Continuing with my travels around Europe during the school holidays, next stop is…Brussels!
After leaving Ghent by train, Christy (the other teaching assistant whom I’d met in Bruges) and I arrived in Brussels in the afternoon. Grey, overcast skies welcomed us to the city, but didn’t deter us from walking to our hostel.
However, we soon found out that our hostel was quite far from the city center, located at the outer peripheries in a not-so-happening neighborhood. But it was all right, and we got to our hostel, checked in, and dropped off our bags in our respective rooms. Met my Korean roommate, who I was sharing the room with along with two other hostel-goers. We ended up chatting for a bit, and I invited her later that night to hang out with me and Christy, along with another assistant who was coming into Brussels shortly after us.
All of us met up in the hostel’s lobby around 7 pm, then proceeded to go out to explore the city. It was already pitch-black, but nevertheless we headed out to the city center (after having made a detour near the train station) and saw the lovely Grand Place square:
Dazzling lights, filled with tourists swarming everywhere, Brussels was bursting with life, even at night. Definitely had the city vibe, which was quite different compared to that of Bruges and Ghent, which were smaller towns and less metropolitan, less industrialized than Brussels. I admit that I didn’t feel as safe walking at night, even with my posse, since I saw a few people trying the pickpocket tourists (whaat?!), as well as “louche-y” (aka shady) men catcalling female tourists, including me. Not cool…
But aside from those encounters, I had a good time with the three other hostel-goers. Besides checking out the Grand Place, we also saw the Manneken Pis, or the “little man Pee” statue, which is basically a fountain statue of a boy, well, peeing. 😛
The four of us wandered some more before finding our way back to the hostel around 11 pm. The Korean girl and I went back to our rooms, and saw that our two other roommates were already asleep upon entering. I got ready for bed, showering and freshening up. Turned in past midnight, and woke up the next day around 8-9 am to pack up and check out of the hostel, since I was only in Brussels for one night.
Went out for a little bit in the morning to check out la Bourse, which was in the center of the city:
…as well as tried sea snails (a Belgian dish) for breakfast- pretty tasty! 😛
Later, I decided to meet up with another teaching assistant to spend the afternoon with, and headed out around noon to go meet her. Met her in front of the Manneken Pis, and we wandered around the city together for the afternoon. Walked all of the way to the Botanical Gardens of Brussels (which were a bit out of the way from the center), then headed back to the central square for some lunch. I got myself a mitraillette which, like the one in Ghent, was massive and heart-clogging. But I was starving, so why not? 😛 Afterwards ordered a Speculoos Belgian waffle at one of the numerous waffle stands on the road, and took this photo to show how unbelievably delicious Belgian waffles look:
We traversed back out of the city center to check out the Palais Royal and the famous Parliament. But what blew me away was the Park of Brussels, where the colors of the autumn leaves were absolutely gorgeous:
We walked past the Palais de Justice, which was perched on top of the city’s hill. From there, we got a pretty decent view of Brussels:
It was getting a bit late, so we decided to head back in the direction of my hostel. I needed to be out of Brussels by 6-6:30 pm to take another covoiturage (Blablacar again) from Brussels to Paris, where I would be catching my plane to Prague the following day. Bid goodbye to the assistant, gathered my belongings, and headed out to meet up with my carpool driver.
To be frank, I did not particularly enjoy Brussels, not as much as Bruges or Ghent. Perhaps it was partly due to the weather, as well as the industrial atmosphere of the city; the place remained overcast during my stay there, and I felt the streets and buildings surrounding the historic Grand Place to be reminiscent of those in Paris (which is a worthy place to visit, but also heavily urbanized). Unfortunately, Brussels didn’t “wow” me, as much as it could have.
Even more so, what I didn’t count on happening was that I had gotten bedbug bites from my hostel! I mean, I started to feel itchy as I was walking into town the following morning after arriving there. Like, super itchy: all over my neck, shoulders, arms, and even chest. At first, I thought that it was attributed to mosquito bites (although I didn’t recall hearing them in the hostel room the night before). It wasn’t until I left Brussels for Prague, told the other assistant who I met up with over there, and was informed that it was, indeed, bedbugs.
That was traumatic. Definitely made my hostel experience in Brussels unpleasant, as well as soured my thoughts on Brussels overall. But again, I didn’t know that I was bitten until after I had left the city, because I had mistaken the symptoms with other common ailments. So sadly, I would say that Brussels was my least favorite city that I had visited during vacation, but at least I can say that I have been there. Perhaps I will give it another chance in the future, but for now, I bid adieu to Brussels.
More adventures await! Tune in tomorrow! 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
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