Well, you can see from the title I’ve made it to Paris! I am completely beat, so this might be a short entry. It’s about 11:30pm here.
I arrived in Brussels around noon and was completely out of my league. No one spoke English unless asked, and then often not very well. No signs were in English. They were all in French! I guess I never realized that people in Brussels spoke French. I thought they spoke Belgian 🙂 That explains why Stella Atois always looked French to me.
When I step off the train in a new city my first few thoughts are: Where do I pee? Where do I eat? How do I move around? Where will I sleep?
Peeing was a new experience. I’ve run into pay toilets already. They are almost everywhere. You need to carry a lot of change around with you in Europe; not just for the toilets, but for everything. No one likes large bills and all the machines take the coins. Don’t forget you’ve got coins in EU 2, 1, 0.50, 0.20, 0.05, 0.02 and 0.01. I empty my pocket at night and I’ve got like $30 in change in there. Weird.
Anyway, this was the first toilet that had a little old lady who you had to pay. I didn’t know if I had to pay her before, or after or what. I sitll don’t, but I tried it both ways and she didn’t seem to care.It took me quite a while to get my bearings and figure out the tram system. I finally figured out how to get into the city center and headed there. I really didn’t know anything about Brussels except that I wanted to see it, and drink some beer. I stopped at a tourism office and asked about lodging. She told me about a cheap hotel and also gave me a “Young Belgium” booklet that had information on hostels, bars, clubs and other youngish type stuff. One of the things right in the front was the Delerium Cafe which claimed to serve 2004 beers. I figured it couldn’t be a coincidence that Delerium is a Belgian beer and there was a cafe named Delerium so I planned to head there. I took a little tour of the city finding it, but I finally did. It was down a tiny little alley and was very dingey looking but it had an awful lot of beer signs so I went in.
The bar was down in the basement, and man, they had some beer. The bar was nothing special, except the tables were old beer barrels (see pictures) but the beer was awesome. I had a Delerium Tremens and headed out to find a place to sleep that night.
I started walking towards the hostel I was recomended. I should have learned more about the trams and rode. It was a long, long walk. And it was full when I arrived. That kind of cemented my plan to not stay in Brussels. I already wasn’t feeling like staying and that helped make the decision. I found the tram and headed back to the station to come up with a plan. I finally decided to drop my backpack in a locker, go explore Brussels till I was sick of it and then go to Paris.
Brussels turned out to be nice, but not really great. I’m sure there’s a ton of things to do but without better resources and more time I limited myself to seeing the Grote Markt, or Grand Place. It’s a large square surrounded by these incredible old buildings and cathedrals. And bars! I wandered around for a bit and then settled down to drink some Belgian beers! I first had to learn how to get served
Aparently in Brussels, and maybe in Paris you just walk up, grab a table and wait until the waiter comes. There’s all these outdoor restaurants and that seemed to be how they worked. Once I got it figured out I had a Kriek Mort Subite, which was awesome. Very tart, light cherry Lambic. Then I had a Kriek Something Else which was great, and a little more sweet. Then Chris the Austrailian tour guide sat down next to me and we got to chatting. He had all kinds of great travel information for me so when the waiter came I bought us a round. This time it was a nice Stella Artois for me and a Kriek for him. I finished up with a Framboise lambic and headed out this with my head swimming.
Tram back to the station, quick dash to make the next train to Paris and I was off! I took the Thalys high speed train to Paris and it was very cool. Super fast and comfortable. I thought it was going to be a three hour ride so about 40 minutes in I took a little nap. About 20 minutes. When I woke we were approaching a huge city and I thought “I didn’t think there was a big city between Brussels and Paris” and then I looked further north and saw the damn Eiffle Tower! I was in Paris already!
Unfortunately all the tourist info in Paris was closed. I couldn’t find a map, or get a hotel or hostel or anything. I was starting to get frusterated so I just left the station and started walking. I stopped at the first hotel I saw and took a room. The room is very small, and kinda crappy, but it feels like heaven to me. I really need some rest and a shower. The maitre d’ hotel (is that right?) was also very cool. He gave me a good map and said he’s put some good information together for me tomorrow. And I have free Internet access! Can’t ask for much more than that.
So, I’m off to bed. Check out Flickr for pictures of Brussels and Paris, so far. Tomorrow I’ll hit the tourism information, find a cheaper hotel or hostel and start my visit to Paris.