Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Antwerp, Belgium and Thoughts on Travel

Antwerp Train Station
     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.

Antwerp Train
    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!

Antwerp 7
    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.

Antwerp 8Antwerp 9Antwerp 6
      These photos were taken from the roof of a high-rise on the harbor. We watched the sunset from there which was absolutely stunning. 

Belgium French Fries
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?


Megan said...

i love belgium! honestly though, i havent been since 2008. haha :) it would be nice to get there again since now i live closer and dont have to hop on a plane across the atlantic.

the reason i loved the country so much was the architecture (shock) and the charm (ok its really about the beer for me). getting outside the main part of town was always nice because belgium is so international and all cities have cool neighborhoods. the markets are great, the food is grand, and it really is one of my fav places to travel to.

bf hasnt been, so i anticipate we'll end up there sometime in the next few years so he can visit :)

glad you enjoyed it!

Sarah Rall said...

I share that same addiction to the rush of being in a new place, and you worded it so perfectly. That's definitely one of the reasons I love traveling so much!

Allison said...

Antwerp specifically, but Belgium in general is my favorite place in the whole entire world. I am glad you agree :)

Megan said...

you and i are the polar opposite type of travelers. I am SUCH a baby. I so admire you for being to stay in hostels, take over night buses alone, etc.

Emilia said...

Oh wow, Belgium looks amazing! I'm hoping to visit for Christmas, but I would be visiting Gent. I have a friend that lives there.

I'm honestly excited most about eating in Belgium. On the Belgium Wikitravel, it said that Belgian food is like French food but with German portion sizes. My friend's husband is Belgian and I asked him if Belgian waffles were actually good or overrated and he told me that they are really good. I've been wanting to eat them since that was one of the challenges on the Amazing Race, making Belgian waffles.

I'm glad you enjoyed your time in Belgium, and I like to treat travel like you do, as an adventure, but it can still stress me out a little bit.

Blue Dog Belle said...

gorgeous photos as always love!

Jane {In the Pink and Green} said...

I love Belgium too! My husband and I visited very briefly in 2010 and it was great. And I totally agree about travel, it's the best feeling :) Also, your photos are so stunning, that sunset one is AMAZING!

Natasha said...

There are still so many places I want to see. I wish I didn't live so far away from all the places I want to go.

Alex Butts said...

I definitely did not get that lucky with a train ticket from Brussels to Paris, it was more like 70, but then again it was in the summer and I think it was on a French train? Anyway, I love the overnight bus idea. For some reason I never think about busing. And I totally get the rush from not knowing where you are, particularly in a new country. It's so exciting!

Mimi said...

"You fall asleep and wake up in a new country." -- that sounds fantastic to me! i would love love love to do that one day! i really want to travel all over the world someday -- i'll live vicariously through you for now though. :D

p.s. yummy french fries!

<3, Mimi
Mile End Bakery Giveaway: Win a dozen cookies of your choice!
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engquist said...

I actually lived in Brussels for awhile, not far from the Brussels North station. I LOVED the Grand Place or Brussels but lived for Saturdays in Brugges. One day a friend and I played hookie from work went to the seaside in Oostende. It was bliss...

On a different note, Belgian trains were my first experience with European trains so when I moved to Germany I was dumbfounded by the prices!

Ginny said...

i have been to antwerp, brugge, gent and brussels!
for someone like me, who loooves fashion, antwerp was perfect! so many little boutiques to shop! i was a bit disappointed of brussels, though. it was pretty dirty (something i am not used to in european cities!) and just, well, kinda boring!

Selma @ Crazy Little World Of Mine said...

So wanna go now!!!!

jinfantinotrumble said...

Great post! I took a train from Paris to Bruges - loved the city, absolutely adorable - and also enjoyed indulging in some of the local specialties like fries and, of course, chocolate!

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