Envision this view from the inside of a taxi...this is how I've seen Brussels -- twice.  At night, in the dark, from a taxi window.  The first time was last Christmas, the Canadian and I were staying overnight in Brussels on our way to Germany.  We arrived around 10 pm took a taxi to the hotel and left at 5 am the next morning via taxi to the train station. (Also, as it turns out, the Canadian and I are planning another trip to the German Christmas markets and are, you guessed it, over-nighting in Brussels...I will, again, only see Brussels in the dark for a third time!)

My second trip to Brussels was not planned and it was also comprised of a taxi ride to and from a hotel at night/dawn.

Here's what happened.

The Canadian and I went to Munich to meet some friends for Oktoberfest.  We had a great time. The Canadian ate a lot of sausage (insert inappropriate joke here), and we both drank a lot of beer.  The Canadian also went missing for several hours (twice) apparently wandering around....(???) but that story takes too long to tell here.  Anyways, my train back to England was supposed to be a quick and easy trip back:

Munich to Stuttgart -- change -- Stuttgart to Paris --- change -- Paris to London.  I had first class seats all the way because it was only five Euros more to upgrade and I would have been home before dinner.  Easy right?

Except when, about half an hour before we reach Stuttgart, a train derails at the station (for the second time this year, I discovered after googling...) and then, Deutsche Bahn (German's National Rail system) has a total meltdown.

So I'm peacefully sitting on the train, working away on my dissertation when these announcements begin happening in German, a language I don't speak at all.  I recognize the words Stuttgart, Mannheim, gleiss (platform), tren (train), and a couple of other random words, but that's basically it.  Fortunately another nice Canadian couple (I really do love me some Canadians) had been living in Munich for the last year and were able to kind of sort of translate...basically that there was a problem at Stuttgart and we would have to change at Mannheim.

Fast forward many German announcements later, and an hour of waiting, and I'm unceremoniously dumped on the platform at Mannheim feeling a bit like Paddington Bear; crumpled coat, bag in hand, with a note around my neck saying "please look after this human". 

Now y'all, I know my way around German train stations, so really this was going to be just a blip right?  I figured out that I needed to catch the train from Mannheim to Strasbourg and then Strasbourg to Paris (we had missed the direct train from Mannheim to Paris), and then I'd just hop on the 8:01 Eurostar to London after buying a new ticket.  I'd be home around 10 that night, but, no big deal.

Except, that the 8:01 train to London was cancelled due to engineering works in the channel tunnel.  Ok, fine, I'd spend the night in Paris and then leave on the first train the next morning to London.  Except that all of the Eurostar trains from Paris were booked for several days.

So, then I went into problem solving mode: I knew the Eurostar trains also left from Brussels and Lille, so while I was on a 40 minute layover in Strasbourg I went to the ticket desk and tried to see if I could get a ticket to either city that night...and yes, there were tickets to Brussels.  Perfect.  I bought that.  Then I called the Canadian and asked him to get me a room in Brussels and see if he could get me a Eurostar ticket from Brussels to London first thing.  Yes to both.  So, at 10 pm, I found myself in a taxi in Brussels, speeding through the night to might hotel like something out of the Da Vinci code with the Belgian taxi driver rambling to me in his thickly accented French -- which sounds to me like he's speaking the French I understand but with a giant gumball in his mouth.

And then at 5:30 the next morning, a different taxi driver sped me back to the train station to take the train to London. (This taxi driver was explaining to me that he had to take a detour because of the market on Sunday mornings...that much I was able to discern.  I love Paris where I can actually understand what people are saying to me!)

One of these days, damnit, I am going to see Brussels during the day. 

10/15/2012 07:00:47 am

Oh wow, I knew you had an eventful return to the UK but that is just crazy!! I really loved Lille so I am very keen to visit Brussels one day soon. I'm looking forward to seeing and understanding Flemish - written that is, the only European language I understand spoken is Dutch.

5/27/2013 07:55:48 pm

The night in London streets are always wonderful. The night picture that you took from the taxi window of Brussels is awesome. Thank you for sharing your travel experience to London. Keep sharing and posting these kinds of interesting readings.

9/25/2013 03:54:39 pm

I was in London just for a week but couldn't get that much time to enjoy due to busy schedule. By the way you had a good time and you snapped an awesome view.


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