This past Thursday (2/19), I went to only one of my classes in order to take my flight to Brussels, Belgium for the weekend with my friend Megan to explore the city and Bruges as well. Because some of my friends from Hendrix are there, we already a place to stay. Not having to book a place to stay cuts a huge expense out of traveling. Although having this place to stay was a huge perk, the week before I was very homesick and was getting jealous of those that had their college friends with them in Italy. I was really ready to see a familiar face.
It was both Meggie and I’s first time to go the airport while living in Rome; we struggled figuring out how to get there. My Italian friend was supposed to take us…..but, he only had a smart car – so that was a bust. Thankfullllly, I asked other people in my painting class how to get to the airport, only for them to tell me there was train station right down the street from our apartment building. Oops. At least it was very convenient! Sometimes I forget that you can ask someone – instead of asking the internet. People turn out to be much more helpful, imagine that!
We bought our tickets that took us straight to the airport, and then only struggled slightly to check in (annoying carry-on procedures) and then finally we boarded our flight to Belgium. Both of us were stoked to go to new country, especially one we knew very little about. The little I knew was from seeing Hendrix study abroad students pictures from there. I liked what I had heard though: wonderful museums, delicious waffles, chocolate and unique beers.
The flight over was beautiful, but my favorite part was seeing my friend Chris from Hendrix greet us at the airport – which I wasn’t planning on them meet us there (since they have their own things to do and all). It was such a great feeling to see someone from Homedrix. I loved seeing the colliding of my two worlds – study abroad (Megan) and Hendrix (Chris) merge.
We caught up while taking the bus, then metro to their dorm style living arrangement. This made me verrrry appreciative for my large apartment in Rome, with our own kitchen, two bathrooms and weekly cleaning service. That evening Jolyon and Chris took us to a famous 4-story bar called Delirium Café, apparently there was a study abroad event there that night, including the other Hendrix kids studying there.
Delirium was wayyy cool, it had live music (playing American oldies rock) with beer trays all over the ceilings. Apparently this bar serves over thousand types of beer. Beer is a large part of the culture in Belgium, kind of like wine is in Italy.
Getting so homesick and feeling rather isolated that a few days earlier made it all the more wonderful and me much more thankful to see familiar Hendrix faces. Even better – seeing them in Europe.
One thing I noticed when arriving in Belgium, is how living so immersed in Italy has shaped my perspective and daily habits. For example, I repeatedly kept saying “Grazie” when I received a service or greeting others with “ciao” or “buongiorno.” Even if this made my friends laugh, I secretly loved how ingrained italian was in my brain.
The next day, Megan, Jol and I spent the day exploring the bitterly cold and sometimes rainy, city of Brussels. I instantly began to notice the weirdness of its architecture. The mixture of all different periods is visible on almost every street. We all walked to the Grand Place – which is more ornate style of architecture, with lots of gold detailing. One of the pubs/restaurants in the square was where the Communist Manifesto was signed.
We continued to walk around the drizzling city, seeing the famous peeing boy, grabbing a waffle (which I still haven’t recovered from..sugar coma wise), going to the Tin Tin store!!!!! (I was way too excited about this and wish I could’ve afforded a Snowy plush), eating lots of Kebap (kebabs), and walking around the Magritte Museum. I cannot express strongly enough how much I love getting a taste of different places. More specifically I feel as though I tasted way tooooo many things in Brussels too. I think I ate my way through the city – I had trouble walking. We couldn’t even get dinner until 11 at night we were so bloated.
At the end of this day walking around in the blistering cold, I truly was thankful to live abroad in warmer environment with a larger abode. It’s amazing that I always begin to miss Rome – home sweet Roma. The next day, Saturday, Meggie and I had a late start getting to the train station for our day trip to the medieval world of Bruges.
Slowing walking into Bruges was like entering a different world. I can’t even describe the beauty of this town. The river went through the town with adorable bridges built over it. The pictures below show one of many churches in Bruges and part of the river and buildings along it. Meg and I had the best time getting lost here and eating several chocolates.
Although I didn’t get to spot many swans – what I really did want to see – I love this town and really hope I will be able to return here someday. When we were lost at one point trying to find the swans, we ended up asking an older couple walking around for directions. These two turned out to be native to Bruges and way too cute to be true. I love being able to converse with natives and stumbling upon this couple was a dream come true.
Sunday, before our flights home we visited the famous Atomium sculpture and a sickeningly sweet waffle as we walked around and took pictures. On this day I was tired and ready to head home for Rome. However, this day was one of challenges. Getting to the airport on time was a difficulty since none of us knew where the bus stop was located. Then once I made it there, I had very little time to check in. Since they made me check my bag, which wasn’t even big, on the flight to Brussels, I figured I could save time and check my bag in online while riding the bus (which was a problem later, saying it didn’t show up). Additional money I didn’t plan on spending. However, when I tried to actually check-in the website wouldn’t work, so I figured I would do it at the airport. Ryanair had a different idea and decided to charge me 70 euros because I didn’t check in on time. Even though I couldn’t get it to work!!! Ugh. Talk about frustrating. I was so upset at this point, but I knew I had to focus on getting to my flight. I was sprinting up the escalators and running to my terminal, finding everyone in line to board. My next irksome moment, was when I wanted a snack from a vending machine and it got stuck and ate my money. I officially can attest that airports can really work against you. Lastly, another test my will occurred when my flight got repeatedly got delayed. At this point, I knew I needed to seek out the positivity of my day. By having these troubles, I know what to do next time – check in early, plan out how to find the airport, allow for plenty of time in case of problems. Eventually I was home, after a long 2 hour flight next to a loud, affectionate couple and short train ride home to Trastevere.
The next week I was beyond exhausted, but I had to focus on getting schoolwork done since the next weekend was another one full of traveling. I loved going to Belgium, but it was way more expensive and stressful than I could have expected. My mom always tells me to expect more than you think, and I usually brush it off; this trip proved that in more than one way. Thankfully my next trip was one with the school so I didn’t have to plan out each day – I needed a break! Until next time, ciao!