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Bit By Bit Spending some months in Europe. Let's see how it goes... Check ya later, Barry.

Belgium to Amsterdam

USA | Monday, 22 February 2010 | Views [379] | Comments [2]

A short promotional introduction: our NetBook has been working out quite well for us. It's about half the size of a regular laptop, and has a long battery life. The common misconception is that NetBooks are mini laptops, but they're really not. Their primary purpose is for surfing the web, which is why we got it. The storage is 200GB, but we also have our external hard-drive, which holds all of our pictures and down-loaded movies.

That being said, we left Paris after check-out time on the 16th. We went out to breakfast, as we knew we would need more than half a baguette and some hot chocolate to last our upcoming journey, and however long it would take us to find somewhere to stay. The breakfast left us wishing they made croques in the States. The idea is basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwhich, with more cheese than entirely necessary, a nice crispy slab on top with an egg on top of that. Truly superb.

It turns out that we could not take a train into Belgium due to their tragic train wreck of a few days before (which taught us to never ride in the first few cars of any locomotive). Because of the complications with the train system, everyone was takin the bus. There were busses leaving for Brussels every hour on the hour, and we could only manage to get on the one for six PM, which was six hours away. We tried going up to the check-in window and asking if we could get on an earlier ride if some people didn't show up, but that question must be asked a lot because it seemed to be a real drag to answer.

There is no other way to describe the people loading onto the bus as anything but animals. That and possessing some zombie qualities as well, with the pushing and moaning and crazy snarling glares. In Paris we waited outside in the cold for over a half an hour for our bus, and as soon as it arrived, swarms of people crushed us in from all sides. We managed to get our bags on and still be close the front door. And from the other side of the bus comes a woman who skims in front of us all and stands with an unassuming air, no shame. And the crazy thing is that no one seems to mind. Everyone skips everyone else in line over here! Standing while waiting to order fast food. Trying to get onto a crowded metro. It's just ridiculous. The idea of trying to confront somebody in your own language, knowing only that they will understand you angry face, your gestures of injustice, is somehow humiliating in itself (although it seemed to work in Paris, when our entire floor, and the one above us, became over-run by the rudest high-schoolers known to man and Michael was forced to bang on their doors and frighten them into silence. It helps to know we are just passing through). So loading onto the bus for Belgium was no better. We weren't even going to try. It was too shameful, too degrading to watch these people pressing in, trying to get on that bus. One man came squeezing through and stopped right in front of us. When it came our turn, there was only one other lady left, and at that point we just waved her on ahead. The glorious thing about that turn of events was that we got to sit all the way in the back. No one behind us jabbering in a strange tongue, no one to grab the top of the chair, knee the back of the chair, laugh uproariously, or just even pass forward already passed-forward breath. It seemed we had more leg room too. So in our solitude and our space we enjoyed some movies from our youth, and arrived in Brussels at 10PM, four hours later (all with the volume loud enough to drown out the one single person talking loudly on the bus, into her cell phone, the whole way there).

While we had originally thought that our bus had been bound for Brussels, it became apparent as we started walking that we were actually in some outskirts of Gotham City (although no sightings of Batman, though the trip would have been worth that alone). We had started walking for the city skyline in front of us, looking for one hostel in particular, but it became apparent we would not find it, and that we would soon have to settle for something else or spend the night on the streets. Brussels is busy, even in the middle of the night. Every character seemed shifty, every corner dark and hostile. We were not afraid, though, in fact we enjoyed the heightening of our senses, the midnight jaunt after our long bus ride. We decided to stop at the first place we saw, but when we finally saw something our gift of fear encouraged us to continue on. Welcome, it flashed in bright red neon, bathing the street below in its macabre light.

We were quickly making our way into the heart of downtown, and it seemed that we would have to make the choice of staying in either the Hilton, the Sheraton, the Crowne Plaza, or the kind of place where one has to specify a desired stay of longer than one hour.

We chose to keep walking, and wound up in a place that, Michael swears, is The Overlook Hotel from The Shining. It was definitely very creepy, very old and very creepy. The breakfast room boasted a family-friendly view to the X-rated shops below. We beat a hasty retreat to the metro, not entirely sure of where we wanted to be but fairly certain it was the tourist office, and managed to find ourselves appearing from one city street onto a quaint and cobbled one.

Belgium is the land of waffles, of beer and chocolate. We feasted on these three for the rest of the day. After finding one of the best places we had stayed at so far, we visited a chocolate museum, which was little more than an old house with lots of posters and ancient pots. There was a demonstration, and we learned how the shells of chocolate are made, and the lady translated into three different languages. We went to the beer musuem from there, and that was even more ridiculous than the first. It wasn't even a museum! We descended into an open room that held much equipment from the beer-making of the olden days, and that opened into a room where a projector played a movie about Belgian beer. But it went from bad to unbearable when Michael accidentally changed the movie to English and a Frenchman had some words to say about it. The movie lasted for about an hour, and was interesting enough, until suddenly it started playing in French. We found it appropriate to leave then, and Michael apologized again for the mistake, but we wondered if the Frenchman could speak English, what was the big deal? We didn't even stay for the free beer.

The main attraction of Brussels is a little boy named Mannekin Pis, who isn't more than two feet tall, and is only a peeing fountain. But he is everywhere. On beer bottles, in the background of a city on a shot glass, life size versions in chocolate, miniature versions in chocolate, made out of plastic, some made out of plastic and swinging back and forth at the waist, bars are named after him, restaurants are named after him, and if you ask how to get to a train station they tell you how to get to him too. Some time after he was set up, there was some scandal about the lack of equal opportunity, and a little girl peeing statue was put up. She is at the dead-end of an alley, the fountain not even running, behind bars. Her name is Jannekea Pis.

We took a day trip to Brugges the following morning (pronounced Broohze, by the English-speaking and French). The train ride was not quite an hour, and it was well worth it. Brugges has been our favorite city so far. It is apparently the capital of chocolate, and is equally involved in the making of lace. There is a lace school in Brugges, and as many lace shops as cafes. Antique lace table cloths are sold for the hundreds of Euros. It is the doily-lovers paradise. Of all shapes and sizes, spider-webbed to perfection.

A canal snakes through the streets, and swans and ducks float there. The houses are brick: orange brick, red brick, pink brick, brown brick. Some of the brick is painted bright white, windows and doors accented by purple, blue, green, red. Flags hang over the streets in some places like trees do in the country. The stones of the cobbled roads are grey and fan out, and horse hooves make music on them. There were no beggars in Brugges. It used to be a successful city thanks to its wharf, but that went underwater, and the economy was destroyed. It came back alive because of the tourist appeal, and survives solely on the money it makes from those who can't help but want to see it for what it is.

We had the best meal there that we have had so far. It took us some amount of time to find a place a little further out of the way, and it was well worth the wait. The place was called Jan van Eyck, the size of a living room, the atmosphere was close and bright. The food bordered on gourmet, cooked to perfection (Rebecca realized that she had never truly had medium rare steak until that moment). The menu of the day started with leek soup, which probably wasn't much more than shredded leeks boiled in water, but we both thought it was the best soup we have ever had. Very green, and packed with as much delightful flavor a vegetable can possess. Michael got the filet of sole bathed in a mustard sauce, and Rebecca got the steak with garlic butter sauce. Each came with a small salad. Delicious to the max, and the same price as what we had been eating.

We left Brussels in a hurry the next day, needing to move on but not sure why.

We got tickets for a bus ride out of town, not able to decide between Amsterdam or Luxembourg City until the last minute, and went off to find some food for before our journey. It's a good thing we did, as it was twenty-four hours before we did so again. That time we got to jump on the bus that was leaving a half hour before ours.

It was a mostly empty bus, and gloriously so, although we made the mistake of sitting across from the bathroom, thinking it is a wise plan, and thus occasionaly enduring the wafting from within whenever it was used. The ride took closer to four hours, instead of the advertised three, and we started off the bat by asking someone which direction we needed to head. We needed to find our place before dark.

Well, we did, but we made the mistake of coming into Amsterdam on a weekend...

P.S. more pictures soon, as right now we have to pay for the Wi-Fi.



As always, I praise our Abba Father for His constant watch care and protection over both of you; thank you, Jesus! Wow, those were some 'ventures, kids! Can't wait to hear the real live version. I'm sorry I missed your call today. Hopefully we will be able to Skype on Monday, 2-22.
Water over sand...

  MOM Feb 22, 2010 11:50 AM


Hummmm!!!!! The Overlook Hotel! Kool! Did anything float by while you were there? Anyone walking around with an ax? I've always heard that the French were RUDE people. Next time just start hacking like you have the Plague and they will back away a bit.Stay Well,Be Safe, Love,UK

  Uncle Ken Feb 23, 2010 1:40 PM

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