Sometimes you just can’t beat a coach journey. It may not be the fastest way to reach your destination but by gum it’s the cheapest. I picked up my first ever Flixbus in the early hours of Wednesday morning. My bus would depart at 3:20am to make its way to Brussels where I would need to change. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the bus service. They looked nice from the outside when I’d seen them around, but as we all know, outward appearances can be deceiving.
I was first to arrive at the bus station at the rear of Maastricht train station for the 3:15am bus. With dormant trains behind me, and a road of houses opposite me, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit exposed and vulnerable. Maastricht is quiet at the best of times. At that time in the morning, it was an absolute ghost town.
As it neared three and there was no sign of the bus, or any other passengers, I started to ponder my impending doom. I thought I should send my mum a final goodbye just in case, as I was perfecting the voicenote, some other people rocked up. Using my extensive knowledge of Criminal Minds, I deduced that the couple intended me no harm, and were very likely here to also board the bus, as opposed to kidnap me. This helped calms my nerves. Not long after their arrival, appeared another two gentlemen. Now we were a band of merry men. No one could take us now.
Particularly, the bus. As 3:15 ticked by there was still no sign of it. What I must commend the company on however is their bus app. I could see on the app, that whilst the bus was yet to arrive, it was on schedule to make it to us for it’s arrival time. The app even shows you the bus moving towards you – fantastic!
I was happy to see the double decker when it rolled into the station, with so few of us waiting, I figured there’d be plenty of room for us all, and there was. We boarded quickly and quietly and I navigated the slumbering passengers already on board to a double seater I could call my own in the back of the top deck.
The bus was uber cosy, warm and almost silent, with all the curtains drawn. I didn’t plan to sleep on this coach as the time to Brussels was only 2 hours, I didn’t want to mess myself up. Staying awake and alert now would be advantageous when it came to making my transfer. ‘Wouldn’t want to be doing that bleary eyed’, was my thinking. As such, I cracked open my laptop and resumed my day’s activity of burning through episode after episode of Chicago Fire. 3 episodes later we’d hit Brussels!
My transfer time, matched that of the first bus ride – 2 hours. As we all exited the bus some people took refuge opposite the bus, but as it was so windy I took off to find shelter. We had nothing but time after all. I sat down in the bus station, which whilst still drafty, much bettered the conditions outside. The station was scattered with rough sleepers escaping the cold of the bitter wind. I sat quietly on a bench, catching up on voice notes from friends and sending correspondences.
Eventually, I went in search of a bathroom, which was when I realised my fatal error. Heading up an unmarked staircase led me to Brussels North Station, fully equipped with Starbucks, several panini joints, and even more importantly, better insulation. I’d been freezing my little butt off downstairs for an hour, before coming across this haven. I bought a tomato and mozzarella panini, which I must say was delightful, and a tea to warm me up. The one bathroom I came across proved to be mission impossible to infiltrate, so I resigned to go once my new coach arrived. There wasn’t long at this point until 7:30am.
A text revealed that the bus was running behind schedule, and I should expect it at 7:40 instead. I joined a group of people outside, nearby where we first got off our bus. A Flixbus employee ushered me to stand in a particular spot for the London bus and we all proceeded to wait. The wind seemed to get more forceful and biting by the moment.
10 minutes, turned to 20 which turned to 30 and there was still no sign of the bus, until tada in a striking burst of lime green and orange, there it was! The bus to London. It was time to begin the second leg of the trip. Well almost, there were several hiccups getting out of Brussels, including a passenger fleeing and abandoning their luggage, two emergency brakes and there generally being a lot of commotion about us missing our train.
Amongst all this, my main concern was timing my trip to the loo. With all the violent twists and turns, I didn’t want to go at the wrong time and end up being catapulted down the narrow staircase.
As we approached some traffic, I took the opportunity and made a dash for it. The toilet was clean, bright and well-appointed with signs in several languages. One thing that particularly stood out was ‘As with the rest of the coach, there is no room to stand in the bathroom. Is that okay with you gents?’. I don’t know why this made me laugh so much. Perhaps it was poised as a question, like the point was open for discussion, but there’s really nothing you could do about it once you’re on the coach and in the toilet, except for just not use it. That’s the only slight negative to the bus, the ceilings are quite low throughout, so you will need to walk along the aisles with your head ducked. Either that, or whack you head on the bag holders like I did as I sat down. The graceful giraffe that I am.
Anyway, with an empty bladder, snuggled up under my blanket is, where I write to you from now. I’ve finished the episodes of Chicago Fire I have and am debating depleting my roaming data to stream some more. I think I just might. It’s really that good. It’s kind of taken over my life. You can read more about it here if you’re interested.
That’s it for now. Will update you on the rest of the journey once it’s finished. Will I get more fire action? We will make our train? Will I arrive in London ever? Find out next time on, ‘She’s Up and Away’!