#Europe2017 Day 8: Antwerpen to Brussels to London to Frustration!

No pics for this day until I get my phone back 🙁

We got up early (9:30? Felt very early considering the 2am bedtime!) and my first job was to figure out how we were going to get to the Brussels airport.

I regret not looking at this before I got a flight, as the train from Antwerp to London is really inexpensive and it would have been so easy to do (not worrying about get-there-two-hours-early and then go through customs at Heathrow… yuck!). We already had to get on a train anyway… why not just ride it all the way out??

I think the travel agent gets paid for flights, but not train reservations. So we spent hours and hours doing plane stuff (for a 50 minute flight). Live and learn. Here’s what the train ride would have looked like…. just a little more than 3 hours total:

We had a short train ride to Brussels, where some LDS missionaries were injured (along with 32 murders). Terrorism is so disgusting. It was an airport, but it was also a bit of a somber experience to be there.

Good thing we got there like 3 hours early… the line was long and seemed to not move at all. There was one, sometimes two, people at the British Airways desk. There was a couple of older Spanish ladies in front of us who finally made it through the line, only to be told “you got in the wrong line, so get in line again so you can go to the next desk over.” I thought that was horribly poor customer service but hey, I speak up and I might get on a plane to somewhere bad :p

When they got to the desk again one lady spoke Spanish and the impatiently frustated BA employee said “Ma’am, this is Brussels. We speak Flemish, French, and English, NOT Spanish!” Poor Spanish lady. She finally made it through :/

There was an English chap behind us who we got to talking to. His advice about food: “Order fish and chips, but let it sweat for 10 minutes before you eat it. It’s much better that way.” All I could think of was this phrase: fish_chips_sweaty

The other thing he said was that no, Londoners are not stuck up, and they aren’t necessarily rude or hurried. They are just “reserved, and you might get ignored a lot.” Got it. I won’t take it personal now that I know that 🙂 He was a very nice guy to talk to, really.

Once we got our boarding passes and checked our luggage we split up for food. William and I went to this great very common restaurant called Panos. They ate there the day before and said it was awesome… the sandwiches were already made and prewrapped, and I was kind of thinking “gross, I want FRESH.” But the label said it was made only 15 minutes earlier… and there were no other choices, so we got our 4.50 euro sandwiches and let me tell you: HEAVEN. They were SO, SO good.panos_logo

The girls went to the other place that was more healthy looking… but they got the same thing (a sandwich) and couscous and pineapple. All of it was so good (we were very hungry, and it was already after 1pm). I think it was around this time that David, our Airbnb host, had agreed that we could stay at his place. This was the beginning of our nightmare… we didn’t know what was to come, we just knew that once we landed we would have a place to call home 🙂 “How do you recommend we get to your place?” “Oh, take this tube to Mile End, then get on bus 339.” “Great… how long will that be?” “About 1.5 to 3+ hours.” WHAT??? Where were we going, the U.S.???

We head to our gate, B5, and wait, and wait, and wait. I got some post cards from Brussels (even though we didn’t tour there, but hey, it was Belgium), and soon enough we were boarding our plane. We were in the very back, but it was amazing to be in a place where everyone spoke only English! So far everyone has, but there was always a lot of other foreign language sounds in the background. I think we all still felt like foreigners, though.

I slept most of the flight, but woke with enough time to look out the window over England. You know, like that scene in Princess Diaries when they fly into Genovia, and see the castle? It was almost exactly like that, except I was in the back row of a commercial plane, I didn’t see any castles, and I wasn’t newly minted royalty.

But at least we’d soon be in the comfort of David’s home, right? (wrong)

We got off the plane and walked from corridor to corridor, going down a very long escalator, to the train that would take us to customs and baggage reclaim (not just claim, but reclaim!). When we get to customs we see a huge, thick line, and think “oh crud. But surely they will get us through quickly. This is a big airport that must have a great system!”

The great system was five or six customs agents for about 1,000 people in our line. There was a drop of molassas on the ground that was moving faster than we were… ugh. That’s okay, bonding time. We were in the line with a lot of non-EU people… that is, people from all over the world. No one was talking, but there were people sporting all kinds of fashions.

Finally it was our turn, and we all went together (because we were a group). “When are you leaving London? (On the 31st) Where are you going? (Paris) Have you bought your flight tickets to Paris yet? (No, we are taking the tube under the channel). {Look of incredulity} You mean the train? I don’t know what it’s called but whatever goes under the channel. Do you have your hotel reservations for Paris? Yes. What kind of entrepreneur are you in America? You mean job seekers, who don’t have any money, have you pay for your site? Isn’t that hard for them?

All the questions are so interesting… they really want to get in your business, but I don’t get the rhyme or reason. Really, though, this guy was nice, pleasant, and refreshing, especially after being in line for somewhere around 90 minutes.

From there we go to get our bags. There was a trainstation sales guy selling tickets on our way, so he sold us tickets to Paddington Station, which is where we would get the train to our Airbnb flat. It was 100 euros, which felt very expensive at the time (and even more expensive once I realized it was only a few stops down the line).

Then, down the super long escalators to our baggage (re)claim #5, and ours are some of the last few bags in the area. We grabbed our bags and, with tickets in hand, somehow figured out exactly how to get to the train (it’s not obvious for first timers). We situated our luggage, grabbed our seats, and just took it all in. How weird to be in England, with all the English speakers and signs in English!

A guy next to us leaned over and in a New York accent (the tough guy accent) said “There’s an app you guys need. It’s awesome. It’s CityMapper… it will tell you where to go, how to get there, and prices for different ways of getting there. You need to get it.” It was awesome… it was like being in Silicon Valley and the entreprenuer was telling you to download his app. But this wasn’t this guys app, he was just excited about how cool it was.

William and I chatted with him for the entire trip… he’s a very nice guy, having only been in London for three months, after spending most of his career in NYC. We talked about 9/11, his family, his work, and he asked us if we were Mormon. He asked William about his mission that he’ll serve, and where he wants to go. Turns out he had some clients in SLC, and he knew about the LDS church and missions, and was really respectful about it. This conversation was a great part of our trip!

After we got to Paddington Station the whole world opened up to us… there were apparently 16 platforms to take trains to everywhere you could imagine. We were looking for a train to Mile End, and after walking around and looking at self-help ticket kiosks, I finally found a ticket office and got some help. “Just buy these tickets (5 euros each), and it’s a direct train to Mile End. Go to … well, let me draw you a map (which was almost in 3d)….” I got a map, not to scale, with explicit instructions, and we were off again… looking for platform #16.

We walked this way and that way, turning here, up the escalators there, then down the lift, and finally made it to… some platform with no numbers. It had names, but no numbers. “Excuse me, we’re trying to get to Mile End. Is this the right place?” Yes, get on this train right here, and don’t get off until you get to Mile End!

Wow, what luck… a nice guy in London who was helpful, and the train was right there!! We loaded on, with all our luggage, and started our trip. It took us a bit to figure out what the maps meant, and where we were, and if we really where on the right train or not, but eventually we figured it out. Yahoo!! We were getting so close to getting to David’s Flat!

Until… a snag. We were only about three stops away from Mile End, and then our train turned and we realized were were on almost the right train, but now it was doubling back! Get off, fast, now! We got off, and at the train station asked a guy who said that he gets this question all the time. We were at the right platform, but got on the wrong train. There were two trains, and we should have gotten on the other one. The easiest way to fix this would be to go up the stairs (with all our luggage, which was feeling heavier now) and walk a few minutes to the next station (Aldgate East, I think).


By this time I think it was around 7:30 or so. We had had hardly any food and were exhausted, and now David, our host, was complaining that we weren’t at his flat. He was going to have a friend meet us, and then he lectured us for choosing him last minute, and that he had a meeting until 10pm…. it got worse from there.

We decided to get some food because we were about to fall over, and found this awesome street (whitecastle and Osborn St??) with lots of curry restaurants. We went to one that looked like a hole in the wall, but was really, really excellent (and that’s not just because we were hungry). The Travelling Trio had curry and I had some kind of chicken naan taco sandwich thing. It was SOOOOO GOOOOD.

At this restaurant we found out that David, our once-gracious host, was fed up, that we made him miss a business meeting and deal, and it was all our fault, and his phone died, and blah blah blah our fault not his, and we had to call airbnb to cancel because we were just horrible, and how could we not have been at his flat an hour earlier (we were easily a 35 minute uber drive away).

Seriously. It is 8pm in London and our stupid idiot host who was going to cash in on us for just occupying a couple of beds freaking cancelled our plans. Who does that? Seriously, now we are stuck in who-knows-where-London, it’s after 8pm, and we have nowhere to sleep. Now what?

I call Airbnb and talk to Jack, who then calls David (good luck with that, I bet he’s going to (a) lecture you and then (b) dump on you about how horrible we are and how we made him lose money on his business deal), and then calls me back 30 minutes later (it’s starting to get dark now)… yep, David doesn’t want us to come. And, my girls absolutely don’t want to stay at his house… he sounds like a creep and the way he’s treating us proves he’s a real jerk.

So Airbnb escalates us. “I want to call David, to see if I can save this reservation.” I bet you do, but Jack already tried. “Just talked to David, and we are going to cancel this… but it will be hard to get you a place for tonight.” Huh… so what are we supposed to do, put out a cup and beg on the streets of London tonight?? “We’ll call you soon.” Okay, I’m not going to hold my breath, last time soon was 30ish minutes.

So, we call an uber from the super-awesome restaurant on Curry Row (not the official name of the street) and get in for a 1+ hour drive to the LDS London Temple (which is one hour south of London). We’ll stay there the night. Didn’t know you could do that? This is one of the temples that has “accommodations,” which are rooms with two small twin beds to accommodate the families and youth groups that come to the temple from far away. Kind of like us 🙂 london_temple_welcomelondon_temple_night

The uber cost about $75. That was not money we had planned to spend, and we were getting in much later than planned, and were tired and hungry. But I’ll tell you, once we got to the Temple, and into the Accommodations building, it was so peaceful. Gentle, safe, quiet, no stress. We were here, and we could rest. And tomorrow, we would do our laundry and that would be so amazing (to have clean clothes).

Oh yeah, I gotta tell you about our Uber driver. He is William from Congo. He’s been in London for 25 years, has three kids, and was delightful. Spending an hour in the car with him, you learn about the man. His primary language is French, and he gave us French lessons! It was really a lot of fun.

So, what a day. To top it off, I left my phone in William’s car. When we got to the temple we got out and started to unload our luggage while I was thinking about how we were going to get in the gates (which were closed). There was no one around… hm, are we sneaking in? Are we climbing the fence, and throwing our luggage over? Are we sleeping on the lawn outside the gate until morning? One of the Trio went to the intercom and pushed the button… yeah! The security guard was there and would open the gates. “Don’t worry about the luggage, we’ll just walk from here!”

Needless to say, it was a little bit chaotic, and in the hustle and bustle my phone stayed on my seat. I really, really hope to get it back because it has some pics I want. We have a few more days in town, so hopefully I see my phone again. Otherwise… adios 🙁

The trip continues tomorrow, after we are well-rested!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.