Things to do in Brugge // Belgium // Day 1 //

Nightmares of City breaks past… seeing as much as possible in the shortest amount of time for the cheapest price possible. This normally meant a hotel which was far away from the city centre and most of the time spent on a hop on/off bus to see the ‘best sites’.

I wanted this holiday to be different, mainly because it was a surprise present for my boyfriend, but also because this is somewhere I’ve wanted to take him for years. In our first year together I got him a Brugge/Brussels guide book and now almost 5 years later we have finally been.

So here is a little guide to making the most of the beautiful relaxed place which is Brugge, based on our 3 day trip.


Top Tips:

  • Go to Brugge mid week – we went from Thursday to Saturday. Thursday to Friday was perfect, didn’t have to reserve any restaurants and could just walk around at our own pace. On Saturday it was very different, it was hugely busy and the Market Square was absolutely packed.
  • Go ‘off-peak’ season – We went in February and even though it was a bit chilly at times I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much if there were lots of tourists and it was really overcrowded. I really cannot stress this enough – before I went to Brugge, I looked up lots of pictures and saw it is the height of summer and it looked horrendous. There was no mad rush of tourists with maps, or people getting lots of selfies in the way, it was ideal.
  • If you have any sort of travel anxiety then take the train – Brugge is so easy to get to, we took the Eurostar from London via Brussels and it was the simplest thing to get here. It was literally the most stress free travel I’ve ever done.

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About Brugge:

The centre of Brugge is like something out of the movies, old cobbled streets, canals and photogenic tightly packed houses, it’s not surprisingly that is it a World Heritage Site of UNESCO. The historic centre of Brugge is actually a World Heritage Site of UNESCO and it is easy to see why when you are there. The name Brugge comes from the old dutch word for bridge and when we got there it was easy to see why, I could have done a whole photo album on just the bridges and canals alone.

// DAY ONE // THROW AWAY THE GUIDE BOOK AND EXPLORE

Honestly first thing to do is just throw away the guide books and go get lost in the old city streets. Brugge is a bit of a maze but once you’ve worked out the tiny streets you realise it’s a smaller than you think. this way I think you can discover your own favourite places within Brugge and just enjoy the beautiful architecture of the old town.

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This is something which we have failed to do on previous city breaks – we have followed the guide book religiously almost – but this way we could discover our own Brugge

Eat all the waffles, drink all the beer and eat all the chocolates.

This is a must in Brugge or Belgium. We stumbled across this amazing little place Lizzie’s Waffles and they were absolutely amazing. We had the best waffles and the best hot chocolate, it was down a little side street away from the Market Square but well worth it. A lot of the waffle stands near the main square look really thick and greasy but this was the complete opposite. It was really light and so delicious, and well worth the money for the size of the waffle – this actually ended up being our lunch because it was so huge.

For the evening we stumbled across a really sweet Italian, again down one of the side streets. Again this is a must for Brugge, explore all the side streets for fantastic restaurants. We looked at the ones on the Market Square and they were so expensive and the food didn’t look great – instead we walked less than 100m down the side streets and found a really good Italian for a third of the price

 

This was only day one and we were already loving Brugge. Late in the evening we continued to walk around Brugge then crashed out at the hotel.

Brugge // Belgium //

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Weekly Wander // 3 // February // New Forest

This is one of those places that I have wanted to visit for such a long time and it just kept getting delayed and delayed for one reason or another. I really don’t understand why I didn’t force myself to go earlier. The New Forest is 145 square miles of heathland, forest and grazing land and is only a short drive away from Southampton.

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It’s landscape is unlike you can describe, in some parts it’s really barren and things look dead. In other parts it’s a massive woodland teaming with life and then of course there are all the ponies just wandering round at their own pace.

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We first stopped at Burley after my dad suggested it because he said there are just ponies wandering round everywhere and I couldn’t believe it when we drove into the village and BAM there were two horses just casually walking down the road.

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I think the best part about the New Forest is that it’s entirely open. You can choose which path to go down and stumble across some really beautiful hidden paths. We went on a Sunday and it was surprisingly quiet so there was no trouble going into the towns or getting lunch. We decided to have lunch in Burley and it was actually really disappointing, we didn’t do much research beforehand and it was quite frustrating when later we stumbled across a beautiful pub which had a lovely lunch menu – if you are in the area you have to check out the Huntsman in Brockenhurst.

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We flew the drone round the New Forest – which is something we have been meaning to do for ages but never found the right place or time to do it. I haven’t checked out the footage yet because it’s been a whirlwind of a month but I’m hoping it will be good because the landscape is so open.

We decided to drive round all the different spots, park and then walk round and explore which worked really well because it was pouring with rain and it was pretty cold. So it was nice to get into a car with heated seats (the main reason I asked my boyfriend to drive) in between our walks.

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As you can see the New Forest is pretty barren looking so my best suggestion is to go for as many hours as possible to make the most out of it and to truly explore all the different areas. This way you can explore the beautiful towns, the woods and the moor like landscape at your own pace.

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This is definitely somewhere I want to re-visit, especially in the summer so we can take a picnic and really enjoy the landscape in the sunshine.

Weekly Wander // 3 // February

 

Weekly Wander // 2 // February // Coombe Country Park

It’s been a while since I’ve written up an adventure – mainly due to a work trip away over the weekend and then going away again – which will be up soon.

This weeks Wander is to Coombe Country park just outside Warwickshire… we decided to go here because it was perfect for a dog and there was lots of different landscapes to see.

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So we set off from Stratford and it was a 40 minute drive which did prove a bit too much for our border collie who was sick as we went over a speed bump… and just missed my shoes. So we didn’t think we would be able to spend long here because we didn’t want her to be more ill but as soon as she was out of the car she was out and ready to go – waiting for us to throw a suitable stick.

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Her first excitement was seeing ducks, our dog has seen ducks before but never this many and she couldn’t contain her excitement and didn’t know where to go or what to do. Especially when one was flying and then landed next to her, it was a combination of being terrified but also excited.

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MASTER, WHAT SHALL I DO? EAT IT? CHASE IT? BARK AT IT? ALL OF THE ABOVE?

The park is so lovely to walk round -there’s lots to see, there is a massive lake and bird hide to try and spot some birds or just walk round all the different landscapes.

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We ended up spending three hours walking round the park which was the perfect amount of time and perfect for our border collie – who slept like a log in the car on the way home and could barely get out of her bed to beg for our dinner.

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The best part about the walk was just exploring and having no set path, we just chose which path looked best – this was either decided by me – who saw something and wanted to get a photo or Pickle who would run after a pigeon and try to catch it then would pretend nothing would happen when it flew away.

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Human – this smells great why aren’t you smelling this with me

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The best part was after such a long walk as we were heading back to the car we saw the most incredible sunset over the park and it felt like we were on safari or somewhere abroad seeing the most incredible sunset. It is places like this that remind me that a staycation is a good idea and the UK has so many hidden gems to offer.

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Weekly Wander // 2 // February

Weekly Wander // 1 // February // Kenilworth Castle

Having spent most of January exploring local places it was time to go a bit further from home – and also make the most of the slightly warmer weather and the sunshine. So off to Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire.

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Are we there yet?

It’s been a really chilled adventure this week with my boyfriend and his dog. My boyfriend has lived in Stratford-Upon-Avon and I’ve been visiting him for the past four years and never realised this beautiful place was so close.

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We decided to go here after looking up best dog friendly places in Warwickshire and this was number one on the list.

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Is that man with the chip going to feed me?

We decided to get some lunch at the Queen and Castle just opposite the Castle – with parking too, it was £2 for three hours which I thought was really reasonable given that the castle is less than 20m away. the pub was dog friendly so thankfully we could sit inside in the warm. The food was really good but the cocktails were even better.

After the pub we walked round the grounds of the castle, we had missed last entry to the castle as it shuts at 4 but even so walking round the castle wall was really nice. We went at the perfect time – just as the sun was setting so we watched the sunset from the grounds while our border collie ran round chasing a drone.

I would definitely recommend going to Kenilworth if you have a couple of hours in the area and stopping off at the pub. The whole place had a really nice atmosphere and it was a good place to explore and see the castle ruins.

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It’s definitely worth staying until the sunset too – the castle makes the perfect backdrop for some lovely photos – and if it gets too cold just pop into the pub.

Weekly Wander // 1 // February

Weekly Wander // 4 // January // Camden Kerb Market

I’m not normally one for big crowds but when it’s a food market exceptions need to be made.

This was arranged by someone at work and the website seemed to be a hipsters paradise – lots of food bloggers taking photos of their food… and it all looked delicious.

So off we all went on a busy Saturday. Now I cannot stress enough how busy it was in Camden, let alone the food market so plan wisely.


We had already  sussed out the haloumi chip stand and we went their first and they did not disappoint. In fact we went back for two rounds.


The market itself was smaller than I expected but it was absolutely packed with food stalls – not like the Mercato Metropolitano that I went to before Christmas. This was open air and lots of stalls packed closely together with not many places to sit. This did make it slightly difficult for a group of 8 to go round the market.

Not what you expect – a Tea Bar

My suggestion for a big group is either split up and have a main meeting place (which is what we did) or to try and go on a weekday so it’s not so crowded.
Between us we managed to try all the different foods around the market and after a couple of hours at the market we could barely move and we were so full so naturally we decided to move onto drinking.

Sadly the market is missing some really nice bars – we went to one and after queueing for 20 minutes were refused service because it was so busy. If the market had a really nice pop up bar with a few cocktails then it would be 10/10.

However if you are just going for food then this is definitely the place to be – lots of options for everyone, with lots of veggie and vegan options too.


All the different food we tried was fantastic – so definitely don’t eat beforehand to enjoy it fully.


Even though it was really busy around lunch time, late afternoon/evening it really quietened town so we were able to explore all the stalls and enjoy Camden fully.

I would definitely recommend visiting here – there is honestly food for everyone, just make sure you plan properly before you go so if it’s busy then you know the best stalls to go to first.

Definitely was a superb end to January and was much nicer to have longer evenings so it’s not so miserable and dark.

Can’t believe that is January finished and onto February – going away twice in Europe, once for work and once for fun so it’s going to be an exciting February!

Weekly Wander // 4 // January

Weekly Wander // 3 // January // Water Meadows

Another rainy weekly wander this week so I decided to do something a bit different and try and spot some wildlife.
I absolutely love otters and when I heard about Winchesters urban otters I leaped at the opportunity to try and see them.

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I’ve been a national trust member since the Autumn but have only used it once. I bought it after doing a lot of research of all the places and trips I wanted to do and most of them near NT sites. I got so excited about it all so purchased the membership, however by the time I got my membership I had started a new job and it was Christmas – so I didn’t have the opportunity to use it.

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So when I found out about Winchester City Mill it seemed like a perfect opportunity to use my membership and to explore the Water Meadows and try and spot some otters.

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Armed with my camera and a lot of hope, I went off to Winchester City Mill to try and see some otters but also to walk along the Water Meadows.

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Of course nature is never predictable and as soon as I started to walk down the river, it was really heavy rain. So heavy that I had to put my camera away.

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Mini river or a path?

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Less than a minute after my camera was put away I saw the most beautiful kingfisher. I’ve always seen the flash of blue and orange but not much else. This kingfisher was less than 1m away and sitting on some twigs in the rain. But as my luck would have it as soon as I got my camera out it was gone

 

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Total wildlife count:

  • Kingfisher
  • Grey Wagtails
  • Water Vole
  • Ducks

 

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Sadly, no otters but keep watch because I’ve found my new favourite place and the chance to see otters is too good to miss.

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Hopefully Part 1 – I’m determined to see some otters so watch this space. Find out more about the otters or Winchester City Mill here

Happy Exploring 🙂

Weekly Wander // 3 // January

Weekly Wander // 2 // January // Odiham

The weather has been typical January – cold and rainy days. Everyone seems tired from the Christmas rush and now the colds have started.
I had originally planned to go to Richmond Park or the New Forest but after catching the office cold it wasn’t going to work out.

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So I decided to go local and explore round Odiham, but instead of walking down the street and taking the usual photos of lampposts or shops, I decided to walk along the river – but I still managed to find one lamp post to take a picture of.

 

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Even though it was raining and a bit miserable, I really loved how green it was and enjoyed the fresh air.

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It was a great way to overcome the January blues and to enjoy somewhere I usually drive past but never normally stop.

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I definitely want to make sure I explore more local places – especially when it’s miserable and cold outside.

Weekly Wander // 2 // January

Weekly Wander // 1 // January // Stratford-Upon-Avon

This weekly wander is to Stratford-Upon-Avon: The Home of Shakespeare and my boyfriend so it was about time that my weekly trip was to here.

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There is honestly something for everyone in this town, if you like shopping then they have a big shopping centre outside of town, and in the high street they have lots of nice gift shops and the more expensive shops that my mum happens to love… Jo Malone, White Company etc. (Which made my Christmas shopping a lot easier)

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You can expect to find all the usual food chains here but also some lovely local pubs and restaurants which range from serving a cracking roast to a cream tea.

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To be expected, Stratford-Upon-Avon is a tourist hotspot and if you are thinking about visiting it’s definitely worth going in the weekday if possible. That way you get to see all the best bits without being caught up in the walking tours or having to stop because lots of people are taking pictures (me included).

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Like all good plans, I planned to go to Stratford-Upon-Avon, walk round in the beautiful sunshine and get some lovely photos of the town to really highlight how beautiful it is… oh but what happened… January and fog. But I still stand by what I said, Stratford Upon Avon is a really sweet town with lots of history and lots of things to do Shakespeare… and who doesn’t love one of the Shakespeare plays

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What I really love about Stratford is the little things that can so easily go unnoticed – all the lovely houses hidden down side streets with lovely Christmas decorations, the names of the houses having some link to Shakespeare and it is these things which makes me love the place.

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So as you can probably see, some of these photos were taken now (the grey ones) and some of them were taken in the beautiful summer when the trees were full of lovely leaves (to prove how pretty it is)

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Stratford is full of lovely traditional English houses and is surrounded by lovely countryside. If you are planning a trip out here, I would definitely recommend staying further out and researching other places to go in the area.

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Hope you are having a great start to the New Year!

Weekly Wander // 1 //  January

Happy New Year // 1st January 

Happy New Year everyone! So here is to 2016, it was a weird one for me, the start of the year was tricky – dealing with anxieties about life but the second half was amazing. So here are my best parts of 2016.

My New Years Resolution for 2016:

  • Try to get my life together – find a job that is right for me
  • Relax more – stop getting anxious over the small things
  • Push myself more – drive to more places
  • Focus on my photography more
  • Go somewhere exotic

January was about pupping sitting but also being surrounded by family.

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Puppy Sitting with Ted Bear
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Richmond Park

February was very busy at work and about learning to deal with change.

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Valentines Day
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Marsh Harrier At Titchfield Haven

March was about graduate scheme assessments and grey days.

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April was about appreciating friends – I have always wanted to walk through a bluebell forest and after mentioning this to my friend, we drove round for ages trying to find one.. and eventually we did.

May was about going on adventures with Dad and realising life doesn’t always go the way you had planned.

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June was about getting over fears, I had a pretty big fear of flying but didn’t want to stop seeing the world so I went to Australia with my boyfriend. This was the furthest I’ve ever been, even though I had anxieties before, I enjoyed every minute of this trip.

July was about post holiday blues but also seeing my boyfriend graduate with his MEng.

 

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August was about sunny days and last minute trips away.

September was about rainy days and filling out lots and lots of job applications, graduate schemes, doing telephone interviews. 

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October was all about celebration, Autumn and friends.

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November was about cold nights and colourful fireworks.

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December was about family and enjoying every day.

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So 2016:

  • I left my old job and found a job that is right for me
  • Learned to deal with my anxiety better – working in retail with horrible customers surprisingly helped with this
  • Got over my anxiety of driving and drove lots
  • Really appreciated my camera more – took it everywhere and have seen progress
  • Went to Australia

At the beginning of the year, I was anxious and put pressure on myself to find new jobs/ get a Graduate Scheme but in an area that definitely was not right for me. I also felt anxious about myself and where I fit in with everything.

Second half of the year, I really pushed myself and got out of the anxiety and had an amazing time with my family and friends. I learnt not to put pressure on myself to have a good time and genuinely did have a good time with my family and friends.

So for 2017, my resolution is simple to be healthier mentally and physically – enjoy every moment, explore more with my camera and make sure that I make more quality time with my friends and family.

I hope you had a lovely New Year celebration and a good start to the year – remember to enjoy the small things.