Long Awaited Weekend Adventures:
Brussels: waffels, 3
Brussels was amazing! I absolutley fell in love with Belgium! Our first night, we checked into the hostel, settled in, and went to the handily situated restaurant down the starirs from our room. The food was great! Then we went down town because someone said that's where we should go, and got into a taxi who insisted on showing us around! We finally got jhim to let us out in the middle of an entire street full of Greek food restaurants, and then we walked into the most description defyingly beautiful square (Le Grand Place)I have ever seen! Sttod around amazed for a while, the asked someone to take our picture. Afte rthat, some French/Belgium guys came up to us and asked to take a picture with them.. we weren't sure if they wanted to take a picture of us, or if they wanted us to take a picture of them, but I think we got it figured out.. We hung out with them for a while, Kristi and I were thrilled to have a chance to speak French, wandered around, and then took an (honest) cab back to the hostel.
The next day we vowed to get up early to go to th Musee des Beaux Arts, but that didnt work out. Instead, we rolled out of bed at 10 and were grumpy until we found a Euro dispensing ATM (this is misleading, all the ATMs in Brussles dispense Euros, the finding part was refering to the ATM itself, the Euro refering to our previuos lack of Euros due to England's isolationist policy when it comes to the commom currency, which actually makes since because the pound is like the strongest currency in the worls, and the Euro isnt, so.. anyway) and waffale stand/ Once we finally found a bookstore, I saw a big flaw in my plan to buy a Let's Go: Europe in Belgium (having previously realized my mistake in thinking I could do without). (BTW- the flaw is they were all in FRENCH! and they didn't have a Europe one, anyway.) We ended up back at the grand Place and ate at a Yummy Pita Place, and tried to call the guys from last night so we could meet up and they could show us around. However, I was leaving a message, trying to speak loudly and clearly in English because I was never any good at French numbers anyway, and especially not on the spot, but an accordian player ran to our table and was playing loudly on our ears as soon as I got on the phone, leaving as soon as I was done with the message (figures), so that definitley explains why they never called back, right? We kept asking directions and eventually made it to the Musee, which was incredible- I saw a lot of stuff I loves, including a view of Brussles, and the oh so famous Fall of Icarus-yay! From there we went to the palace, and the gardens, which were actually a parc but used to be the gardens. Apparantly, and this was news to me, Belgium has a King and Queen! Why have I never heard of them before? I mean, the modern ones, of course I have heard all about evil King Leopold the III or whatever numeral he was... But why isn't the Belgium monarchy exploited on the international tabloid market as is the English, Monacan, and Jordan, even the Spanish and Sweedish? I found it difficult to belive that even I, a self proclaimed Europhile, did not know Belgium still had a monarchy! So difficult, in fact, that I thought maybe I had misunderstood something one of the French guys had said. I restrained myself from asking for clarification because of the risk of coming off as the ignorant American I am trying so hard not to be. Ignorance was confirmed, however, when I came across postcards with nto only the King and Queen, but the Prince and his finacee. Hmmm. Also, a quote from the gardens: "I'm not an idiot. This isn't my first day collecting dirt"- Michelle.
We wandered around Brussles some more, found the Mannikan Pis because Kristi had her heart set in seeing it. The Mannikan Pis (sp?) is a foot high statue of a little boy peeing into a fountain which for some reason or another is famous. There are several legends about how the staue came about, but they are all so ridculous none of them can possibly be true. I bought a Mannikan Pis T shirt anyways, because it was cute and only €5. Bought and ate some Belgium chocolates (friuts de mer... mmm) and a waffle with strwaberries and whipped cream... mmmm... went back to our room and took a nap, then got more salads for dinner at the restaurant downstairs, and went to a fun carnival!
The next morning when the alrm went off, Michelle said "I have a great ideam guys, lets sleep in and take a later train to Amsterdam." So we didn't make it to Aachen, but that's ok. Validated our Eurail passes and got on the train!
Wow, is all I can say! it is really sad that, amoung the my aged travelers atleast, Amsterdam has the reputation it does. The name is synomymous with prostitutes and weed and the craziest red light district in the world, so I was not at all picturing the beautiful city that we found.
the train ride in was beautiful. Even though I was tired, I didn't sleep because I wanted to look out the window. We got into town, and immediatley realized our mistake at not booking ahead because we soon learned that all teh hostels were full!! We ended up paying a reasonable but more that we would have liked amount for a nice hotel in the center of the museum and shopping areas- it was nice to be able to walk to everything we wanted to do! So we dropped of our stuff in our room, freshened up, and found a yummy bakery for dinner! then we wandered around a bit, I bought a nice windbreaker for only €5!, and took a canal boat tour- which was tons of fun!! After that, we were in for a disappointing night. Esecially for what I had been hearing about the nightlife in Amsterdam, but I guess if youre not into 'that' kind of thing... the highlight was when we took a pita break, eating falfels and sitting on an intersection cement block, completley random, and two guys yelled at us from the window at us (but in a not creepy way- a rare occurance!) and asked us if we wanted drinks to go with out food! then he lowered cokes from the 3rd story window in a grocery bag on a rope! It was sooo cool! how often does that happen? So after that we kept looking for some cheesy euro techno or trance to dance to, but it just wasn't happening, so me and Kristi (who was coming donw with a cold) decided to head back to the hotel (or try, anyway)while Char and Michelle decided to persevere. We wandered around until we were completley lost, were pretty sure we were on the right street but must have turned the wrong way and it kept getting scarier, so we got a cab and he had a hard time helping us because we had no idea where we were, and we just kept driving in circles! the trouble was, all the street names were in Dutch, so we couldn't remember. I think I actually said "It's something-straat" haha. The best part about getting lost was- I actually had the hotel card in my purse (actually, the case from my umbrella, which handily doubles as a purse in a pinch, aren't I resourseful*) and I TOOK IT OUT (like it adds weight!!) saying "I'll remember where the hotel is!" Eventually we got back by having the cad drive back to the centraal station, then follow the tram line we took to get to the hotel in the first place, and we finally realized where we were. We set a realistic goal for getting up in the morning. Turns out Michelle and Char got lost, too, but even worse. They were in the cab for an hour and a half, the driver turned off the meter because he felt sorry for them.
On Saturday, first on our list was Anne Frank's house. I insisted we go there first because I didn't want to miss it, I would have been so mad if I was actually in Amsterdam and didn't go see it. "I don't care if it costs €50 and I have to wait in line for 10 hours! I'm going!!" It was soo touching! I could hardly believe I was actually standing where she lived and all that happened (and pretty recently, too, unlike the Battle of Hastings) Michelle had never read the book ("Did you grow up in America? Did you grow up... anywhere?") too bad we couldn't take pictures, but I have a feeling that is something I will never forget. I WAS ACTUALLY IN ANNE FRANK'S HOUSE!!!
From there we split up, because Michelle and Char wanted to go to the Heninekin Factory, and Kristi and I wanted to go to the Van Gogh museum. It was amazing!! I'd seen a lot of the same paintings when the exhibit came to LACMA, but I did get to see some new stuff, plus its not really something you get sick of seeing. After the museum, Kristi and I got baguettes and ate in a parc outside, where there was a lot of grass and a big fountain, and lots of people and dogs. It was pretty warm- maybe even like 85, so it was really summery and nice and we just laid there for a while. We talked about how much we wanted to live in Europe, and the problem with the 6 month quarrentine in England, and the necessity of dogs, in general. After tha, we stubled across an amazing united Colors of Bennetton sale where the entire store was 75% off! I bought 2 shirts and a bathing suit for €30!!! yay!!! then we said goodbye to Amsterdam to begin our 20 hr. trek back home.
After we arrived in brussles, we wandered aound to find the ineffiecnt bus stop, only to learn that we had missed the last one by 1/2 hr., and would have to wait until 4 in the morning, so our plan of sleeping the the airport was completley shot. We dumped out stuff in teh train station lockers and headed back to our trusty friend the Grand Place. First (and last) good idea was chicken pitas, then we just sat in the square for a while, but it was getting later and sacrier and more and more random people were coming up to us, so for lack of better refuge we ended up in an irish pub where:
1. I fell asleep
2. Kristi threw up
3. Michelle and Char wandered off to use an ATM and got attacked
Eventually, the pub closed so we took a cab back to the station, the driver tried to speak to us in Italian(I think), which is ridiculous because a. we're obviously American and b. we're in Belgium. He also joked about us taking a taxi from London... got stuff, got on the bus, passed out, got to the airport. By this time we were all definatley tired and cranky. the only good thing that had happened since Amsterdam with the exception of chicken pitas is I discovered cheetos in teh train station vending machine. not flamming hot, jsut normal, but baby steps. After checking in we slept on the airport floor unitl we could go thru security. was actually jealous of the guys I saw with their backpacks and sleeping bags on the airport floor. wiated gloomily until they told us to line up, then stood there for 20 minutes and watched the plane we had thought was ours be loaded by another group of passengers while 2 loud annoying women yacked in my right ear (had to restain self from physically harming them). To make things better, once we finally got on the plan our stewardess was a dragon lady!!! Don't remember any of the actual flight because I slept through the whole thing, but after landing we were told to prepare to get off (similair to getting on) and then the door shut and we stood there for a few minutes before they said to sit back down, which we did for about 20 minutes, and then we exited (through the front only, and of course we were sitiing in the back). I don't even know how long we were waiting for our bagage because I was passed out on the floor. The ride to London Victoria was uneventful, but when we got there we discovered that due to an 'incident' all southbound tarins were delayed or cancelled. I ended up sleeping on the floor in Victoria Station in front of teh departure terminal announment board for an hour while we waited for a crowded train to Brighton, where we had to wait another hour (I didn't sleep this time) for a train to Falmer in a station crowded with rude people who apparantly had no better reason to be there then it was a hot summer sunday. After finally getting back, I slept for 20 hours, which I think is only fair, 1 hr of reparation for every hour of stressful return. Added my bed to my long list:
Train, Amsterdam to Brussles
Corner, Oreily's Irish Pub, Brussels
Bus, Brussles to airport
Floor, Brussles Chaleroi airport
Plane, Brussles to London
Floor, bagage claim, London Stanstead airport
Floor, London Victoria
Despite all, had a wonderful time and have decided to pretend entire way back and later portion of friday night simply did not happen, and am looking forward to Ireland trip!!!