I was a runner until I moved back with my parents during my four-month break between grad school and moving to France. Since then, I’ve participated in very little exercise, the only being walking around town.
Since my confession is now out on the internet, I hope it will shame me into running tomorrow morning, or better yet, this evening. However, when visiting Belgium in fall after having not participated in sufficient physical activity, I was thrilled when my travel companion suggested we rent bikes in Brugge.
I met her while eating breakfast at our hostel in Brussels. She sat next to me and we quickly found we had much in common and were both Americans (albeit from different, neighboring countries). She’s Mexican and I’m Californian, therefore we bonded over the lack of warm weather.
After spending the following day together in Brussels, we purchased cheap train tickets at the station (in Belgium, you buy a ticket for a day and route, not a specific train) from Brussels to Brugge. During the roughly hour-long ride, we sketched our game plan thanks to the help of our Use-It map.
Once we arrived, I stored my duffel bag in the station’s locker room (I didn’t want to waste time walking to, and checking into my hostel), and we headed straight to the bike rental at the tourism office, a five-minute walk away.
Our first stop was Brugge’s best hot chocolate shop: a stop we intended to make, but ended up outside by coincidence within moments of renting the bikes. We were anything but disappointed by finding the place right away or by the chocolate we drank there: thick, creamy, rich and delicious. I went back the following day.
We continued our cycling all around the city; through the UNESCO Werelderfgoed, along the canals and windmills, through the streets, and across beautiful parks and bridges. We even ended up, somehow, far outside the historic center limits… it’s hard to get lost in little Brugge.
Because the bike rental came with U-Locks, it was simple to stop and remount when we wanted to go into a building or take a picture.
Although we rented the bikes for six hours, we were a little flustered after getting lost, so we turned in an hour early. However, five hours was enough.
Picking up a bite to eat for lunch and using the toilet for free there (yay!), we spent the rest of our day meandering, enjoying the town and chatting with shop owners.
Cycling was a highlight of my trip to Belgium, without hesitation, topped only by my experience making a friend in Brussels and traveling with her for two days. Cycling under the fall leaves as they magically fluttered down over our heads, and aimlessly wandering through the streets on wheels enriched the visit.
I highly recommend renting a bike in Brugge, and hope to continue this tradition in other cities I visit. Especially because we rented the bikes and began cycling first thing in the morning, we experienced so many of the sights and sounds without other tourists. Even though I was already feeling flabby, I was glad for the push to exercise, although Brugge is (almost) completely flat.
With so many cyclists and such a beautiful town, cycling is a no-brainer and a must-do when in Brugge.