Read Netherlands – part 2 here.
The shrill ring of my friend’s first alarm awoke me after less than a handful of hours slumber. I groaned internally because while we weren’t to leave for 2 hours, the threat of his backup alarms prevented me from returning to the deep sleep from which I’d be awoken. I shot him evil glares from my bed across the room due to his insistence that he have 5-7 alarms but he continued to sleep, unconcerned.
I played around on my phone and the time, thankfully, flew by. After getting ready, I woke him up amid a sea of protests. He did the same and soon it was time to leave. We were on our way to Brussels!
I initially wanted to spend the Tuesday in Amsterdam as I’d heard so much about it in movies and literature but I was eventually persuaded to go to the Belgian City instead. I must admit, there was something quite cool about visiting two countries on my trip to mainland Europe.
The ride was a long one. The journey extended even further by a train cancellation. I took
the opportunity to catch up on some rest. Knowing my tendency to snore and the annoyance it caused, I woke myself up every 10 minutes so that I wasn’t too audible to the other passengers and most notably, my friend :p. I was quite groggy so at one point, I even thought we were passing a mass of water when I saw the right!
An interesting thing I noticed was that those on their work commute wore no uniforms and there was noone was dressed even the least bit formally. Overall, they seemed much less stressed than our English employees and even looked happy to be going to their jobs.
The first thing I noticed after disembarking were the various languages being spoken around me. The kingdom of Belgium has three official official languages: French, German and Dutch. As well as these, people often speak English.
We purchased an all day train ticket and set off on our journey around the city.
The weather was pleasant and I managed to get a variety of pictures including some of myself in scenic locations. I post an image below that I managed to get of the Town Hall at the Grand Place. I thought the Gothic architecture was beautiful and I’m glad I managed to get what I thought was a decent shot of the buildings.
We saw other great spots around the city too. My friend remarked that the city was much like a mix between Paris and a Dutch city like Utrecht. I thought his characterisation was quite apt. I in particular liked the juxtaposition of the quaint and classic buildings to the more modern, imposing EU structures.
Regrettably, my phone died quite early on in the day and I’d forgotten to take my power pack with me so the last image I have to share is one of me below of me awkwardly striking a pose in the Cinquantenaire.
We adjourned our touring to have lunch at a French Restaurant. In my usual fashion, I was unwilling to try anything new so I picked from the more familiar, Italian section of the menu. They were unfortunately out of Lasagne so I opted for Carbonara instead. Sadly, it was awful but I grimaced my way through the soup of tomato and cheese. My friend, however, appeared to be enjoying what he ate and chewed the succulent lamb with much gusto.
As we walked to our next leg of the trip, I noticed with surprise that there were armed solders around. I was used to officers wielding weaponrs when I previously lived in the Caribbean but it was a strange sight after adjusting to the more toned down UK for the previous few years. We spent some moments taking in the view from a high point above the city but the sky had begun to darken signalling that it was time to make our way back.
As we walked back to the station, we happened to chance upon a store that sold wall mounts. My friend’s eyes were drawn towards one which had a French proverb about a cat -his favourite animal. I didn’t plan to get anything but I saw a motivational one which I knew I just had to purchase for a chum of mine back in England. I also got a David Bowie poster for another friend. I was informed that it was 4 for the price of 3 so invited my friend to get an additional one.
The journey back home was, shall we say, difficult. My phone was dead and my friend was absorbed by the sounds of the music on his phone. I was pathologically bored and drifted in an out of sleep – feeling tortured by my languor. Though I doze, my fatigue showed no sign of being relieved and I found the thought of the party to which we were invited that evening filled me with some dread.
As we neared closer to the final stop, I casually brought up the party and my friend suggested that his house-mate meet me at the bus stop so I would go home ahead of him. I felt guilty for abandoning him and confirmed that he was fine with my choice. He was. I felt a bit scared about travelling alone in the dark without my phone’s trusty GPS enabled map app to guide me but I was willing to take the risk.
It turned out he had to take the same bus as me for some of the journey. I stayed on after him on the bus and got off at the stop I thought was correct. There was noone there and my anxiety began to build as I wondered whether I’d heard the Dutch name incorrectly. I was startled seconds later by the voice of his house mate who’d pulled up behind me on her bicycle. I breathed a sigh of relief and waved her subsequent apology about being late, away.
The walk home to the flat from the stop was a short one but I was glad for her company and guidance as I’d surely have gotten lost. As you’d have it, I was full of energy once I stepped indoors and didn’t jump into bed straight away as planned.