Thursday, June 7, 2012

Week 2: Do-As-Much-As-You-Can-Before-It-Rains

Continuing on from the last post...
The last few days have been very rainy, so when I woke up this morning because the sun was shining in my room, I knew I had to take advantage of it.  I quickly ate and got ready, said goodbye to my roommates that are traveling to London this weekend (they already left), and headed out.  I took the Metro, intending to stop at the Botanical Gardens and walk back.  But I decided to first go to the end of the route because that stop is called Elisabeth, which is my friend's name, so I obviously had to take a picture.  Well, I'm really good with figuring out Metro directions and bus routes and such. But this stop is the end for both directions of the loop Metro route. And a ton of trams.  So I got off the Metro and followed signs to where I thought I needed to go. Got on a Metro and realized it was the wrong one. Got off the next stop and turned around. Stumbled around for a while trying to not look lost and eventually figured it out. Although, I still wasn't convinced until we got to the stop before the one I was getting off at. *Phew* 40 minutes on the Metro to get to a place that was originally about 7 minutes from my home stop. Woops!  Did give me time to people watch! Here are some characters I observed on the Metro today:
  • Guy trying to sell newspapers (I think. He was talking in French. I just took a cue from the people around me to ignore him)
  • Guy asking directions/which stop to get off at (In French. But note, he only asked me and another young girl. Not the wise middle age woman sitting next to me. Weird. I lied and told him "I don't speak French." He got directions from the next characters, so I didn't feel too bad.)
  • Group of five high schoolish aged boys (why weren't they in school!?!? at 11am!) who were having a great time slapping each other. And pulling the runt of the group into the middle of the four of them and practically beating him up. In a friendly, jovial manner. It was disturbing. But seeing as how I don't know how to say "Stop being stupid idiots and leave him alone. Also you are loud and obnoxious. And go back to school." in French, I just stared out the window.
  • Middle age guy and his girl friend who couldn't have been much older than me.  They needed to get a room. Sitting all over each other. I really thought at first that the girl was there unwillingly because of the age difference. But whatever. He was greasy and balding. Creepy.
    And my personal favorite:
  • Old guy with crazy hair (like electrified Einstein) PICKING HIS NOSE. Full on finger in nose digging around for more than just a quick poke. No. Like at least a full minute of nose picking.  Greasy guy watched in amusement while I stared out the opposite window so I didn't have to see. Luckily that was my stop, so I didn't have to see what else Einstein would do.
See why the Metro trip was such an exciting part of the day!?!? There have been other great characters while we've been here but I can't remember most.

Finally got off at the "Botanique" stop where the... Botanical Gardens was located. Could you have guessed!?  The gardens were beautiful. And just as I thought I was leaving the park, I crossed over a bridge and found an even better part.  Lots of business men reading the paper and enjoying the sunshine like me. I watched 4 ducklings wander around and follow their mama.  It was so cute! Then I got out my map and worked my way over many cobble stones back to where I needed to go, finding the comic book museum on the way, but I didn't go in so we can all go together some day.  I ended up at the St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral (go take a look!) and was enjoying myself looking when I realized that Mass started in 15 minutes. So I stuck around.  The chairs were very strange and there were no pamphlets, so I didn't understand most of the French, but the great thing about Catholicism is I still knew what was going on! Yay! There weren't many people there, which was actually quite nice.  Started to get hungry during Mass and knew I needed to break into my sandwich after.

I headed to the Parc Bruxelles (Brussels Park) which I've heard is beautiful.  And it is in a Central Park sort of way. Which is what it is to Brussels.  Again, lots of businessmen eating lunch and reading the paper (and sleeping!) and many joggers taking advantage of the sunshine while it lasted.  By now I was very hot. I found an empty bench, which was hard to do, and ate my delicious sandwich I had bought from the grocery store before I left.  It had chicken, ham, salami, cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo (of course), and BRIE! The brie made the whole sandwich so much better. Even though it was great to begin with.  I left after lunch to head across the street to the Palace.  Yes, the Royal Palace.  Which is not open to visitors because the King is currently in Belgium (you can tell because the flag was flying).  He doesn't even live there, though, he has beautiful grounds (and I'm sure a magnificent house) further from the city center on the way to the Atomium.  There were lots of middle schoolers on field trips around this area.  I stopped in to look at the museum, but didn't want to pay the 5 euros today. Maybe another time when it's raining and I desperately need to get out of the rain...

I went around the corner and found an historic street that the bus takes us by and that we saw on the tour. I went into the beautiful court looking building and found out it was a church! Crazy! Didn't look like one at all.  Kept going, trying to find my road to go home. But of course, it has a different name at that point so I missed it.  I ended up at ANOTHER church, Notre Dame au Sablon. That one had a list of the Mass times for all of the churches in the city, yay! I then walked to the little park across the street, which is lined with statues of famous men. Not that I remember any of them from the tour. And a pretty fountain/pond.  Then I knew how to get back, thanks to my fabulous pocket map (thanks mom!) and I headed home.  Right as I got back to the metro station which is about an 8 minute walk from home, it started to sprinkle.  I ducked inside one of the grocery stores so I could get some fruit and ice cream and got home before the rain.  It's not raining any more, but it was when I started writing the previous post! I think I'm good for going out for the rest of the day, though.  I'm tired! Probably going to go shower and change and do laundry before my skype dates tonight.  Hope you are having a fantastic week!

P.S. If you are visiting North Western Europe any time before July 13, let me know! I'd love to meet up, or show you around Brussels if you come here! :)

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