Why unplanned holidays are fantastic!
Have you ever gone on an unplanned holiday? The question almost seems paradoxical, as most holidays involve some level of planning, but seriously, Bubbles and I, and two of our best nutcase friends, went on a completely unplanned holiday. We knew when we were going and when we were returning, and a rough idea of where we were going! We had a basic route sketched out around France, Germany, Luxembourg en route Belgium, and then back to France for the crossover at Calais.
We didn’t book hotels or read up on anything. If you’re raising an eyebrow over our nonchalance, you’d be happy to know that we had a little hair-raising experience of our own! It all started when we reached Brussels one evening. We thought we could stay somewhere on the outskirts of Brussels where hotels would not be as expensive as in Brussels itself. So, thinking we had the luxury of time, we sauntered around Grand Place, taking a myriad photos and doing a bit of crowd-watching. It’s such a lively place it’s difficult not to be caught up in the moment. Then, we went looking for the little social misfit, you know, the boy who pisses in public: Manneken Pis! Mind you, I don’t know what the fuss is about him and we weren’t really walking all the way to see the statue but he ended up being in our wander-path, so we obliged.
I can’t quite remember the sequence of events, but I think D and I got side-tracked into one of the many chocolate shops. We took turns distracting the shop owner so the other person could gorge on free ‘taster’ chocolates and biscuits dipped in chocolate fondue. Right about the time D was done, I was convinced the lady would be racking up a huge loss that day! 😀 In the meantime, J had an epiphany: we should have Belgian waffles while in Belgium! We went past many stalls and cafes, until one finally got her seal of approval. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best of waffles and Bubbles had fun taunting her for the rest of our trip about English waffles being better than Belgian waffles!
After all the dilly-dallying, we drove out of Brussels looking for a cheap hotel. We stopped at a few but they were all either full or way above our budget. This is how we stumbled upon Ghent. It was probably close to 10p.m. when we reached Ghent. Its beguilingly quaint appearance fooled us into thinking it’s a cowboy town and that accommodation would be dirt cheap. It was not only expensive, but mostly fully booked. Just as we were about to give up our search and resign to the idea of sleeping in the car, we stumbled upon a monastery-turned-hotel: Monasterium Poortackere Hotel.
Bubbles and D went to investigate. Yes, they did have rooms available. Yes, they were a pricey £90 per night. Pricey by monastery standards, methinks! Another round of contemplating sleeping in the car, then we decided we should stay at the hotel. Room keys and luggage in hand, we gingerly made our way through the dimly lit corridors to our rooms. When we entered our room, I could feel myself both gawking and grimacing at the same time. I hadn’t been prepared to see before me a room so big. It was at least twice the size of normal hotel rooms and about ten times the size of the Pod in New York! The bathroom was bigger than the Pod, I kid you not! The room, decorated in muted colours blended rather tastefully with its antique furniture. So why the grimace, you might ask. It must have been a mix between the dull incandescent light bathing the room with shadows and the creaking of the floor beneath our feet; but the room felt very eerie. So eerie that us girls, who were initially tired and contemplating staying back in the rooms while the boys went to buy something to eat, decided there was no way we were staying alone, or even with each other as company!
So, out we went for dinner. After cups of pot noodles later (it was nearly 12 midnight and only the local ‘Spar’ was open), we decided to call it a night. I was so scared of the room that I wondered how I was going to fall asleep. Add the worry of what might find me in my dreams…or that I might need the bathroom in the middle of the night, I was sceptical of catching a few winks that night! This was without a doubt the scariest room I had slept in! Okay, I once stayed in a hotel in Melaka that was rumoured to be haunted, didn’t experience anything overnight, but in the morning I woke up to sounds of furniture being dragged across the room above ours for hours. But who’s scared of the daytime ghost? Anyway, I somehow managed to sleep and it was a real good sleep! I couldn’t even remember having any dreams!
The next morning, we found out D and J had an equally good sleep. So much for the fear of ghosts! Bubbles, emboldened by daylight (I’m sure), said “what did you think was going to happen last night? This is a monastery – there aren’t any ghosts here!” Yes, Bubbles, but what if exorcisms had been carried out here many moons ago and the released spirits had remained in those rooms?! Or what if the spirit of dead nuns roamed the rooms by night? *shivers*
Anyway, why do I think unplanned holidays are fantastic? It’s probably because anticipation is sometimes better than realisation and as much as we think we want certainty in our lives, its the unknown that fuels us. To take the words of Robert Luis Stevenson in the literal sense, “Little do ye know your own blessedness, for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive…”