Sunday, 26 July 2015

Road Tripping: B is for Belgium, Bruges and Brussels

Here I am, writing again, my lovely, invisible audience. How lucky I took my Fire HD7 with me. I'm on the road, having the trip of my life, enjoying it tremendously, even though I'm exhausted, beaten, almost knackered. I said "almost", it's only the beginning and I don't want to sound pathetic so soon. I probably will in a few days. I've just had 2 hours of power sleep in the past 24 and I'm trying to recompose myself to do this little job and keep you updated. It might not have a lot of style this time but bear in mind I'm in a little room in a hotel, somehow annoyed by the lack of space and comfort (Anita more than me), distracted by the noises the water closet makes a meter away from my bed and I'm using a device with a small touch screen keyboard that I'm not used to. But these are the charms of a road trip, therefore I shall not complain. Let me take you back a few hours and tell you all about it.
Saturday evening found us ready to embark on our epic journey: gifts, clothes, necessities, useless things (in my eyes) that my husband thought to fill the boot with, up to the brim, leaving us with bags in between, under and over our legs - they all made our Fiat feel small and cramped but gave us that indescribable feeling we were starting a once in a lifetime adventure. We found our way in the night to the Eurotunnel, delayed by the many traffic diversions our new £300 satnav couldn't cope with and not at all discouraged by the news of disruptions and difficulties immigrants were causing us, lovely tourists, trying to infiltrate themselves in the UK for a chance to steal some shitty jobs from the locals in the hope for a better life. What are they thinking, interrupting the Britts’ holiday? Don't let me get all political though... The complaints were pouring on all the radio stations, broadcasting about the many hours people had to queue throughout the day to get out of the island, but we were cleverer and chose to travel at night: a lot less traffic, diminished queues and only an hour delay for the boarding. We parked at the terminal and tried, unsuccessfully, to get some sleep. A little after 3 am we followed the arrow indicating France and took our place on the long train, that "tin thingy that takes you under the water", as Anita put bluntly. Relief. That had been the most stressful part of the journey, having to follow strict timings and unpredictable things, like ferry workers' strike (also happening these days). At 5 am we were on the continent and I suddenly felt at home. There is a certain feeling I get here: the fields are wider - no hedges along the roads to block your views, the air is sweeter, the cars drive on the right side of the road and the atmosphere is simply different. The most magnificent sun laid the morning foggy road with a soft, creamy light, the space widened and I lost the sleep. From the mountain of bags piling over me, I managed to type the address (how did people travel before satnavs is a mystery): Bruges. Here we come!
The sun welcoming us on the continent

Bruges, before everyone woke up



What time was it? Who knows? No idea!


We got there easily, the world was only starting to wake up and the wide roads were embracing us avidly. After a lady babbled something at us angrily for having to share the road with us, we found a free parking space (it's always like a challenge for me, while my husband would easily give in and take the first opportunity to be charged and park in the most convenient car park). It was after a big concert, we assumed, because the streets were infused with the smell of urine, garbage some early workers were trying to collect and quite a few youngsters were populating the center, not very stable on their feet and very, very loud. The police was sorting out something in a corner and a big stage felt all empty and abandoned, after a glorious night of music. All the museums were closed, but the patisseries were starting to open, tempting us with mouth-watering aromas. We left ourselves tempted and spent 5 euros on a chocolate croissant, a rice pudding slice and a crème swirl, all delicious. Then we roamed the narrow streets, with colourful houses, sweet bridges over the river, beautiful displays in the windows, very artistic and creative, all wrapped in a magical atmosphere only the early hours can create. Away from the central square, the city was peaceful and quiet and the narrow streets seemed all ours. I loved Bruges: charming, arty and full of small, cute surprises. Definitely worth including in my itinerary!
The Galleries In Brussels

A comfy "bench" in the park in front of Brussels Cathedral
At 10-11-ish we were already in Brussels. It's surprising how many things one can do waking up early (not going to bed, actually)! Here, even I gave up my challenge and we comfortably parked in the most central car park ( over 9 euros for three and a half hours), right under Grand Place. Oh, the buzz and the thrill, the thousands of tourists everywhere, the historic buildings, ornate in gold and imposing sculptures, the splendid galleries full of fancy chocolate shops where I saw prices in the many tens for certain chocolate boxes and shop assistants dusting them, literally (well, no wonder...all I could afford was stare and take photographs, but maybe the numerous Japanese tourist bought one or two), the wonderful examples or art deco architecture, the beautiful cathedral where the priest welcomed us perfectly in five languages and the choir enchanted us with the most divine voices, the music festival in the Royal Park, the splendor in the Palais Royale where we could admire marvelous chandeliers and various exhibitions, all for free, the lively markets filled with live music, the narrow, charmful streets with tens of restaurants were waiters were inviting us, insisting in all the possible languages, the delicious smell of candy floating everywhere in the air - they will all stay with me forever. And so will the image of a different part of the city we got to cross trying to find our way out, Brussels Meeting Square, where a fair and a Sunday market take place regularly, leaving behind absolutely filthy streets, blocked traffic due to cars left randomly in the middle of the streets, chaotic driving, mayhem. Well, it's all part of the full picture of this multifaceted, multiethnic, multicultural city, pulsing with life, history, culture, authenticity in all its vibrant colours. I loved our visit in this breathtakingly beautiful, fascinating city and because I know we only saw a small part of its captivating treasures, I promise I will come back sometime. 
We decided it was time to leave, as a few drops started drizzling and what a great decision, because as soon as we got out of Brussels, rain started to pour down furiously. It was raining cats and dogs, as a cute English idiom says. And after all the Heavens' unwanted pets fell on the ground, we reached our hotel, back in France, tired but happy, pleased with all the wonderful things this day that felt like a week brought to us. Thank you, God! It's well past midnight now and I'd better have some sleep if I want to be able to enjoy a bit of France tomorrow. Bonne nuit... Good night... Gute Nacht... Buenas noches... Buona notte! Belgian style.


I finally managed to upload pictures. Enjoy!


Palais Royale

Parc Royale


  1. B is for BREATHLESS for the resilience after your sleepless night, BRILLIANT the description of places visited and BEAUTIFUL your writing style!

  2. And BRAVO to you for getting into the spirit and style of my writing, Antonio! What a sweet and kind comment! Thanks for your attention and generous adjectives. :)