A Trip to the Capital of Europe
It is a short trip and might be an only trip abroad this summer. It began with there was a holiday in the mid of May in the mid of the week. So it’s good to take one day off and we have a long weekend. We decided to go to Brussels. This time we flew with a budget airline, Ryanair. I still don’t like to fly with it but it’s the only one which saved amount of money for us.
We arrived late outside Brussels. It took about an hour with airport coach to get to Brussels, one return ticket costs 22 euros. And info we had metro finished around midnight. After that it’s more difficult to get to our hotel by public transportation. And it takes an hour to walk and it’s cold that night.
It took less than an hour to Gare du Midi since there was almost no traffic. I totally unprepared for this trip and I didn’t carry any euro and I just remember that it’s always good to have small coins with you. Now we had a problem since all machines inside the metro station doesn’t accept notes and credit cards. We got euro from an ATM machine but still we didn’t have coins. And it’s almost midnight. In the end we bought drinks from a shop inside the station to get some coins.
In fact, we could have been practical. In Brussels, they hardly check tickets and it’s late. I don’t think anyone still works and checks tickets. But you know I went with a European. I know JJ will travel with valid tickets. You don’t wanna pay fines if you get caught. So we bought tickets and traveled.
We stayed at Sofitel Brussels Europe. It’s an elegant hotel and closed to the EU Parliament. I really like room service. It makes our room really nice and cosy. Especially, an arrangement in the shower room. And we got two pieces of chocolate every day. First night I got milk choc, but I like dark. It seems a personnel knew (actually it’s a coincident) so it was dark on my side next day. I was very much satisfied :).
We didn’t do deep study for the trip because it’s supposed to be a relaxing trip. An initial plan (or my plan) was first day in Brussels, second day in Mechelen/Antwerp and last day in Ghent and Bruges. It didn’t go as we planned. We spent two days in Brussels. We slowly explored the city. I know many tourists say one day is enough. Brussels is small. Last day we only visited Bruges we decided not to stop in Ghent on the way back since we felt tired. And I felt it’s enough on that day. Otherwise we started to ruin a concept of an relaxing trip.
When we was there most of tourists speak French. French is very useful if you want to visit Brussels and Bruges. We got excited when a young lady asked for a city map in English. So we knew it’s not only us speak English. Another fact I found, Swedes are everywhere. It’s a country of small number of population, 9 millions. But they are everywhere I go. We ran into them in most of the places we went. The country is amazing. So, are people.
Until we left Brussels, I still don’t figure out how metro works. It’s never been a problem for me. A map on the platform doesn’t show all stations so you must know on which line your destination is. To me it looks like there is a ring line, and two city-crossing lines. The ring line doesn’t go around so it’s not a complete ring. In Brussels trams go underground. It makes the system more complicated.
Train seems to be an enormously popular choice over the weekend. It was very crowded. And weekend tickets are cheaper than weekday tickets. It’s a choice for family, tourists, teenagers, and SCOUTS. We might be on train the day they had a special event for scouts. They were every where and they occupied seats on train.
The place most visited for us in this trip was Gare du Midi / Zuid. We went there every day. First for a map, and we lost it just one hour later when we went back, the office was closed. Second day we went to rent a car and check train timetables. Last day we went there to depart to Bruges. And to travel to and from the airport we also need to start or end up there.
We accidentally tried best frites at Maison Antoine. It is situated in the square in front of the hotel. We walked around the square to look for dinner. Then there were long queues at this place. Close to it there is a shop selling same kind of food but there are no people there. So we wonder what kind of place it is. We decided to go back and rest in the hotel. When we went out it still queued there. So we got our place in the queues. It went super slow. It took us about one hour and a half to give our order. On top of that all menus are in French. We managed to figure out by walking back and forth to a place nearby where it has similar menus and pictures. It’s kind of fish ‘n chips in UK. It means unhealthy and not so tasty. But the frites was very good if you compare it to the same kind of restaurants.
Another experience about eating in Belgium. Most places we went sell waffles and they look fancy. I’d like to taste. But they look the same every where in Brussels. So we didn’t try until we’re in Bruges. We were being so selective until we almost left the city. It’s not possible to leave without waffles. So we stopped at one restaurant which serves waffles. Oddly enough, waffles are not on the menu, the lady (look like an owner) said we had them. So we sat down, JJ enjoyed afternoon sun and beer. Now, our waffles were served. JJ liked his waffle. I started to hurt my mouth. I told him it hurt my mouth. Since he said it’s good I learned (with an open mind) this was good waffle. I hardly enjoyed my waffle since it hurt my mouth but I still ate it because I think it must cost more than 5 euro. 5 euro that’s a lot of money. I still convert everything in baht. In the end JJ tried my waffle. The first two cuts waffle went out of the plate. Then last piece left, he put it into his mouth. Now he knew what happened with my waffle. It was stone waffle. Now my brain was ready to process a huge numbers of complaining commands. But once I looked at the plate, it’s too late. Nothing left on it. Stupid me and I lost my head. Lesson learned. Don’t be too optimistic about quality of european products. Bad quality / services are not absolutely non-permitted.
Again, it was JJ who saved me. He tried hard to cheer me up so we continued to visit the last part of Bruges. I must have been regret if I hadn’t listened to him. It was the best scene in Bruges. It’s at the edge of the map which we bought from the tourist office inside the train station. The area is really nice. It has a monastery which JJ likes it a lot. It has less tourists, still full of them but less. After that we went back to Brussels and prepared to leave early next day.
I had a good time even if the weather was not perfect. The main reason was JJ. He (we) made it to be a good time.
I forgot to write about beer and chocolate. JJ would like to visit trappist beer brewery but it’s not easy with public transportation. So he decided not to go. We visited a lambic beer brewery ran by a family inside Brussels instead. Not so impressive both the taste of the beer and the brewery. I also disappointed with a chocolate museum we visited in Brussels, too. They don’t have much to show about chocolate. An exhibition looks old and a demonstration to show how to make pralines is not so fancy but I get the technique. And learn about dark, milk and white chocolate. White chocolate is a fake chocolate I would say. It doesn’t contain any cocoa power. Undoubtedly, why I never like white chocolate. It’s only commercial kind of thing. The same as we have black macbook.