Idyllic, the word that sprung to my mind as we made our decent into Brussels airport. A patchwork quilt played out across the land below us. It was the end of a 16 hour plus journey flying from Vancouver into Heathrow and on to Brussels, the start of a three month long journey travelling through Western and some of Eastern Europe.
We entered the city in our newly acquired Renault Kangoo, a vehicle that reminded me of a cross between a minivan and an SUV, spacious in it’s proportions and full of nooks and crannies to store our gear. We followed the GPS directions into the bowels of the city where the buildings rose up around us like sentries keeping watch. We find the hostel, but no parking to be had nearby so we followed alleyways and one way streets through the dark night until we found something. Removing the ridiculously large bags from our car, I lamented on the amount of stuff carried for three months with two kids and debated dumping it all in the nearest bin and doing without. “Note for next time,” I say to myself “One backpack each, screw art supplies and bedding!” I would later be grateful for both. We approached a nondescript, almost unseen door, glanced at each other. The door was opened by a giant jolly man who welcomed us warmly into the hostel. “You must be Samanta” he says and waves us down steps so steep and narrow, the kids almost lose their footing. We leave our bags at the top, terrified to navigate the narrow passage with them in tow. He gives us our keys and directs up the stairs where we find four young men pointing and teasing about the size of our bags. They have heard us speaking English, and I’m sure they believe We have no idea what they are saying. We head down a hallway so narrow that our shoulders brush both walls as we pass. The building is older than our province and the kids are in awe. The room holds 4 bunks, it is clean, it has blankets, that is all that matters. It is midnight Brussels time and we have been awake for 33 hours and are exhausted. We fall into unconsciousness immediately. In the morning Derek awakes early (6am) and goes to make sure the car doesn’t have to be moved before rush hour, it doesn’t, but his waking wakes us and we are up for the day. It is spent running errands and we find the language barrier is not that limiting despite thinking a restaurant supply store was a grocery store!
We leave Brussels for La Roche en Ardenne. As we descend into the valley holding Le Roche, a castle ruin emerges. The houses perch on the hillside surrounding and I burst into tears at the beauty of it. All I can do is sob “It’s just so beautiful!” And the clouds roll in and we are blanketed in rain.
The rest is housekeeping. Our tent is wonderful, yet freezing. It is pouring and feels like ice in our abode, but we are more than content.
I wrote this two days ago, we have since explored two castles and more which I will write about soon!