I love Brussels. There I said it, I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it. It was an accidental addition to my most recent trip to Europe and once again, my overweight luggage worked in my favor and the travel gods smiled down on me once more.
Some of you who have heard of my recent trips know that I have two suitcases, one is a crimson behemoth I’ve affectionately dubbed “Big Red”. Ok, so it isn’t the most creative nickname, but “Big Red” and her carry on counterpart, (you guessed it) “Little Red” is what we started calling them and the monikers stuck. Since I’m not big into backpacks Big Red has accompanied me on several of my latest longer journeys and this European trip was no exception.
I should interject this story with a quick fact/confession. I’m a horrible packer. I’m a self proclaimed suitcase specific hoarder with a serious shoe problem. I would LOVE to be one of those travelers that can roll up to the airport with a tiny tote in toe but no matter how many times I repack my bag, fold and roll all of my clothes, and begrudgingly leave that extra pair of shoes behind, I’m still stuck with far too many items. This leaves me with the “You pack it, you schlep it” rule. This motto guilts me into carrying this giant bag wherever I go, almost always politely declining help, mainly out of stubbornness and travelers shame.
So now that you have a better sense of my packing style, you’ll appreciate the fact that my bag was over 50 pounds which was no problem going from Minneapolis to Ireland. The problem was the Ryan Air flight from Dublin to Glasgow that had me paying 80 Euros for my “large and in charge” luggage. My wallet was slimming as Big Red was growing and I refused to pay any more overweight baggage fees for the rest of the trip. So how to get from Scotland to Germany sans plane? I started looking into other modes of transport and I should have known the answer would be a Megabus because it seems like for me, all roads eventually lead to a Megabus.
When my dad had cancer I was taking the Megabus every weekend from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to see him and every time I always seemed to have some crazy encounter or interesting tale to tell once I stepped off that blue double decker. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Megabus is a mega inexpensive way to travel in the UK, US, Canada and it has now expanded to several other European countries. Their claim to fame is having fares as low as $1. Sounds too good to be true? Listen, I don’t know how they do it, I just know that getting a ride from Pittsburgh to New York for $3.50 is nothing short of magical. Bus trips however, obviously aren’t for everyone, as some rides can take hours longer than flights, but with free wifi, bathrooms and bearable seating accommodations, this makes for a tempting alternative and for a frequent traveler it’s a godsend.
I decided to see if I could get a cheap ticket on a Megabus getting me as close as possible to Hamburg, Germany while avoiding my airline baggage fees. I found an overnight ticket from Edinburgh, Scotland to Brussels, Belgium, for drumroll please… ONE EURO! That’s right, for a measly Euro my big ass bag and I could travel south to London and then on to Belgium. It looked like I was going to Belgium for a few days, it was a last minute change to the trip but I hoped it would turn out to be a good one. I knew there was an English Channel separating the two cities though and I wasn’t sure how we were getting over that body of water but for basically $1.50 I really didn’t care if Ms. Frizzle drove her Magic School Bus there, as long as we arrived in the morning.
So Big Red and I board in Edinburgh, Scotland and after several naps, people watching, and staring out the window until almost cross-eyed to combat boredom, we finally reached London, except due to an accident on the way into town we were over 2 hours late. So I did what any American would do while we sat in bumper to bumper traffic, I called the customer service number to complain and make sure my connecting bus waited patiently at Victoria Station until our arrival. Your welcome other mild mannered Europeans on my bus, my crazy antics saved us from sleeping at the bus station until morning. We all squeezed into the next bus and head out of London hoping to catch the 2am ferry to Calais, France. Aha, so we’ll be taking a ferry to get to France, the mystery is solved! The girl sitting next to me brought a backpack so big she had to squish it on her lap for the whole ride. Yes, I’m quietly judging her as my suitcase with a weight loss problem lazily rests in storage below us.
We went through customs prior to boarding the ferry. What a rag tag bunch you’ll encounter when you board a ferry to France at 2 am. You have some drunk truckers at a bar at the stern of the boat and some other drunk passengers singing Turkish songs at the bow. In search for a bench to sleep on I chose the inebriated choir as the lesser of the two evils and their off key singing lulled me to sleep. A few hours later we landed in Calais and by 7am I was in Belgium, only a quick 16 hour bus ride! I have to admit it was a long trip and would I do it again? Probably not, but for a Euro I couldn’t pass up the adventure!