Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Wednesday, August 25, 2004


Boredom Thy Name Is Bruges

So on this trip, the Wife and I had far-ranging plans to visit all corners of Europe. We'd planned to go from Paris to Southern France to Madrid to The Costa del Sol to Geneva to Vienna to Prague to Berlin to Amsterdam to the whole of Ireland and thence home. After a day, we were behind schedule and realized some moderation of the plan might be needed. We were put another day behind when I jumped on the wrong train leaving Bordeaux.

Then we went to Fuengirola.

Fuengirola is a little town near Malaga on the Costa del Sol in Spain. It's got nice beaches, a large population of vacationing Britons and Spaniards, along with my exchange student brother from high school, Alfredo. I hadn't seen Alfredo for nine years, so we decided to extend the Fuengirola stop a bit and possibly, oh, let's say, cut out Berlin, which is full of Neo-Nazis, so fuck it.

Then Alfredo, who has traveled extensively through Europe and has very, very strong opinions on these sorts of things, told us we were deluded. There was no real way for us to do the trip as I'd planned it out, he said. We should localize more. Actually, he wanted us to stay another five days or so in Fuengirola, but our tans were already perfect, so we decided to just stick to Western Europe. We added various locales in Spain to our itinerary, including Valencia, Barcelona and the Alhambra, which was okay if you're into impressive stuff. We returned to Paris, which we'd both loved the first time, to give it a more thorough going over. And then we thought, "Hey! Bruges!"

The books describe Bruges as a lovely little Belgian town with a picturesque square and lovely countryside. We got in late--because that's what we goddamn do--and, after being rejected by several hostels, we got a room, dumped our stuff and headed "downtown." We walked from our hotel toward the square and were delighted. There were streets full of people leisurely strolling and pausing by closed stores to window shop. Window shopping! Nobody takes the time to do that in New York! We were charmed.

We got to the square and bought two things of delicious Belgian frites. We'd heard that the Belgians have a special art to frying potatoes. Okay, well these were pretty much just french fries, but that's fine. We took our fries and sat in the square, where three young girls were playing as a string trio. They were cute. We were even more charmed.

The next morning, we rented bikes. After a half-hour or so of being chased through narrow and winding town streets by huge buses, we headed out into the country and peddled past postcard-ready farmhouses and cows and windmills. It was charming. We rode back to town with sore asses and smiles on our faces.

And we looked for something else to do.

This is not a huge town. They have one movie theater, which was showing Garfield. In Dutch. They have no theater theater. They have the square, which is great and all, but once you've sat there eating fries, you don't really need to do it again. So we wandered the streets. It was about seven in the evening. All of the shops were closed. People were window shopping because they couldn't do any actual goddamn shopping. The Seven-Eleven closes at eight. This is not a late-night place.

Once we'd walked the length and breadth of the stagnant, puny canals, we returned to the square. Then we left again, then we walked the streets again, which all lead invevitably back to the square. We drank a couple of beers. It did little to improve the place.

An analysis of the many stores in town might prove helpful. The majority of the stores fell into one of the following categories: bar, lingerie store, liquor store, travel agency, baby clothes store. So the residents want to either get drunk, have sex (and babies) or get the fuck out of town. Can't say I blame them.

We went back to the hotel. The common room was closed. Our room was, to be charitable, closet-sized. We went back out. At this point, I decided that any kind of excitement was good and I punched a young Belgian man in the face to see what would happen. He dropped his waffle. He then picked it up and walked the other way.

So I threw a rock at a cop. He handed it back to me and expressed concern that I might lose it.

So we went to sleep. At eight-thirty.

We're going to Amsterdam next. Hopefully, they'll actually have something to do there.