[brussels routes]

My first destination, Brussels!

As I entered the terminal and headed for the exit, I could smell waffles and chocolate coming from the food court. It’s just like I imagined! I couldn’t wait for waffles, fries, and beer. I guess there was a music festival, Tomorrowland, that was happening this week because I blended in with all the other 20 somethings and teenagers that were swarming airport. Be cool, be cool. Act like you know where to go. But I didn’t. I stopped at the Info Desk and asked for directions to Grand Palace. The man was a bit short with me but told me how to get to the train [down two levels] and said something about Midi or Central Station and get off at the 2nd stop, and then handed me a map.
 
I stared at the ticket machine for a minute. There’s no way I can figure that out. I walked over to the ticket stand and purchased my ticket to Central Station for 7,8E…in English. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t even try to speak French yet. On the train, I found the street that my hotel was on and began studying the map. I’ve never been even remotely good with direction and there was no time for getting lost.

Leading up to my trip, I’ll admit I was more scared than excited. More nervous-anxious than anxious to leave. This was my first big trip alone. I needed to rely on my judgment and be able to trust other people again. I was so afraid of getting lost or taken advantage of or losing everything or getting robbed, etc. I get so paranoid sometimes. And it didn’t help that everyone kept asking me if I saw Taken at the mention of me traveling alone. Yes, I’ve seen Taken. No, my dad isn’t ex-CIA. Yes, I love the thought of being abducted in a foreign country and sold in a sex trade. Thanks! I’m so thrilled to leave. It was lucky that I watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on the plane because I think it helped revive my hope that everything will be alright. “Everything will be alright in the end. And if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.” It was so cheesy, but it’s getting me by.

With that in mind, I realized that I was missing all the sights when I was looking down at my map so I resolved to put my map away and enjoy the ride. We rode through the underground tunnels. Oh well. I tried. When I made it out of Central Station, I felt victorious! I did it! I figured out the train system did what people told me to do! And I’m here! Bruxelles-Central Station, I beat you! Now to conquer the streets!
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I stayed along the busy streets so that I could easily ask for help. My pack was heavy, my layers were many, and it was mighty hot. Annnd I was nervous about getting lost.

I managed to find the right streets and recognize one of the bus stops from the map. My hotel must be close! I was just about to cross the street when all of a sudden I heard a loud, piercing, womanly scream…

To back up, remember how I said I was paranoid? That came with me researching personal safety alarms for my trip. I’m a cute girl, I need protection. The kind of protection that scares predators away! After comparing products, I decided on the ILA personal security alarm. Most of the other alarms I looked at made loud, high-decibel, car-alarm sounds. The ILA had terrifying, high-decibel screams that was sure to get the help and attention that I would need in a moment of crisis. Here’s a video for a demo.

Anyway, you guessed it. I clipped my ILA alarm to the chest strap of my backpack. As I was waiting for the crosswalk, I scrunched up my jacket sleeve and somehow pulled the string to my alarm! AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I jerked my head around. What’s happening? Oh my god. What’s going on??! It took me two screams before I realized those screams were coming from me..er, my alarm. I searched for the pin. Where is it? Oh my gosh, this might go off for ten minutes! Oh this is so embarrassing! I tried to flag down the girl next to me to just cover the speaker while I searched the floor. She wasn’t having it. Who wants to help the crazy girl with the screamy thing?? Please? Luckily the sound is not as awful when you cover up the speaker. After about 10 screams, I found the pin caught on my sleeve. I stuck it back in and quickly crossed the street. Hi, Brussels, here I am! I’m all about the first impressions.

Needlesstosay, I was quite turned around after the ILA debacle. Hey, I know it works now, right? I turned down the wrong street but eventually made it to the Marriott. I know what you might be thinking, “The Marriott? That’s not really backpacking…That’s not even roughing it.” And to that, I say, “Whateverrrr.” Because the Marriott was exactly what I needed to ease my way into this trip. My two big lessons learned from the day was 1. Layers are awful [more on that in a bit] and 2. I needed to repack. The Marriott was a perfect place for me to get my bearings and recharge.

By the time I made it to my room, I finally relaxed. I looked in the mirror and saw beads of sweat all around my face. No wonder the front desk clerk wouldn’t make eye contact with me. I was exhausted, sweaty, and gross. I emptied my pack and decided I would repack tonight. I took a shower, made myself presentable and realized that 1. I forgot my nail clippers [I broke a nail – and it’s umcomfortable] and 2. My straightener doesn’t work in Europe. Ah, c’est la vie.

By the time I got outside, it was probably 3pm [I landed around 1pm]. I asked the Concierge for another map and was out exploring in no time! I brought my cell phone, camera bag, and 20E. I was ready.

When I reached for my camera, I realized that I forgot the battery at the hotel. Awesome. Iphone pictures it is then! Now that I think about it though, I think iPhone pictures would have sufficed for the whole trip. I sort of regret bringing such a heavy, nice-ish camera.

Here are some of the pictures I snapped while I was out. You can ask me for more details about those later.

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 Around 430pm, I stopped to get a local snack. Waffles! Finally! I went up to the cash register and placed my order. “Qu’est ce que tu prefere, le Liege waffle ou Belgium? Je voudrais un liege s’il vous plait.” Oh I was so proud! It was terrible French, mind you, but I tried. I ordered a Liege Waffle with nutella and strawberries. I thought the fork was brilliant. I shall call it…Knork. It comes second to the spork, in my eyes. Anyway, the waffle was delicious. Absolutely perfect. They know how to make waffles in Belgium, I’ll tell you that!

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Towards the end of my first exploration, I was glad I didn’t bring heels. The cobblestone streets were tricky to walk on and the ground was uneven. Thank goodness I had sandals! Annnd, iust as I finished that thought [and admired another door], my sandal broke. Ha. Oh, life. Always keepin’ it real. I’m glad I packed that other pair! And with that, I walked back to the hotel.

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I made it back to the hotel and lay down for a bit. It was an exhausting day of travel and while my shoe broke, I was a little bit grateful that it was one less thing to carry. I uploaded my pictures and suddenly had a mini second wind and typed up an update about my travel day. By the time I was finished organizing my pictures [which, by the way, I tried to avoid filters – just liked compacting the pictures in an easier format], it was about 830pm. Dinner time!

I walked over to the area with the church and found a cute stand that sold fries. It reminded me of the circus. For 2,5E, I was one happy camper. I’ll admit, though, that I’m not quite sure what the difference is between Belgian Fries and …not Belgian fries. Oh well, I enjoyed it all the same. I walked over to a statue/pool thing, watched the sunset and took a couple more pictures. This is what they call the “golden hour” in photography where everything looks amazing.

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After dinner, I walked back to the hotel, grabbed some drinks from the Executive Lounge and started getting ready for bed.

At some point, I woke up at 550am. Which, was quite lucky because that was 1150pm in Boston. The boyfriend and I could GChat one last time before I left Brussels. My plan for the day was to wake up at 830am, get ready and go out exploring one last time and leave for the airport by 1pm.

My body, however, was much more exhausted than I realized; I woke up promptly at 11am. I quickly gathered my things together and resolved to head downstairs for breakfast [no breakfast, after all] another glass of water and decided to print my boarding pass.

I was reading the RyanAir luggage constraints again and I noticed there was a 10kg [about 22 lbs] weight limit. Crap. My bag is 28 lbs. Oh well. Another lesson learned. And, if you ask my mother, she’ll tell you I always learn the hard way. I paid the 40E upcharge and printed my ticket. Hopefully I can lose some of the weight before I fly RyanAir again and head to Rome.

Since I spent so much sleeping, I figured I would head to the airport early and write about my adventure in Brussels. I made my way to Brussels Central Station easy. I asked the ticket clerk for a ticket to the airport and I was on my way! When I got to the airport, I couldn’t find any signs for Ryanair so I asked for help. The girl explained to me that I was at the wrong airport; RyanAir doesn’t fly through this airport. Oh. There’s more than one airport in Brussels? So, I headed back down to the train station, explained my story to the other ticket guy in hopes of getting back to Central Station for free. He made me buy another ticket. I think originally it was going to be 15,7 Euros but he charged me 12E. At least I’m going to pretend he sympathized with me.

As I sat on the train back, this is where I allocated the blame:
60%: Me for thinking there was only one airport in Brussels
20%: The Central Station ticket guy for not asking me which airport I wanted to go to [because eff me, right? [inside joke] because he had a 50/50 chance of giving me the right ticket anyway, right?]
10%: Me for putting down the wrong Brussels arriving airport on my Excel itinerary – that’s why I thought there was one airport
5%: Ryanair for obviously making traveling abroad difficult
5%: The Central Station ticket guy again just because I can’t take ALL the blame.

I got back to Central Station and checked the train screens. Charleroi train departs at 1329 at track 6. Perfect. I think I got this. I found my way to track 6 but didn’t see the train. I don’t understand, it was 1328, the sign for Charleroi was still up. Why would they still leave the sign up? Whooooosh. The train whizzed by. Apparently I didn’t look far enough down the platform. Greaaaat. The next train to Charleroi was at 1400 something.

After explaining my misfortune [in English], again, to the Central Station Info Desk clerk, she said that the Charleroi train would take me about an hour and from there I would need to take another bus for 30 minutes to get to the Charleroi airport. That would not do. On top of that, a taxi would cost me 50E. No thanks. Though, I may have to. My last alternative was to take the train to Bruxelles-Midi and then take a 40 minute bus for “10E” to the airport. No ticket refund. Alright. Here we go.

Just as I stepped off the stairs, the train to Bruxelles-Midi departed. Perfect. I asked one of the station employees how soon the next train to Midi would arrive. Luckily he spoke English as well and told me that the next train would arrive in one minute and I would arrive at Bruxelles-Midi in four. Wonderful! Once I got off the stop, I was lost again, where are the bus stops? How do I even exit the platform? The same guy offered me help again. As we walked to the bus stops, he plays the guessing game.
“China?”

“..No?’
“Japan?”
Ohhh, you’re guessing what kind of Asian I am… “No.”
“Thailand?”
“Nope.” I’ll play this all day.

“Taiwan.”
“Ohh, Taiwan! ..Is just like China anyway.”

Then he goes on to say his ex-gf was Chinese [but now he’s dating a girl from Africa] and that I spoke English very well. Ohhh, I’m not actually from Taiwan..But, I was too embarrassed to correct him and say that I was from the U.S. So we chat and he’s from Brussels and he’s actually the station master, etc, etc. He brings me to the bus, introduces himself, and hands me a business card so we can keep in touch. I’m too embarrassed to explain that our brief friendship was tainted with the giant lie that I’m actually American. I’ll keep the card, though, in case.

The bus driver did not speak English. Which was fine…Though, this meant I would communicate in broken sentences and hand gestures. All the more amusing for him, I’m sure. I manage to find out that the bus was leaving in 25 minutes and it would get me to the airport in 45 minutes, or by 315pm. I was so money-conscious that I didn’t want to find out what a taxi would cost me. I paid him 17E and [im]patiently sat. I sort of drilled him on times and asked him if he thought 30 minutes would be enough time for me to make my flight. I pointed at my ticket that said “Gate closes at 1545.” He waved me off and said it would be fine.

I don’t do well with time constraints..or waiting. And I start to get a bit crazy.

What time are we supposed to leave again? 1415? I thought he just told that woman we were leaving in 5 minutes, 5 minutes ago. Why do we even have to wait for other people? Surely they don’t have a flight to catch like me. What if the line is really long to check my bag? Oh god. I’m going to miss my flight. I’m going to miss my flight and it’s all because of my stupid trust in that ticket guy. I knew I shouldn’t trust anybody.

The bus ride was…long. I sat in the very first row and nearly stared a hole into the bus driver. I tapped my foot, repeatedly glanced at my watch, sighed loudly, and tried to remember to breathe. All the while, slowly coming to terms that I may miss my flight and it may cost me money and it will probably suck.

What’s the speed limit? Is 100km/hr fast? What’s the speed limit? Is he adequately speeding? How fast can busses go, anyway? What time is it? We’re only 10 minutes in? How much longer? Oh and we left closer to 1420 than 1415, does that mean I have less time at the airport? You know, taking the bus this way would have been so much faster if I just did this the first time. Wait, why didn’t he exit at the Charleroi airport sign? Oh I hope he knows where he’s going. He should, right? He’s driven to the airport before, right? This isn’t his first day or something…Is he speeding yet? Why don’t they have speed limit signs? 23 more km. How many miles is that? 5k is 3.2 miles. Okay so maybe 15 more miles give or take. I really need to figure out the metric system. Also need to remember how to go from Celsius to Farenheit again..

Pretty soon, we pulled up to the airport. We made it. Finally. I looked down at my watch, 3pm. I let out a sigh of relief. Bus driver man pulled through for me. As we made eye contact, he gave me a big smile, pointed at his watch and gave me the OK sign. OK, indeed. I thanked him profusely in French. I made it to the RyanAir line and waited to check my bag. Line flew by in no time. At the security line, the ticket checker made a joke about Miss America, told me I was pretty and let me pass. Things were looking up. No line at security. I found, too, that keeping my passport in my boot was a nice alternative to my back pocket which was a better alternative to that awful money wallet that I’m supposed to wear under my clothes.

I bought a bottle of water from the vending machine and proceeded to wait in line to board. I was a bit flustered because the boarding pass said the gate closes at 1545. That [I like to think] is why I was such a mess about missing my flight! In actuality, the gate opened at 1545. Which makes much more sense because why would you close the gates 30 minutes before departure?? That’s just silly, RyanAir. Someone should fix that. A girl could go crazy, you know.

When the line started to move and we started to board, I noticed a kid and his dad crowding me. I’m not sure why I was so defensive, but I was. Line-cutters, I see. And papa’s not keeping his kid in check, hm? Twenty feet of trying to show that I’m obviously in line before them, I look down and there’s toilet paper on my boot. How embarrassing. Moreover, it took me a minute to try to scrape it off. Great impressions all around! Oh well. Life has its way of keeping me in check. I called off the line battle and happily boarded the plane.

One last look around…Brussels, it’s been fun. Now on to Thessaloniki!

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8 responses to “[brussels routes]

    • I did! But you can only have 1 carry on for RyanAir. Altogether, my bag was 28 pounds so I had to check one bag of 20 pounds and carry on my 8 pound bag.. sneaky RyanAir :[ In the end, though, they didn’t even weigh the bags. [womp womp]

  1. I Love this blog!!! Thank you so much for sharing all of this 🙂 I will be looking forward to the next one!!

    PS – this whole thing sounds exactly like you!! Getting things done, but never the easy way! Have fun!!!!

    • Haha, thanks, Katelyn! I miss youuuu! You’ll need to keep me up to date on what’s going on in your life too! :]

      Ah, yes. My bus ride to Arta was much the same as Brussels, but that was 100% my fault. I hope I can upload something today somehow. I only have access to their computer for internet and I don’t want to be a total hog.

      Hope you’re doing well!

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