When Flemish sounds a lot like French

In Belgium, Transportation by Stacy

As we rolled into March another trip was at the top of my birthday wish list. Besides, it was about time the littlest broke in his passport and the grandparents had been conned into coming out for their grandson’s third birthday. What better time to plan another vacation? So off to Brugge we went. And by “we” I should clarify: the Mommy-blogger, the grandparents, and all three kids. And a Eurostar mistake just waiting to happen.

Daddy, aka the Photographer who’s incapable of getting lost (see the “About us” section if you forgot his description), had to stay behind and work. You know, somebody has to fund all the traveling… Despite the fact that he couldn’t join us, he researched and booked our Eurostar and train tickets and found us a cool apartment to rent. I just frantically cleaned in preparation for my parents’ arrival.

My parents arrived on a Sunday morning. They got the whirlwind 3-hour highlights tour of London and we kept them awake until bedtime. They were given Monday to acclimate and then were whisked to the train before sunrise Tuesday morning. I should mention here that in addition to two jet-lagged grandparents, Diaper Baby is a lousy sleeper and wakes up every two hours at night to nurse. So all three adults undertaking this adventure are legitimately sleep deprived.

Grandpa had spent Monday evening reviewing our itinerary and was placed in charge of passports and tickets. Mommy and grandma just had to help with the bags and not lose the kids. Easy enough. Train 1 dropped us of at King’s Cross station in London where we had to cross the street to get to the Eurostar Terminal at St Pancras. Again, easy enough. We’d researched this part and knew where to go. And now we had over an hour to relax before our train to Brussels. As we were eating breakfast inside the Eurostar terminal, I commented on the departing trains. One was going to Paris, the other to Brussels. Brussels’ Eurostar announcement on the overhead screens had a funny name in italics underneath it that read “Lille Europe”. In passing I thought aloud, “That must be the name of the Brussels train station…”

Eurostar mistake family travel train belgium france flemish french grandparents

Eurostar mistake family travel train belgium france flemish french grandparents

We embarked on the Eurostar without incident, and even with the pressure changes through the Chunnel, the kids all had a blast. I debated taking Diaper Baby for a diaper change a little over an hour into our trip when, suddenly, the train started to slow down. Grandpa’s research had indicated we’d be on the Eurostar about TWO hours. “Wow, we’re in Belgium already?” I remarked to the Brits we’d befriended sitting across from us. They responded in the affirmative and began preparing to disembark. We hastily gathered the kids’ toys and jackets up and prepared to get off as well.

We made it off without incident and as I snapped a picture of my dad pushing the kids under the sign for “Lille Europe” as we exited the track area, Dad asked if this was Brussels. “Yep,” I responded, pointing at the Lille Europe sign above his head.lille europe Eurostar mistake family travel train belgium france flemish french grandparents
Up the elevator to the main terminal we went. And then it became obvious that Lille Europe Terminal was NOT Brussels Midi Terminal where we needed to catch our connecting train to Brugge. Oops, we must’ve gotten off a stop early in Belgium. There should be another train that can take us to Brugge here. So we asked at the terminal and they directed us to another terminal across the street. “I thought most people in Belgium spoke Flemish,” I commented to my parents as we headed across the street. The workers at the ticket booth were most definitely speaking French.

Eurostar mistake family travel train belgium france flemish french grandparentsAt the run-down train terminal we entered, the nice French-speaking attendant at the ticket counter managed to convey to us that we must take a bus to a train to another train to get to Brugge. Definitely seemed like a lot of work just to get to Brugge and over three hours more travel time.

Eurostar mistake family travel train belgium france flemish french grandparents

Can you read these cities? This is the paper the train attendant gave us the bus/train times.

Eurostar mistake family travel train belgium france flemish french grandparentsSo Grandpa left us waiting at the terminal for the bus and hiked back across the street to find out if we could get back on the Eurostar. I continued to toy with my phone which still was not letting me access the Internet. After a quick call to my husband (who had the brilliant idea to reset my phone), my internet began working at a snail’s pace. As I attempted to pull up Belgian train schedules random people keep approaching my mom and asking her for directions in French. “We must be in a really French area of Belgium. I mean, we had to cross through France to get to Belgium, maybe we’re just over the border.” I thought aloud. Lousy phone kept telling me the same thing the ticket lady had said. No trains direct to Brussels or Brugge. It made no sense.

Eurostar mistake family travel train belgium france flemish french grandparents Eurostar mistake family travel train belgium france flemish french grandparents The kids were getting irritable and restless. So I pulled up the Google Maps App to see if there was fast food nearby.

Oh. Where’s Lille Europe? It doesn’t look like we’re in Belgium on this map. Ooooooh, as I read the Wikipedia entry for “Lille”. “Hey mom, we’re in France.”

Dad returned a few minutes later with good news that we could hop back on the Eurostar in an hour. He still hadn’t realized we were in France. As I informed him of our location a funny smile came across his face. Another generation had just been introduced to the family vacations that as a child I’d come to know as “adventures”. A new adventure had begun. And I couldn’t get the stupid smirk off my face. Best start to my birthday vacation ever. Seriously. The adventure getting places was always the part I remembered most fondly from our trips growing up. And now it continues.