Trip Start Sep 11, 2010
Trip End Aug 19, 2011

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Where I stayed
Karl's House

Flag of Belgium  ,
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Brussels was really my first stop where I would have any significant amount of time.  I was leaving from Paris on Monday evening and staying for three nights.  I arrived into the south station and hopped on a tram to my hostel.  My first impressions of Brussels were not so good, streets were narrow and not well lit making them dodgy looking.  I guess I was pretty tired and beautiful Paris had left pretty big shoes to fill.  On arriving in the hostel I was met with the loveliest of welcomes for the host, Karl and his dog.  This immediately picked up the slack of the initial impression of the city.

What kind of a hostel is it where you are given a most welcoming greeting and a free welcome drink? What kind of a hostel is it where your host joins you for breakfast every morning and is really interested in you and your enjoyment of Brussels.... where you come down for a quick breakfast an end up spending two hours there chatting and joking.... where you stay in a typical Belgium home and get to learn from a true local.... where you have a quilt with little teddy bears wearing pajamas on them... where your host drops you into town and helps you get oriented on your first day... where, if you like Brussels and want to stay on, lets you crash on the couch if there are other bookings.  No, this was no ordinary hostel... it was something different, something special and I'm afraid that in every other place I stay I will say 'It's nice but it's not Karl's house'

When I arrived in the 5 bed dorm there were 4 others there, each travelling on their own.  It was really great as we were all in quite similar positions.  I became particularly friendly with two of them.  Adrianna; a mid-thirties  girl from San Paolo in Brazil and a 24 year old Colorado girl called Claire. Adrianna was a big traveller and had explored much of the world.  She had a philosophy of slow travel and was spending about a week in all the places she went, I like that... maybe in later life when I have more time and money.  She was a fountain of knowledge and perspective on travelling and had many interesting stories to tell.  Claire was another who had caught the travel bug. She was on her third trip to Europe and going in my opposite direction from Amsterdam and towards Ireland.  It was nice to get her tips for Amsterdam and to help her out for Ireland. I've promised to rent a bike to explore Amsterdam.  Claire was cool.... well, yano, for an American.

In spite of staying three days in Brussels, I could only really devote one day to exploring the city.  Karl dropped me into town and helped me get oriented.  In the car I examined the map and marked and few places of importance like the direction of home, the place to meet the others later, the centre etc.   A soon as I got out of the car I held the map up for a look when swwwooooooosh! A big gust of wind stole it from me and took it way off down the road. I laughed it off and just headed towards the centre.

I spent about two hours just wondering around the centre.  Its a lovely city and I quite enjoyed it. In particular central square and the old town.  There were a few things which I just had to see, the first of which was the Manneken Pis (that's the fountain of the boy peeing).  It was really small and entirely underwhelming, I even walked past it about 3 times when I was looking for it.  Next on my list was the atomium, what with being an engineer and all.  I picked up one of the Velib bikes, its a great system where you pay like 1 Euro (+150 deposit) and then you can take these bikes from depots and return them to other depots around the city. A wonderful way to explore and cover much more ground than on foot. It can be a bit scary though when you don't have an instinctive understanding of the traffic system.  So I cycled towards the atomium following the city bus tour map.  Little did I know that the map had omitted a huge distance. Getting confused I stopped and asked for directions (something I have done a few times now).  The man just pointed in a direction and smiled so i followed that direction.  It turned out the the atomium is 8km from the centre, and in a uphill direction. I was pretty lost but just following his direction.  At one point i was cycling on a motorway and passed the city limit sign, after quite a few beeping cars I decided to carry the bike over a ditch and off the motorway. I was almost ready to turn back when I saw the atomium on the horizon. It took me a good hour to get there but the sense of achievement was immense once I did arrive.  It was all I expected and more, mind blowing.  I sat near it for a hour and sketched it in my notepad.  It was probably the highlight of the day and worth the uphill struggle.  I got a better direction back to town and enjoyed a lovely down hill roll all the way in.  When I got back in I still had a few hours to spare which gave me time to explore some of the parks and wonder around the European Parliament. I was impressed, big thumbs up for Brussels

That evening I met up with Claire, Adrianna, and a french guy living in Belgium.  We went for a meal in a typical Belgium places which was off the beaten track and lesser know to tourists.  Then we went onto a cool pub called delirium.  This pub had 2004 different beers and the menu was like a phone book.  They claim to have a different glass for each, so we would have our work cut out.  It would have been nice to do something of a pub crawl, but really we were very happy in Delirum so we stayed there for most of the night sampling several different Belgium beers!  We did leave eventually and make it to a club bar which was nothing special really.  The night gets a bit hazy from there but I'm sure it ended up with fast food, getting a cab, getting out a bit too soon and then getting lost in the rain. Which sounds horrible but actually was really nice.  It was a lovely night, good oul crack

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Clo on

Your blog is great, you are such a romantic Col. I love seeing places I have been. Am sooooooooooooooooooooooo jealous

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