Thursday, September 14, 2006

Brussels bound today ...

I was making excuses not to travel to Brussels today however Joyce convinced me to go ...

I was showered, dressed and on the train 30 minutes after being convinced, arriving a staggering 5 minutes early at the meeting place I wasn't sure I would find or arrive at in time in Brussels Central Station.

Sarina arrived just after us and we set out on foot for the lovely Le Pain Quotidien at Rue des Sablons 11.

Despite being an advertised New Zealand expats lunch, we were the only three there ... at the very big table. No matter, we quickly adjusted and each ordered one of their stunning open sandwiches.

Mine was tuna, fried courgette with olive paste on a thin slices of brown bread.

Conversation was easy and, as is usual for me on these outings, time flew ...

Joyce jogs and walks, Sarina plays sport ... I blog. I regretted my blogging as they showed me the city on foot. There was a beautiful park whose name escapes me tonight (tiredness), and then an informative stop at the New Zealand Embassy ... Yes, you really can trade your New Zealand drivers Licence for a Belgian one, no exam.

Then there was what seemed like a mad dash to me - probably a stroll for the other two - across the city to where we said goodbye to Sarina before heading into The Royal War and Military History Museum at parc du Cinquantenaire 3.

The entry is free and the old war planes inside took my breath away. In another life I spent 4 years as a New Zealand Airforce Officer's wife. He was a teacher there for a time, so we did Base life and, much as I despise war, I fell in love with the planes.

Wandering amongst the planes today was a little piece of heaven for me. I'll have to go back when I don't have closing time hanging over my head ... Belgians take 'closing time' very seriously and so it was that we were politely but firmly shepherded out around 4.30pm.

A metro ride under the city and most of my body surface played host to a series of waterfalls brought on by the staggering humidity in the underground today. I was mortified but wiping it away only encouraged more and so I stood very still occasionally asking the adult and polite equivalent of 'Are we there yet?'

We wandered the restaurant-filled streets behind Grand Place, popped into the Tourism Office and then parted ways in Central Station ... that was me, sprinting off to catch the 5.25pm IR train back to Antwerpen.

I missed it by a fraction of a second and foolishly climbed onto the next Antwerpen train because I was hot and tired and liked the idea of sitting down.

It was an L train - as in Local ... a train to be avoided because it stops at EVERY station between here in Antwerpen. It took one hour and approximately 14 stops to get home.

It didn't help to know that had I waited 8 minutes longer in Brussels, I could have caught an IR train - as in Inter Regional ... which stops maybe 5 times, and would have had me in Antwerpen 30 minutes before the one that left 8 minutes earlier.

I guess I'll never forget what I learned about trains today and that's a useful piece of knowledge really ... if I want to look at the bright side.

Anyway it was a grand day out, I'm glad that I went.
Thanks for convincing me Joyce.


abhay said...

what lovely pictures!I liked the old war plane...I have lived in Brussels for a while but never visited all these great places.
thanks for sharing them.

Dobermann said...

Di, I'm jealous! You have time and energy to visit all those cool places! I'm glad if I can get through a day doing what I'm supposed to do.. uh.. :(

Well, your posts make up a bit even though I have added lot of stuff to my "go see when around" list. :)

christina said...

I'm glad to hear that you're not the only NZ expat in Belgium.

Sounds like a lovely time - except for the metro and the train that is. We have trains like that too- The InterCity or the InterCityExresse that get you there in minutes and the RegioBahn that stops at every milk can along the way.

woman wandering said...

Hi abhay, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I'm always so happy to be introduced to new places by locals and this museum was a find :)

Doberman, you'll turn up in Belgium one day and I'll be your guide :) As for having the time and energy ... sometimes I'm terribly lazy and anyway, you're studying now ... delicious stuff.

New Zealanders are everywhere christina :) probably a bit like Candians really.

Oh those trains, all expats and visitors should be warned about the milk train ones.

wandering-woman said...

And I'm jealous of your day out AND your ability to get a driver's license without the exam!!!!

Meanwhile, I'll be over here walking because I would need to take an expensive and time-consuming course (yes driving around with an instructor), and then the written exam and the driving exam -whether I want to drive a car or a Vespa.

Lucky you! Do it just for the fun of it!!

awomynda said...

I would loved to have been there and absolutely would have if I wasn't stuck behind an office desk. ;(

paris parfait said...

Sounds like a fun day! I didn't know that Antwerpen was so close to Brussels via train. Have been to Brussels but not Antwerpen. As for the stifling heat and humidity, it was the same in Paris yesterday. Thankfully, rain showers have made it more bearable, although it's still muggy. Where's the fall weather we had back in August??!! And how wonderful that you can switch drivers' licenses so easily!

woman wandering said...

Oh w-w, I'm so relieved about my driver's licence ... I wasn't looking forward to the exam but I adored driving back in NZ. Now to work out how to drive on the wrong side of the road ;)

I know Amanda ... sorry about your desk-bound state. We're going to try organising one at a time when employed people can come :)

And paris parfait, I'm lucky with my proximity to Brussels. The tram is close to the apartment, a few stops and I'm at the train station ... if I catch the right train Brussels is simple to reach.