As I sit on my 8 hr+ plane ride back to the states for my Grandmother’s funeral, I figured it might be a good time to catch up on my blog. A lot has happened in the last couple of weeks….
First let me tell you about my trip to Brussels. I had a great plan, take the 1040 train from Soignies (closest train station to my current living arrangement). Arrive in Brussels at 1115 and meet a friend of a friend at the Starbucks in the train stations. Yes folks, there are Starbucks everywhere now, kind of like McDonalds which I have come to refer to as the embassy. Why? Because no matter where in the world you are, you can find those golden arches where you can get a cheap hot meal, a clean bathroom, and usually someone who speaks English. It’s like finding home every time you walk in. Anyway, back to Brussels. So, I get on the 1040 train and take a seat. Now, I must explain the trains here…they are not like Metro North or the subway. They make you feel like you are a rich man riding in style for only 10 Euros a
trip. Some are split levels, all have spacious seating and the WCs aren’t half bad either. So, I plop down, take of my coat, grab my ipod and settle in for a nice 30 minute train ride to Brussels Centraal station, no I didn’t misspell it. I think to myself, why anyone would drive around when you can do this all the time is beyond me. I was calm, relaxed, and so ready for a great day in Brussels. All I was missing was a glass of wine and some crusty bread.
So there are 3 stops between Soignies and my destination. We had just finished at stop number 2 when all of a sudden the car started to shake. That happens sometimes on the train, so I don’t think much of it. Then I see a cable wire come falling out of the sky right in front of my window followed by a rather load thud. I thought, um this can’t be good. The train’s electricity then goes out and we come sliding to a complete stop. Now, I don’t speak French, but when the Conductor came into our cabin, explained in French what was going on, and
I heard the reaction of my fellow cabin mates, I knew it wasn’t going to be a good day. The next thing I see is a very angry man carrying luggage, (taking the train to the airport is common practice, in fact it is how I got to the airport this morning: very convenient). He goes to the train door and tries to use the emergency release handle to get off the train. Now, we are in the middle track with about 4 tracks on either side of us in the middle of NOWHERE. The conductor starts pleading in two words I do know in French (Monsieur sil vous plait, sil vous plait Monsieur). The gentleman sits down shortly after this when the “railsecure” show up in our cabin. So, we sat there….and sat there….and sat there…for 3 hours. I counted 22 other trains speed by us. It became a game to wave and say Bonjour to all the other trains heading in the same direction we were going. Eventually, at about 145pm, we were transported, one at a time via a ramp, to another train. I made it to Brussels at 230pm, 3hrs and 15 mins after I was
scheduled to arrive. I was told by one of the conductors who spoke English that the cable that runs electricity to the car had fallen which caused the connection arm of the train to fall off.
So, my friend of a friend was no longer able to show me around as I had arrived many hours later. I decided, well I made it might as well have a look around. Now, for those of you who have had the privilege to travel with me before, you know I usually do not go somewhere without a plan. I have maps laid out, reservations at museums, and a general idea of the layout of where we are going. This has helped me see Rome in one day, visit all art galleries in Florence and enjoy all there is to offer in each destination I encounter. Since I was meeting someone who lives in Brussels, I had done none of my usual preparations. So, I get off the train with NO idea of where I am going or what I am going to do. I do know that I am hungry, so I seek out somewhere to have a
nice lunch. I head towards the center of town, spelled Grand Place but pronounced “Grand Platz” to take a few pictures and roam around. There is a pedestrian area off the Grand Place that is nothing but restaurants; you want Italian, no problem, you want Greek , no problem, you want to not be harassed by greasy men trying to get you to eat in their restaurant, problem. They stand on the very narrow street coning you into their restaurant. It was CREEPY. So, I ducked out of there as soon as possible and found a nice restaurant where I had rumpsteak with a béarnaise sauce, frites (French fries) and a salad. They had an appetizer of escargot, but I couldn’t justify ordering that much food when it was just me. O and Beer…I drank a nice cold glass of a local Belgium Blonde that was refreshing, filling and much needed.
I then decided that I needed to buy chocolate…which isn’t hard to do in Brussels. I settled for a store that had a life-sized baby chocolate elephant in front of it and free samples. I was able to hand pick an assortment of delicious chocolates and truffles. I
ended my day in Brussels by eating a warm waffle as I walked back to catch the 428 train back home.
I get to the train station and there are two words next to my trains, one being supreme. I thought hmmm….is it going to be a supreme train or is there a supreme delay? Finally, I ask the ticket counter and aha….train is canceled. Of course it is! When is the next one you ask, in an hour. So I sit in the little waiting room at the train station and wait. And let me tell you, there are funny people EVERYWHERE. There is a man with his dog, not on a leash….o wait forgot the dog story. So right before I get to the grand place, this woman who is walking a rather small dog that is wearing a muzzle, starts screaming “GET BACK, GET BACK” in English, while a what seems to be homeless man tries to restrain all THREE of his dogs who are in attack mode. One breaks away and darts towards the woman who is screaming so loud, I back up. A kind pedestrian grabs the rouge dog and brings him back to
his owner. This was 5 mins after I got off the train…
Anyway, so there is a man with a dog off his leash and the dog is wearing sunglasses and a scarf around his neck. There is another person, whom I thought was a man, who had fallen asleep in the waiting room and was slowly falling over onto the person sitting next to him. “Securerail” to the rescue and they escort the Madam (that’s what they called her) out of the waiting room. As she got up and stumbled around I realized this person was on something real good. About 5 minutes later, she comes back, hiding her face with her coat, sits down and falls back to sleep. No sooner as she fell asleep then Securerail is back.
I finally got on the train and made it home, exhausted, but with a full belly and chocolate, at 730pm. Interesting first trip in Brussels…I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me here.
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