I have the most Amazing friends. They are always there to back me up and help me up when I’ve been ‘knocked down’, which happened again recently. They know what to say and always help me get back on track and they always, always look after me. So thinking about my birthday weeks before it happens is just what they do. Puts me to shame, I’m lucky if I remember people’s birthdays a few days before or on the day!
It was discussed before Christmas, what to do, where to go. One of my friends, Saz, boyfriend lives in Brussels as he works for the Border Force for the UK. It was decided that this would be our destination for the weekend of my birthday in January. His apartment is in the city and Saz makes regular visits over there at weekends, it’s what you do when you feel strongly for someone, no matter how far, you make it work.
The tickets were booked and the excitement built. Now Belgium, I have to say, is not a destination that has ever made it onto my list of places to visit and I don’t really know much about it.
Thank heavens for Google!! It turns out it’s quite an interesting country with many fascinating places to visit – and that was just Brussels we were researching!
Saz had obviously done a lot of the tourist sights, friends had visited previously, so she knew the best places to go. My only ‘want’ was to hug a Belgian tree (have I said previously I’m a bit of a tree hugger?!), apparently this was ‘doable’ – yay! I love that they just accept me, no questions, maybe the odd eye roll and raised eyebrow but they just go with it.
It wasn’t long before I realised that beer was high on the list too, along with waffles and chocolate.
I’m not known for my drinking skills, Jack Daniels and coke is my tipple with the odd Budweiser thrown in (on which I got drunk once and ended up tripping over a peanut😳🙄🤣) so the beer side of things didn’t ‘float my boat’. I’d seen previous posts on Facebook that Saz had shared, different beers, but each one was in a different glass with the beers name on, it intrigued me I have to say. Viv (my bestie) was looking forward to the beer side of things and couldn’t wait to try the different ones.
In the days leading up to the trip the messages became more frequent, the excitement built and deciding what clothes to pack was of paramount importance and how on Earth was it all going to fit in a little suitcase! I hate packing. Especially when I’m not going in my car and can take anything I want.
Anyway, I managed, crammed it all in and Saz picked Viv and I up on the Friday afternoon at 3pm, the Eurostar was due to leave around 7.30pm from St Pancras and we gave ourselves plenty of time to get there on the train.
The laughing started pretty much from arriving at the local station and I can honestly say, hand on heart, it didn’t stop until Sunday evening at midnight.
Things just seem to happen to us and I just seem to attract the ‘different’ kind of people. We had a little train party on our way to Kings Cross, Saz had bought some cans of drink, mine being JD and coke and some nibbles. Not sure what people think of us, more mature ladies, sitting on a train, having a laugh and a drink but we weren’t doing any harm and I’m pretty sure by the end of it we may have amused a few of the other commuters. It was all going swimmingly until the train really filled up at Stevenage. We had a set of four seats and a suitcase was on the fourth seat by the window. A gentleman came to our seats and asked if we could move it, we were already trying to change things about to make room, we did and Viv moved into the window seat and the chap sat opposite me.
It was obvious as soon as he came near us that he had been drinking. So naturally, with our drinks on the table as a kind of invite I guess, he started a conversation with us. Asking us where we were going, what we were doing etc. He seemed pleasant enough, not completely legless, was still able to hold a conversation. Pleasant enough that was until he asked Saz and Viv if their Mum was joining them on the trip!! He meant me!!! Well!! To say that Viv and Saz were amused was an understatement! He thought the reaction was hilarious too! He actually didn’t know when to stop! He kept making reference to it.
Apparently he’d been to court about his divorce, and things hadn’t gone so well – shocker, maybe he tried smooth talking her!
Seriously, I did feel sorry for the guy, while he was talking to the others I was giving him the once over, he obviously knew how to dress, dark blue velvet double breasted coat that had been looked after, a black and white spotted shirt – clean cuffs, trousers and shoes were decent, it was just his personality that needed work!
The guys on the table opposite us also found it amusing apparently – see, we entertain!
Anyway, he tried to redeem himself, said I looked 42, kissed the top of my head and was like a whippet out of the train doors never to be seen again – luckily for him!
So, we’d arrived at Kings Cross, we laughed our way out of the station (and pretty much all weekend about it) at which point I saw a giant bird cage on the pavement, the bars of the ‘cage’ were made of coloured lights, then I noticed a swing hanging from the middle inside!! Oh my goodness!! How could I not!! Viv and Saz didn’t blink an eye, just got their phones out instead to video and take pics. It was fabulous. It’s like riding a bike. You never forget how to swing on a swing, I loved it, got quite high but didn’t have the courage to do what I used to do as a little girl, waiting until the forward high point and then jumping off, marking the landing for my sister to beat. I didn’t want to but I had to get off, a young girl was waiting for a turn – these youngsters don’t realise us older ones have to keep in touch with the younger us. The only difference is, we/I no longer care what people think (to a certain extent, I can be empathetic) when we do things like that, we are doing it for the pure enjoyment and joy and feeling of freedom and the memories it invokes.
We crossed over to St Pancras. Now this is a fantastic station. It’s huge. Designer label shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, pianos and the quality of people watching you can do is incredible. When I’ve been there before (Viv and I went to Disneyland Paris in 2016) I always wanted to have a tinkle on the piano, not that I can play, just chopsticks, but it’s always too busy.
We had dinner in Carluccios with a cocktail (have I mentioned I don’t drink?!) while we waited for our boarding time.
This came and we made our way to check in.
I hate this bit for some reason, the security check and passport control, not that I have anything to hide – I’d taken the cutlery out of my handbag before travelling this time! – what do you put in the trays, what can you keep on you, I always get flustered, I really need to learn how to chill at this bit. I got through security then it was onto passports. I was following a man with a rather long case I could only assume had skis in it – I’d already been told by the girls I couldn’t go on the ski train, not that I can ski! Good grief, I can’t even stand on a skateboard!! I wanted to go for the *cough*, scenery!
I showed the nice man my passport and now as we have the little magic chip in the passport we have to put them face down on a screen, it reads it, you go through a gate, face down again (the passport) and you have to look into a screen ahead of you. Viv had to shout at me a few times before I realised I had to take my glasses off!! It apparently said it on the screen! See, flustered. I got through – probably thinking good riddance at this point!- and we went and waited to be called for boarding.
We made our way to the train when we’d been called, our carriage turned out to be quite empty so we sat on a table of four as it was free and continued our train party with more alcohol and nibbles.
When he came down the carriage we had a little chat with him, he very kindly gave us some free drinks vouchers – like we needed any encouragement!!
Arriving in Belgium we made our way to the Metro, it was only two stops and fairly easy, Saz knew where she was going.
We surfaced at Louise, walked down a main road with our cases and into a bar where we met David, Saz’s boyfriend. It was his ‘local’, they were very friendly and this is where the beer tasting for the weekend started. After a JD and coke I tried a beer. Oh dear. It was lovely. By this point I’d had more than I was used to, it was around 1.30 am and he we had to walk the rest of the way to the apartment, but funnily enough this didn’t bother me, nothing was bothering me! I felt very happy and very relaxed – funny that!
Even the 81 steps up to the apartment didn’t bother me! Getting my backpack off was a challenge however but I managed.
The weekend had got off to an amazing start, I’d said “if it ended now, I’ve had a great time” and I meant it. We’d already laughed until we ached, had stories to tell that wouldn’t be forgotten for a long time and we had barely started. Knowing these girls I knew it was only going to get even better.
I couldn’t wait.