I boarded an overnight bus bound for Belgium just before midnight this past Friday. For some reason I quite like overnight busses and trains: You fall asleep and wake up in a new country. I only had a weekend to spend in Belgium so overnight busses really helped me make the most out of my trip without needing to take any time off of work. The bus was almost entirely full. I was seated next to a very talkative Englishman so I didn’t sleep quite as much as I’d anticipated or hoped – he was quite the character, I tell you.
The bus pulled into a parking lot at Brussels North just before six AM. I was the only one getting off in Brussels (the line continued all the way to London) and I’d barely stepped off when it pulled away and I was left totally alone. They’d dropped me off in a parking lot somewhere off to the side of the station so it was not clear where I needed to go to catch a train to Antwerp. This is the part of traveling that gives me such a rush – I’ve never done drugs but I have to compare it to a high. I love that feeling of being in a new place and not really having any idea what to do or what comes next. You’re not stressed or in a rush, just a bit unsure about where to go but that’s okay because in reality you can go anywhere. I’m addicted to that feeling.
It took about fifteen minutes but I finally discovered that if I climbed an unmarked staircase and turned left I’d find my way to the main part of the train station. I found a ticket counter and asked for the next train to Antwerp. German trains are fairly expensive, so I was expecting to pay upwards of 20 or 30 euros for a last minute ticket. My jaw literally dropped when the man behind the counter asked for four euros and thirty cents. I love you, Belgium! I later learned that public transportation in Belgium is very affordable, and on the right day you can get yourself a ticket to Paris for fifteen euros or less!
A train ticket to Paris from Frankfurt could cost me upwards of a hundred euros. Now I know: If I need to get to Paris, take a nine euro overnight bus to Belgium and a fifteen euro train from there to Paris…I’d certainly save a lot of money!
It was about 7:30 AM when I arrived at Antwerp Central. My friend Nikki was there to pick me up, and we walked back to her boyfriend’s apartment where we would be staying for the weekend. We had breakfast (including the yummiest Croissant I ever had – take that, France!) and then set out for a day of sightseeing.
I love Antwerp. It has the perfect combination of historical beauty (narrow, cobblestoned streets with adorable architecture covered in ivy) and modern freshness (lots of young people, trendy restaurants, great shopping, night life etc; ) It seems like it would be a wonderful place to live and I wish I could have spent more than just one full day there.
These photos were taken from the roof of a high-rise on the harbor. We watched the sunset from there which was absolutely stunning.
I also had some of the best French Fries ever in this lovely country – so Belgium, 10 million more points for you.
Have you ever been to Belgium? Where? What was your experience?