Our first trip in Belgium was to a subdued college town in southern Belgium. At this point we were dying to get out of our hotel and tour around. The nearest “big” city was Mons, and it was conveniently 20 minutes away by train.
Figuring out the train schedule initially and getting to the right place at the right time was a bit of an adventure. We jumped on the local commuter line near our hotel (without purchasing tickets beforehand) which was jam-packed with high school and college kids. While getting some curious looks searching for a place to sit from the youngsters, the conductor intercepted us and asked for tickets- in French of course. With a bit of back and forth, he showed me the amount due on his portable ticket device. As this is going on, we noticed all the kids got dead silent and I could tell were intently entertained by what was going on. I actually didn’t have enough cash on hand to buy the tickets (the train, as it turns out, is NOT a cheap form of transportation here). This brought the conductor into a bit of a Belgian fury- which is basically a series of disapproving grunts mixed with spitting and eye rolling. I flashed my Mastercard and this brought out even more pleasantries. Long-story short: he walked off with my debit card and came back 10 minutes into the train ride with printed tickets and the card. I thanked him in French, and the reply was some grunt. But we were on our way!