We left the hostel at 3am, said goodbye to those who were still up in the hostel kitchen, walked to the commercial center, got on the bus, and passed out. An hour and a half later we were at the airport, an hour later we were on the plane, and two hours later we were in Brussels at 9am. I called Michel, who was coming to pick us up, to let him know that we had arrived. He told me that he was outside of Quick (a French fast-food restaurant), but when I asked security where the Quick was, they laughed and said there wasn’t one at this airport. Uh oh.
So we were both at different airports. Who was I to know that there are two airports in Brussels? Therefore, Jed and I paid another small fee to take a bus into the city center to meet up with Michel. We were all reunited after much confusion and started to explore. None of us knew Brussels very well, but we walked around for a bit and stumbled upon things without having to try too hard. We found the famous Mannequin Pis, an absolutely TINY statue of a little baby peeing onto some greenery. It’s funny how such a tiny thing attracts so many viewers, especially when it looks like many other statues that one could find in the same city. We also saw the town center, which was all decked-out for Christmas with the typical market and decorations. For lunch we indulged in some delicious Greek food and fries (fries, which are everywhere in Belgium!) and then later stopped at an Irish pub that Michel loves for a Guinness, tea, and coffee.
On our way driving to the Atomium, we saw the European version of the White House: their building for the European Union. Since Brussels is the capitol of the European Union, the building is located there. It’s funny because Brussels is currently somewhat divided into three parts, so which part is really that capitol? Who knows. We continued on and arrived at the Atomium, a gigantic metal structure that reminds me of the child’s game Jacks. It was already a little dark when we got there, so we couldn’t see it too well. Magically, minutes later, the structure lit up and graced us with its beautiful view. Michel and Jed are bigtime into photography, so I waited patiently while they each took at least 5 million pictures. Mine aren’t nearly as artsy but hopefully they can be appreciated too! We skipped out on climbing up the structure because 1) it cost 11 euro and 2) it was very close to closing time.
It had been a long yet good day, so we got back in the car and made the hour and a half drive back to Hazebrouck, the small town outside of Lille where Michel lives. After a shower and some dinner we all went over to his friend Maité’s house for some friends and fun. This was the last time that I would be there to see all of them (for a while) so it was nice to enjoy a night together. The next day, we explored Cassel, another small town near Hazebrouck, and then went to Lille to meet our covoiturages for the ride back to Caen.
One of the best things about Belgium this time around: the first time I was here, in Bruges, I spoke only English even though we had a French person traveling with us and Belgium is a French-speaking country. This time around, it was French. All the time.
pictures: (1) me in front of the Mannequin Pis (2) town center of Brussels (3) me and crazy Michel (4) Atomium (5) magical Atomium