Monday, April 8, 2013

First Day in Brussels, Last Day in Paris 4/9/2013

I checked out of my hotel in Paris this morning and headed to Gare du Nord Station to catch my 9:22 am train to Brussels.  When I got to Gare du Nord it took me awhile to find the terminal for international train departures, I guessed the meanings of the signs and found my way to the proper area.  I bought a croissant and raisin pastry and waited for the announcement of the track the Brussels train would depart from.

I boarded the train in the wrong car, I could not read my ticket, it was in French.  I did not realize there was assigned seating, the train I planned to take to Caen yesterday was open seating.  The conductor asked to see my ticket after I boarded and started speaking to me in French, I told him I did not speak French and he switched to English.  He told me I was in car #1 and my ticket was for car #3, I got my bags and moved to car #3.  I found an English speaker in that car and asked him if there was assigned seating, he looked at my ticket and told me I was in seat number 72.  I found my seat and settled in for the short right to Brussels.

Eurail forces you to ride first class if you are over 26 years old, it is the only ticket they sell for the over 26 age group.  I did not realize first class came with food and beverage service like on an airplane, otherwise I would have saved a few Euros and not bought anything for breakfast. The train ride to Brussels was fast, about an hour and a half.  The train had wireless, I used to the time to book my hostel in Amsterdam, I did not get in any reading on the train as I had planned.

We arrived in Brussels about 15 minutes before 11 am.  I got my luggage and took the directions to the hostel out of my backpack.  I went to the entrance to the metro and tried to buy a ticket from the machine after asking which line I needed to take to get to the hostel. The woman behind me noticed I was trying to put a Euro bill into the machine, she said something to me in French, I asked her if she spoke English and she said no.  I went back to trying to buy a metro ticket from the machine, the lady then told me, no bills or no cash and pointed me to the long line where I had to buy the ticket.  I finally got my ticket, realized I had asked for directions to the wrong location, checked with the information man again, and boarded the train.

A few minutes later I was at the stop where my hostel is located.  I got directions from a man at a hotel and found the hostel, checked in, and found my room.  I could tell immediately this hostel had a different atmosphere from the hostel I stayed in in London.  I went to my room, nobody was there yet, a few minutes later my first hostel mate came in, he's from Australia.  We talked about our travels in Europe, he told me he has been traveling for 5 1/2 months, stayed in Berlin for 2 months. Next my second hostel mate arrived, she is from Germany.  We all made plans to go on the walking tour of Brussels at 2 pm, at my hostel in London, nobody was interested in going out in a group together, this is a friendlier hostel.


I ate lunch with my hostel mate from Australia and then we went to the USE-IT office for our walking tour. The walking tour was free, the tour guide took us nowhere of interest in Brussels, we went around his old neighborhood, he showed us a few buildings, then we went to a Belgian brewery at the end of the tour to sample authentic Belgian.  I got the Kreik beer for 2 Euros, they told me it was cherry flavored and sweet, I did not like it, and gave it to my German hostel mate and she drank most of it for me.  I am not a beer drinker, it is not surprising I did not like the Kreik beer.  The tour was not great, but I got to meet and get to know some interesting people and we went on our own tour, saw the highlights of Brussels, we also joked about how bad the walking tour was. 

After we left the Belgian Brewery, we set out on our own tour of Brussels, I am only here for a day and wanted to see all the highlights.  We walked to Grand Square, looking at all the Belgian Chocolate and Waffles shops along the way.  Brussels Grand Square was an amazing sight, it was even better when we passed back through it after the sun had set and  the building were lit up.  

We walked all over Brussels, it is a  small city, and most of the attractions are close together.  We went to a Cathedral, I do not know the name and then asked for directions to Parliament.  The European Union's parliament is located in Brussels, we wanted to see it and the Brussels Parliament.  I asked a few people where NATO's headquarters were located, they said it was outside of Brussels, in the suburbs.  We ran into the NATO bus, I took a picture in front of it, that will be as close to NATO as I get on this trip to Brussels.        

After seeing the European Parliament headquarters and being told by the police we could not take pictures of some parts of the front of the building, we headed back into the main part of Brussels.  We passed by the royal Palace and saw the sunset from a hill above Brussels.  

We stopped and got directions on how to get back into the main part of Brussels, we had one more attraction we wanted to see, the Manneken Pis, a small statue of a boy peeing, which has become famous and a symbol of Brussels.  There are remakes of the Manneken Pis everywhere in Brussels, on chocolate boxes, in store windows, every turn,  you see the Manneken Pis.  

We ended the day at Pizza Hut after searching for Belgian food and finding only expensive places to eat. We headed back to our hostel around 10 pm, we had a full day of exploring Brussels, most of us were only staying a short time, I leave for Amsterdam tomorrow afternoon.  Brussels is a city you can see in one day, I will explore some more of Brussels tomorrow, maybe go to a museum, I have not decided yet.  We stayed up late talking in the hostel, my hostel mates are from all over, Turkey, Australia, Mexico, Germany, Japan, we met people today from Pakistan, India, England.  Everyone is finally  falling asleep, this is the last sentence of my blog post for today, I'm going to bed too. 

Brussels Photo Album 

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