My first attempt to leave France sent me crawling back with my tail between my legs, ready to kill for a baguette and with very little desire to leave Paris again anytime soon.
The plan was this: Get in on Friday, spend two nights in Bruges, head to Brussels on Sunday, hang out for a few hours and then catch the train back to Paris. Seemingly simple. But for some reason, the whole time I was packing to leave, I felt that annoying sense of foreboding. I just kept picturing missing our train or not being able to find our hostel.
Clearly, I lack imagination.
We got a train, though we ended up having to pay extra for it. (Tip: when using Eurail passes, you have to reserve your tickets way in advance. This will come into play again later.) We found the hostel, mostly by a fluke, and reunited with our friend Alanna who informed us we would be sharing the room with three German guys (currently absent).
Foraging for food later, we attempted to follow the river downtown. Bruges is a very pretty city, full of red roofs and gently sloping bridges over canals, where everything is packed in nice and snug. But it can be a bit eerie at night, when cute little streets turn into darkened alleys and the windmill in the distance looks more like a giant insect ready to descend upon the cobblestone streets and devour everything in its path.
But I digress.
In short, we managed to get lost in a city that takes half an hour to walk across and ended up eating burgers and fries at the snack shack next to our hostel. We ordered our frieten as best as we could in Flemish – the language spoken by about half of Belgium, sounds sort of like German but a little more gargle-y. Phlegmy, if you will.
Shortly after our return to the hostel, two of our German roommates arrived. Robert and Thomas, both in their 20s, wanted to have a beer with us before we “were brushing teeth.” So we sat down and chatted for a while. We told them the story of Helga the snoring exhibitionist and Robert told us how he was pooped on by a bird as a child.
After this lovely exchange of weird life experiences, and with the arrival of our third roommate (who happened to be Robert’s father) we all hit the hay. Except for some reason, I couldn’t sleep. And so, lying awake about two hours later, I become a horrified bystander to the worst kind of defilement.
Thomas gets up from the bunk below me and stumbles across the floor to the locker right by my head, containing my and my friends’ belongings. I hear the opening of a metal door and the rustling of fabric. And then I hear the sound of liquid.
No way. No way he can be doing what I think he is doing. He must’ve knocked over a water bottle, or something.
But he did. It was exactly what it sounded like, and despite my attempts to rationalize, when I opened my bag in the morning and discovered my clothes inexplicably soaked, I knew. He peed on my clothes.
I know oftentimes people don’t read these blogs, or skim them at best, so let me repeat, with bold font: He peed on my clothes.
And honestly, that’s it. I could tell you about the delicious chocolate we ate the next day, or the boat tour, or how we heard the Jonas Brothers playing in yet another fry stand, and while that stuff was fun, no amount of fun could compensate.
We left the following morning for Brussels, where sadly we were only able to spend an hour and a half. This, again, was caused by the Eurail passes – we had to take five separate trains over the course of 5 hours to get back to Paris. The trip usually takes one train and one hour. So we had to hit the hot spots of Brussels quickly.
We saw the Grand Place, where Karl Marx wrote his Communist Manifesto. And we saw the most famous statue in Belgium, the icon of Brussels – Manneken Pis.