Brugge is a dream. A waffle, french fry, beer, and chocolate filled Belgian dream. And at Christmas time, it is the setting depicted in every magical Christmas story ever told. It was absolutely picture perfect and I was immediately smitten with the little town.
Our hotel was fabulous… a balcony view right on the canal! Our digs seemed too good to be true for our backpacker budget, but I scored a steal-of-a-deal online and we weren’t complaining.
After arriving, we merely wandered and absorbed the picturesque town… swans glided through the chilly canals, horse hooves echoed on the cobble stone streets, Christmas trees illuminated the plazas and the scent of sweet waffles whirled through the air.
The following morning, we ate a divine lunch at the Ginger Bread Tea Room and then took a tour of De Halve Maan brewery and sipped on some delectable brews.
My brewery tour fun fact: St. Arnold was appointed the patron saint of beer because when the plague brutally attacked Europe, he encouraged people to drink beer rather than the contaminated water, which in turn, saved millions of lives.
After a flawless afternoon, we were feeling so keen on our Brugge experience.
We wanted to swing by our cozy canal side room to freshen up and find a nice place for dinner. We practically floated through the lobby of the hotel and out to the courtyard where our room was.
We were sharing our favorite parts from the day, agreeing that Brugge was definitely one of the most beautiful places we had ever seen and how this had been the best start to our Christmas vacation.
Spencer put the key in the keyhole, turned the doorknob and suddenly we heard a shriek!
“Excuse me!” she shouted. “Heeeello, can I help you?!”
Oops! We must have caught the maids by surprise, I thought.
But then I saw her. I couldn’t see much since the sun sets at an ungodly hour during a European winter, but I could see a surprised and tired looking blonde woman emerging from our canopy bed, covering herself with our bed sheets.
“This is our room!” I shouted. “What are you doing here?!”
“See, we have the keys,” Spencer added.
“I checked in today at noon and this is the room they gave me,” she argued.
“Where’s all of our stuff?!” I demanded, like she was holding it hostage or something.
“NOT HERE!” she replied.
We slammed the door shut and ran to the front desk. My hands were trembling and I was boiling over with anger. We had to ring a doorbell and wait for a man to meander out from an office.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“Yes, someone is in our room!”
“Ah, yes you were supposed to check out today at noon,” he calmly responded.
“No we weren’t,” I insisted. “We leave tomorrow! And where are all of our things?” I couldn’t believe this. How could this hotel make such a stupid mistake?
I slammed our reservation confirmation papers onto the desk and pointed at the dates.
“Yes, I see. It says one night, checking out today at noon,” he calmly contested.
OH MY GOSH. He was right. We never had a “steal-of-a-deal” after all.
“Well, sorry,” he said unsympathetically. “We’re fully booked so you can’t stay here tonight. Your stuff is in the laundry room.”
The big, burly man led us to the laundry room to collect our belongings. I was shaking and fighting tears and scared to death. It was the peak season in Brugge, almost 6:00 p.m., we were about to lose our Internet access, and we didn’t have phone service. How were we ever going to find another place to stay?
I was imagining us wandering up and down those cold cobblestone streets, dragging our suitcases behind us, asking every hotel and hostel for an available room. I just knew we would be sleeping on the street that night. I wondered how I could convince the swans to snuggle with me for extra warmth. I felt like Tiny Tim’s less optimistic older sister.
We organized our suitcases and did a walk of shame out of the hotel and into the cold.
We trudged toward a hotel just across the street. I waited outside and pouted with the bags while Spencer inquired about a room.
After several minutes, he came outside and told me the price. Just surprised that there was availability, I yelled, “LET’S TAKE IT!” It was a Christmas miracle!
We both went inside, paid and hiked up to our new room. I opened the door and I couldn’t believe what we had just paid for.
There was graffiti-like writing on the headboard and a strange smell floating through the air (and no, it wasn’t waffles, trust me). Still trying to feel thankful to have a place to stay, I connected to the Internet and jumped on trusty TripAdvisor.
According to TA, we began our adventure staying in the third best hotel in the city. Of 102 hotels in Brugge, we ended our adventure at the hotel ranked 97th.
We hesitantly hopped into bed, which was actually just two twin beds pushed together, only to find some Euros hiding in the scratchy sheets.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night, but we were warm and we were safe and we were three Euros richer.
Regardless of the ending, Brugge was still a win in my book and I would return in a heartbeat, but next time, I’ll double-check every single detail before arriving.
My Brugge recommendations:
Accommodation: Turns out, it’s not in our backpacker budget, but the Canalview Hotel Ter Reien was just gorgeous and they didn’t charge us a late checkout fee.
Lunch/brunch: One of the best meals I’ve ever had was at the Ginger Bread Tea Room. Order the bunny! (reservation is a must)
Dinner: An affordable and delicious menu accompanied by a friendly and helpful staff, I definitely recommend de Verbleeding for a cozy dinner!
Drinks: We never wanted to leave Brugs Beertje. A wide selection of beers and a kind staff made for a memorable evening.
Tour: Don’t miss the de Halve Maan brewery tour! Very informative and you get a fabulous panoramic view from the top of the brewery.