If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium
Today we are supposed to have a nice leisurely cruise on the train from Aachen to Amsterdam. It means we’re going to the Netherlands from Belgium through Germany. What can go wrong? We actually get to the Aachen main train station an hour before we’re supposed to and catch the earlier train so we have heaps of time for the changeover at Monchengladbach. We get in our train no problems and I was actually thinking this has been way too easy. Well into the journey, the train starts slowing down and stopping a few times. We are not too worried, until with 2 minutes notice they tell us that our service has been cancelled (obstruction on the line) and we need to change trains to a regional express at Utrecht main station. We need to bail up a guard to let us through the gates to the regional express lines because we don’t have the right tickets. From here we catch the express to Bijlmer ArenA where we now have to catch the Metro. Once again we have to bail up a guard to lets us onto the Metro lines as well as let us out in Amsterdam main station. Suffice it to say it takes a while and we are pooped. We have to trek from the main station to our hotel through throngs of people and it seems to take forever. We finally get to our room and take a well earned break.
We go to lunch at 3 in the afternoon to a popular pub nearby to our hotel. Burgers seem to be the go so we order and we are able to get apple ciders for the first time on our trip. The meal is sensational, the staff are friendly and we talk with some locals and have a good time all round. English is second language for the Dutch, so just about everybody speaks it.
After our meal we go for a walk following directions given to us by our lunch waiter, and we get to see lots of canals. On our walk we discover that you have to watch out for bikes, they have bike lanes and whoa betide if you walk in one. Anyway we just mange to survive and finally head home for an early night.
Tomorrow we begin our boat tour. Post for the boat tour is “Up the creek without a paddle”.
The fellow-ship has dissolved. We say goodbye to our group and we are now flying solo. We are travelling to Aachen in Germany to meet our long lost cousin and his wife Danni. Unfortunately we get there late because of a mixup with the trains, but as we walk out of the Aachen train station, Gerhard calls out my name and we meet up. Apart from the fact that they can’t speak English and we can’t speak German, we get on pretty well and we are able to spend the afternoon together. We roam the town together and they are able to give us a guided tour. We spend time at a Roman dig site and a set of Roman arches. Although I’m always in awe of Roman antiquities around Europe, I’m always reminded of the Monty Python “what have the Romans ever done for us” skit. We go through the Cathedral and one of the wings seems entirely made of lead light glass. It is stunning. The dome has the most mesmorizing pattern that is guilded in gold. Danni says that she always visits the cathedral every time she comes to town. They live about 30 minute drive from town. The cobble stone streets are similar to Brugge but they don’t have cars on them which is really nice. We find a coffee and cake shop that is to die for. I order an apple pie and even though it does not have any dead flies (sultanas) in it, it is still pretty good.
All too soon it is tea time. We have tea with them and say our fairwells. We find out that Gerhard’s mother is my grandmother’s sister. We will look to keep in contact with them but can only use snail mail. They do not have the Internet and do not have email??? How do they live???
Although the train travel has been nice there seems to be a drama finding departure platforms every time we change trains. Tomorrow we only have one train change.
Today we are off to the beach at Ostend. The Metro here is a lot different to Paris – one stop and half an hour and we’re there.
We wander around the harbour and then down to the beach. I can’t resist the temptation to take the shoes and socks off and have a paddle in the North Sea. There is no breeze and the sea is like a mill pond. It is definitely not what I expected from the North Sea.
We pick a Spanish cafe for lunch??? The waiter is a scream. He is very effeminate and speaks French, English, Belgium and Spanish. At the start he was on his own and under the pump and he punctuates every sentence with “there ya go”. When he takes our orders he punctuates each order with “there ya go”. He covers all occasions we could be celebrating: birthday, marriage, bar mitzvah and of course adds his customary “there ya go” to each one. He brings us all our place mats and calls out “there ya go” for each one. It’s almost like we’re in a Fawlty Towers skit. By the time we leave the cafe it is jam packed so it’s obviously a good cafe.
Today is our last day and once again we prepare a farewell supper. I am so enamoured with the place that we are staying in that I am trying to work out a way that we swap houses with our host for 6 months of Summer and Spring in Adelaide and 6 months of Summer and Spring in Brugge. Not sure I am going to be able to make that one fly.
Tomorrow we plan to go to Aachen in Germany and meet with a cousin for the first time. When we ring we get the cousins’ wife and she seems very excited to see us. They can’t speak English and we can’t speak German – what can go wrong?
Guess what? It’s Tuesday – so the blog title actually finally fits – Yeah. Have not got a clue what the next blog title will be. Stay tuned.
Today we are exploring the historic city of Brugge. We set off nice and early to beat the crowds and it is magical to wander through the town with no one around. However it is not long before the crowds ascend. When the going gets tough the tough go shopping, so we decide to split, with the girls going shopping and the boys wander the streets, alternating between coffee breaks and having an ale or two. We are told there are 100 Belgium beers available, but we’ll leave that challenge alone.
With all the people around as well as: bicycles, motorbikes, cars, vans, buses, horse drawn carriages and pedestrians, it is amazing that there are no accidents. Everybody seems to watch out for each other and there is no aggro.
We meet up with the girls for morning tea and then again for lunch. For morning tea, everyone shares a warm cherry pie which is really nice. For lunch someone suggests we have sangria and before we know it a few jugs of those disappear. I choose to have slip sole meal as something different but it has bones and becomes a bit messy to eat – not bad flavour though. It is a fairly warm day so at 16:30 we decide we have had enough and trek home. I’ve reached 20K steps today so I’m happy.
The plan for tomorrow is to visit Ostend which is near the sea. Hope there’s no swimming involved.
Today we part company with Teresa and Graham and Lyn. Farewell to our budding adventurers.
We hop on the Metro carrying our full set of luggage. Even though there are lots of escalators, we still have to drag our luggage through a few stairs. We make it to Gare du Nord Station (Main Northern Train Station), hop on the train and before we know it we’re in Brussels. Here we have trouble finding our connecting train, but luckily that train is late and this averts a possible drama. Before we know it, we’re in Brugge looking for our accomodation.
We visit a local brasserie for lunch and then set off into the historic quarter of town. The town is renowned for its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. The day is warm and sunny, but walking by the canals in the shade there is a pleasant breeze and it is a nice stroll. There are lots of horse drawn carriages about town and this adds to the ambience.
We are keen to see our accomodation and visit the local supermarket to stock up on vitals.
We return to the house and are amazed at the scale of our accommodation. We have 4 huge bedrooms upstairs, two of them with their own ensuite. It’s a Mansion! We settle in and have a pleasant evening, wining and dining, spreading out and relaxing.
All the locals we meet tell us to go to the beach tomorrow but unfortunately I’ve left the budgie-smugglers at home. It could get pretty ugly tomorrow.