Day 4 - "Riding the Rails" - Brussels to Den Bosch
June 13, 2013
I'd been slightly worried about today since the beginning. Mostly, because I didn't have anything planned in advance. But it's the train, you ask...why should I be nervous?? Do you not know me yet?? Planning is key to my sanity. To not have a plan, it takes a lot. Sure, a lot of the reason why things weren't completely planned on this trip was because of Candy Crush. I WISH I was telling a lie. But back to the trains.
Yesterday, I plotted out the trip to Den Bosch. Brussels to Roosendaal. Roosendaal to Den Bosch. It cost less than I'd expected. It also gave me a few options to choose the time to go. At breakfast this morning, Elias and I talked about it. We decided to go to the train earlier. We didn't have anything left to do in Brussels, so why not get to our next location sooner??
I had read that Brussels was cool, but you didn't need to plan for a massive amount of time there. And that is completely how we feel. We really didn't feel like we missed anything. In fact, of we had one more day in Brussels, we would have spent it in Luxembourg. That is the only thing I wish we could have done. If anything, it would have been an extra stamp in the passport. But overall we enjoyed Brussels. It was not the most exciting city in the world, but we had a good time. It was easy enough to navigate (once I did get my bearings). There were some fun museums and things to do. And it really was great to see and eat as much as possible.
I also want to mention we loved our hotel. The Hotel Welcome (or the Welcome Hotel...I see it differently in different places) was a great little place in a perfect location. The rooms may be smallish, but the decor was lovely and it was a kick to see the different rooms decorated as different cities in the world. Plus, the owners of the hotel were so friendly and helpful. And the prices (for Brussels) were very competitive. I would definitely go back again.
The best part about leaving early was our 24 hour pass for the Metro was still valid. YES!! That unexpectedly saved me a few bucks. I'll take it. We took the lift down to the Metro and hopped on the first train that showed up. Two stops later and we were at the Grand Centraal stop. Where we started looking for the other trains.
We really just kept walking until the Grand portion of the Grand Centraal made itself known. The good thing about train stations is they just feel the same. There's a big open area to get tickets and hang out. We got into a small line and was promptly told to go into a whole other area to get our international tickets. Luckily, the international ticket line had no one in there. We still had to get a "Wait for your number" ticket, but I think that was more for the people at the desk to know what language to speak. It must not be vitally obvious that we speak English. Heh. The ticket to Den Bosch was the price range I had researched. And the time and stop I had found was correct too. Hooray for planning!!
We made our way down to Track 5 and looked for our train that left at 1023a. Trains came and went, but our train didn't. A 1027a came and we pondered for a moment...this isn't ours, right?? We kept on the track and at a certain point, I went over to an area where people congregated. I thought the lady in front of me had asked a conductor in English if we were still supposed t hang out here. So I asked her if we needed to stay. She responded in...let's say French. I shook my head in a knowing way like understood her. I just walked away and kept on the track. The train was just delayed, and it was pretty obvious when our train made it.
The train stopped a few places first in Belgium, but soon enough we were in Roosendaal. It looked like this was the first stop in the Netherlands. It is hard to think we were now in another country. And that we didn't have to show any passport yet. We hopped off the train and stood on the track to figure out the next step. As I looked at a list of trains, a friendly guy wearing a vest (someone who worked for the train company) came by to ask if we needed help. Luckily we were on the right track...literally. We just had to wait for the next train to arrive. I love it when a plan comes together.
On the train to Roosendaal, Elias and I chatted for a few minutes. Until it was vitally obvious that he was trying to stay awake. I told him he could take a nap and he was out like someone had punched him in the face. He slept for maybe 20 minutes and when he woke up, he was wide awake and ready to take on the world.
Thank goodness I looked at the map in Roosendaal to see how many stops we would have on the train to Den Bosch. It looked like we were going to have four stops, but you never really know. The stops are announced when we get close, but there is a language barrier at this point and I've been dealing with the name Den Bosch (which I am pronouncing Bauch instead of the Boose it really is). The stop (and the city) is really 's-Hertogenbosch. And that's what they announced. I didn't see a sign and we didn't have too long to get off of the train. I was lugging both suitcases, so I was concerned I wasn't going to make it off in time. We did and we got off in the right place. Our next goal was to find our hotel.
Our hotel was supposed to be in the main square of Den Bosch. So we followed the directions to the square. We were doing pretty good at this point and found the Markt. So the hotel had to be around here somewhere. No problem. Until we couldn't find the hotel. Anywhere. I had pulled Elias off to the side to see the map and figure out where in god's name we were, when a guy came by. I don't like to talk to people. Ever. So this guy comes up and I thought he could sense that we needed help. He asked if we spoke English. I answered yes and gathered my wills to start to ask where the hotel was when he asked where we were from. Chicago. Again, I opened my mouth to ask where the hotel was when he asked me if I believe in god.
I didn't think it was appropriate to tell him the truth, so I shook my head and said, of course. He kept telling us that god loved us. Though I wanted to say if god loved us, he'd have made the hotel a bit more noticeable. The god guy went along on his merry way probably believing he had done some good in this moment. Only us. This would only happen to us.
We did wander the square a few more times before realizing we had passed the hotel several times. In our defense, the name of the hotel was VERY high up on the building and wasn't actually the name of the hotel. It is either known as Hotel Central or Golden Tulip. It wasn't until later in the night that I saw the tulip "sign" on the building, so I blame the hotel. I don't blame our directions. Also, the actual entrance is down a street and around a corner, so...blame the hotel...
The hotel is nice. Very different from the Welcome Hotel in Brussels. Where Brussels was cozy and homey, the Tulip was larger and more commercial. The room was decorated very minimally. The TV had a few more channels. The bathroom was very white and clean. And the toilet was in another room in our room, which was...unique. It's kind of like doing your business in a coffin. There are really no complaints about the hotel. Other than we don't have a free breakfast. That isn't cool, but we didn't have a huge choice on where to stay in Den Bosch.
It was a different feel when we went back outside since we didn't have to lug two rolling suitcases around the Markt. We did another loop to get our bearings. At this point, it was well past 3pm, so it was an awkward time for food. A little late for lunch. Definitely early for dinner. We wandered aimlessly and eventually found a stand where a dude was selling sausage wrapped in bread dough. Sign. Us. Up. They also sold fresh squeezed orange juice. It was just the thing needed for a snack to tide us over until we figured out what food we'd actually get.
Eventually, we found a cute little place that looked like they served sandwiches and pastries. The menu was in Dutch, so we worked with the server to figure out what we wanted. Then again, it sounded like they only had one sandwich left. Or the server was pulling our leg because we didn't speak Dutch. Either way, we split a sandwich so we could try the pastry that is apparently the treasure of Den Bosche. We tried the Bossche Bol.
I couldn't get an explanation of the Bossche Bol in the book. Other than the fact it was a "calorie bomb". So really, just what we need. It was a puff pastry, filled with cream and dipped in a darker chocolate. Very much like a cream puff. And very tasty. The waitress was trying to get us to buy two of them. We could have. But we didn't. So there.
It started to rain as we left the sandwich place. We walked around for a bit, but the rain kept coming and it was cold and kind of miserable, so we decided to head back to the hotel. We sat in the beds and began to put together a game plan on the rest of the day. What we didn't expect was the exhaustion to hit. Again. I had a hard time keeping my eyes open. Elias kept yelling at me to wake up. Until he couldn't fight it anymore either. I woke up an hour later with CNN International playing in the background. Elias slept for another hour after that. We knew we had to get up and find food. So we did.
Van Puffelen was the choice for dinner. There wasn't a whole lot of rhyme or reason for this place. We looked online at menus and this one seemed good enough, so why not. It actually really hit the spot. We both ended up with dishes with an Asian flare. What surprised me was how big the dishes were. Neither one of us finished the dish. Mostly because they were huge. But mostly because we had to save room for dessert. Another Bossche Bol was needed. This one was filled with ice cream and cream. So we had to try it. Thank goodness we split this one too. It was huge. And glorious. It solidified the fact that I do have a second stomach for dessert. It also solidified the fact that when I get back home, I go immediately to Weight Watchers to start up again.
We are definitely enjoying the light through the night. It was 10p and it wasn't dark yet. So we did a twirl through the Markt, then went back to the room. Elias Facebook Messaged his mom for a while. And we caught up on the day's news. Both from CNN/BBC and from Facebook. The wifi at this hotel is a bit meh, but it keeps us connected. I don't think we even turned in until after 1230a. We figured this leg of our trip was going to be our lazier leg. We are here for the wedding tomorrow, but other than that, there isn't a ton of stuff to do and see. And I think we saw it.