Friday, 12 October 2012

Brussels, Belgium, 10.-17.7.2012, Part I

Right, up next: Brussels. I was pretty excited about this trip as I'd never been to Belgium before and it's always fun to add new countries to my list of places I've visited. I was travelling with my friend Tiina and we'd decided to try the new Ryanair route from Turku to Charleroi. Hehe, if someone has something to say about the ridiculous Ryanair terminal in Tampere, I'd advise them to go and see the one in Turku! A shack about to fall apart would be my way of describing it, but then Tampere and Turku have always been rival cities and so maybe I'm just biased. No but really, like I always say, I'm not the complaining kind when it comes to travelling (Brussels is the exception to the rule, though, as you will soon notice) and I don't care about terminals, but it has to be said that the terminal in Turku is worse than the terminal in Tampere. Score!

Cranberry long drinks at the airport to match our tops!

Up in the clouds!
From Charleroi, we took the bus to Brussels Midi for 13€ (22€ for a return ticket, you had to pay cash), the most horrible station I've ever been to in my life! It was getting late and it was dark outside. We decided to take a taxi even though we knew our hotel was somewhere nearby because there were druggies all over the place and we just didn't feel very safe. We tried to walk around a bit at first but it was too scary. However, two taxi drivers told us we should walk instead! What the hell...if someone wants a taxi, I think they're entitled to take one. Finally, a driver agreed to take us to our accommodation, and it wasn't even that close so it wasn't a completely ridiculous idea to go there by car. When we arrived, the driver told us never to walk in that area late at night...quite the opposite of what the other drivers had recommended. Gee...my first impression of Brussels wasn't very good.

We stayed at Hotel Mirabeau, which was alright, and our room was really modern, but it was also being renovated and so a couple of floors were covered with tarpaulin with the wind blowing through the windows...It was also pretty spooky to have to walk the stairs through those floors even though we weren't staying there ourselves. There was just one very, very tiny elevator and it just wouldn't work when you needed it to, so we had to take the stairs a lot, especially when our toilet stopped working and stayed broken and unfixed for a couple of days...Not my favourite hotel experience, I've stayed at hostels that were a million times better. But, it was what it was. We pretty much went to bed straight after arriving as we were really tired and it was really late, too.

The following morning, we first went back to Midi to see which platform our train to Paris would leave from (we'd bought tickets to see Madonna in Paris, too, and would be spending one night there during our week in Belgium). May I repeat: what a HORRIBLE station! In the daytime, the druggies were gone but the smell of piss was literally breathtaking - I nearly puked. Jesus...so far, I wasn't too impressed with our EU capital, and it would get worse in a mere couple of days, heh.

Me at Brussels Midi :D.

The only good thing about Brussels Midi - heavenly Vanilla Chai Tea at Sam's Café. We had to go there because we needed to go online - another thing our hotel didn't provide for its guests...

After we'd found our platform, we headed back closer to our hotel to go and see some of the sights. The weather was bad - it was freezing cold and it was raining on and off all the time (another thing I didn't particularly enjoy about the trip), so I was somewhat annoyed, but luckily the sights were good.

Our hotel.

Manneken Pis! So adorable, and so small! I fell in love :).

Me with Manneken Pis.

Tiina and I trying to avoid the rain somewhere near Grand Place.

Grand Place.

Very cold, very windy, should've worn my winter coat. IT WAS JULY.


As the rain just wouldn't stop, we decided to go indoors...
And ended up here, at O'Reilly's, to try some Belgian beer and have lunch.


And use their free wifi...
The rain just wouldn't stop so we went to a supermarket to get some food and drinks to bring back to our room and then stayed there till the weather seemed a bit better and we could go outside again.

Bourse de Bruxelles AKA The Brussels Stock Exchange.

Back on Grand Place.

There was some sort of festival going on...



Finally, we ended up going back to O'Reilly's and I texted my Spanish Madonna fan friend Franc to come and meet us there as well. It was so great to meet up with him, we had so much in common! We talked about Madonna, about travelling and wanting to move abroad, teaching (Franc's a teacher, too)...stuff like that, I had a really good time! At around 11:20 pm we went back to our room as the following day, July 12th, would be a Madonna day, again :).

Franc and I.
And again, you can read all about my Madonna experience in Brussels here. End of Brussels: Part I.

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