3 October 2014
Over the weekend, I got my first work perk- free return travel on the Eurostar to Brussels. And I didn’t just get any seats: it was Standard Premier on the way out and Business on the way back. I’d like to say this perk resulted from someone reading my blog and thinking it was genius but the truth is that it was not my work perk at all. I was my friend’s plus one. Well I’m not complaining.
As we arrived at St Pancras International after work, we had quite a wait until it was even time to go to Departure Lounge. Obviously we decided to kill some time by eating. True to form, we found a Le Pain Quotidien and so we went for cake. Cream tea to be exact. Apparently I’m classy now- and it didn’t stop there. Now I’ve never been one for make-up. When I put it on I look like a 5 year old who has broken into her mother’s make-up bag for the first time, and subsequently face-planted it. That may be okay when you’re hitting puberty and everyone is learning together but when you’re 23 you get some funny looks. But I decided it was probably time to give it a go. Over the years I have collected a few bits and pieces so I popped to Boots to complete the set. After much confusion, staring blankly and picking up lipsticks only to put them back down again, I chose one and my friend found a lip liner for me. I had no idea where to start with that. Now that my belly was satisfied and my face for the weekend had been decided upon, it was time to check-in.
I passed through security and check-in quickly and found myself in the lounge was pretty nice, with lots of leather seats and access to places to buy coffee and magazines, you know, the necessities. I spent most the time marching around trying to connect to the WiFi and failing. I don’t blame the hub for that, I blame my phone. It has issues.
Soon enough, it was time to board the train. I’m not sure I will be able to travel Standard ever again. My seat was cosy, I had plenty of space and I got free food. I can honestly say it was the best food I have ever been given on public transport (until the way back anyway). I had a choice between a cold beef dish or a cheese-based option. (If you were a dairy-intolerant vegetarian, I’m sure that there was probably another choice). I went for beef which came with a spiced coleslaw and chutney. Yum. Sadly it was at this point that the class that led to afternoon tea and make-up, ran out here. I was offered a choice of wine (red, white or rosé) but then proceeded to pour it into my little mug instead of the glass without thinking. Oh well, it was bigger anyway.Then they brought around the hot drinks. I had to quickly tip my wine into my glass whilst no one was looking. Clearly, I did not belong there. The only problem was that my plug socket didn’t work, and neither did others I tried. This wouldn’t have been a problem but, by the end of the day, my Apple battery was obviously waning, meaning I couldn’t play music or watch my iPlayer downloads.
When we arrived in Brussels Midi/Zuid station, we realised we had no idea where it was in the city or whereabouts our hotel was. I had planned to get a map in the station in London but backfired when they didn’t have any. Thankfully, we managed to dig out some emails and found the hotel address which we managed to match up with a stop on the tube- it’s a relatively small tube system so it wasn’t hard to stop. We were just lucky there was a stop right there, otherwise we would have had no idea. Our confusion was also not missed by a member of staff who confirmed the stop we needed. He then came back to show us how to use the ticket machine. He then came back again to show us how to get through the barriers after seeing us running our tickets all over the barrier in an attempt to get it to open (turns out we had to put it through the validation machine). As if he didn’t already think I was not particularly smart, when I’m in a non-English speaking country, my go-to language is automatically German. Which doesn’t really help anybody. Even when it happens in Germany, what I say barely makes sense. So basically instead of saying “yes” and “thank you” in French to him I was saying it in German. What can I say, it was late. The tube was weird. The tunnel was lit up, so at times I couldn’t tell whether we were underground or not. The walls were also covered in graffiti and there appeared to be a little path going from one platform to the next- not that I would recommend that route.
At about 11.30pm, we finally made it to the Sheraton Hotel. There was some confusion at reception, where, worryingly, our payment didn’t seem to have been received but we managed to get it sorted and finally made it to our room. We had stayed in the Sheraton Hotel Resort in Luxor and absolutely loved it so decided it was a safe choice for this trip too. The hotel wasn’t quite the same and was, in fact, rather old fashioned, but we had our customary comfy twin double beds and the room was rather huge. The bathroom was clean- and patterned- even if some of the fixtures were a little worn but I was happy. Particularly because The Graham Norton Show had just started and our TV had the BBC.
We were only in Brussels for two nights, so the original plan was to go out both nights but, like some many of my nights, instead it turned into junk food. I wish I could say that this was the first time a night out had descended into stuffing my face and watching Graham Norton but I fear that would be a lie. This time, instead of my customary nightclub-replacement Domino’s, our choices at this late hour, apart from room service that was slightly out of our budget price-range, was kebabs or McDonald’s. It was like Sophie’s Choice- two of my favourite meals- but McDonald’s it was. In fact, this was pretty cultural. Fast food outlets differ a little in every country. In Asia, you get get curry, in other places you can get a Big Mac with three patties instead of two- but nothing could prepare us for Belgium’s McDonald’s. Not only was it inexplicably clean, with indie-esque exposed brick walls but their specialty was macarons. That oh-so-sweet baked treat (which I had never actually had before) McDonald’s style. I can’t say I was a massive fan. My vanilla macaron was sickly sweet and chewy. By Big Mac however was delicious. In fact it was better than I remembered. I don’t know whether that was because it was Belgium McDonald’s or simply because, as everyone knows, food (and Maccy D’s in particular) always tastes better after midnight- drunk or not. That is totally a thing.