Wednesday, February 22, 2012
First things first. We won our first volleyball game on Thursday! I even got to play middle and ran a few slides! So Kim, if you're reading this, I'm ready to be moved up to the front row! Oh and our fearless leader Kevin played ok too I guess. He's not very good but at least he buys us pizza after every game ;) So we try and put up with him.
Other than volleyball it was a slow week activity wise. So I'll get on to the exciting travel adventures of the week! Some people may know me as being a somewhat impulsive person, so about 2 weeks ago I decided that I should go to Belgium! I have a friend (Ian) that is studying abroad there, so I thought it would be the greatest idea to make the trip. I also decided that it would be the greatest idea to travel and lodge there completely by myself. My adopt a family was not very happy to hear that I did this and even lectured me and told me horror stories. But anyways, I was planning on leaving for Belgium on Friday, so as to not break tradition I planned everything at last minute. Last Wednesday I booked my train tickets and on Thursday I booked my hotel!
Seeing as this was my very first time basically traveling anywhere by myself I was extremely nervous! Not to mention my last minute planning! I thought I had everything planned out until it hit 1:30 AM Friday morning and I was checking over my schedule, I realized I had the shuttle times wrong and needed to call a cab! So at 1:35 in the morning I was running around the manner making calls in our little red phone booth trying to book a cab. But do not worry, I did it! So then I was able to go to bed and get a few hours of sleep. I woke up the next morning at 8:30, packed up, jumped in the cab and headed to the train station. After a quick breakfast there I made it on to my first train and headed off to London. From there I had to go through the underground tunnel beneath a street to get to my next train station (the international station). After wandering around the station, a few minutes of blank staring at the ticket machine, asking random old ladies to show me how to get to security and getting frisked I made it to the promised land! The train lobby! As I was traveling the whole weekend I pretty much felt like a reached the promised land every time I made it to the right place on time. After 45 minutes of waiting it was time for another train ride! I rode the international train here called Eurostar. Which goes up to 186mph and travels through tunnels and underwater! My ears weren't a big fan but it only took a little over 2 hours to get from London through France and into Brussels, Belgium!
The most terrifying part of the whole trip there was that when we were leaving London all the announcements were in English then once we go into France and Belgium it switched to French and Dutch. (Which I am not fluent in either). So that was a new experience. After the train ride I wandered around the station until I found the great outdoors! This is when I power walked my way to a cab and through the hotel sheet at him. After 20 minutes of what felt like driving in circles we made it to the hotel. Just from the cab ride I could tell it was going to be a great weekend. Every time we turned a corner there was something brilliantly new to see and experience! Whether it be huge buildings, cobblestone roads (which weren't really even roads but places to drive around very fast), or randomly following the tracks from the tram. Which I don't quite get because we were the only car following them. But ALAS I made it to the promised land! Checked into my first every hotel and headed up to my room! Which turned out to be a tiny room with the huge bathroom but it had heat!!!!! So all was well in the world! (Picture on the left is one of the cobblestone roads).
Shortly after getting there I was able to text my mom to assure her that I had not been murdered or ran over by a train. Then I was able to get in contact with Ian. We spent the evening wandering the streets of Brussels and eating delicious food. Ian was a wonderful tour guide and knew the answer to every question I had. We ate at a cute Italian place. I had a gigantic bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese (because it was the words that looked the most familiar on the French menu). To go along with the pasta I had my first Belgian beer of Kriek, which is like a fruit beer and was very good. Fortunately/unfortunately they seated us right next to the dessert case so after my huge bowl of pasta I indulged in some Tiramisu and did not feel one bit bad about it.
The evening we went over to some of Ian's friends apartment and hung out for a bit where the told me a little more about the culture of Belgium such as the fact that it is legal to drink in the streets of Belgium and about how the national symbol is that of a little boy peeing. Supposedly there was a fire long ago and a boy put it out by peeing on it. Needless to say there is a little statue of him to go along with the the souvenir shops selling everything they can that has a boy peeing. So for the couple people I got presents for, you should be excited! I hope no one gets too upset if their present didn't come from Belgium. Don't worry Mom, your chocolate does not have a little boy on it at all.
The next day we started out by jumping on the tram and headed out to see the Atonium. Weird/exciting part of Belgium, they have every form of transportation you could possibly want. Trains (regular and international high speed), trams (above ground and under), buses, cabs, walking, etc. I believe I got a ride on everyone too! But anyways we rode out to the outskirts of Brussels to see the Atonium. It's basically a gigantic steel structure of an atom in the middle of no where.
After that it was time to start experiencing the culture. By this I really mean the food. First up was frites. Which is basically fries (deep fried twice), put into a cone, with mayo based sauce of some sort on it, topped off with a little baby fork so you don't get your hands dirty, even though it is nearly impossible to get all the fries at the bottom with just your baby fork. But these were delicious! I even started looking up recipes for sauces online! After that I believe we moved on to chocolate! In Brussels they have the equivalent of pubs in Ireland. There was even an entire intersection dedicated to the most significant chocolate shops. When I peeked in the one shop it looked like a jewelry store in the all the chocolate was held in glass cases. Our store of choice was Neuhaus! We were even given free samples because it was taking the woman so long to gift wrap everyone elses chocolate. They could even pick from 10 different colors of ribbon. Intense. Delicious. I'll show pics after my mom gets her fancy pack!
I believe after that it was time for waffles! There are basically waffle vans EVERYWHERE to go along with waffle shops on almost every block! You have never had a waffle until you experience a Belgian waffle! They are warm and delicious with little pockets of sugar and warmy doughy-ness in the center! No syrup needed! I am truely going to miss these waffles and I'm not even a waffle person! During the day we also ventured to a couple different parks and a museum. It was a very pretty city; as long as you ignore the clouds, strong winds, and unpredictable rain!
That night we had dinner at Ian's apartment, (thank you Ian!) I was most excited for the multiple cups of tea and innovative cup of Belgian coffee (coffee with sugar, cream, and MELTED CHOCOLATE!), followed by an apple cake pie thing that was great. After that we went out on the town. One of the places I really loved was an old train station, turned into an tourist info center, turned into a bar at night! It was really pretty and a unique experience. The other place we went too was a bar where everyone was allowed to dance on tables and chairs! I have never been in a bar so packed! We had to almost get a running start and jump into people in hopes of getting anywhere! It was just a very fun place with a great atmosphere!
The next day it was time for more traveling. In the morning I met up with Ian to see a few more sights, which included one of Europe's largest markets. It went around at least three blocks and had everything from fruits, veggies, cooking pans, clothes, shampoos and crepes! It was huge! Besides people yelling all the time it was really cool to see. After that it was time to hang out in the train station and start homework. Most interesting experience of the weekend happened right before it was time to leave for my train. Three African women came over and asked me to help them print off passport photos. First we had to figure out that I could speak English with one of the women, then I had to try and read French on the machine, then we had to switch the language to African or something that I definitely could not read...and it also seemed that they could not read it either. But our team work paid off and we conquered the machine. After that it was time to head over to my train. Three passport stamps, one unneeded immigration form a cranky lady made me fill out, and my first experience with a NICE security person later I made it to the train! I made a poor attempt at doing homework, then I ate my Belgian waffle from a vending machine and took a nap! It was a great trip! Then I made it back to London, got lost a little bit, had some Burger King and got on my last train home.
It was one of my favorite weekends so far! I really loved traveling by myself and being an independent woman!
Sorry no time to proofread!!!!