On Day 3 of the journey we got on a bus and departed London for Dover, in the south east of England, to Calais, France. On the ferry we treated ourselves to an upscale meal – mine consisted of cheese, meat, and more cheese. I tried the Welsh Rarebit and the Baked Camembert.
After a 2 hours ferry across the English Channel, I collected my second passport stamp of the journey while giving my best “bonjour” to the Customs Agent. He then asked if I spoke French (clearly he was being kind as my American accent is hard to mask through my extremely infantile French). I replied, stupidly, “Je suis Anna” (I am Anna) and then I quit – but gave him my big, toothy smile and he seemed as amused as a French Customs Agent could be.
Back on the bus, and we got a full introduction from our tour guide, Adam from Holland (yes, that’s how we’ll refer to him). He’s a young guy who’s entire job is taking tour groups around Europe – pretty sweet gig, if I do say so myself. He also introduced Pascal, our very talented driver who took our massive tour bus through the twists, turns, and tiny roads of Europe, sometimes in reverse. I’ll note that Adam took some days to warm up to us Americans, but our habits of smiling and making eye contact certainly throw some people off.
On the bus we met the other passengers. We all came from different parts of the world, but most everyone had one person in their party who spoke English. Really makes me feel dumb – I need to get on Spanish, if it’s the last thing I do… One of my favorite new friends is a college-aged gal from Mexico who was studying abroad in Florence and jumped on the tour. If you know anything about Mexican culture, you’ll know that they have very long names, she creatively made her name an acronym – so now you’ll hear about Malisa. Malisa quickly became my buddy and we bonded over being short enough to share the same umbrella. She has an excellent sense of adventure and became my exploring partner when we’d tuckered our small group out. We also met Harriet, who was Malisa’s random roomie for the trip. Harriet was a 60s-ish model-esque fashionista from Chicago – she is truly a fabulous woman.
That night the bus took us to Brussels, right into the heart of the old city after a driving orientation. We had one hour outside of the tour to eat, see what we wanted to see, and explore. Of course I had sites picked out.
- Grand Place
- Manneken Pis – the peeing boy of Brussels. You just have to. (And don’t say “that’s it?” so irritating…)
- Eat waffles, chocolate, and drink beer… all accomplished!
Regrets for Brussels:
- Not enough time to discover such a beautiful city
- I did not see one monument, even a tchotchke commemorating my beloved Little Belgian, Hercule Poirot