Our ship visits Belgium on a rare occurrence. For instance, today is the only day this entire year, from May to May that we port here. Our excitement at visiting a new country helped mask the realization of the dreary, un-spring-like weather. Nonetheless we raced off to accomplish our Belgian goals – Rob’s goal: beer, my goal: waffles. It’s unfortunate we had such little time because once luck met determination we managed to work the public transportation system in our favor.
We opted to skip the small fee that accompanied the shuttle ride from the ship to the train station in favor of walking the proclaimed “500 meters.” The distance was more like a mile and a half, which would have been fine if the station was open on Sundays. So we were led to the wrong station that took forever to walk to. We then asked a nearby shop customer how to get to the train station that operates on weekends and were told it was a ten-minute walk. Fifteen minutes later, we felt a bit defeated. Luckily we latched onto a group of three cast members so at least we shared the frustration. As we heard a tram approaching, we hauled grass to meet it at the next stop. Four stops later we made it to a cute little town that hosted the Blankenberge train station. Not even close to a ten-minute walk from that shop.
We got our tickets before even checking the timetables and of course the day was still Sunday so of course trains were running only once an hour and we had just missed the previous one by about ten minutes. It was better to wait than pay what taxis were charging. So we had a seat at the little café and I figured at least I could get my waffles out of the way since I had skipped breakfast in anticipation. Turns out they didn’t have any waffles and wouldn’t even start serving pancakes until two in the afternoon (later I discovered this was actually a common practice here) and they were out of croissants yet we could get beer and sandwiches at 10:30 in the morning. So beer we had…on empty stomachs. Probably not my best decision ever, but they were small. And they were Belgian.
Our train came perfectly on time and fifteen minutes later we got off in an area that had a semblance of a city, yet required some walking. Rob and I, only having an hour to make it back to the station to return on time to relieve my coworker, walked a short distance, and shot some photos of the beautiful canals and greenery. Belgium is not known for fantastic weather, sure, but the tradeoff is plant life so vividly green that even the best photos don’t do it justice. Had we had more time and better weather, a picnic would have been a prime way to spend the day.
Breaking away from the others, the amount of time we allowed ourselves before looping back to the train station was sad. So sad. But since we hadn’t found any waffles up until that point and had a clearly set goal to accomplish, we shamefully narshed on fast food waffles at the train station, mine covered in syrup, his in his customary chocolate. And it wasn’t even Belgian chocolate. Turns out waffles are as famous in Belgium as fries are in France. Sad truth. A fifteen-minute train ride and nineteen-euro cab ride later we were back at the ship with just under an hour to spare until the start of my shift. And I wasn’t even utilized. I could have taken the freakin’ 2:30 train back. If only we had known… But at least we got some beer for breakfast and a tale to tell.