Day 1 In Belgium
It was a very wet trip back to the Paris train station, we had to check out of our Airbnb a few hours before our train was set to depart so we found a small cafe near the station and drank cappuccinos. Trains are by far the best way to get around Europe, the check in process is a breeze compared to flying and there is really no need to be at the station more than 30 minutes beforehand. As for travel time, when you take into account the time you waste hanging around the airport, a high speed train from Paris to Brussels is the quickest way to get there.
Brussels is an interesting city… The train station felt the most dated compared to 3 others we had been to so far, and it had a certain feel to it, you could almost feel tension in the air. As we left the train station we saw why. We had seen military on guard in Paris but this was something else. Four large military trucks and troops everywhere. It had only been a few months since the airport and subway bombings and Brussels was on high alert.
We had decided to walk to the area our Airbnb was in and try to find somewhere to grab a drink, we still had a few hours before check in. Walking from the Midi Station to our apartment near Mannequin de Pis gave us our first impression of the city… maybe we should’ve chosen a different route. The city felt dirty and unkept with garbage everywhere. It had a certain smell that was less than appealing.
We made our way to the neighbourhood we were staying in and found a pub opposite to the Mannequin de Pis monument. The pub was amazing and beer brightened our mood, Brussels was redeeming itself. I highly recommend this place if your in the area, it turned into a home base for us. They had a ton of Belgian beers on tap, a great atmosphere and service. We had a couple beers checked into our Airbnb and called it an early night.
We woke up early as we thought we had a day tour booked for Bruges and Ghent. When we arrived at the tour operators we realized we had our days confused and were actually booked for the following day. We decided to walk around the city but after hitting the main square, we started to fall back into the same funk we had from the day prior. Brussels really wasn’t doing it for us at this point. I pitched the idea of renting a car and getting out of the city to explore Flanders, Dayna wasn’t having any of it!
I’m not a fan of coach tours, but when planning Day was nervous of driving in Europe. I had pushed for renting a car but decided to pick my battles and conceded to the coach tour in the Netherlands and one here. Somehow I wore her down that day (high risk move on your honeymoon) and we were off to go pick up our little VW Polo. Little did we know how much this day would affect our outlook on future travel.
I’ll be honest. I was a bit petrified driving out of Brussels. Traffic was something else but we quickly made our way to the highway and I was in my groove. European highways are amazing. Well maintained, the speed limits are generous, and the drivers were quite predictable. We made our way North West to explore what was the front line in WWI.