Home Sweet HomeJuly 1, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C
Brussels’ city centre railway stations are numerous and confusing. I was staying near Brussels-Luxembourg, and the train circled the city - Brussels Schuman, Brussels North, Brussels Central, before arriving at Brussels Midi which confusingly is also known as Brussels South. I had worked out that the Eurostar departed from Brussels Midi (or was it South), and on arrival I was relieved to see the Eurostar trains were running in spite of the Belgian train strike. A bit of panic however when I printed out my ticket to get a note saying my seat had been changed and, more alarmingly, I was now assigned to the 09.38 train instead of the 10.52. As it was now 10.00 you can understand my concern. However a very laid back Belgian Eurostar official told me ‘relax, cheel man - eez no problem, sometimes zees appenz.’
I ‘cheeled’ as best as I could, though I wasn’t happy, but sure enough all was well - they had just had to change the train for some reason. I was still in Standard Premier Class so was soon tucking into my 2nd breakfast of the day. I still found it amazing to be transported from the centre of Brussels to the centre of London in only 2 hours 10 minutes. It can take longer than that for me to get to Drumchapel.
Back in Blighty after my four week sojourn, I passed a pleasant hour in the 1st Class Lounge at Euston, grateful to escape the heat and heaving masses outside. It never ceases to amaze me that, in spite of notices that refreshments are for consumption in the Lounge only, some folk seem to take pleasure in sneaking out food in their bags. I spotted one very small woman who stuffed no less than 4 bananas, 3 apples and a handful of plums into her backpack. I was certain she must have been the proprietrix of a fruit and vegetable stall at Covent Garden.
My InterRail pass allowed me one final journey in my home country, so I ‘cheeled’ some more on the 14.30 train to Glasgow - 1st Class, of course.
Well, what a time I’ve had. Four weeks of having the freedom of riding the rails all over our great continent of Europe. What fantastic places I’ve seen - from big capital cities to deserted beaches; great cathedrals to mountain tops; experiencing accommodation from hostels to 5 star hotels; travelling on a variety of trains - Express, Inter City, Regional and Local; utilising other transport including ferries, buses, trams, trolleybuses and funiculars; travelling across mighty rivers and oceans; and enjoying food from gourmet cuisine to McDonald’s.
It is a thought undertaking such a journey alone. I have to say I never felt threatened or afraid, and was lucky not to have been robbed, cheated or assaulted. I can honestly say I was never lonely, but I often longed for someone to be with me to share some of these amazing places. One of the great things about going solo however is that it forces you to communicate with people from different cultures, often with no common understanding of each other’s language. It’s amazing how you can usually make yourself understood.
So what, if anything, have I learned? To be patient and accept that things are done differently in different countries. To be open to new ideas and experiences and not be afraid of taking risks. To plan everything carefully, but not to get uptight when things do not go exactly as I had hoped. To be wary of shaking and nodding my head in case it is misinterpreted. To be aware when dealing with condiments that the salt is not always the one with one hole - or you can get a very peppery soup.
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