Solo Travel – Brussels

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I’m self-conscious in my red shoes with a dog bite chunk out of the right heel

Solo travel is necessary to push myself out of comfort zones; to broaden my experiences & understanding of others and to get me out of a rut on home turf. So I’m in Brussels alone.

DAY ONE: Trembling I ask the concierge for a paper map and to mark the hotel and my destination – Grand Place – on it. He says it will take 20 minutes. I rush upstairs for another wee and then leave the lobby faking confidence. Within 3 minutes I am lost and discover two things: the map is in French (which to my shame I don’t know very well) and the print is so tiny I can’t read it anyway.

Everyone is super well dressed in the business district and I feel self-conscious in my little red shoes with a huge dog bite sized chunk out of the heel of the right shoe. I do love my friends’ dogs … most of the time. All I could do was toss my worries in the air and follow my feet.

They got me there 3 hours later. I could have asked directions but actually started to enjoy the glorious wander through cobbled lanes surrounded either side by narrow buildings. I find some food and scurry back to my room for the evening. (It would be dangerous to be out alone after 6pm wouldn’t it?)

DAY TWO: I’ve no agenda but wander in the same streets again. I’m more relaxed than yesterday and marvel at the architecture (which is hideously difficult to photograph) take my time to listen to several buskers and stop for coffee and waffles when the urge grabs me. Curiously, though I’m surrounded by chocolate of the finest quality, I’ve no desire for it. Explain that one, because chocoholic as I have been all my life, I simply can’t!

Late afternoon I take an open top bus tour which shows me more of Brussels. While waiting at the bus stop there’s a rattling noise and the pavement vibrates – I go into ‘fight or flight’ mode – an earthquake? Then I realise I’m standing above an underground station. I feel silly. The second time, I quickly regain composure. The third time, I don’t bat an eyelid. On my way back I see groups of people and couples together eating out. I intentionally ate a bigger lunch to avoid needing dinner. I get home at 8pm and take the lift to my room (overcoming another fear but there are no earthquakes here). Some photo editing and a good book in my room is the antidote I need to a tinge of loneliness.

I rush out the door in my new blue shoes

DAY THREE: I rush out the door in my new blue shoes – pride made me buy a pair to replace the dog-chewed red ones. Several hours wandering around two art museums; marvelling at the big open spaces inside the buildings and the talent displayed on the walls; fills my emotional tank to the brim.

But my back is hurting badly – it’s those new shoes and I have paid a price for vanity. I go in search of a pharmacy for pain relief and decide to pig out on cheap frites (chips) in the square. Instead I’m swept up in a street protest that I do no understand but there are thousands of people everywhere and they ALL want frites so the queues are miles long. I duck into the closest posh hotel and have the set menu. The food is delicious but considerably more expensive than a cone of frites.

Taking ME out to dinner

A short nap in my room, for the pain relief to work, and I’m rejuvenated. I spend a few more seconds in front of the mirror wipe a fresh coat of lipstick across my smile and dress up. I’m taking ME out to dinner. The quaint, romantic Italian restaurant down a dark alleyway is perfect. At the end the waiter holds my bill out at arms length to read it; I offer him my glasses and we both chuckle. We understand each other though he speaks only Italian and I only English.

It’s a warm light evening so I stay out past ‘locking up your daughter hour’. I hold my face up to catch the last rays of sunlight; twirl around on the pavement and jump on a piece of large bubble wrap left outside a store. The pop made a group of guys cheer as they ran in to do the same – who’d have thought rubbish left by the curb side could be so good!

I climbed into bed alone but happy.

My red shoes with the dog bite are proudly on my feet

DAY FOUR: I’m off to discover a new part of Brussels today. So far I’ve walked over 40 kms around the city – let me add some more to that today. My red shoes with the dog bite are proudly on my feet. It really doesn’t matter what others think does it? And anyway the big grin on my face will distract from my feet.

(An excerpt from My Big Trip Diary)

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