Belgium - Round The World Tour 2003 T-44

pre-departure

Liege

Tuesday 28th January

So, we are now sitting in the Thalys train, on our way to Brussels and onto Paris. Time to re-cap some events of the past few days.

Must be careful what I type as ‘she’ is sitting next to me … reading everything I say. Ouch! Just received a jab in the arm.

Last night, we went to diner with Dinie, Dré, Dave & Kirsten. We went to the same Greek restaurant that we went to the other night. It was very nice and, again, we had the entire restaurant to ourselves (although I’m not too sure if we should be pleased about the fact that the restaurant is always empty). Both the food AND the company were excellent.

After leaving Tilburg a couple of days ago, we went to visit Liana & Anton in Uithoorn. We went out to eat at a very nice restaurant. It was previously the train station Uithoorn and has been converted to a restaurant.

Liana is looking pregnant now. She is due at the end of April. They are working on getting the baby room ready for the happy occasion.

Looking out the window here, the world is travelling by awfully fast. Neither of us has been on the fast train so this is also a treat for us both. Although the Thalys train isn’t technically the same thing as the TGV (the more well known French high speed train), it is to all intents and purposes the same thing. Our trip today from Liege (Belgium) through Brussels and onto Paris, should take about 2 1/2 hours altogether. Although I should also point out that it took about an hour and a half to get to Liege from Kerkrade to begin with. If we had to drive to Paris by car (a terrifying ordeal that pretty much everyone we have spoken to has urgently advised against), it would take between 5 & 6 hours.

Since yesterday, Sandy is starting to get some flu-like symptoms. Hopefully, she won’t get too ill and will still enjoy Paris.

The weather today is not looking too bad at all. Some lightly broken clouds but otherwise still overcast and not all too cold either. No rain at the moment. Perhaps the weather will cooperate after all 🙂

Arrived in Paris in good time. The train ride was comfortable, if not just a little nauseating (I tend to get motion sickness). During the train journey, we were trying to figure out where to go upon arrival as we did not pre-book any accommodation. As we got off the train, wouldn’t you know it, a youth hostel tout was standing there waiting to great us. The backpacks must immediately have given us away as the first words out of his mouth were “Youth Hostel?” Well, since it just so happened that we were indeed looking for a youth hostel, I decided to listen to what he had to say. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be so quick to do this but the young man seemed nice enough and never once gave me the creeps or did anything to give me a bad vibe. He spoke pretty good if not somewhat broken English (much better than my French in any event) and made a very convincing pitch for a youth hostel called ‘Friends’ located nearby. He had a pile of good-looking brochures and the place did seem to fit the bill for our needs. A particularly nice feature (that he was also keen to point out) was the fact that Friends had no lockout or curfew. This is otherwise the norm for Parisian youth hostels. There were also two person rooms and on-suite showers. Best of all, it was cheap by Parisian standards (€15 per person per day) and just up the road from the Garde du Nord train station where we had just arrived (about a 5 minute walk).

Having agreed to check out the Friends youth hostel with the young tout, we started to walk down the street in the direction he had given us. He walked us part way to make sure we would be able to find it – a kind of ‘welcome to Paris, here is a brief orientation’ if you will. No sooner were we 100 yards from the train station and had left the tout to go back to pick up some more prospects, another tout (this time a young woman) had spotted us and began with her pitch for another youth hostel! She already knew that we were heading to Friends and suggested that we check out this other place ‘in case we did not find Friends to our liking’. I suspected that she saw us walking part way from the train station with the other tout and decided to try to poach us from him. I think we can completely forget the idea of ‘blending in’ in new and exotic locations. I took her brochure and we went on our way.

We got to Friends (which is just walking distance from Monmatre and the Moulin Rouge). Apart from the dubious crowd of 30 or so people out front, the place looked pretty nice, the rooms were clean and proper and things seems to just click. Accordingly, we decided to take the room, settled in and then went out to take on Paris proper.

First stop, the nearest metro station for a 5-day travel pass (€24 for the two passes). Pretty reasonable price I thought and we are here for exactly 5 days, wouldn’t you know it.

After a 20 minute metro ride with just one change over, we arrived at the Eiffel Tower. How else could one possibly begin to explore Paris? After stopping off at a nearby ATM, we picked up some safety pins (grossly over paid for them also) so Sandy could pin her money belt to her clothes, and off we went to the tower. It seemed like the weather wasn’t going to cooperate but a 20 minute episode of heavy drizzle stalled our progress only briefly.

After seeing the tower for the first time as we passed over the bridge, I felt for the first time that we were truly in Paris. The tower is everything is should be and we spent the rest of the day there like moths attracted to a flame. The elevator rides to the first, second and top levels were also a treat. We spent several hours at the top and were able to take a couple of hundred photos between us from all angles and at all levels. As it happened, it eventually got dark whilst we were at the top so we were also able to take some stunning dusk and night photos.

After a nice diner at a brasserie around the corner from the youth hostel, we headed back to home base and sorted through all the photos accumulated throughout the day. Have since settled in for the night and are both quite comfortable. Sandy has a bit of the flu and is enjoying an early night to try to get a good night’s sleep. Lots to see and do in the morning 🙂

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