Wednesday, September 6th, 2011:
My first train ride! I’m excited and listen carefully to our guide Elzo, who describes the process that will take place when taking the train.
He’s a very tall, european man, who’s accent I can’t quite pin down. He’s wearing a light colored khaki pants with a light yellow polo shirt and a light colored trench with his collar popped up and is always smoking a cigarette and carrying a brief case. He looks like Gerard Depardieu, but with a narrower face. He looks like he belongs in a James Bond movie, he’s so shrouded in mystery. The whole tour group is fascinated by him. He walks really slow too, deliberate, not hesitant, as if a storm could blow over and he’d still walk that same pace…he’s confident yet anxious (chain smoking), but he’s Elzo…our tour guide! 🙂 Already it’s an adventure.
But I found out his accent is obscure because he speaks five languages: English, Flemish, German, Italian and French.
We go to the St. Pancras station in London which looks like an old church which is great. I love structures that look like they are hiding what they hold. Like the Tate Modern museum in a power station. Like the train station, in a church…it’s fantastic. Josh jokes aloud and asks if it’ll take us to Hogwarts…yeah okay, honey!
|Does Josh look tired or what? I’m so ready for this train ride!|
|yeah he’s tired|
After boarding the train I think…wow, trains are such easy transportation. You buy a ticket, hop on and get comfy. You can walk around and go from cabin to cabin which is even better because on airplanes you can barely move. There is usually a bar or place to eat as well! This is the last time we can use our “pounds” but Josh and I have none left. From Brussels and on we’ll be using our Euro.
The train moves through tunnels and open land and I write in my journal and watch as we make different stops, picking up various people along the way. At one stop we pick up 6 women and I swear they are like the Housewives of England or something….they were toting their Louis Vuitton bags, iPads, wearing Ugg boots and talking really snooty…they also sat in front of us so I couldn’t help but listen. They went on about their children and how to keep them focused at university and how they party all the time and how much calories were in a muffin and how to lose weight. They talked about interior decorating and shopping in Milan. What a life…
|flying by the country side|
|it’s the LV bag…lol…reflected in the window|
|not my LV bag, the woman’s in front of me|
I fell asleep and woke up and realized we were at our destination. The ride took 2 hours across the English Channel and we were now in Belgium! Would they speak English, I wondered…this was where it was going to get interesting.
We get off the train and follow Elzo as he introduces us to our coach and driver, Eddy (who’s Italian!)…he’s tall and dresses all neat in jeans and a button down shirt…I gotta say, the Italian men are the BEST dressed guys I’ve ever seen. They wear the clothes, the clothes do not wear them. Helps that Eddy’s also tall like Elzo, over 6 feet. He’ll be our driver until we reach Nice, France, which is in 2 weeks. So Elzo introduces us to Belgium by giving us some history about the country and the city of Brussels. My first impression of it is that it’s not as vibrant as London…London is vibrant, there is a nice energy in London. Brussels seemed a bit run down. It is THE city that hosts the EU (European Union)…the countries that use the Euro. Also NATO’s headquarters is in Brussels.
Elzo explains about the languages spoke in Belgium: Flemish, French and yes English as well, but a funny thing he said was that at times you can walk around and hear one person speak Flemish as the other responds in French…they both understand each other and both speak Flemish and French, but will not resort to speaking the other’s language. Such pride! LOL…
Elzo brought us to the Grand Place to roam around and find some lunch. And what a Grand Place it was.
|Walking past chocolates stores…oooo…|
|gorgeous City Hall|
The sun came out and it was shining gloriously on this square and I just went *gasp*…it’s what I imagined the buildings in Europe would look, full of history, full of detail and artistic architecture that were designed when men had no iPad or computers. They had their brains and their imagination and pen and paper and dirt! Do you know how genius it is that these buildings still stand?
|lol…bad hair pic…i look bald, Josh does too!|
I just had to take it all in and then we went walking up the road to find lunch. This is when I started to see the gypsies begging on the side. One woman with her baby and it was cold 😦 And then I smelled the waffles…oh man, they sell waffles everywhere, hence “belgian waffle”…but this was like fast food belgian waffle, you pick which one you want and in a second you have a waffle in your hand with a tiny fork that looks like a toothpick! josh broke his in ten seconds. Josh had a waffle with chocolate all over it. Mine was topped with strawberries, whipped cream and powdered sugar. He felt so sick after his because Belgian chocolate is BELGIAN CHOCOLATE. It’s no hershey bar, it’s the real deal. Rich…too rich for him actually. LOL…then I went shopping for Chocolate!
|I so fell for this…I thought it was a statue.|
|The infamous statue of Brussels, the peeing baby.|
|yum and messy!|
|slow down honey, you’ll make yourself sick, hehehe…|
A popular thing in Brussels is eating french fries with mayonnaise. Also mussels but I don’t like mussels or oysters so I didn’t try it. I have to say (since I had french fries in EVERY country we visited…) Europe makes some killer good fries. It’s NEVER soggy or wilted! Always crispy and hot and so I had to ask Josh, who created French Fries? He says America…I say France. When I google it it’s a battle between Belgium and France! I don’t care but now I do know it’s European so I gotta say, THANK YOU France or Belgium for creating french fries…because i LOVE them.
Bad on any of you who thought French Fries was created by McDonalds! hehehe….
Another new thing I experienced…paying to use the toilet. Elzo warned us it would happen and I was waiting to do it in London, but never did. But I really needed to use the toilet and found a public one around the square…but I didn’t have enough change in Euros for the both of us! So Josh needed to really go so I let him take the change and use the bathroom.
**Just an added after thought** I bought chocolate from this cute Chocolatier called Elisabeth in Brussels, a really sweet and pretty French speaking Belgian asked me if I wanted to try a sample and sample did I! Josh was sick from his Belgian Waffle so he didn’t sample anything but she gave me this dark chocolate with nougat and something else, I think orange. I bought a few things and she gave me a few samples pieces “to go”…she was so nice! One piece of that goes straight to your head! It seriously makes me light headed, it’s that rich. Also, it reminded me of the movie Chocolat with Johnny Depp, one of my favorite movies…I love to watch how Chocolate made people unwind and change in the movie 🙂 And I write this just as I eat my chocolate nougat from Elisabeth 🙂 Ahh…europe…I can only bring back so few pieces of you.
|quick drive by of Royal Palace|
One other abundant thing I noticed in Europe (not in London so much)…is graffiti! I love graffiti but the worse I saw of it was in Rome where there was a lot of tagging….tagging can get kind ugly after awhile, but murals I like…and they are everywhere.
After lunch we boarded our coach and made our way through the more modern part of Brussels, saw more run down areas and even drove past the Royal Palace and left Belgium for the Netherlands. The ride was long and we made our first pit stop at a truck stop which had a McDonalds and I finally paid change to use a toilet.
|McDonalds is EVERYWHERE. So is Burger King but not as abundant. I even saw a KFC in Brussels…|
After another hour on the bus we make it to our hotel in Amsterdam, the Radisson Blu SAS Hotel at the airport. I was just ready to be off the coach…and dinner was included tonight which was great. We were situated outside of the inner city which was a bummer but according to Elzo there was a convention taking place and hotels were booked up. The room was clean but it smelled like cigarettes and a little musty and I started to sneeze.
I put off drinking coke but it was the only other thing I could drink besides water and wine or beer and I just needed one. And look…it came in a bottle! Awww…and Coca Cola Light is Diet Coke. 🙂 Dinner was filling, the soup was great especially since the rain and cold followed us from London. I was ready to hit the sheets after dinner…thing is my allergies started acting up, it was something about the room. So I sneezed and then struggled to breathe so I sat up (old school european style…the royals sat up in bed because they thought laying down flat would kill you…how uncomfortable…they also hardly bathed…ewww)…and I fell asleep sitting up…(sigh)…