Sunday, February 17, 2013

Brussels aren't just sprouts. . .

I know that it has been a long time since I have posted on this blog and I do have to admit that there has been a bit of travel since - my apologies for my negligence on keeping this up.  As I mentioned in my last posting, I have relocated to the Netherlands for work and this is opening up a whole new world of travelling - beginning today with my overnight trip to Brussels, Belgium.  I figured that for my first trip I should try something easy.  . . and it has been anything but!

I booked myself a hotel online - a nice little Sheraton in Brussels - that was easy.  Then I booked my train ticket which also too was easy and I even selected the "print ticket at the station" option as I don't have a printer at home.  Easy enough as I live about 3 minutes from the main train station in The Hague.  When I left this morning, I gave myself ample time - a good 30 minutes extra in case of any issues.  For those of you who have travelled in Europe, the train system here is very precise.  If it says that it is leaving at 8:28am, it leaves at 8:28am.  So back to my tickets.  I went up to the Info Booth to see where I went to print my ticket and she nicely informed me that I would have to go to Rotterdam to print my ticket b/c the international ticket booth was not open until 10am, and I am a 8:28am departure.  Did this set me into panic-mode - no, however it did concern me a tad as my original routing was not taking me through Rotterdam, but who was I to argue.  So I got on the train and headed to Rotterdam, at which point I found the ticket office and the machine to print off my ticket and I was on my way.  Then I had a holy shit momentwhen I was on the train and realized that I was supposed to get off at a specific stop to change trains to Antwerp an thought that I hadn't.  Fortunately, I was at the right spot but there was some instant panic but then I quickly realized that I could probably just get on a different train and go back.

So as you can see, my dreams of easy European travel are not coming to fruition on this trip and this is also why I decided to try a simple trip to Brussels as my first trip rather than something a little more complicated like to Germany or something.  Mind you, maybe I should have started with a day trip to Amsterdam where I know that my OV-Chipkart (my tram/train card) works.  Plus, they speak French in Belgium and I know a little French (ie. more than I know Dutch) and surely, they must speak English right?!  For the most part the trains in the Netherlands are nice - I bought a 1st class ticket and I am not sure why b/c I haven't really seen a first class section and there definitely was no first class on the train b/w Roosendal and Antwerp - I almost felt like I was travelling in 2nd class in India!  Okay - maybe not that bad but they were just bench seats where you faced the others - and I had to travel backwards which I do not like - I like to see where I am going. (the princess in me - it still exists!)

I got off at the Brussels - Central station which somewhat lands you in the heart of Brussels.  My initial reaction was "awe" in the sense of "OMG I can't believe that I am actually here and this can be my life now" but that quickly wore off as I realized that I was dumped in the middle of any urban city.  With no real plan, I decided that I was just going to wander around and go from there.  After about 10 minutes of just wandering down quaint narrow streets filled with lots of kitchy tourist things, I came across a tourism centre where I picked up a map and figured out where I was, and also picked up a brochure for the hop on/hop off bus.  Now I know everyone has an opinion on those however I for one like to go on them to get a quick and dirty overview of where I am but also to get my bearings.  I decided that I would do the bus trip on Sunday morning and that I was going to use the afternoon to just wander around and shop!

One of the things that I have done since I have moved over here is to download a few different travel guide apps for my iPad including one called GuidePal with which you can download offline guides for certain cities including maps.  This trip was the first time I have used this app as they had a guide for Brussels.  For the most part I didn't rely on it too much however it did provide me with some initial information and grounding but also gave me a good recommendation for supper.  One thing that Belgium is famous for are it's brassiere's with their moules et frites (mussels & fries for my non-bilingual friends), so I decided to follow GuidePal's recommendation and went to Au Vieux  Bruxelles
( for probably the largest pot of mussels that I have ever eaten, along with a small bowl of frites.  The mussels were incredibly fresh and I thoroughly enjoyed them.  The frites on the other hand, they were okay.  I am not a fry conisiouer and could really have lived without them.  With my moules et frites I also sucked back a 1/2 bottle of Sancerre - one of my favourite varietals of French wine, so for my metro ride back to my hotel, I had a good little buzz on :-)

Oh, one thing that I have to mention is the red light district for a lack of a better word in the north end of Brussels.  When I am riding on the train, (or any mode of travel for that matter), I like to look out the window and just take in the scenery whether it be pastoral farmlands or the local architecture.  So as we were going through the north end of Brussels I happened to look up and see women scantily clad in lingerie that left little to the imagination sitting, posing, talking on their cell phones in windows - obviously waiting to share their talents with those who were interested.  Now, I am not a prude, nor am I sheltered and I had heard about the red light district in Amsterdam and how women share their talents but I did not realize that 1) this exists outside of Amsterdam and 2) that it was so obvious!  At least now when I do go to Amsterdam I won't be as shocked and won't walk with my mouth hanging open collecting flies!


Ron and Thelma said...

So are you working for the company that you worked for before. Or did you start a new job. Sounds like a great gig

Heather said...

I am still working for the same company (Shell) - they have just moved me to Europe - good for me!!!