As per our plan, we departed the flat and waved goodbye to Martin at 11:11 on 11/11/11. However, what wasn't in our plan was an unscheduled stop at the shop Blacks on Deansgate, as Anne only realised that the shoes which she had bought from there a few weeks earlier were actually an odd pair and she had one size too small on her right foot. Luckily, they corrected the mistake without a receipt of purchase and we were back on our way.
Any slight anxieties felt on our bus journey to Manchester were removed as we feasted on pate, bread and fruit on our train to Hull. Also, we had bought an Innocent Smoothie each and received a complementary woollen hat which happened to fit the head of our travelling companion, MoiMoi perfectly (pictures to follow).
Upon arrival in Hull, we found a rather bleak and grey town to be littered with drowsy, weathered inebriants with a glaze on their eyes which was either the result of years of alcohol abuse or just the effects of the sea air on their faces. Either way, we had a running joke that we were departing from Hull in order to ensure that there were no second thoughts... Trust me, there were no second thoughts! After scurrying through the high street to pick up some noodles for the ferry (the thermos flask we received from Eleanor and Alex has already proven to be invaluable - thanks again), we decided to head straight to the terminal and finished off our bread and pate from earlier.
Despite a slight delay of a couple of hours due to an engine failure (to Anne's delight as this meant she was able to enjoy an extra hour in bed), the ferry journey went ahead with no other glitches. We arrived in Zeebrugge reasonably refreshed after a surprisingly decent sleep and a shower which left us feeling as clean as a whistle (Gavin and Stacey fans will understand). A quick coach journey to Brugge Train Station ensured that we were able to escape the cheap-fag-and-booze seeking Yorkshire folk and we hurriedly headed into the station to purchase our onward tickets to Munich. After enquiring, we found that leaving on Monday, which was our intended date of departure would have cost us in excess of 340 euros but if we were to leave on Tuesday, it would only cost 173 euros. Needless to say, our choice was made for us!
After a 45 minute walk we finally seeked out our hostel, The St Christopher Inn Bauhaus in the east of the city and as we were able to relieve our shoulders and backs of the excess weights, we headed back into the town to find some lunch and generally take in the local delights... Obviously, we saw the Belfry of In Bruges fame and had romantic strolls alongside the canals and some stunning buildings & architecture but evidently, local delights in Brugge meant locating a pub. If you didn't already know, the Belgians are very beer-proud and good pubs were not in short supply. However, as I'm keen Dom Joly fan and both Anne and I have watched the episode of Dom Joly's Happy Hour where he heads to Brugge amongst other parts of Europe, we were specifically looking to find the place where he and his friend Pete spent an evening with the cameras. We had two options of finding the place as we had not noted the name down in advance. Option 1 would be aimlessly wandering the street until we stumbled upon it, or Option 2 would mean asking a local or tourist information advisor. We opted for the latter and after trying to explain the place to the rather bemused, yet friendly advisor, we ended up showing her clips of the episode on YouTube. Thankfully, she chuckled at Dom's humour and recognised the bar instantly, it was of course 't Brugs Beertje, how could we forget?! :)
After being pointed in the right direction, we headed straight for the bar with a slight skip in our step as this pub had a choice of over 300 beers for us to sample. We walked in and immediately recognised the barmaid as the lady who had served Dom in the programme and after ordering our first beers, the Kwak 8% which comes with a rather novelty glass, we took our seats at the bar next to a lovely couple from High Wycombe called Clive and Theresa. Little did we know, that Clive and Theresa were to become our drinking buddies/mentors in the bar, as they had been frequenting the establishment for over 20 years. Clive actually gave talks on Belgian beers back in England so he was a good person to have by our side! Also, it was evident that our seats at the bar were gold-dust as people were actually getting turned away from the pub as it was too busy. Basking in our luck and working our way through some other fine Beligan beers recommended by Clive, including one named Bush which was 12%, we soaked up the great chatter with the couple and found that the barmaid, Daisy was actually the owner and that Dom's antics were not well received by the locals (although Daisy herself had said that she enjoyed the frolics). The Hairy Bikers have also visited there and they were held in higher regard.
After enjoying the conversations with Clive, Theresa, Daisy, the other barmen Tom & Eli along with another chap called Eugene who we managed a conversation with from the other side of the bar through practically shouting to one another and also picked up some tips on Bolivia and Laos as it turns out that he and his wife were seasoned travellers and had visited a few of the places on our itinerary, we decided that as we had comprehensively exceeded our budget and taken enough unsavoury photo's of MoiMoi in the process, we would stumble back to the hostel and grab a 6 euro burger and frites to share en route.
Back at our room, we bumped into our room-mates for the night, two fantastic chaps from Sao Paolo in Brazil, both called Daniel. They shared some Cachaça, a local rum from Brazil and we turned in for the evening. Despite looking in their early 20's, the Daniel's were both 28 and stayed out with some Polish females until 3am. Before discovering their age, I made a joke about how we were evidently getting old as at midnight we were both shattered, they agreed with a laugh. However, after we revealed our respective ages it turned out that they thought I was older than them, despite being two years their junior!
The nights sleep wasn't the best, both Anne and I hardly slept a wink (I ended up reading a good few chapters of the book Martin had given me before we left), so as this is written, Anne and I are both feeling rather haggered, weary and obviously old before our time... maybe we should consider moving to Hull?!