January 24, 2011

Discovering Charleroi & Such

My lovely Charleroi was voted "Europe's Most Depressing City" in 2009. I am so glad I can bring my own version of sunshine to it.

My roommate dropped me off in the heart of the Lower City in Albert I Square at a cafe. I have mastered the ordering of "Chocolat Chaud" and "croissant," mainly by pointing at them on the menu. After I enjoyed these massively overpriced items, I stepped outside into the 35 degree air. Martina had said down this way was this and down that way was that, but did I remember which was what? No way!

I walked down and around the square and found McDonalds, then realized the river was whichever way I was going. Once I found the river, I found the huge Charleroi Sud train/bus station. Once I wandered to and from one side, I then found the "Tourisme" sign and found an entire wall of free maps and an English-speaking person. She showed me how to map my way to Charles II Square (the main hub), and I was armed and prepped for the task. After I paid 55 cents to use the bathroom, I crossed the river again and began my ascent to the rest of the Upper City.

The rush and thrill of sighting an H&M and Foot Locker made my day. Of course, when I finally did reach the main square, it was disappointing to see the huge fountain is out of commission for construction, and the huge belfry is only open to climb like twice a year. But the Basilica did provide a nice escape, and the lady inside was beside herself that an American liked the mosaic at the front of the altar. I found a fast food place where the insanely large amount of French fries was served, and the entire inside had paintings from Disney movies. I sat under the fairies from Sleeping Beauty.

I managed to find my bus stop and get on my bus. But I passed the stop I was supposed to get off at, so I got off on the next one. I walked in what I hoped was the right direction, and within 5 minutes knew exactly where I was. Bring it, Jumet! I got your number!

Today was just relaxing time. Last night I didn't get home until 1:30am because I stayed in Mont-Saint Guibert with my coach and one American friend from another team, Ryan. We actually got to watch the Bears/Packers REAL football game in the gym's pub, and out of the 25 people in the bar, I knew the 2nd most about football.

I drink a lot of Sprite these days, mainly because everyone wants to get me a drink, and when I have said "water," they think I'm joking. The "Sprite" answer is just as disappointing to them, but at least they know I'm serious and the Sprite shows up. It might be a sin that a non-alcoholic ended up in Belgium, but at least I readily enjoy the chocolate.

Totally enjoying this gift of a vacation!!!