Ever since one of my best friends (who we shall call Vegegrafinja, because that’s what we called her on my previous Slovenian blog and it was one of the best nicknames I ever created) moved to Brussels, she was trying to convince me that I should most definitely visit. I always thought I don’t have enough money to do that. Plane tickets are expensive and than you have to drink litters of beer there, buy fancy chocolate and eat waffles and …
She (and her boyfriend) came to visit us in London last year and they came by bus. They travelled in Asia for 8 months so I assumed they’re used to long bus rides, on the other hand I could NEVER survive 7 hours stuck in a smelly crowded vehicle. But she kept on inviting me and ensuring me that my only costs would be the beer (but that they will buy me some of those, too) and that the bus ride is really great and you can get tickets for 1 pound (really. They did. I didn’t, mine were 18 in each way) and Brussels is amazing and… The last obstacle for me was my mortal fear of the Euro tunnel (I have mild claustrophobia and it gets worse if I’m stuck in a place with lots of people under ground. I just imagine all the horrible ways I could die if something gets wrong.) but everyone, even the Megabus website ensured me that we’ll take the ferry. So there were no more excuses left and I bought the tickets.
Just before I started the journey, I read somewhere on the internet that I should really lover my expectations for Megabus. That it was going to be horribly crowded, late, stinky and just like a modern level of Dante’s hell with loud people on phones, small children screaming directly into your ears from all sides and your legs slowly and painfully dying from no blood circulation. So I borrowed Norb’s fancy noise cancelling earphones, packed all of my modern means of portable entertainment (computer, smart phone, kindle) and prepared myself for the worst journey of my life.
But let me tell you, it was the exact opposite. Well, I’m not calling it the most pleasant journey ever, after all I was lucky enough to travel first calls to the US once, but it was not bad at all. There was absolutely no crowd- everyone who wanted it had 2 seats for themselves. All of the passengers were more or less grown up and they were quiet and pleasant the whole ride. All the staff, from the chek-in ladies at Victoria to the bus driver, were super nice (the bus driver was also very funny and made some great jokes along the way) and we left the station almost on time – 5 minutes late, because a passenger that checked in didn’t come to the bus (we could complain about her, but she was very British and apologized to the whole bus when she finally arrived). The sit where I sat had no electrical sockets ( I sat in the 2nd row), but I later learned the the ones in the back do. There’s also some very slow wifi available while you’re still in the UK, but it was waaay to slow for me. So all in all, the ride is amazing for the price. There was the one thing, though…
You’ve probably already guessed that we did take the Eurotunel after all. When the bus driver announced it at the beginning of our ride I contemplated running out of the bus screaming for a few minutes, but at that point my thirst for Belgian beer was too strong. For some reason I imaged the tunnel and train to be a small and dark place, kind of like a tube or metro, just with cars and buses squeezed into it. But in reality it’s quite spacious and there’s enough light and I almost didn’t panic at all. I waited till that point to get my computer out and started watching something just before we went in and I only looked away from the screen for a few seconds. So I was pleasantly surprised that we were out of the train even before the episode of Charmed ended. From that point on, I just enjoyed the ride.
The bus boarding the train that goes into the tunnel
Vegerafinja awaited me in Brussels, and although the bus arrives straight to the city centre, I decided that I’ll leave the sight seeing for other days. Brussesl is tiny and I didn’t really want to visit any museums this time, so I had plenty of time to see all the sights at least twice in the three days. They are (almost) all lovely. (I was not impressed by the manneken piss at all, as you could imagine.)
I am standing right in front of the thing. Not far away as one might imagine.
This was my second time in Brussels so my main objective was to actually drink as much beer as I could mange without passing out, eat at least one real Belgian waffle (you get the best ones from the vans. really) and buy some chocolate for home. I also had to eat an unhealthy amount of fries- they are Belgian, not French after all.
Moinette was my favourite
But Vegerafinja also showed me around their neighbourhood, which is very close to the lovely Parvis de Saint Gilles where normal (by that I mean not-hipsters, which was a refreshing change from home) young people like to hang out in the evenings, twe went to see some traditional Palestinian dancing, they showed me where to get very tasty cakes, wonderful art nouveau buildings, …
My favourite part by far was our trip to the market at Gare du Midi. I lovelovelove markets, so this was a real treat. They said it’s the biggest one in Europe (and I trust them, so I won’t do any fact checking:)) and I guess you could buy anything there. There’s the stalls with fancy Italian foods, all kinds of cheese, cheap Chinese electronics, cheap clothes, fabric and toys, cheap chocolate, expensive chocolate, fired everything, and all kinds of produce. We had some amazing wraps with olives, cheese and honey (olives and honey seem like one of the most unappetizing combinations ever. But they actually make a great pair) and bought a ton of strawberries for 2 € (I’m still trying to find anything remotely similar around here.)
The only disappointing part of the market was the selection of fabrics, which was far from great, but I guess Walthamstow raised my expectations of cheap fabric markets a bit too high.
All in all, the trip was much more fun and a lot less stressful than I expected it to be. It opened me up to the whole idea of bus travel, and we already bought some tickets to Amsterdam. There is a whole new world of possibilities out there for me, and you can expect more posts about my travelling to different cities (which, I can imagine, are probably quite boring to most people. but I like them. :))
I love the look on the face of the guy behind me. He must really dislike tourists taking pictures of eating fries:D