Day 5 – Buses, Trams and Trains
Mine and dad’s boys’ adventure continued today. A bus, train and a tram journey all in the same day. Holidays don’t get much better than this (as Greg Wallace would say…if he presented Holiday 2015…and liked transport).
Today we went to Ghent (which the Belgians spell Gent, which explains why you find so many men from Ghent assuming that public conveniences are a meeting place for men from Ghent. They aren’t). It’s half way between Bruges and Brussels and according to Trip Advisor is the 4th biggest and most beautiful city in Belgium. Not totally sure about the latter claim, but we gave it the benefit of the doubt.
Our journey began on the number 4 bus. Now we have become big fans of the number 4. Our house is about “15 minutes walk from Bruges Centre”. That 15 mins is at a very brisk pace, not the pace of someone who has recently had a knee operation (or someone who feels like he needs one!). On the first day we got into town and were exhausted. We headed to tourist information and found out about the buses. Luckily the number 4 runs about every 20 mins, stops a couple of hundred yards from the house and takes about 5 minutes to get to the centre, 10 minutes to the train station. We buy tickets in batches of 10 and I am now in charge of tickets and have the job of standing in front of the driver, sticking 4 fingers up and very clearly saying “4” as I stick the card in and out of the machine 4 times. Meanwhile the other 3 sneak behind trying to beat the locals to the seats. There is a theory (created by myself) that outside of big cities, the only time a middle class person uses a bus is on holiday. We are living proof of that. We all spend the entire journey like mere cats looking where we are, trying to decide “when does one press the bell?”. Too soon, we have that extra bit of walk home, too late…well who knows, we have no idea where he bus goes after our stop!
We arrived at Bruges Station and I went to the ticket window. Getting tickets was remarkably painless and with mum and dad being over 65 they went half price. No need for id or anything, but perhaps the fact that dad was hovering behind me was evidence enough! The next train to Brussels via Ghent was in 9 minutes so we gently sauntered there, only stopping to tut at Starbucks, the first one we have seen since we arrived here. The train was in, we boarded a virtually empty train and settled into our seats. Dad took out the camera. It takes lot for dad to take out the camera, but this warranted it.
At 10:51 the train pulled out so smoothly and gently that dad didn’t even realise we were moving. We thundered through the Belgian countryside which was very…errr…flat and 20 minutes later arrived at Ghent. The guide book offered us probably the most honest piece of advice about travelling in Ghent. “Get the number 1 tram into the historic town centre. Don’t walk it, the route is long and uninteresting”. We discovered that the card we were using on the buses worked the same on the tram, so once again I stood at the machine one, two, three, four…
After enjoying coffee, cake, cuisine and culture (more of the first 3, less of the latter) we headed back. We enjoyed a smooth journey back and just over an hour after getting on the tram in the centre of Ghent, we were getting back on the number 4 bus home. Myself and Karen agreed to jump off a couple of stops before home to call into Carrefour for milk and cakes (just the essentials). We left the parents with instructions as to when to press the bell (they actually went too early. Schoolboy error) and hopped off. It was only then that I realised that I still had the bus tickets in my pocket. As we waved them goodbye through the window, I just hoped that they didn’t still have bus inspectors in Belgium….