I’ve got two best buds here in London and we love each other so much that we decided to live in totally different parts of the city. In fact, Dean has moved to Essex; technically considered part of Greater London, but Zone 5 so realistically middle earth.
He invited us for a little pasta dinner in boondocks last Friday night, which in hindsight was a massive mistake because I had a 7am train to Brussels the next morning. Originally I thought the hour-and-a-half journey from my place was well worth the carb overdose and LOLs, but it was the not-getting-home-until-3.29am-in-hellish-conditions that razzed me a bit.
I dragged my tired-ass into bed and, with probably more wine under my belt than I realised, set my alarm to fire up one-hour later. I drifted into a deep slumber. Next thing I know my eyes spring open and my room is illuminated by a natural sunlight which in no way could be associated with London at 4.30am in March.
It was 6.50am. And with a sting of regret, I pictured the Fat Controller calling out “all aboard!” somewhere far away at Kings Cross. Choo choo!
More like boo hoo. I WAS DEVASTATED. I’d been so looking forward to a solo international weekend getaway to Belgium. I really wanted to go to Brussels. I had a little cry and tried to move on with my day.
The flights were about £160 though. And the Irish party entailed more alcohol (St Patrick’s Day innit).
Looked like I wasn’t going.
But then I had one more scrawl of the internet.
And I found this.
An overnight coach from London to Brussels for €19. Say whaaaat?
It was weird the way my melancholy lifted and instantly transformed into overwhelming excitement about the prospect of an uncomfortable midnight bus adventure across the English Channel.
I had two choices: 1. Stay in London and do the same old thing I always do, or 2. embrace the (now) one day adventure to the land of Belgian bier and waffles.
I booked my ticket. I packed my backpack. And suddenly it was 8.50pm at Victoria Coach Station and I was like, who the heck am I? Have I been still-drunk all day?
It was all very real. From the chair that reclined a modest 1 degree to the creepy middle-aged man sitting directly across from me with a bad case of the stares. Guuuurrrll… What you doin’ here? You crazy.
Despite the disconcertingly loud wheezes coming from the man parallel, I managed to sneak in a few zzz before getting woken up twice to disembark the bus for various international-travel reasons.
First for passport control and second to cross the ocean from Dover, UK to Calais, France. We had driven our bus onto a ferry to cross the body of water and we weren’t allowed to stay in our vehicles.
The ferry they take you on is really quite incredible. I mean, it was completely night time and I couldn’t see a darn single thing, but I can only assume that a big boat carrying cars, trucks, buses, bikes and passengers 21 miles (34km) across the sea is incredible.
Every year those big badass boats are transporting 16 million travellers, 2.1 million lorries, 2.8 million cars and motorcycles and 86,000 coaches. With a £58.5 million turnover.
What surprised me the most were the onboard facilities. Like we were on a half-baked cruise.
What surprised me the least was that I had to listen to the gurgles and expulsions of vomit from a Chinese tourist the entire hour.
It was a rough old ride for us salty seadogs. The weather had been particularly bad at that time. I had trouble walking around to check out the casino and at one point a tray of glasses went smashing onto the ground, inciting a loud synchronised gasp from the passengers. It was like something straight out of Titanic. Take me home.
I arrived in Brussels feeling about 50%.
It was just 1 degree outside, and despite layer upon layer of the H&M garments I didn’t bother taking off for 24 hours, I could still feel the chill on my nipples.
Obvs it was about 7am when I stepped out of the bus. 7am on a Sunday, mind you. A day of closed shops and rest in most European cities.
There was an unpleasant little coffee shop in the train terminal which was lucky. So I sat there tasting the worst coffee in Brussels for an hour before going for a walk to find more coffee and then my hostel.
Yup. Decided to stay in a hostel because I decided to save money and punish myself for my bad form the morning before.
The good news is the hostel let me go in and have a FREE breakfast before I’d even checked in (this was 9am and I could not check in until 3pm). Is 30 and a half too old for dorm rooms? Even if I had my own curtains around my bed? I think so. But my bank account is another story at the moment.
What followed was a brilliant day in Brussels. I did a lot of walking and a lot of eating and a lot of patting myself on the back for getting on that bus. I slept like a sleep-deprived human that Sunday night too. I guess after two rough nights in transport has that effect. The goal was to get to work for a 9am start, but thanks to the snow I was late anyway. Lucky I work for a company that understands work/life/weather balance.
Moral of the story is: what doesn’t defeat or infuriate you to death, will only lead you to a Belgium bier tasting in the middle of Brussels on a Sunday. You only live once.