So keeping in the theme of being super tourists, the next morning we got up early to go to Stonehenge. Remember the books I mentioned in an earlier post, the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon? Yeah, so there's a bit of an obsession with standing stones, too. Oh, how I should have loved to have spent a week touring the whole UK, hunting down standing stones and praying for time travel. But that's for another trip, I guess.
In the mean time, we asked Scott how best to get to Victoria station from where we were (a half an hour train ride away, at least), and really early in the morning. We had it all planned out, woke up, and promptly missed the train we should have been on. Great. But we can still make it, right?
We get on the next train, 15 minutes later, and arrive at the tube station at Victoria, late. We run outside, expecting the buses to be where we had seen all the buses lined up the day before, but this is the wrong spot. We ask a bus driver where we should go and he waves us in the opposite direction, around the building. We run through the station. Someone else tells us to go two blocks down across the street. We run over there. There are no buses, but there are buses across the street in the other direction. We run for about 30 minutes in this 4 block radius until we somehow miraculously, accidentally stumble upon our bus, sitting quietly about 20 feet from where we'd first walked off the tube. But we made it! It was late leaving, and left just after we got on. Upon which I promptly fell asleep (of course).
And it was crowded, and noisy, and we were all being trucked in by the busload (bussed in by the truckload?), but it was also beautiful and the sky was gorgeous, and I'm so happy I went, and got to see it in person.
|stupid, happy face (and Jamie Fraser scarf!)|
Behind Stonehenge is a big, open field filled with sheep and a lot of sheep shit. It was nearly impossible to walk, and the grass was really high, which was a little frightening. Apparently Woodhenge is also close by, but we didn't have enough time to wander too far, so we satisfied ourselves with chasing sheep around, trying to catch pictures of the babies.
|They were in love.|
Shakespeare pub! We also wandered passed the Globe theatre, which happened to be showing Macbeth. I planned on going, but it was authentic (see: outdoor) and it rained the only day I had free time. Boo.
|Classiest pigeon ever.|
We had planned on meeting up with a friend (Lukas!) that night, so we headed back to Scott's to change, and then hopped right back on the damn tube toward Camden town. We hadn't had time to look for food that I could eat, so I settled for my now usual meal of salt and vinegar chips and a giant bottle of water. We had planned on either staying with Lukas or at least spending the night out with him, but after much searching of the internets, we were only able to catch a bus out of London reeeally far too early in the morning the next day. But we headed out anyway, for a bit at least.
Lukas was our roommate when we first moved to Portland, and we hadn't seen him in some large amount of years (four, five?). It was lovely to see him, and meet his old bandmates (some of which were from Italy, and gave us tips on where to go!), and get a can from the market near the bar because they charged 8 euro for one bloody drink.
|I still need to look this up. Curse not having data on my phone over there!|
|France is that-a-way!|
We headed into the bus depot to try to figure out what was going on. It was busy, and we were directed to a few different places before finally figuring out where we were. We had both taken French in school for the last year, and this was the first opportunity to use it. It had now been about a month since classes ended, during which time I spoke absolutely no French at all. I was minorly terrified that I wouldn't be able to say a single thing and the whole year of studying would be a waste.
So, we attempted to figure out things for ourselves. There were far too many options and no ticketing area. Trying to pay attention to what other people are doing and how they're working the public transportation usually helps, but in this case people just seemed to be wandering around. So I went to the ticket booth to actually speak to a person. In French. So scary. I'm always so afraid I'm going to butcher everything I say, and I feel awful about it, and it makes me very shy when I have to speak another language to anyone. I've been taking Spanish for years and years, I spent time in Mexico speaking only Spanish, but it still makes me nervous. And French was new!
So I walked up to the booth, and completely in French, explained to the ticket man where I needed to go, asked how much two tickets were, and asked how to get there. He sent another guy out with a map to show me, and he explained in colors and numbers which trains to take and how to get there. And I understood it! And he understood me! I can speak French!!
So, excitement over, we got on the train (the right one!), and made our way to the train station. Brussels was a completely new experience after the UK. After spending an hour talking to info booth ladies, we walked out into this awful neighborhood where traffic did not stop at all and people were just running in between cars as they went by. We walked for quite a few miles with our ridiculous backpacks in what I was convinced was the wrong direction. The river was dirty, the streets were dirty, the drivers were crazy, but we were somewhere new, and it was so completely different from what we had seen so far! And I'd spoken French to a real person outside of my class!
After an hour of walking, we finally found the hostel, this giant, super modern brick building called The Meninger.
This place was fantastic. It was more like a hotel, and seemed like something out of an Ikea catalog. The staff was super friendly and spoke more languages than you can imagine. They have a 24 hour bar and laundry, a kitchen, and the rooms are big with en suite bathrooms (which is weird, when you're used to sharing a bathroom with everyone else on your floor). And so fancy! Everything was high-tech and modern and decorated nicely. It was definitely one of my favourite hostels of the trip, and we recommended it to a few people we met later, who were headed to Brussels too. We happily dumped our bags upstairs and headed out again in the fading light (and growing cold!) to explore.
The hostel was situated close enough to the city center that it was a short walk into the main part of town. We decided to just wander. We hadn't originally planned on even stopping here, but flights to Italy were cheaper from here, and it was an easy, straight shot from London, so we decided, why not? I wanted to go everywhere, and I wanted to eat Belgian chocolate and drink Belgian beer, so it seemed like a good choice. The only place I knew I had to go was Delirium, the bar with 2,004 different kinds of beer. Our friend who had been living in Germany for 4+ years told us if we were ever in Brussels, this is where we had to go. So.
|Le Canal Bruxelles-Charleroi|
|street art near the hostel (me gustaba mucho)|