Monday, November 3, 2014

Nov 2nd - Leaving Paris arriving in Brussels

November 2nd
Woke up early and got ready to leave. I made sure I had left nothing behind. Packed all the last minute items that I was using. Rechecked the bathroom and bedside table. I gave myself about two hours to get to the right platform at Gare du Nord. It shouldn't have taken that long but in Bremen there was a last minute schedule change and I would have missed the train if I had just shown up 5 minutes before the train was scheduled to depart. Well it turned out that there were a lot of stairs to negotiate and many corridors were empty so I had to negotiate them by myself. I really appreciate the cities with elevators going to each level of platform. In Paris one day, to switch trains I had to come up two flights to get to the surface only to discover the metro was above ground and I needed to go up another two flights for that train. Anyway when I got to La Chappelle station I forgot how far through the tunnels I had to go to get to Gare du Nord. I was walking and walking and I was sure I was going in the wrong direction. I finally asked a guard and lo and behold I was 20 feet from the gate that separated the metro from the train station. I was about 45 minutes early. First I gave my two extra Metro tickets to an elderly gentleman with a cane who looked like he could use them. I hope he understood that they were new tickets. Next I sat near the departures board waiting for them to announce the gate for my train. And I waited and waited and waited. They finally announced the gate about fifteen minutes before the train left.
It was a fairly uneventful trip except for two little boys. One sat quietly and watched a DVD that his mother brought, earphones on so we weren't disturbed. The other wasn't bad but was bored so he was loud, and a bit of a pain. I wish his mum would have brought a DVD player for him.
I arrived in Brussels and of course couldn't find the Metro (no signs), so as usual I asked a cop. He said down this way and hang a left at the big Zebra - what - a big zebra!? So I walked on and almost walked past the statue of a horse in a zebra costume sitting at a table in the food court. What a laugh.
The metro let me off at De Laaken St. I walked down a block and found the place. Laura's boyfriend came down to let me in and carried the suitcase up the stairs. I forgot that the second floor is the third level in Europe. They count 0, 1, 2 not 1, 2, 3. Oh well I need the exercise if I'm going to eat treats.
I settled my luggage and headed downtown. It is cold in Brussels.
On the way out I took a picture of the courtyard at the back of the building. Very pretty. At first I was disappointed with the street and area I was in. It seemed plain and not exciting for being downtown. Then I discovered that I am one longish block from the Main Street running parallel to it. I found all the restaurants and stores I was looking for.  One block on the other side of Anspachlaan is the pedestrian portion of the downtown. It is all narrow streets and twists and turns. A church that has a front but the sides are all stores. Restaurants that have more seating outside than in. Their awnings nearly touching those on the other side of the street. Just enough room to walk. Cobblestone streets and souvenir shops rubbing shoulders with upscale jewellery and ladies wear stores. I love it.
Next on to the Grand Place. Gorgeous 500 year old buildings trimmed with gold paint. Architecture that is beautiful partly because you know they had no modern technology but the craftsmanship has lasted this long. The bones of the buildings are old but they are maintained so that they don't fall into disrepair. One of them today is covered up during maintenance but the covering is a picture of the building so the hoarding doesn't ruin the look of the square. Turn the corner and you find street musicians playing for their supper.
I made only one mistake today. I ordered moule frites. They were delicious steamed in a liquid containing celery and onions. It was a huge serving and I ate them all. Three hours later my stomach said "They must still be alive because they are running right through you. "
Oh well the bathroom is right outside my bedroom door and I brought Imodium with me. I'm lucky, something like this usually happens before the three week mark. My stomach and other parts settled down after about an hour and I got a good nights sleep.

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