August 21st, 2014



It's too late for a full wrap-up but by the numbers:
1. Checked out of the Best Western City Centre
2. Was picked up by former co-worker Kenny and driven to Ghent
3. We walked  a lot. I took a lot of photos, it was a long pleasant day and hardly rained at all
4. Back to Brussels, where we met other former co-worker Edgard
5. Found a Thai restaurant where the menu included Thai food names (after 4 fails)
6. Had a lovely Thai dinner and a nice chat with the manager (the waiters didn't speak Thai)
7. Visited the center square of Brussels
8. Sent Edgard home, found Drug Opera and had ice cream
9. Kenny dropped me at the new Ibis hotel across from the train station.
10. caught up on email, FB and LJ (my cell has no data signal today)
Plans for tomorrow:
Train to Paris, Xfer to train to Reims
Find the cathedral and take photos
Overnight in Reims


When I was in college I took a Medieval History class, just to have something to fill in one of those inane Liberal Eduction requirements. The prof was excellent. And he loved medieval stained glass windows, which mostly are in churches. He showed us lots of slides he had taken around Europe, but the one he loved the best was the rose window at the cathedral at Reims, France. That's he big round window way up in the ^ near the ceiling.

Those slides made a huge impression on me, and I like the class so much I took the next one, maybe two of his classes, and other MH classes, and ended up with enough credits for a double major, I later discovered.

Up at 6:30, forced myself to stay in bed till 8. Was still an hour early for the train from Brussels to Paris. Unlike London, they only assign a gate 30 minutes (or less) before the train is due. So there was noplace near the gates to sit, and I was shy about trying to order something for breakfast in Flemish. What made me think the Belgians spoke French?

Anyhow, Thalys train line 1st class was very comfortable, but no wireless and no AC outlets. At least this time I was facing forward. They served soft drinks and snacks.

Smooth ride to Paris North Station, I needed to get to Paris East. Asked at the desk, because all Google could tell me was a long walk. Just take the Metro #4 one stop. Cool. Lined up at the ticket machine, very frustrating because no one seemed to know how to operate it. What could be their problem? 15 minutes later, at the machine, it only took coins and credit cards. I had no coins, and it refused my credit cards twice. Also, it was a very old and stupid machine, a roller track ball to pick from drop-down menus, but it was hard to get it to land on what you wanted.

Gave up, for into the 3x as long line for the ticket booth, but that went much more quickly. 5 minutes and I just handed the guy a 10, he gave me a little magstripe ticket and change.

Found the right platform, the train arrived in 5 minutes, it was quite a crush to get on board, but not a problem for only one stop.

Paris East appears to be newer and has more shops than North. But the TGV line is older than Thalys. Again, I was an hour early. This time we didn't have a gate assignment until 5 minutes before the train was due. No drinks, no food. There was an AC outlet, so I started charging one of my camera batteries, but after we took off the power seemed to have cut off. Or maybe the adapter was unable to support the charger.

No wifi, so I got the Nexus out and started reading my Kindle book, but there was too much scenery popping up now and then, so i just looked out the window, and scoped out the passengers. Just over an hour ride, not as smooth as Thalys, not as many kph. There were very few towns, and they were tiny farm towns. Reims popped up from nowhere, a city the size of New Orleans, maybe.

Asked a taxi for a lift to the hotel, he said it was very close "just past the statue, turn right". There was a statue visible in a park across the street, but turning right after passing it got me onto a street of no hotels. Walked in circles...I mean a search pattern.. for 20 minutes, finally fond a long and wide pedestrian mall with lots of restaurants and a map. (My SIM doesn't support data outside of the UK/USA, so no Google maps). After a while saw the street name I wanted, and walked in that direction but no hotel.

Found another map by this huge statue with a golden winged something on top. It was hard to tell because the "you are here"  completely blocked the street names around it. Saw that the street I wanted was the one I was standing on. On the other side it changes names to the hotel's street. From there it was a block and a half.

Checked in, they put my on the 2nd floor on the side of the hotel with no elevator and narrow pinwheel stairs. Not fun with the carry-on.

The room is spartan but okay. Odd outlet placement, but enough to charge all my stuff.

After a short sit down and minor unpacking, took the camera for a walk to the cathedral. Easy to find, only a 10 minute walk from the hotel. Took a bunch of photos. Free admission.

The rose windows (there are two big ones and two small) are different than I remembered them. It may be they have been restored, because I remember the slides of them as being lighter, letting in more sunlight.

And I must have mis-remembered the story about how it survived without being bombed in the worls wars, because there was an exhibit placed all around the church which showed WWI bomb damage. And maybe half the stained glass windows are placeholders. And when I rounded a corner at the far end, there was a wall full of windows which are unmistakably Marc Chagall's style. The poster said yup, that's right. There are a couple of other walls with windows which may have been Picasso or Dali, but I didn't read the poster for those.

Impressive place, worth the special trip.

Back to the ped mall, after a lot of false starts I chose a place for dinner which had French food. Excellent brisket stew. Interesting ice cream confection which was a banana split, except replace the banana with slices of caramelized apple, and make the ice cream vanilla and coffee, and the sauce only caramel, with lots of whipped cream on top.

Back to the hotel, good wifi, copied photos to the laptop and made folders for each day of the trip. Posted some to FB.

Plans for tomorrow:
Check out of the hotel
People watch on the mall till 10
Train to Paris at 11-ish
Train to London to arrive there at about 4 pm
Cousin Brian will meet me there and we will tube to his wife's ancestral home, which is now a B&B run by his sister in law.