We woke up around 6am, it was still dark outside, a super early morning for us but we didn't care because at least we had gotten a train to Brussels and weren't stuck in Orleans! Our first train was at 7:30am so we quickly packed and cleaned up the room, putting away our drying laundry that was hung all over the room, and disposing of the rubbish and cleaning the dishes so we didn't get a cleaning fee. We checked out, paying the usual few euros of city tax, and headed for the tram which was literally a few steps away. We were running on time for once which was great. The tram arrived after two minutes and as we got on we saw two ticket inspectors. Just. Our. Luck.
We hadn't bought a ticket as we were in a rush and only going two stops to the station plus we wouldn't have known what ticket to get on the machine at the platform anyway, they're never in English and really confusing. Sure enough, the ticket inspectors came over. They hardly spoke English and wanted us to get off the tram at the next stop. This was a disaster because if we did we would one hundred percent miss our train as we'd have to wait for the next tram to come etc etc. We explained we would miss our train to the lady who spoke a bit more English than the man. She kept telling us to get off the tram to buy a ticket, Harry was getting frustrated with her because we were going to miss this train and be stuck in France, missing Belgium completely (As this was the only train for the day we managed to just get tickets on). But I told Harry we would just have to get off, there was nothing we could do. So we got off, and the man took us to the machine on the station’s platform - we were only one stop away from the station now - and he bought us the tickets and we paid. The lady inspector went to the tram driver and held the tram for us, so we bought the tickets and got back on. We were extremely lucky.
We got on the first train, boarded in time and everything, and just worked on our budget and enjoyed the one-hour train ride into Paris. Once at the station, we had to catch the metro to another Paris station. Found the ticket office, bought tickets, figured out which direction we needed to go and got on the train. As usual, the most you ever have to wait is 6 minutes, unlike Melbourne where it's 20 minutes at least, every time.
We got to the main train station in Paris with an hour or so to kill so we waited at a little café at the station until our platform was announced. We’ve been on so many trains by now that the train times and durations all sort of mesh into one, we both had the idea it was going to be about a 3 hour train ride upto Brussels, even though we really didn’t ask as we were just lucky to get on a train for the day. So as I’m looking at our train ticket it said the destination time of 10am and further along I saw a picture of a clock, and underneath it, it said: 11 hr 22m and my heart sank. I thought what the hell, there’s no way the duration is 11 hours and 22 minutes. I honestly started to panic, then I thought maybe we get there at 11:22am? But that would only be an hour trip, there’s no way Paris to Brussels is an hour… So Harry went to ask a SNCF person and they thankfully told it was the time we arrived. I was so relieved.
We both had noticed on the ticket at this stage that our reservation said First Class. Now we have a Eurail Global Pass, which gets us onto every train (Except a few companies, but all the major companies are on it) and then in some countries such as Italy especially, you need to purchase a seat reservation on top of the train ticket. The seat reservations can be priced from 3 euros each to 50 euros each so it can be pretty expensive depending on how far you are going. Our Eurail pass is a 2nd class ticket; however the people we got the seat reservation from yesterday gave us a 1st class seat reservation which you actually can’t do. This was the reason we had so much trouble at the train station, because we had to have a 2nd class reservation (to go with our 2nd class eurail pass) and there were none available. We were a little worried this was going to cause us trouble, because if a ticket inspector came around, which they do on every train pretty much, then we thought they may either charge us extra, make us move to I-don’t-know where or make us get off the train at another stop.
We walked over to board the train, found the first class carriage that we were assigned to and there was a ticket inspector checking the tickets before you got on this particular carriage. We showed her just the seat reservation and then she asked to see the Eurail Pass, so we showed it to her and funnily enough she nodded and let us on the train. We really got away with that one. Travelling first class was amazing! I can’t even explain how much better it was. The seats were more comfy, there was so much more space, there was a server who came around with tea and coffee, then half an hour later with pastries and croissants: all free of charge. Even the seats reclined back! All I can say is, thank-god we didn’t start the trip in first class or we would have hated 2nd class even more. There was even free wifi on the train! So the train ride was really quick, on a high-speed train, Harry watched some of his shows on the laptop and I slept.
We finally arrived at Brussels and the first thing we did was go into the ticket office to make seat reservations for our trip from Brussels to Amsterdam in 3 or 4 days. We didn’t want to get caught out again like we did the last few times. Being in Belgium now, it was a different train company and they were so much nicer than the French SNCF Train Company. The guy was friendly, talking to us about Australia and the bad weather in Brussels. We booked our tickets and headed out to find a taxi to our hotel. We saw a stand selling vanilla latte’s and fresh orange juice: I was in heaven.
The taxi dropped us off as far as he could go with a car, about a 5-minute walk from our hotel, as it was all pedestrian streets around. We got completely lost, asked a lady in a shoe shop where to go and then found our hotel. We were having a great day up till now… going perfectly… we were on time for all the trains, no rushing, we had an amazing train ride in 1st class…
We walked into the hotel, it was nice, we went to check in, gave him our name and he says to me: This is for one person correct? I thought oh no. We explained it was for two people, and he repeatedly told us the booking was for one person. At this point, he was quite rude. He even laughed, and at the time it just made us more frustrated that he found it amusing. We argued with him for awhile, and he told us that they had overbooked their double rooms so he couldn’t even change the booking for two people. The rate we paid covered two people so the cost wasn’t an issue but the fact we would have a single room was the problem. He told us we had two options: we could move to another hotel back near the station we had come from (no way we were going to do that), or we could have two single rooms for tonight and change to a double for the nights after that. We told him we would think about it, check our booking online and get back to him.
We checked on booking.com and for some reason we had mistakenly made the booking for one person. However, we had still booked a double room, which covered one to two people so we weren’t completely in the wrong here. Harry argued our point and asked the man what compensation we were going to get for their mistake. He told us we could have two single rooms on the same floor for tonight, and then move to an executive double room (which was an upgrade from what we booked) for the next two nights. We agreed. He ended up being really friendly and accommodating, and apologised for the mix up, explaining that he’d simply gotten to work that day and noticed the computer system had double booked and now he had to deal with it best he could.
We checked out our two single rooms. They were tiny and we ended up using one room to store all our luggage in and the other room to use the laptop, watch tv and sleep in. The internet cost money in our rooms, 21 euros which was expensive, so Harry was going to use the free computer downstairs to get some information on what to do around Brussels for the next few days. I told Harry to just pretend to ask the receptionist the price for the internet as he’d probably give it to us for free due to the inconvenience caused. Like clockwork, Harry came back 5 minutes later and had received free Internet for the entire 3 days in Brussels.
We headed out to look around late in the afternoon, got Subway for a very late lunch. The Christmas markets were 5 minutes from our hotel and they were really busy. We strolled around for an hour or so, finally found Harry his delayed Christmas present, dog-tags with ‘Brussels’, his name and the date engraved on them. We walked around the main square of Brussels, which was just amazing. Really beautiful. It’s this sort of enclosed square and everywhere you look there are these incredible buildings that are so detailed and just gorgeous. Definitely one of my favourite parts of Brussels.
We continued walking towards a statue called “Manneken Pis” literally meaning ‘Little Man Pee’, which, as you may be able to guess, is a statue of a young boy urinating and yes it is a fountain as well. This small statue brought a huge crowd from what we saw. We then got a drink at the bar across the road from the statue, Harry loved his Belgian beer, then headed back to the hotel. Got some takeaway dinner from across the street for dinner – just kebab, chips, salad, chicken – and saw that there was a movie cinema nearby and decided we would go tomorrow!
Waiting for the tram
Waiting at the train station in Paris
My little freak out...
the main square
the peeing boy statue
Where we bought H's present