Sooooo tired. :) But, it’s that good tired. The tired you get after spending three weeks filled with eight hour walking days and sightseeing and oh yes, managing a business during all of it. It’s the sort of tired you get when you look back over the last three weeks and know that it was a life-changing and magical moment. It’s the tired you feel when everyone is looking at you and you know they are thinking, “Poor thing, she looks exhausted” yet inside, you are filled completely with pure joy. That’s how tired I am.
I’ve been awake since Tuesday morning around 6:00 AM and I really only got four hours of sleep that night too. Trina and I have been on a bit of a crazy schedule but it’s been more fun than I can even summarize. I know I’ve peppered throughout my blog entries some reflections posts and some thoughts I’ve been having about the entire trip but it started to sink in today, sitting alone in the airport (Trina and I are on separate flights so we had to split up at security) that my three week European adventure is over and I’m feeling a bit sad, a bit like there was more I could have done (haha – this is a common feeling of mine in every area of my life!) and also elated that I get to go home and return to “normal”.
So, if you’ve been following along as a fellow entrepreneur, here is my experience from a mobile lifestyle perspective. It’s a whole lot easier than I had anticipated. I had a few business colleagues who put a bit of fear in me before I left (I knew I should have blocked them out!) saying that connecting and working in Europe is nightmarish but my mindset was that they are a super developed set of countries, why would they be behind us in anyway when it comes to technology?
Today marked our second day in Bern and it was actually a great day! We woke up super early (6:30AM) and headed to the train station. We had tickets to Paris that left at 8:23am but we wanted to change them because of our lack of a hotel for the evening of the 21st. So, we spoke to the agent who at first was unwilling to change them but changed her mind when I told her that we needed a late train because we were homeless in Paris and had nowhere to go. I definitely played that fiddle but hey – 10 Euros later and she changed our tickets for us.
So, with our victory behind us, we headed back to the hotel for some free breakfast. It was actually a pretty great free breakfast! Eggs, bacon, fruit, toast, yogurt, cereal, croissants, coffee, juices, etc. made it a great stop after such an early morning. We filled up and headed back to our room.
Trina decided to get some more sleep while I worked. Around 9:30am, I headed down to do some laundry as I was getting pretty tired of wearing the same clothes as much as I have… It’s funny though how much your tolerance changes when you actually get out and backpack for three weeks. Laundry started, we grabbed some Starbucks and worked a bit longer after convincing the guy at the counter to let us have a late checkout (he gave us an extra hour!) Showered and packed up, we headed to grab my newly washed and dried clothes and then it was on to the bear pits again.
Did I mention I love bear pits?
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…
We woke up this morning having the intention of waking up by 5:30am but instead we crawled out of bed at 9:30am. We were out of the hotel room by 10:30am and then headed out to experience backpacking Europe. We walked until we reached this little café called La Belle Ferroniere where we both enjoyed Café Au Lait (I think…) and Croissants with some strawberry jam. We sat there and talked over what we were going to do for the rest of the day.
After we left the café, we took a taxi to Gare Du Nore where we hopped on the train headed to Brussels. We sat beside this nice gentleman who was from Turkey. Erin had to translate for me…lol!
As we were pulling into Brussels, I watched out the train window in amazement. I couldn’t believe that (1) we were in a different country and (2) how different it was from anything in Canada and Paris. I found that in Paris it wasn’t much of a culture shock since it looks like Old Montreal and they speak a language so common in Canada. But when we arrived in Brussels, it was hard to understand signs and the language is so different than anything I have ever heard.
When we came out of the train station that was underground, we walked across the road to our hotel. When we got up to our hotel room and saw the view, it was breathtaking. I still can’t find any words to describe the view from the room. The buildings are architecturally beautiful and historic.
Erin and I ventured out in search of Grand Place and Palais Royal. Our hotel, which was Avenue Du Boulevard, was actually only a 15 minute wak to the Grand Place. Grand Place is the geographical, historical and commercial heart of the city. We walked down Rue Neuve basically all the way down until we reached it. When we entered the courtyard, Erin and I both stopped and looked all the way around us. It was unbelievable. I know I have been saying it a lot on this trip but it was by far on the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I stepped into a piece of Brussels history. Erin, being the emotional one, teared up as we walked through it all. We were in awe. We walked around it for about half hour or so and then ventured out in search of Palais Royal.
We walked through the Gallarie De Reine which had some cafes and shops in it. It was the closest thing to a mall that I have seen so far.
As we were walking to the Palais Royal, it was raining pretty hard so we decided to stop at this little convenience store that sold umbrellas for 5 Euros. We were walking in the rain and wind when Erin’s umbrella turned inside out and ended up breaking… but still usable. I laughed at her as she tried to fix it since mine was still in good shape. Mine ended up breaking even more so than hers (see photo below) and I ended up getting soaked.
When we arrived at the Palais Royal, all of the rain and soaked feet seemed to just go away. It was the first Royal anything I have ever seen so it was amazing. It was exactly like the picture in our Europe travel guide. It is the official home of the Belgium monarchy. The construction started in the 1820s on the site of the old Coudenberg Palace. I was just taking it all in and then when the pictures were taken, we started walking back to our hotel room.
The day started off like any other… Hopping off a plane after a six hour plane ride. You know, who doesn’t start their Saturday off like that? :) The flight was great - it went fast, I watched three movies (well, one full and two partial movies) and had two meals - a roast beef dinner and a breakfast with fresh fruit, etc. - and watched the lights in the plane go from a white light to a blue light to a pink light and back to white. I loved the color changes… Hadn’t seen that before!
Ok, so I land in Paris and I’ve got about an hour before Trina’s flight arrives… So, being in Terminal 2 means I have to switch to Terminal 1 to get her. The only downside is that the shuttle takes 40 minutes to get there… Seriously! So, by the time I get to her Terminal and find the location where she’d be, her flight has already arrived. We had planned to meet in the baggage area just in case we couldn’t find each other at her gate so I headed there. No Trina. At this point I’m racking my brain trying to think of solutions to finding her… So, I head to the United Airlines counter and asked them to page her. They did. Moments later, a page comes over the intercom for ME! haha… It was rather funny, we were paging each other in the airport.
We found each other finally and gave big hugs… We had ARRIVED!
Trina, just after we met for the first time after our flights!
The next step was finding the train to Paris. We found it pretty easily and for eight Euros, we got our train ticket into Paris. The train ride was relatively uneventful - there wasn’t a whole lot to see along the train track… Mostly rundown places and neighborhoods that looked a little sketchy. When we finally got to the Gare du Nord, we hopped off and found our way above ground. Next stop was grabbing a cab and then we headed to the Paris Hilton!
The beds… separated merely by a tiny crack. The comforters were SO tiny!