21 Apr 2018

Brussels, Belgium (February 2018)

When I nabbed my new job at the start of this year, I told myself i was going to take a week off between leaving The Mix and starting at Anthony Nolan to chill. I was going to rest and have baths and read and go for walks and have lie ins and clean the bathroom while humming along to Spotify.

And then, suddenly, I’d booked return Eurostar tickets to Brussels for the Wednesday.

It’s simultaneously the most ‘me’ and ‘not me’ thing I’ve ever done. I don’t like doing things on my own because anxiety and boredom and a n x i e t y but I also had a little dream of travelling abroad on my own, so going to Brussels for just one day seemed like a good baby step.

The Eurostar tickets cost me £99. I could have got them for much cheaper, but I didn’t think that price was bad for only booking two weeks in advance.

My train was at 08:31 and I made sure I was at St Pancras an hour early. Thankfully, we live on the ThamesLink line which stops at St Pancras, so the journey in was super easy. I left Ryan in bed, said I’d be back in 15 hours, threw on my backpack and skipped out the door like the intrepid explorer I am.

I’d never been on the Eurostar before so I was thrilled. I scanned my ticket and my passport, and sat in the ‘departure lounge’ until we could board. I then sat in my unexpected window seat (the train was empty!) and waited to go into the Eurotunnel. Except, we didn’t go into the Eurotunnel for half an hour, because you travel over land first. Then you go into the tunnel for like, 20 minutes, then you’re out again and the rest of the journey is over ground, across France and Belgium. BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY, but my confused head somehow thought the tunnel stretched THAT FAR.

My mobile reception switched from EE to T-Mobile FR then T-Mobile BE, and we arrived in Brussels. An ex-colleague is, quite helpfully, Belgian so she was on hand to help me if I got lost. Reader, I turned the wrong way out the station and walked 15 mins out of Brussels. I was off to a crackin’ start.

I finally made it to Grand Place, the main square in Brussels. The sun was shining and sky was… blueing. It was cold but lush. Perfect for all my walking and Instagramming.

My first task was to buy postcards, stamps, and two magnets - one for us and a classier one for my nan. I was irrationally nervous. I usually throw Ryan into the souvenir shops to buy the goods, but I was doing this for a reason. And, of course, everyone was lovely. I was fine. Nothing caught fire. I didn’t melt to the floor. I lived to tell the tale.

Grand-Place de Bruxelas

After much walking around to explore and take pretty photos, I needed food. Edit: I needed a wee. So bad. I found Fritland where I was ordered by my resident Belgian friend to try the chips of Brussels and found a toilet to wee in. I later spent my last cents for a poo in Bruxelles-Midi before my train back to London and you can bloody bet I sat in there for 20 minutes doing all my Instagramming.

The chips were… just good chips. I didn’t get it. They were nice enough but just like British chip shop chips. But I appreciated them all the same. 

 Fritland - why so busy?!

They're just normal chips?!

I then went on the search for the Pis statues. No, this isn’t a blog post all about wee and poo. I’m sorry it’s turned out this way. 

There are three famous statues in Brussels: Manneken Pis, Jeanneke Pis, and Zinneke Pis. A boy peeing, a girl peeing, and a dog peeing. Weird… I literally have no more to say on this.

 Manneken Pis

 Jeanneke Pis

Zinneke Pis

Mid-afternoon, I needed waffles so headed to be waffle, which had the most sugary, colourful, unhealthy waffles in the windows, and bought one. It was wonderful. The end. 

On my sugar high, I wanted to buy some Belgian chocolate for myself, Ryan and my mum. I’d been recommended Galler so bought a box of truffles from there at a reasonable price. I’m a tight bastard so figured I’d split the 12 truffles between the three of us. 

Ryan needed Belgian beer. I really did have the most touristy day. I had no idea what the bloody hell to get him so found a shop quite literally called 250 Beers Belgium, part of La Belgique Gourmande and bought six mini bottles totally based on names alone. I ended up giving two to my dad because heaven forbid anyone gets left out.

I’d done my shopping and seen my pissing statues, and had an hour or so to kill before I had to head back to the station. So, I did what any self-respecting Brit would do and people-watched in the Grand Place. And, as if by magic, tiny wolves appeared. A man showed up in the square with three tiny fluffy puppies that would clearly grow up to be werewolves, so I had to pet them. That wasted some time. Well done, Brussels.

I headed back to the station for my 19:02 train and merrily Instagrammed my photos from my adventurous day out while waiting for our delayed train to leave. I was home by 21:00, showing Ryan my chocolates and magnets and photos like a kid back from its first day at school.

I surprised myself that day. I wanted to go to Brussels for the day and despite everyone’s ‘uh why’s, I went and did it anyway. I coped with everything by myself and I had a wonderful explore. I came back with a solid cold, but we’ll ignore that.

Brussels is quite small and isn’t very touristy. There’s a palace where no one lives and a park that’s slightly rundown, and a few museums. Nothing’s too pretty like other European towns, but it’s perfect for a day trip. You can wander and eat and drink and look at strange statues. And isn’t that all we want from a European day out?

Royal Palace of Brussels

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