (the closest port in England to France) picking up a few more people along the way. On the way out of London, the tour guide on our bus gave a commentary, which was fun to listen to because he talked about a lot of things that I did not already know. For instance, when we passed Trafalgar Square, he enlightened us with the fact that the lion sculptures that flank the corners of Nelson’s column are made from French cannons that were confiscated during the Napoleonic war. I also found it interesting that Nelson’s column is the exact height of the main mast of his ship. Just before we arrived at the Port of Dover, the tour guide woke us all up and gave us another few minutes of commentary. Apparently Dover was a huge military and naval base during both World Wars and the Napoleonic War. Its still used today because of its super close proximity to Calais, France.
After we all got through customs, the coach drove onto the ferry, we all got off, and headed upstairs to the passenger deck. The ferry was actually really cool. Their was a cafe, restaurant and food court on board. And two massive stores selling duty free products. I didn’t buy anything, but I did spend the better part of the hour-and-a-half ferry ride to Calais looking around the perfume/cosmetics shop. When the ferry arrived in Calais, we all got back on the coach and the driver headed toward Bruges. The ride to Bruges went by real quick. It took about an hour-and-a-half. All of this may seem like a lot for a few hours in Bruges, but it really isn’t that bad. I slept, listened to music and read… so it went by really quick.
When we got to Bruges, the tour guide walked us into Bruges city centre, giving us a bit of history along the way. It was a beautiful day… 45 degrees and sunny! On the way into town, we passed two canals, the city’s main Cathedral, and the Town Hall. The whole city has amazing original architecture because it wasn’t badly damaged during World War II. After the guide showed us around a bit, he let us all go off on our own. I went to the Christmas market first to get some lunch. Then I just spent the next three hours walking the market and various streets surrounding the market. It was so much fun to shop, chill out, and explore an entirely different culture. I of course bought tons of Belgian chocolate (mostly as gifts). I also bought a watercolor painting of a canal and a hand-carved candle at one of the Christmas market stalls. And then just before it was time to meet the group to head back to the coach, I sat and listed to an all-women band decked out in red and Santa hats play Christmas music in the main square.
Bruges had some of the best food that I’ve had all semester—everything from bratwurst and belgian waffles to the most incredible chocolate I’ve ever tasted. To be honest, that was probably the best part. I can’t wait to go back to this incredible city full of canals, horse-drawn carriages, outdoor markets and chocolate! It was great to have a last howrah before heading to Eastern Europe with my mom and traveling back to the States. It was especially nice given that this last week in London was really boring. It was mostly full of school work, packing, cleaning and last minute time with all of my new friends. That said, it was nice to just relax and enjoy my last week in London as if I lived here… permanently.
Tomorrow, my mom comes to London. She gets here around 11ish. I’m meeting her at the airport and then after we check into her hotel, we’re getting lunch, pedicures, and then I’m going to show her Harrods at Christmas time. After that, I’m taking her to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland so that she can see the Christmas market. And then finally, we’ll finish the day by having a nice dinner in Kensington with my grandma’s friends Iris & Tiiu.
On Sunday, we leave for Prague. And don’t worry, I’ll be blogging about my trip through Eastern Europe too! Stay tuned to hear about some more amazing experiences. This may be the end of my time in London, but this end only means the start of a new fantastic beginning.
Oh and before I forget, just to keep you all posted, I’ll be living on campus in apartments next semester. I found out Thursday that I’ll have three roommates in a two bedroom apartment with a kitchen and small living room in LMU’s Leavey 5 apartments. Its one of the nicest buildings on campus and super close to University Hall where all of my classes are located. I’m also trying for a research position in the Political Science department. So keep your fingers crossed so I get it! And last but not least, I found out last week that I was awarded LMU’s Fitzgerald Scholarship by the Institute for Leadership Studies because of my participation in The Washington Center’s international affairs program next Summer. I can’t wait for Washington D.C. and everything next semester has to offer. I’m sure it will be quite a culture shock to be back in the States, but that aside, I’m excited to see all of my family and friends. See you all sooner that you realize. Happy holidays!