August 19th, 2014


Belgique at last

Up at 7 and checked out of the hotel by 8. Didn't have to be at the Eurostar station till 10, but would rather be way early than late. Also wanted to not be in a rush taking a route I had not tried before. A longer route than the one the apps said was quickest, because quickest meant most of the trip on the ugly smelly crowded Jubilee line. Instead, took new, clean, spacious DLR to Tower Gateway, to transfer to the Circle Line which I'd been on the last trip here) to King's Cross/St. Pancras. Glad I was not in a rush because it turned out that the transfer between the two trains meant leaving one station and walking a couple of blocks to another station. That took me by surprise.

I had only a vague idea where Tower Hill station was, but it was rush hour, so just follow the suits.

Got to Eurostar two hours early, could not check in for another hour. Fine, because there were comfortable seats and lots of people watching.

Checked in a little less than an hour before the 10:58 departure time. There was a security check, but much better handled than the airlines. One person called to the conveyor at a time,  only one bin needed, no taking out computers, no taking off shoes. It went quickly. Passport control was also painless, no questions, just a look at me and my photo and a search for the page to stamp.

Got to my car, and the stewardess had my name (I was going 1st class) and I had the whole car to myself. They had a constant coffee/tea service, made me feel guilty that I don't drink that. Got a glass of soda water instead. After half an hour or so they served me an English breakfast, which was very good. It also came with lox and cream cheese, and a fruit bowl.

The windows were filthy, so I left the camera in the pack. There were about a dozen snaps I would have taken if the view was clear, but nothing breathtaking. Most of the route was through culverts, and trees blocked the view. There was also some tunnel before we got to the Chunnel, and I actually had no idea we had gone through that till we stopped in Lille. I expected lights and a view of the road traffic, but it was just like BART under the Bay, only quieter.

Arrival in Brussels was a little confusing because the first announcement was in German, directing passengers to the connection to Frankfurt. Then in French and finally in English. An then they said we were at our final stop.

Left the station looking for the Best Western, did not see it on one side, did not see it on the other side. Finally called a cab, who took me WAY far away, to the other side of the city. The address was right, and so was the sign on the building. Major WFT, I had booked this on Eurostar's site, asking for someplace near the station.

Nice enough place, but not a good part of town.

After checking in, I took the camera and went on a walk. There is a many streets long Arab market area, lots of small shops selling a wide variety of middle eastern goods. Eventually I found the tunnel under the railroad tracks, and the northern rail station. The food places in there were the first on my tip I felt safe eating in. Mostly the Arab food stands didn't look too clean.

Stopped in at an alleged brasserie, but the waiter said they were not serving any of the dinner items, and there was nothing on the lunch menu I wanted, so I tracked back to the mini mart and got some stuff for dinner and breakfast. The hotel has a breakfast but it costs $20.

Got a lot of good photos, many tall glass buildings reflecting other buildings and the clouds. A peep show in an ancient building with a cement angel above it. Next to a kid's clothing store. A couple of burned out buildings, but also some freshly painted ones.

Plans for tomorrow:
Breakfast in the room
Ex co-worker Kenny is coming to pick me up (he has a company car) and will take us on an ad hoc tour
Meet up with our other ex-co-worker for dinner (probably Thai)