Happily, I woke to the announcement that our flight was boarding. So I stumbled along to my seat knowing I could sleep for two hours. Sadly my seat mate also slept, except he snored rather loudly. I slept in fits and starts and found no respite.
What I really appreciate about Europe is how the trains, airports and city centers are easily connected. Upon landing at the Brussels airport, I was able to take the train out to Brussels Centraal. Where in a few steps, I was standing at the cobble stone street of central Brussels. The streets seemed even tinier by the tables and chairs laid across for diners.
It's always nice to be able to eat al fresco. But Europeans really love their open air eating. In a few short turns, following little signs directing me to the Grand Palace, I turned into a large open plaza bordered by large, intricately decorated buildings trimmed in gold paint. I hope it's just gold paint and not actual gold.
I took pictures as did every one else who stumbled upon the plaza. Our necks craned and we continued to walk backwards to try to encompass the entire structure in one photo frame.
I looked for a place to eat and odd, I wandered into a little window that sold churros and waffles. After all, how could I be in Belgium and NOT have waffles? I almost asked her to marry me when she added layer and layer of whipped cream on my order!
I noted the irony of the name and my bottled water.
Then as I walked back to the train station, I saw what I later learned was the Les Galeries Saint Hubert. So I saw the first mall in Europe? Unfortunately, the train station didn't have a locker area for me to leave my backpack so I was stumbling around with the extra load. Thus, I wasn't all that keen to wander about with the extra weight on my back.
Belgium didn't translate their train announcements into English and it was only my nervous tick that kept me glancing at the platform sign that I realized they had switched platforms. I ran up the stairs, a feat I am incredulous to have achieved, and ran down to the right platform. I wasn't the only one huffing and puffing with relief.
It's a quick 90min ride out to Ostend where I'm staying. The only reason I'm staying at Ostend is that Brussels was just too expensive, which, after I have seen it, really didn't make any sense to me.
Plus, Ostend is only 15mins away from Brugges and 30 mins away from Ghent.
I walked around Ostend, finding the Oceanside teaming with people enjoying the bright sunny day. As with Brussels, the Chinese tour group showed up here too!
It was a nice long walk, as chilly and bracing as the wind was, I was surprised at the number of people sunbathing and some actually swimming in the North Sea.
I just took my time, stretching my legs and enjoying the day with just the wind at my back and the sun in my face.
This is the kind of vacation day I should have planned. Doing nothing but wandering, instead, I put myself on an itinerary, cramming everything I could into the shortest point in time. What kind of madness has infected me? When will I learn to slow down?