Day 21, it’s Friday and it’s the last day of the European school holidays, that’s good news, but it’s bad news for today and the week-end with thousand is kids and their parents trying to squeeze to last bits of life out of the holidays.
After yesterday’s big day for all of us we do sleep in a little, until the Navigator gets motivated and has looked at Facebook and realised that it’s 9.30 and we should get a move on. As we get out of the lift there’s a gentle hum, as we get to the foyer of the hotel it’s a loud chatter, almost a roar actually. There is a women’s health conference, and it’s full of women with lanyards around their necks, blocking the way out, ignorance in their own importance, and a few token men, poor bastards must be ushers or something, anyway Paul best to stop there, to keep muttering could lead to repercussions.
Bags packed, stored at the hotel and we walk down town for breakfast. A little place at €8.50 gets us freshly squeezed orange juice, a croissant, a piece of multi grain bread with butter and jam and a coffee/tea/hot chocolate and it all comes with a pleasant waitress.
We wander down to the canals, around the canals, over the canals, searching for the “F…..g swans” from the movie “In Brugge” and all we see is tourist boats full of f….g tourists, no f….g swans, what gives? Eventually we find some swans, who spend most of their time preening their feathers and hardly any time gracefully swimming in the canals, not very swanlike if you ask me, I’m thinking of complying to the Brugge tourist people, they need to have a little fireside chat to their swans otherwise I mightn’t come back.
Unfortunately there are thousands of tourists around the canals, and these are the that aren’t in boats, they are walking around clogging up the footpaths with their French and German accents, lots of Americans ( pick them up a block away they are that loud), and poms in t shirts soaking up the balmy 20 degree heatwave in Belgium. This doesn’t deter the navigator from a little shopping though. We check out a beautiful church that has Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child, the only sculpture of his that’s out of Italy, it’s in Carrara marble, not big but worth seeing.
We drop some of Tim’s ashes into the canal, these will end up in the North Sea, so a little adventure there for him.
At 4pm we wander back to the hotel, use the facilities ( Newsflash for the Bowel Queens – things are working fine!), and walk to the train station. It’s about a 15 minute walk, the Navigator struggles a bit, it gets a bit warm, tries to make the odd wrong turn, but Mark hangs back and watches out for her.
The 4.58 train the Brussels Midi ( tip for any one travelling Brussels Midi is the main train station not Brussels Centrum), the train is pretty full so we wait until we get to Ghent to get a seat. Just as well we do as about 30 French 10-12 year olds get on the train in our carriage at Ghent looking for seat, then when we get to Brussels we strategically place Genelle in front to move them out of the way with a withering glare if needed, followed by Mark to pick them up and throw them if they get smart and me last to settle the peace with any distraught mothers. This works, the glare I mean, because the path to the platform is clear for us. (Do you think I make this stuff up?)
Tip – if travelling to Brugge by train book the First Class tickets as then you will get a seat between Brussels and Brugge, maybe you will have to do the whole trip 1st Class to get that section. First Class are the carriages with yellow stripes on the top of the windows.
The second thing to do is work out where your carriage pulls up, usually means asking one of the train staff, in our case the Thalys people who wander by occasionally on the platform.
The wait at Brussels Midi ( or Zuid is the local lingo, Flemish I think) is taken up with a little food, a little window shopping, it’s a big train station with 22 platforms so there are plenty of shops. Our train is leaving at 8.13pm so we have a little time to kill. Soon we find Platform 6B is our platform and wait with the crowd, we’re given a bum steer by a bloke in uniform as to where carriage 17 will stop so it’s a little hustle to get down the front where it’s located, when we get on the baggage spots are nearly full, Genelle is loiteringing in the doorway as I try to sort the bags out, I think unwittingly blocking people from getting on the train, and the female guard gives the hurry up to get out of the way as the doors ar closing and people need to get on. I stowe Marks and my bag, they are less full (there’s diplomacy for you!) and Genelle’s has to come down to where our seat is, it’s a little tense with the navigator. We find our seats in a pretty full train, and we ie the train, slide away from Brussels quietly, in no time at all we’re sitting at 160 kph and then not much later a much faster speed.
The trip from Brussels to Paris on this train is 1 hour 20 minutes, 3 hours if you’re driving according to Google Maps so the train is a fast and efficient way to travel. As the sun sets in the west we glide into France, how do I know you might ask, well my Lyca mobile SIM card tells me we’re in France with a text message relating to settings on the phone. There are lights flashing on the horizon from lots of wind turbines, looks funny with the silhouette of village church steeples with the shapes of the wind turbines blended in.
The City of Light arrives and we get off the train, Mark is the advance party and main bags are off, Genelle and I are off a bit after that. We take the wrong exit and miss the official taxi line, we know that now but we get a taxi and I reckon we get ripped off, BUT, we do get to the hotel. TIP – find the official Taxi line and get the meter turned on in Paris, the shoulder shrug and downturned French look when you suggest rip off is a bit disconcerting at 10 o’clock after a long day. Anyway, one for the future but geeez I hate that feeling that you think you’ve been ripped off but you’re not sure.
The Hotel La Familia have f….d up the booking, Genelle thinks, and we have 2 rooms but they aren’t exactly what we wanted, but it’s a bed and it’s Paris and it’s busy busy busy, so it’s better than the street. They’ll have her to deal with tomorrow, poor buggers won’t know what’s hit them.
More on Paris tomorrow, after Genelle for a Bike About bicycle tour of Paris tomorrow, let’s see how much stress that gives her, anyway for tonight Auvoir