More fun adventures from Europe! We spent the morning wandering a snowy-rainy Brussels, before settling in a touristy cafe right at Grand Place then meandering to the train station and scrambling to spend my last 10 Euros. Places of interest included Saint Gudula’s Cathedral (largest in Brussels) to watch part of a mass (on accident) and patisseries with cheap goodies.
There were several horse-drawn carriage tours around us, but too expensive for us to afford. For breakfast, we each enjoyed a natural liege waffle, which is the “real” Belgian waffle. It’s made by cooking the sugar in with the waffle batter so that it seeps out the top and crystallizes into a sort of chewy molasses. We also shared a Brussels Waffle drenched in hot melted chocolate. You may commence drooling now.
Right before getting to the train station, we wandered through a tent market. It seemed to be filled mostly with Middle Eastern goods, fashions, foods, and people. One counter, selling cheeses, kept calling out to us – “mademoiselle, s’il vous plait, mademoiselle!”- but we ignored them. Not that I don’t love cheese, but I automatically ignore pushy salesmen. ‘Mademoiselle’ definitely has a classier ring to it than ‘miss,’ ‘ma’am,’ or ‘hey you!’ I felt lovely, rain-soaked and bedraggled and all.
Then we got to the station and got in line for security. I definitely understand security checkpoints and truthfully was a little shocked at how lax the border control into France and Belgium was. It would have been very easy for me to hang out in Belgium much longer than my legal welcome. Luckily for them, I’m an honest person.
When packing for this trip, I made the mistake of leaving my tickets home at the flat. After all, I don’t want to lose them. Well, the policeman at Border Control was quite unhappy that I didn’t have any papers (aside from my passport). He didn’t like that I’m traveling to [redacted for now] after UK and before I head home, or that I’m staying with an American friend. He didn’t give a shit about her travel plans.
But, man, did he give me the third degree. And so severe about it! When I first came here, border control was also very picky about things – asking lots and lots of questions, like they were quizzing me, but at least the policeman there made it sound friendly. I understand they want to prevent illegal immigration, but trust me – if I am willing to leave the town that smelled like warm waffles and fresh chocolate, in a country that I never officially checked into, I am definitely not going to overstay my welcome in a fussy country with a stinky city. I’ll take freedom, overpriced health insurance, underachieving school systems, and my bastardized English, thank you very much.
I get it, but really, England, really, and thank you for trusting that I really am going to leave. I appreciate it. Also, it’s my privilege as a white female to get the benefit of the doubt. Once we got back into the UK, we saw a young black lady get pulled aside and checked and asked if she has been to West Africa recently. Nobody else in the crowd was asked that.
The only other bad part about today was the people across from us on the train. They were older, upper-middle-class British people, and they were so snooty. We managed to get tickets on the “Standard-Premier” class, which I suppose is like business class, and it seemed really fancy/posh to me. Big, comfy seats, a free meal of cheese, cheesecake, wine, tea, and water, plugins for electronics – all that jazz. But these people just muttered complaints about all of it to each other, and gave us “the look” when they saw their seat-mates were young American women. They also judged our “poor” manners as we ate, and even seemed to give us “the look” watching us read our e-books.
Let me be clear – we were in no way rude. We were quiet as we sat there, we smiled politely, we put our stuff away quickly, and in no way infringed upon their space. At least not until we realized they were being snooty about the way we were eating – then we started eating rudely on purpose. Everybody else on the train around us was nice enough. Yeah, the people sitting across the aisle from us were a little loud, but they were nice.
So, so far the only rude people I’ve encountered have been British or American. Go figure. But to be fair to everyone, almost everybody I’ve talked to has been very nice. There have only been the few rude people all along. I think it just goes to show that, wherever you go, people are generally good and want to be nice so long as you respect them as well. But, at the same time, you can’t please everyone and some people just have a stick up their ass.
Anyway, after we got back to London, we grabbed food at a local pub. I had a nut roast with vegetables and yorkshire pudding (better than I thought it would be) and mulled cider. All in all, pretty tasty. It’s time, now, for the last of our Belgian goodies.
Thoughts on Belgium and England so far:
-Everything smells good!
-The food is amazing
-The people are nice
-It’s cold and wet and yucky outside
-What does “Turn down for what?” mean?
-No, I haven’t got any change, stop talking to me
-I’m gonna miss this city
-I’m gonna miss hearing French regularly
-Oh, lots of British jerks.
-FREE FOOD?! WHAT!
-Hello, again London. Lovely to smell you again
-No, but, like, for real, what is that smell?
-Hey, the food and cider is pretty good after all