Why not travel to another country for the day if you can? We had the time so we decided to take a day trip to Bruges in Belgium. Again, I booked this through Viator and I would NOT recommend booking with them. The tour guides were lousy. Less than lousy. They were rude, only showed good manners at the very end of the trip where they were completely sucking up to everyone (clearly to try to get tips) and really crassly asked me not to bring my (closed) bottle of drink on board so as not to dirty up the bus. Interestingly, as one of the guides requested this, I spotted about three used cigarette butts on the floor of the bus. Hhmmm.
My recommendation is to find a tour group that is limited to 12 people or less as I just booked the first thing that came up when I googled “Paris Day Trips” and there were at least 40 people on the bus which was a bloody nightmare. Luckily Bruges is an absolutely magnificent quintessential European city with cobbled streets, 600-year old buildings and quaint little chocolate shops and you have the whole day to yourself to enjoy these delights
My advice to anyone taking this tour or travelling to Bruges by their own means would be to find the horse tour spot first (if that’s something you’re interested in). I am a horse and carriage freak – to the point where I’ve even take a couple of rides around the Rocks – and I desperately wanted to trot around the city in a big ol’ carriage waving at passers-by, but after forty minutes of searching we still couldn’t find the starting point.
Included in the cost of the tour was a canal ride which lasts 30 minutes and leaves the dock every 10 minutes. The boats carry around 24 people each time so you won’t be waiting long. This was fantastic as the whole city is sort of built around the canal and you will get to see a variety of architectural types as well as some nice hotels and restaurants including one which has three Michelin stars.
Belgium is famous for its lace, its waffles and its chocolate so we tried a couple of waffle places, bought some chocolate both as gifts and for ourselves and watched this lady making lace like a real pro. Such intricate work, I had no idea it was done like this!
Mum is a big collector of Steiff products. Traditionally from Germany, these collectible bears (and other animals) are so beautifully made and have so much character which makes them a real treat to own. We figured a little city like this would stock them somewhere and I wanted to buy a little Steiff something for my friend who was about to become a new dad. The gorgeous baby has since been born – shout outs to baby Thomas!!
We found the shop, The Bear Necessities, and it was small but filled with wonderful Steiff bears as well as a few other collectible brands. Mum got a really cute bright orange elephant to add to her ever-growing collection. Nothing will beat the Steiff poodle I tracked down for her years ago from an antique store in London, though – god bless the internet!
Other things to do in Bruges include taking a bike tour, perusing the galleries and museums or doing some shopping. The shops aren’t all touristy and I saw a number of high street brands in the town square. Very Euro brands like Morgan de Toi and Mango, if that’s your thing.
The trip back to Paris is about 4 hours, including a stop off for food – but don’t you dare take it back on the bus!!
Seriously, though, I would 100% recommend going to Belgium if you’ve got a whole day to spare. It’s really very gorgeous and whether you walk around the whole city or just sit in a cafe the whole day and eat waffles you’re bound to have an amazing time; perhaps just try not to take the Viator tour!