one night in belgium.


wow. i cannot believe all the luck we have had in the past 24 hours.

yesterday, dom dropped us off at a little train station called kyllburg at platform #2. we had some time, so we went in to a small café in front of the station to have some kaffe. (coffee for those who don’t know)

the lady behind the bar who greeted us was very orange and wrinkled. she had short black hair, blue eyes, and a lit cigarette perched between her index and middle finger. i waved the smoke out of my face when she turned around to make our cups of coffee.

it was 10:30 am and two old men were already there drinking mugs of beer. prost!

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suddenly lewis feels a nudge on his hand and a black lab is sniffing him. he smiles and gives him a pat, the woman smiling as lewis greets the dog back. i like that dogs can hang out in restaurants and bars and it does not violate health codes.

we decided to do an impromptu trip to brussels since we had a day with no plans. when the train came, we got on and sat down. 30 seconds later, i realize we are on the wrong train when staring at the screen. we hop off and the train conductor slides open his window. we say we need the train toward brussels. he lights a cigarette and cranes his head out the window, pointing to the track behind us. platform #1. 

shit. we were on the wrong platform.

lewis and i grab our bags and run as fast as we can down the street. we have to go down the street, cross the tracks, and run back down to where the train will pull up. we had two minutes.

we booked it. while we are running, i have to hold my chest because i was not wearing the proper bra to be sprinting down the street. 

we made it, out of breath, just in time to wave “thank you” to the train conducter across the tracks. when our train pulls up seconds later, we exhale a sigh relief. how lucky was that?

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we had more struggle that day, but were lucky enough to have someone eavesdrop on our conversation who spoke english. we thought we were on the wrong transfer until a younger man got out of his seat and approached us, going over our itenerary/telling us we were heading the right way. very thankful for those who have been willing to help us dumb americans.

our voyage to brussels took 5 1/2 hours. by car, it would have taken a little less than 3 hours. we were disappointed but made the best of it. 2 1/2 hours in, we realize why it was taking so long: we needed to transfer trains at cologne. the next train to brussels would leave cologne in a little over 2 hours. this was awesome news because we got to check out the historical cathedral, kölner dom.  

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the cathedral was massive. i was speechless when examining the detail of the windows and architecture. a little kid in a stroller started crying about half way through our self-tour, and i thought to myself how boring this would have been to me when i was younger, or maybe even 5 years ago. apperciating the history and details of things like this are important. i am glad i got to experience this in my lifetime.

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we made it to brussels around 5:30 pm and were greeted by a chi-chis tex mex restaurant. what? i wish we ate there because i have not seen one of those bad boys in years. instead, we ate at a little italian joint. get this: lewis got a steak, beer, salad, and fries for €10. WHAT? i got spaghetti for the same price, paired with a glass of wine. i couldn’t believe it. €20 for all that delicious food seemed like a scam.

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but seriously.. both dishes were delicious and paired with booze? i smirked thinking of when we spent €14 at mcdonald’s. 

since we got there late, lewis and i got more of the night life side of brussels. we drank at a hip bar down the street from our last-minute hotel. we then went to the store and bought some belgium chocolate and beers, enjoying them on the balcony of our hotel room. it was a great night. relaxing and spontaneous, just what we needed.

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i do wish we got to stay longer, but italy awaited us. we had to leave at 5:30 am to catch our tram and transfer to frankfurt airport around 6 am.

here’s the fun part: i was boasting about how awesome it is that we will have 3 hours of down time before our flight at 12:50. oddly, when we got off the train at 9:17 am and in to the airport – we couldn’t find ryanair (the airline we are taking to pisa) on the flight schedule. i ask a man who works there if ryanair is in terminal 1 or 2 and he looks at me confused. “ryanair? that isn’t here, that is at frankfurt hahn airport, about an hour and a half away.” 

!!!

madness ensues. we run down to the information desk and two men tell us we better hurry if we want to catch a bus there. they point out the doors and tell us we need to take a yellow bus to terminal 2 which will lead us to the hahn airport shuttle. i didn’t even have time to have a meltdown. 

we run on to the bus before the doors close and i am feeling dumb. what? how did i not know i booked tickets at a different airport? i assumed there was only one airport in frankfurt. lewis pulls up the bus schedule, telling us we just missed the bus and the next one was at 10:45 am with one stop. this means that we would miss our flight by about 30 minutes. the rest of the busses leave way later in the day.

mmm, glad i pre-booked and paid for our hotels already.

lewis says to not give up and we can figure out something else. i suggest renting a car. after jumping off the bus and running in to terminal 2, we ask 6 different car rental kiosks if they have cars available. they all say no. i frown at the guy at some euro-car rental because he had a green sign on that said, “cars available!” but he told us they had no cars, laughed, and didn’t even make eye contact with us. he also just rented out a car to the guy in front of us. as we walked away, a worker handed him at least 10 car keys. thanks.

next, we run to the info booth at this massive airport and ask the desk guy if there is a way to get to hahn airport from here. you guys don’t understand how big this airport is, it is a little city. a city where people only speak broken english (or none).

any way, he nods his head and says there is a bus outside that will bring us there. lewis asks if we will make it by noon and he shrugs. the time is 10:10 am. we need to leave by at least 10:30 to make it to the 2nd airport by 12 noon. it would be a close call, but better than completely missing it. the bus schedule on lewis’s phone said we would make it by 12:45 or 1:00, but our flight leaves at 12:50. so that won’t work.

we make it to the bus stop after asking a police officer to point us in the correct direction. we double check the schedule to see if there is hope. 

the next bus leaves for the airport at 10:15 am. when i looked down at my phone it read 10:13 am. oh my god, we barely made it. 

long story short: as i write this, i am on a bus heading to the correct aiport. we will make it to the aiport at 12 noon, giving us 50 minutes. tell me that is not luck.

edit: we made it to the aiport at 11:57 am and they closed check-in at 12:10. uh.. you can’t make this stuff up.

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