Monday, July 22, 2013

An Encounter with My Guardian Angel (a true story)

The bus arrived in Brussels thirty minutes ahead of schedule. It was around 3:30AM on a Thursday- the 24th of January 2013 when a Megabus from Paris dropped us off at the bus stop somewhere in Rue du Cardinal Mercier. Aside from me, there was a young couple who also got off but as the bus left for Amsterdam, the lovers instantly disappeared as they walked through the foggy, dimly-lit lane. The sloped street was lined with reasonably towering buildings but only few had their interior lights on.

I could recall that the bus driver announced earlier that the temperature in Brussels was sitting at around -4'C. Awkwardly wrapped in my modest, layered Australian winter clothes, I had my backpack on... I was alone- a total stranger left standing on a dark, shed-less bus stop with my Beerenberg greenbag (which I had been taking along with me all the way from Adelaide). I looked around... the freshly-fallen snow off-street was ankle-deep. That was my initial experience in Brussels, I was in the middle of the city which, at that moment- appeared exactly like a deserted, ghost town!

I started walking but I didn't know where I was heading. I didn't have a compass. After crossing a few streets downhill, I saw a 5-star hotel across the Brussels Central Railway Station that was not operating that time. I am a student, a budget traveler and can't afford to get a room from that high-end accommodation.

Luckily, in front of that hotel (the name I can't recall) there was a taxi waiting for any potential passenger. I approached and briefly told the young driver about my European adventure. Francisco, who, he said, had a sister in Perth, Western Australia told me to hop in his cab with a promise that he'd take me to a backpacker's district in the city. After a quick (maybe 5-minute) drive, the taxi pulled over the street and I saw a few signage indicating my preferred accommodation. I paid, thanked the driver, and alighted...

It was nearly four in the morning. I had pressed the door bell and spoken to four sleepy receptionists in four different backpacker hostels but the three were fully-booked and one was asking for Euro40,00 for a short stay! I walked off and explored around a bit, met an intoxicated young local who spoke to me in a language I can't understand! I was thinking to spend a few hours in a local coffee shop until it gets bright and the city comes back to life but there were quite a few customers inside who seemed drunk and at that time singing all their hearts out along with the karaoke!

I left and walked... and walked until I spotted a relatively presentable hotel- I think it was 3-star-rated. Tired and desperate, I pressed the bell and I was welcomed. I briefly told the receptionist about my European escapade and eventually he offered a room for Euro25,00. I didn't have a choice.

4:45AM. I got a small but clean, comfortable room with en suite and a free Wi-Fi! I set my alarm clock and while I was on my bed, I was still thinking about my Euro25,00! I initially thought that there was a spacious bus station in Brussels like what they have in London. I thought I could spend a few hours in a well-heated Belgian bus terminal, take a quick nap on the benches and start roaming around the city as soon as it gets bright. But no, there's none! I had spent Euro25,00 that was supposedly allocated for my Euro22,00 Brussels Sightseeing Day Tour. I was lying comfortably on that bed but I was left unhappy of what I had just paid. How can I explore the city of Brussels with my very limited budget? Then everything went blank... I fell asleep.

I checked out at 8:45AM and with the help of the city map and a few directions from the receptionist, I was able to get to one of the Métro de Bruxelles stations where I caught a train that would take me to the heart of Brussels. A series of connected passenger rail cars slithered through an old subway. The next thing I knew I was already in the middle of the freezing and bustling cobblestoned streets of the de facto capital of the European Union. I had seen export-quality chocolate shops and artisan waffle stalls everywhere!

(In one of the stations of Métro de Bruxelles with my historic Beerenberg greenbag.)
In one of the stations of Métro de Bruxelles with my historic Beerenberg greenbag.

After a few free chocolate tastings, and after having a piece of Belgian waffle, I finally found the closest bus stop for the City of Brussels Sightseeing Tour. Even with a limited budget, I had to do this 'day-trip' hop-on, hop-off bus tour 'cause I only have until 3:30PM in Brussels (I need to catch another Megabus for my trip to Amsterdam).

9:30AM. A double-Decker, well-labeled, red bus came and stop. A few tourists were getting off, and I was one of those who were waiting to board to experience Brussels in a day (okay, in six hours only). Momentarily, there was this large-built woman (but not fat) who's just hopped off the bus- a Caucasian and looked like she's in her early fifties with a bright face and very friendly aura. She smiled at me and asked, "Have you got a tour ticket for this bus?"

"Uh?! Nahhh, I still have to purchase mine from the bus driver," smiling, I politely replied.

"Here, take my ticket, son. I have finished my tour," she said while agressively inserting her Euro22,00-worth Brussels Sightseeing ticket into my gloved right hand.

"Shhhh!" She gestured with her index finger in front of her closed, pouting lips. She winked at me and glanced back to the driver who didn't noticed what she had just done.

I looked straight into her eyes and said, "Oh, thank you!"

Then it's my turn to enter the bus. Before I stepped in to present MY TICKET to the driver, I quickly turned my head around to wave to that lady but she's mysteriously gone! ...vanished into nowhere!

I felt I was truly blessed! Earlier that day I was worried of spending Euro25,00 for my accommodation but now I got a city sightseeing ticket for free!

I believe that that lady was my guardian angel! Recall that at 9:30AM she said she had already finished her tour. Way too early because on her or 'my ticket' (that I still keep until now) it was printed:

PURCHASED 24.01.2013 09:36:36
Valid 24 hours. Keep your ticket.

This photo was taken after I finally hopped off the bus after my Brussels Sightseeing Tour- the exact location where I met the woman who gave me her day-trip ticket.
This photo was taken after I finally hopped off the bus after my Brussels Sightseeing Tour- the exact location where I met the woman who gave me her day-trip ticket.



bertN said...

Good for you! Made up for the 25 euros you spent for a short stay at your hotel. Talagang guardian angel mo nga.

RJ said...

Oo nga po. Nakakatuwa.

(Kumusta na po kayo? Madalang na po akong nakakadalaw sa mga blogs ngayon- busy po kasi sa university. Tapos ko na po ang 50% ng DVM program, 3 sem nalang po.)

Agony said...

RJ akoy nagbabalik... c Agony hehehe sanay naalala mo p pre! follow ko n ito sa new blog q. ^_^