As you can tell by the subject of this blog posting… We had our first unexpected detour in plans for our trip. Trina and I awoke at 8:15am and quickly showered and packed up before heading out to the train station. We were rushing because the train for Amsterdam left around 9:52am and then not again for two hours so we wanted to make sure we got it on time… We arrived at the train station, grabbed our ticket and lept downstairs toward the train. The one thing we didn’t notice was how eerily quiet the entire station was. That’s when we were told that there was a strike in Brussels and ALL major transportation (public) out and into the city was stopped.
Being the resourceful queens we were, we took a taxi to Brussels main train / bus terminal to see what we could find out (we were previously using a tram station that serviced smaller areas). When we got there, sure enough… everything was stopped and would be until late that night. We asked around and finally found a Hertz rental car place right in the station. We booked our car, loaded up our bags and jumped into the Astra ready for action.
This is looking optimistic… The look changed after an hour and fifteen minutes stuck in Brussels downtown area.
With minimal directions from the Hertz guy and no maps, we tried to leave Brussels. TRIED being the key word. An hour and fifteen minutes later, we were still driving around the city… aimlessly. The thing is, there are few street signs, the street signs do not match up to the map and it’s just plain confusing. So, we went back to the train station and I ran in to get clearer directions. Thirty minutes later, we were well on our way out of Brussels and heading for Amsterdam.
The countryside along our route from Brussels to Amsterdam.
A beautiful bridge along the way…
We stopped at a little service center along the way for some schnitzel and chips (French fries I learned) and had some interesting map adventures… Trina became really, really great at giving directions and I calmed down once we were on the highway… lol I was getting a little stressed out and nervous that we might NEVER make it out of Brussels. We laughed a lot too… AFTER we were out of the city that is…
Our first sight of Amsterdam! 56 kilometers to go… Not long!
The road trip was an unexpected bit of fun and I’m so glad it ended up making its way into our trip. Everything happens for a reason and I think we were meant to get a taste for Europe by car and not just by bus or train.
Beautiful countryside with old-fashioned wind mills.
Oh, and before I forget… Bringing the car back to the airport, I went down a one way (and did a quick reverse) and we spent fifteen minutes trying to figure out if the car took regular gas or diesel and then looking at the pumps trying to figure out what regular gas actually was… Neither of us read Dutch nor were we equipped with books to translate… LOL It was interesting. The guy in the gas station was no help either. When Trina asked him what kind of gas we should put in the car, his reply was I don’t know - you’re the one driving it!!
In my next post, I’ll tell you all about Amsterdam but this post needed its own separate entry due to the sheer size of the folly (Brussels’ strike) and the adventure (rental car)…
October 5, 2008 – 6:09 PM Europe Time
I’m sitting here now at the hotel in Brussels – we checked into the Sheraton at 3pm today after a wonderful morning. Let me recap that first and then I’ll share with you the Brussels experience.
Leaving Paris, France…
We woke up around 9:30am and got packed up and ready to go. We left the hotel, walked toward the Champs de Elysses and stopped at a cafe called Le Belle Ferroniere and had a croissant and a cafe au lait. A perfect Parisian breakfast! It was nice too because we got to see the Arc de Triomphe a bit closer too!
One of the things Paris is famous for - Cafe au Lait
The Arc de Triomphe off of the Champs de Elysses
After we had some breakfast, we headed back onto the street and decided that the Gare du Nord, from where we were, was insanely far away so we grabbed a cab instead. The taxi dropped us off and we headed inside and to the train ticket counter. The train was leaving in 20 minutes which was perfect timing so we grabbed our tickets, headed to the platform and boarded the Thalys train to Brussels, Belgium. Our ticket, being last minute, did cost us 80 Euros so we learned our lesson and will be booking the train tickets for the night before…
Trina and I with our backpacks waiting in line at the train station.
On the train with our waters… Somewhere between Paris and Brussels.
The train ride was nice… Pretty countryside dotted with small villages. It was an hour and a half which was nice – not a long train ride and we were able to take some photos, some video of the countryside and share some really good laughs…