Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A Weekend in Brussels, Belgium | Travel Diary

Rain jacket? Check. 
Chargers? Check. 
Suitcase? Check.
Travel card? 
Oh, shit.

I emptied my pockets and found the holographic blue transport card stuffed deep in the pockets of my winter coat. It was 12:00pm and I needed to catch the bus at 12:10pm. A five minute walk plus five extra minutes (just in case) as I can never rely on the buses in my neighborhood. I hurriedly locked my apartment door and carried my suitcase down the stairs, holding onto the railing of the staircase for dear life as I tried to balance myself and my bags. Wheeling my suitcase behind me, my heeled boots click-clacked their way to the empty bus stop. 

2 minutes to go.

The bus driver arrived, opened the doors and I hopped on. A 17 minute drive and I had arrived at Tilburg Centraal Station, where my first priority was to find a kiosk or something to purchase a hot chocolate at. I ended up buying snacks and a hot chocolate  at a local supermarket, cradling the cup in my hands and allowing the steam of each sip to make my glasses go a little foggy. After I finished my drink, I made a chair out of the stairs outside of the entrance gates to the trains as I waited for my boyfriend, Zikri.

We had booked train tickets to Brussels, Belgium for the weekend. I was pretty excited as I'd never been to Brussels before. I've stayed in the city of Antwerp for a couple of nights and even biked 20 kilometers through Ypres to see strawberry fields, but Brussels was something new. Zikri had visited previously, and he was super excited to go back. While waiting, I bumped into my friends from my university; Ali and Roy. The conversation was cut short as both had a train or bus to catch - that's the thing about living in the Netherlands; time is really of the essence as everyone always has somewhere to be.

Zikri arrived shortly after. We missed our train by 15 minutes, so we had to wait half an hour for the next one. In the mean time, we occupied ourselves by drinking more hot chocolate, listening to music and people-watching. The train finally arrived and we were on our way from Tilburg to Roosendaal, where we had to cross-over and take the train from there to Brussels. The journey lasted an hour and a half. 

Brussels Central station was incredibly busy. Crowded with tourists and locals alike, people were waiting in line for tickets, running to catch their next trains and taking photographs. Zikri and I bought our travel cards for the weekend and then went to our hotel. We stayed at Euro Brussels Capital which was central to everything. After unpacking and getting comfortable, we set out to explore.

Taco & Burger Café in the city Center

Wandering around the city like foreigners do, our cameras captured moments we'd reflect on in a matter of days.  We visited the cathedral of St Michael which was as stunning on the inside as it was on the outside.

St Michael Cathedral

The sun was far from setting, florists were perched at every corner, the sickly sweet smell of syrup from waffles drifted in the air as vendors tried to sell their treats. We bought a few snacks for the weekend at a supermarket close to the hotel and spent the evening peering into bakeries and visiting souvenir stores.

Chocolate at a local bakery

On Saturday, the day of our anniversary, we went for lunch at Wok Away, a cute Asian restaurant in a shopping center where we were staying. After eating, we visited a flea market. I was super excited for this because I used to go to flea markets often when I was little. There was loads to see; old cameras, vintage clothing, foulards, french poetry books, teacups, crystals and more. Zikri bought a couple of pins and I bought a coral, whom I lovingly named Carl.

Old Cameras

Me ft Carl the Coral

Miami Plate
After the our little visit to the flea market, we dropped off our purchases back at the hotel, got a map and circled where we'd be going to next. We were both keen on seeing Manneken Pis (the little peeing boy). Neither Zikri nor I knew where we were going, despite having a map with us. Given that I had failed Geography in both grade nine and ten, I let Zikri take the lead on this one. We bumped into an Indian lady who was visiting Belgium for a business trip. She was also looking for the statue and asked if she could search with us. We agreed and began our little scavenger hunt as we walked through alleys and crossed streets in search of Manneken Pis. For those of you who don't know, Manneken Pis is a representation of the rebellious spirit of Belgium, which is why it is so famous. (Yeah, I don't get it either) 

Moving on - let me tell you, seeing the actual statue was anti-climatic as heck. I don't understand the fuss - it was tiny. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it definitely wasn't that. Perhaps it was because all the replicas I had seen were at the very least, the size of a toddler. But no, not the real thing. It was barely the length of my arm. However, like the troopers we are, we got a photo in front of the statue.

Zikri wanted to go to an art museum, where we admired the work of René Magritte, a surrealist artist who is from Belgium. The museum was lovely and the art was captivating. Unfortunately we weren't able to take photos of the work in the Magritte section, but the souvenir store downstairs had replicas in forms of postcards, film and posters which were all absolutely amazing.

Museum Trip

After the statue, we continued walking around the city center and stumbled across a contemporary art fair. The area in which we were now in was super crowded; people were taking photos, reading in the gardens and dancing to live music. We even stumbled across a group of dancers who were dancing to K-Pop, which Zikri was super excited about. After we said goodbye to our friend Dita, the Indian lady we had traveled to Manneken Pis with, we got waffles again. We walked back to Brussels Central to get a train to the hotel and we were back at a reasonable time, feet sore from all the steps and backs aching from all the items in our backpacks. We both showed each other our purchases from the past two days;  Zikri had gotten postcards and loads of pins for his collection. I had Carl, my foulard, a shot glass I bought for Roy and also a post-card I had purchased at a souvenir store.

We were up super early on Sunday morning. Our last day and nothing was planned. We had to be out by 11am, giving us an hour of free time as our train back to the Netherlands was only around 12pm. When we woke, Zikri and I were both pleasantly surprised to see a huge street market right outside of our hotel. The streets were crowded as people, who at this point looked like ants, walked around purchasing and bargaining. We quickly packed, tidied, showered and hurried out the door to browse the market. There was a lot more food at this market compared to the one we visited on Friday. Zikri bought strawberries and I got a cup of Moroccan tea which was much too sweet for my liking. 
I liked the atmosphere of the market; there was so much going on as it was colossal. This weekend was so much fun, I loved exploring and being in a new city. Traveling is always liberating, no matter if you go to a new town, city or country. I hope to have a video about my trip to Belgium up soon, but for now this is all I've got. Thanks for reading; please be kind and take care of yourself.



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