That pretty much sums up my weekend in Belgium. But of course it was a lot more than that. Not just the time spend in the land of good beer and extraordinary chocolate, it’s worth describing, but also the amusing and unexpected journey to it. And by unexpected I mean, we literally didn’t have a clue what to expect from a 9h coach journey. Let’s face it, getting the coach from London Victoria to go anywhere it’s not particularly fun, but when it’s cheap, and you want to travel, you have no choice but be uncomfortable. My friend, Mandy and I, didn’t get much sleep on those 9h (although that was the initial plan), and the reason for that was because we were totally unprepared for it. Every time we were dozing off, the light came on and the driver was saying to get off for some reason. The best part was when we finally got on the ferry and we thought…that’s it. We can sleep, but guess what, we didn’t. As soon as we boarded the ferry, we needed to get off the coach, and go upstairs. We thought that’s fine, is only for like 10 mins, whilst everyone is getting ready. NO!!! A very big NO! It was for an hour and 35 mins to be precise. Some of the people are definitely doing this journey more often than my friend or me are. They were prepared. They went there early, made sure they got a sofa, or a chair, or two chairs, or a chair and a table, or any combination of furniture that they could find, and sleep on it. They had pillows, and sleeping bags and blankets. Don’t get me wrong, I had all of them, but I left them in the coach, so I found myself wandering around the ferry in a desperate attempt to find a place to sit. Ohh….and when we found a half decent place to lay down (on the floor, of course), the music started. It was 1:55am. No one, but no one wanted to listen to music at that time. So we wandered some more.
We finally made it to Brussels. We got there at 6.30 in the morning. So what is there to do that early in Brussels (or anywhere)? Go exploring, get to know the city before the crowds of tourists and the busy locals take it’s beauty away. We walked aimlessly and took pictures with statues (we also touched some statues, but that is now a tradition), we’ve seen the flower carpet in Grand-Place, took pictures of the City Hall. We were doing what every tourist does, but without the crowds and the fuss. I highly recommend to get to a new place, and start discovering it early in the morning. You will learn things you wouldn’t normally do if you go there at midday. I will share with you some facts, that probably most of you didn’t know about Brussels.
1. Forget about Paris being the city of love. Go to Brussels, or just go to Belgium. People there are very much in love. You always see couples on the streets, in the parks, kissing at the bus stop, or in the shops. People having romantic picnics and dinner and holding hands.
2. Fashion! Never thought fashion is a big thing in Brussels. Well…it is. Very nice dressed people, and the local designers have some brilliant stuff on display. Ohh…how I would have loved to have the money to buy some things.
3. 15th of August it’s a Bank Holiday. We learned this the hard way. More than half of the shops and cafes were closed that day, when we were desperate for some breakfast and a hot drink.
4. Chocolate taste good, more than good, anytime!
5. Men. Brussels, and Belgium, it’s a very manly city and country. There were groups of men, just men everywhere. Every 20metres, another group of 4-5men. All chatting away..waiting for something and staring at us when we were passing by.
Once the streets get busy, and the markets are up, the atmosphere is completely changed. You can definitely see and feel it’s the capital city, and not just any capital city, but one that speaks two languages. You are never quite sure if you should start your conversation in a shop with Bonjour or Hallo, but nevertheless you try, because you want to feel as authentic as possible (we even talked French to the taxi driver, to make sure he’s not taking us on any detours). So once the vibe in town is changed and the craziness comes out, you have one thing to do (or maybe a couple or more).
1. Have dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant (and go for the frog legs). They are delicious, and you can’t find them in many places.
2. Have one (or more) of the over 2000 different beers that you can find in Brussels. I had the mango one, purely because the 3 Turkish men in front of us let us try their beer first. We tried mango, chocolate and honey. I went for the mango, Mandy for the honey. If you can’t find anyone who is willing to give you a try of their drink, your decision will be impossible. There are too many to chose from.
3. Stumble upon and Irish pub, that serves beer for 1 euro and then go upstairs, where the pub is weirdly transforming into a club.
4. Go to a bar and enjoy the drinks. It is so much more fun than a traditional pub. (English pubs)
5. Go to a night club. And it will be something completely different from probably any night clubs you’ve been before. In Brugge, my friend and I wanted to go dancing, but I suppose Belgians don’t dance. The night club was absolutely packed and everyone was standing up, barely moving. They do not dance, they drink, and smoke and listen to very loud music. If you want to dance, you’ll feel a bit of order. (we’ve done it anyway).
6. Buy some Belgian fries, and enjoy them covered in mayonnaise. (in case you can’t have dairy, have them plain), or a waffle.
7. Talk in French to the taxi driver.
P.S. The photos will follow shortly.
Here they are: