Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's in Belgium.

So, last weekend (the 17th to the 19th of September) was my Stag Do, to which my best man Tom White (previous contributor to this blog, fact fans) had organised for eleven of us to go to beautiful Bruges. (It’s in Belgium).  We'd like to say that the reason for this visit was to experience the culture, the fine food and drink and the history.  However, the honest reason is that it looked nice in the film and was cheaper and easier to get to than Germany.

A quick hop to London Euston, and then on to St. Pancras and the Eurostar saw us arriving in Bruges (the channel tunnel isn't that exciting.  Daylight, twenty minutes of darkness and then daylight again but the pylons are different) at just around tea time. A quick 20 minute to the walk accompanied by the lovely sounds of Steven Chickens suitcase wheels wending their way across cobbled streets saw us at the beautiful 4 star Hotel Jan Brito, pretty much right in the heart of the city.

The eleven of us were spread across three rooms, me with the two dads (Taras and mine). The hotel was absolutely stunning with bags of character, with a gorgeous courtyard outside with an ornate fountain and gardens.

A quick rest saw us head into town for something to eat, of which Bruges presents many options. We opted for the Restaurant De Visscherie, a fish restaurant with outdoor seating, even though only two of our party actually had anything seafood related. I dined on vegetable soup and a lovely rich Flemish beef stew, whilst everyone else seemed to go for the same or a mixed grill. Tom and James had Mussels and were surprised by the seemingly endless supply they were given. A few blonde beers accompanied our first meal.

After a brief stop at a small nearby bar, at which the smokers in our party were amazed that smoking seemed to be still allowed indoors and also where Tommy (Taras Dad) broad Irish accent attracted some American fans, we headed deeper into Bruges looking for somewhere to spend the rest of the night.

After a non-starter of a place simply too rammed to seat eleven, we found a lovely little place called The Hobbit and had a few there, before moving on to (and spending the rest of the night in) the Comptoir Des Arts. Many beers later and we turned in for the night.

Next morning we all met for breakfast and were amazed by the amount of choice at the hotel.  It truly was a great place, especially for the price, and I more than intend to stay there again.  We then wandered into town to grab a coffee and have a bit of a wander, but Tommy had already sniffed out an Irish bar and the two dads ended up going back there to experience the fine cultural history of Belgium by drinking English beer and watching English football.

We grabbed a trip on a canal tour (during which the actual tour guide himself seemed obsessed with eating all the local wildfowl he could find) and a burger and chips (check us out, exotic food fans) from a Friterie and then headed back to the hotel to freshen up.

We then headed out again for the night.  Tommy and my Dad joined us for our first beer but then retreated back to the security of the Irish bar.  We plowed our way through the menu of beer on offer; Apricot beer, Kwak, Banana Beer - all in all an incredible selection.

At around quarter to midnight my mobile rang – it was one of the staff of the Irish Bar informing me in broken English that “Could you please give me the address of the hotel. Both your dads are a little drunk”. I let them know it but concern got the better of me and I decided to nip back to the hotel to check that they were both okay.

However as we drew closer we saw the flashing lights of an ambulance and Dad being stretchered up and put into the back. In his inebriated state he’d tripped up getting out of the taxi and smashed his face.

Cue a trip in the ambulance with a paralytic dad who couldn’t stop laughing who had to have an X Ray scan in the hospital and two stitches in his head. Who only asked me about five times during the few hours at the hospital where he was and why he was there. Of course he didn’t have his EHIC card on him or his passport because it was back at the hospital, but he got dealt with nonetheless and we were then thrown in a 15 Euro cab back to the hotel.

I made sure Dad got into bed and got to sleep. Tommy was already fast asleep; the earthquake volume snoring from his room guaranteed that. I rang Tom and he met me so I could go out for one last drink that night (back at the Comptoir Des Arts) before the bar shut. A disappointing ending to an excellent weekend. “A shit blip” as it came to be known.

Next morning Dad found the 200 euros he taken out for his evening of drink and culture gone from his wallet, which the taxi driver must have had before he’d handed it to me before I got into the ambulance. Nice to know that what Dad cost Bruges in health care had been circulated back into their economy – only seems fair.

All in all, other than the bloody annoyance on Saturday night from a Dad who should have known better, it was an excellent weekend.  Tom performed a bloody miracle organising it, and I suspect my dads woeful tale alone will contribute a huge segment towards his best mans speech at the end of next month.

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