Tuesday April 1st we arrived in Brussels, Belgium at about 3:30. It had been a long morning, since we got up at 6:30am to make Luc and Lea pancakes before leaving Paris. We had about 1.5 hours to kill in Brussels before our train to Waterloo left. We decided to wander around the town just outside the station, even with our gigantic backpacks on. We walked out of the station and out of pure guessing, turned right and headed down a street. Within 5 minutes we stumbled into a busy square. I looked at Michael and asked “wait, what day is it?” (We are often asking each other this question) and we were both confused as to why the square was so crowded on a Tuesday afternoon. Sure it was warm out, but there were SO many people. We found out that we had stumbled upon a festival where they were giving away free food made from things that would have normally been thrown out. It was called feed 5000. SCORE. Free lunch. Somehow we keep managing to find these one day markets, right on the only time they are open.
It was basically a veggie soup.
With our now extra money, we decided we could splurge on sharing a waffle. I mean, we were in belgium. We had to try one!
And boy did we load that thing up. The chocolate half was mine, since Michael is allergic.
After enjoying the sunshine and our scrumptious waffle after our free meal, we hopped on the train to Waterloo. We were greeted there by Michael’s friend Ellen and her mother. Ellen had gone to our college and worked on staff with Michael, and her family had just moved to Belgium for her father’s work. They live in an adorable little house in a cute Belgian neighborhood.
It was so warm I could wear my sundress and sandals! We borrowed some bikes to pedal down to the market for some groceries. Life was surreal in that moment. Golden light was streaming through fences and across yards in this quaint neighborhood in Belgium, Germany; and here I was on a bike, warm sunlight on my face and gentle wind trailing through my hair. Ellen and her mother graciously served us dinner that night, and we were happy to save some money again on food. We would save the groceries for coming nights.
Wednesday April 2nd
I woke up to a knock on my door (Michael says he was actually shaking my leg, but I never can remember things when I’m sleepy). Uh oh. I overslept. I jumped out of bed and yelled “Be ready in 5!” I glanced at my clock on my phone… 6:03. Dangit. I was supped to be up at 5:40 to make breakfast. I threw on my clothes, quickly brushed my teeth, and made it to the kitchen at 6:08. I packed sandwiches for lunch. PB&J for me. Just jelly for Michael. I don’t kno show anyone dislikes peanut butter. I was getting ready to pour cereal at 6:11 when Michael yelled, “Hey what are you doing? We don’t have time for that!” I looked at my watch, “But we have 9 minutes!” He told me, no look at the clock again. It was 7:11 not 6:11. Oh no. We were an hour late! Not that we really care, but Ellen’s mom was generously taking us to the train station, and her only request had been to not be driving during rush hour, which she probably would not be doing. I grabbed an apple and out the door we went. The man at the train station didn’t speak english, but we used hand gestures and got the tickets we needed to Brussels. We had to connect to Bruges from there. We got to the machine at 8:30am to buy our return tickets at 28.50 Euros each. Michael has a card that has a chip like all do in Europe, however, Michael’s card had been having issues since we left the UK, because it requires a signature, unlike the European ones. The ticket machine declined our purchase attempt. There was a long line to the ticket desk so Michael got in line while I grabbed some coffee. I came back when Michael had reached the desk. The woman told us about a pass one card for under 26 year-old travelers. It would make our trip only 12.00 Euros each! The problem was that the ticket desk couldn’t sell these to us, only the machine could. I had previously seen that a lot of European ticket machines take coins, so we went to withdraw money from a machine. We got cash, but it was in notes, not coins, which the machines needed. We went to the coffee shop and got 40 Euros in coins, which I think they were a little annoyed about, but they remained smiley and friendly. With our coins now in hand, we bounded up to the machines, happy to be saving money and feeling quite clever. We ordered the tickets, but when we went to pay, they wouldn’t take our coins. WHAT. ok. No matter. We had two more machines. Neither of them would take our coins either! Back to the ticket desk. The line was taking forever and our hopes were diminishing that we’d be able to save money on our tickets. Then a friendly train worker approached us. I had just been contemplating asking the European girl behind us to purchase our tickets with her card in exchange for cash when the worker asked, “can I help you?” We explained the situation and she led us downstairs to another machine as she laughed at how ridiculous our situation was becoming. That machine declined our coins as well. The worker hypothesized that maybe the machines were too full of coins, but that she knew of one other that was in the back of the station, and less used. It was 8:54am and the next train left at 9:00. The worker also decided that this time she would order our tickets separately, because maybe the machines didn’t like accepting 24 Euros in coins all at once, perhaps they would like 12 Euros at a time better. She ordered the first ticket, and finally success! She ordered the second and with a smile she said, “hurry on! You still have 2 minutes to catch your train!” We did a short job down to platform 4 and made it with one minute to spare. Though it sounds stressful, we were both relaxed during this whole morning. We got there eventually! So notes for anyone traveling – Always ask for under 26 or student discounts. Always have cash on you, especially coins. And always be flexible. Things can and probably will go wrong from your plans.
The moment we stepped from the train to Bruges I was in love. This city is so adorable.
We got to the town center and the streets came alive. When we first arrived they were mostly empty. Smells of waffles filled the air and we found that we had stumbled onto a market that only takes place in the town square of Bruges on wednesday mornings. Conveniently the day we were visiting.
We had already tried a waffle, so for lunch we got cheap pastries from the market. Oh my Belgium knows how to make its sweets.
The bikes were countless. Everyone had a bike. And everyone was coupled up and kissing and holding hands. Europe in the springtime I suppose. After spending all morning and some of the afternoon in Bruges, we headed back to Brussels.
Once back in Brussels, we walked the streets with my friend Karen, who we had planned to meet up with. She goes to a University near by and was able to get the afternoon off to show us around.
Karen and me.
Karen took us on a little hike up to see above the city.
There are waffles literally everywhere. And nutella. I have never seen jars so big full of nutella.
Karen told us the true Belgian way was to get this waffle and eat it plain. It was different than the “Belgian waffles” though this one was more what the locals ate. It was basically a crispy doughnut. UHMAZING. and they’re only 1 Euro when you find them in non-touristy areas.
Once Karen left, Michael and I spent the evening just wandering around, and ended up sitting on a ledge and watching the sun go down around the pretty buildings. Michael and I agree that we love Belgium. Obviously for the smell of chocolate and waffles that constantly lingers in the air, but it is so beautiful and the people are so very nice. Belgium is definitely somewhere I would go back.
CURRENT UPDATE : I am in Prague tonight, and my next post will be from my time in the Netherlands!