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23 November 2015

Living in Leuven: Week 9 | Exploring Leuven & A Day Trip to Bruges

After a relaxed weekend in Leuven, I decided on Monday to venture out and explore more of the city I live in. Unfortunately, during the KU Leuven Orientation days, I was occupied with having to find my accommodation, so I missed a lot of the guided tours and organised trips to the tourist sights in Leuven. So, after my early morning constitutional law class, I decided to visit Museum M and Sint-Pieterskerk.

Museum M, Leuven

If I'm being honest, I felt pretty let down by Museum M. When I visited, the majority of the museum focused on Sarah Morris. I wasn't surprised to learn she is a British abstract artist - her pieces were actually quite impressive. Her short films were also displayed in a few of the exhibition rooms.

Museum M, Leuven

I visited the museum at 11am and it was completely dead and somewhat creepy, walking through the museum by myself with strange music from the short films playing in the background. I almost felt as though I was in Night at the Museum where the shapes from the paintings would start moving and jumping out in front of me - certainly a strange experience.

Unfortunately, I'm not so interested in art and fail to appreciate time in an art gallery. However, I  think the museum has a LOT of potential as there were a few empty rooms which, if filled, would make the visit more worthwhile. I would've loved to see more on the history of Leuven.

I, then, briefly visited Saint-Pieterskerk. It was lunchtime, so I didn't bother paying the entrance fee to the treasury, but took some photos from the entrance of the church.

Sint-Pieterskerk, Leuven

On Tuesday, I travelled into central Brussels to visit their Primark store. Although I've moved country on my own and managed to get myself to Leuven in one piece, I felt a different kind of nervous travelling into Brussels on my own. It's always going to be a bit daunting visiting a foreign capital city alone without any sense of direction, I was exceptionally proud of myself for taking the plunge!

The Primark in Brussels was absolutely packed. I thought as I visited during the day on Tuesday, the shops would be quiet, but I was so wrong. The Primark store was absolutely packed! I managed to quickly pick up a Minnie Mouse onesie (which I'm incredibly excited about) and also a purple roll neck jumper. It's the cosiest item of clothing I own now and I'm so desperate to go back again and buy one in every colour!

Stadhuis, Bruges

Wednesday was a bank holiday in Belgium, so I spent the day catching up with some University work and good old British TV.

Thursday and Friday are my human rights lecture days. As the course is so popular, most of my friends are in the class, so we always end up doing something afterwards. On Thursday, after a quick dinner in 'De Appel', I went to see the new James Bond film, Spectre. I wasn't overly impressed with the film. It lacked a decent plot line and some of the scenes were a little far fetched...

We arranged to go to Bruges with ESN on the Saturday, so my friend and I decided to watch 'In Bruges' in preparation for the trip on Friday evening. The film itself wasn't terribly great, but it actually made the trip to Bruges a lot more exciting as we could point out all the landscapes from the film.

We met ESN at the Leuven train station on Saturday morning and took a 1.5 hour train ride to Bruges. I visited Bruges last year when I volunteered on a school trip, but it was a very brief stop in the town square for lunch, so I was really excited to see what else Bruges had to offer.

Originally, ESN arranged for us all to go on a boat trip in Bruges, but as the weather was terrible, it was called off last minute. They gave us the option of meeting for a tour around the Beer Museum, or spend the afternoon doing as we wished. I've visited breweries before and I don't drink beer, so I decided against the Beer Museum and my friend and I went on a wander around the city instead.

Stadhuis, Bruges
We paid to visit the Stadhuis (city hall). The city hall is one of the oldest and the city hall in Leuven is actually heavily influenced by Bruges, so I'm definitely adding a visit to the Leuven city hall to my to-do list!

Afterwards, we stopped for lunch in Quick and continued to explore the city. We really wanted to visit the Belfry (main tower in Bruges), but the queue was too long. I'm hoping there will be a chance in the second semester to visit when it's not as crowded. Just as we were about to stop for a tea-break, we bumped into the ESN group gathering around a canal boat. They must've changed their mind last minute and thankfully there were enough spaces left for us to join them.

I thoroughly enjoyed the boat tour. The tour guide was originally from England and sounded a bit like Robin Hood - definitely set the scene as we were also surrounded by medieval buildings in the city. Bruges is known as the 'Venice of the North' and I can definitely see why. Our boat was full of couples on their romantic weekend getaway. 

The rain had started during our boat trip and we were absolutely soaked afterwards, so we decided to pop into a tea-room to warm up and dry off a bit. I was quite disappointed we didn't get to see more of Bruges in the short time we spent there. My cousin is visiting at the start of December, so I've promised her we will visit Bruges then. I can imagine it being even more beautiful when the Christmas Market is erected in the town square!

I spent my Sunday, as usual, catching up with some University work and sulking as my hot water STILL wasn't working after turning off on the Friday night... that's student accommodation for you!

Plans for next week aren't concrete yet, but we're currently in the middle of arranging a trip to Antwerp and Luxembourg at the weekend. That's one of the best things about living in Belgium, as it's in the heart of Europe, so many neighbouring countries are very easily accessible!

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