27 July 2007

Trip Blog. Day Ten.

14:06 BST; 8:06 CST

I am at this time aboard the Eurostar 14:13 (Coach Eleven, Seat Sixty-Eight) to Bruxelles-Midi Station, Bruxelles, Belgium. I do not know whether it is normal (most people seemed a bit surprised) or whether some idiot decided to bomb something or something, but going through security took forever, and then I was frisked and told to empty my pockets (lip balm, compass, French phrase book, two five pound notes and a receipt). Those who know me know just how much I dislike being touched by strangers.

Whatever. I got on. Of course I was not the FIRST onto the train, which is also apparently not a distinctly American issue. I have never understood the virtue of getting onto the plane first because then you are just sitting there for that much longer. After a few slightly haranguing flights wherein I had to put my hand luggage in a bin which was no where near my seat, I no longer attempt to get on at the very last, either, but I am still not going to queue jump to get onto any sort of transport first.

But I digress. Yesterday, I went on a most Heroic Quest for the London Hard Rock Cafe. Nine Days without a cheeseburger and my mood was not improving in the slightest. It would have been quite an ordinary quest, and not Heroic at all, except that yesterday's rain made all of the other rains seem paltry and small. Yesterday's rain was a Horatio Hornblower-style Gale of Doom. It was really just bucketing down and the wind was blowing about forty miles per hour to booth, and I think it was about fifty degrees outside (Twelve Celsius).

So this is happening when I happen upon what looks to be an entrance. Two women who were of Northern European extraction (I think they were Danes) walk up and ask me how to get in. I have no idea, as it turns up that the door at which we are standing is locked. So begins the trek around the building to find the entrance. We went counterclockwise when we ought to have gone clockwise because three-quarters the way around the building, we rock up on the entrance.

So I am soaked and the hostess asks how she can help me, and I replied that I want a cheeseburger and a margarita. And so they manifested! With guacamole! It was wonderful, and the fact that it cost forty bucks (twenty pounds) means nothing to me because it was just that good. It's not overpriced if it is worth it.

I am now a much happier me, post cheeseburger, and walk back out into the bucketing rain with a song in my heart and a smile on my face. The song being “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen, because that is what was on in the Cafe. Whatever.

After a bit it cleared off somewhat, and I got what I think is going to be a really great panoramic photo of the Horse Guards headquarters on Whitehall, as well as a good panoramic of the square at the intersection of Regents Street and Piccadilly, which bears a striking resemblance to Times Square.

Today was a rather full-on experience as well. It started out innocently enough, awaken, shower, talk to Amber while packing. I go down to turn in my key and my access card to the manager, and he gets all upset because I am leaving, and tells me I have to stay. It is at this point that I realise that I was most assuredly NOT being paranoid and he really WAS trying to get into my pants. My dyke pants (did I mention that they are apparently waterproof? Everything was soaked yesterday, but not them!). I decided that the best way to extract myself from the situation was to tell him that I would have a pint before I left and then slip out the door while he was drawing it, which is precisely what I did. Take that!

I managed, with some difficulty to find the post office on Westminster Bridge Road, which turned up inside a small market. It was not particularly well-marked. I mailed home Harry Potter Seven, a t-shirt for Sarah, a long-sleeved shirt for Amber, and my Hard Rock London t-shirt (two Hard Rocks down, 428324751 to go!).

As I said, the queue for the check-in at the Eurostar was HUGE, but I am at last on, and they have brought me a bottle of wine. Hooray! They also brought by the lunch menu. My choices are a mustard and something chicken salad wither Herb potatoes (because there's a f***ing “H” in it!), roasted seasonal vegetables, and baby spinach, or a caramelised red onion and tomato quiche, with basalmic red apples and mange tout, whatever that is. I think I'm going to go with the salad affair on account of the onions and cooked tomatoes. Dessert is a rhubarb and raspberry cream shortcake. I really want to know what the deal is with this country and strawberries.

We are now headed through southern England, and it is very nice-a. Ooh! Horsey! Sorry, back now. I have not seen animals other than the random dog on the Strand (and my random, I mean seriously random. Belonged to no one and was just chilling with a tennis ball) and the two Golden Retrievers on the Tube day before yesterday.

Forty-five minutes and one bottle of wine...make that an hour and a quarter and two bottles of wine, and one time change (17:01, whatever time zone this is, 16:01 BST, 10:01 CST) later (they started giving us lunch as I was about to blog the rest). We -were- in the Chunnel, and now we are at the stop in Lille, France. It is sort of weird to be in France. It is also weird to realise that I did not, in fact, write down the address or the directions to my hostel. All I know is that it is called the Gite d'Etape, and it is near the Madou stop on the Brussels Metro.


Well, I'm sure I can find the Interwebs somewhere in Brussels. Probably even in the Gare du Midi. My organisation has failed me. I had everything written out for London; I'll need to be sure to write things out for Maastricht and Koln. Tomorrow is my only full day in Brussels, so I am going to set out to find the bicycle shop in the morning. I found one online which sells Trek bikes, so I might be able to get my exact bike, which will be helpful because then the rear rack I am going to get will fit my at-home bike. I am liking the biking the more I consider it, and I am very excited about seeing a new place every day or two. I think that is where I messed up with London. I oughtn't have decided to stay there a full week; I should have gone to Scotland or Wales, or even just the rest of England. Had I missed something, it is not like I will never be back or something.

I am most assuredly going to be back. I very much like this idea of traveling Europe, and I believe I am going to do as much of it by bicycle as I can. Hopefully, I will be able to convince someone to come with me in the future, because all of the excitement of being somewhere else does not stop me missing people.

Right now we are very slowly going along, and we are passing a hayfield. Someone was alseep up against a hay bale. The other half of the field is something short and green with large oval leaves which I do not recognise. I assume it is some sort of root crop. I suppose we are going around the corner because the train has acquired a decided list to my left; the train's right, and a few seconds ago my wine glass overcame the coefficient of friction and began sliding toward the center of the car. I caught it. Now we are full stop and next to a field of mustard. I think it is mustard. If Belgium is like here I will have no problem biking across it. There is a highway nearby, but there is the equivalent to a county road running along here through the fields and under the right-of-way for the rail. It is deserted.

The conductor (who is called something more important that I cannot remember, but who is still the conductor, just came on, said something unintelligible (to me) in French and then repeatedly vaguely that we are awaiting permission to continue. I assume that someone else is on this track. I am not offended. Someone in a white car that looks sort of like someone took the Ghostmobile and stretched it upwards is easing along by the mown hayfield.

Lunch was not bad. I tried the mustard chicken salad – it essentially amounted to minced chicken with a bit of brown mustard as marinade. The raspberry affair was okay; when I get home I want a nice piece of strawberry cheesecake. I think I shall bake one when I am no longer jetlagged.

There are a lot of giant spools behind the warehouse we are passing. College guys should come fetch one or seven. Now we are listing the other way and I wish we would speed up or flatten out because I am acquiring a touch of seasickness. Hey, there is a power plug under my table. Sweet.

Oh, no. It was lying. It merely purported to be a power plug. Perhaps I did not upgrade enough; I did upgrade from cattle car on account of it was only twenty bucks, and I do believe it was worth it. The coach which I inhabit is three seats across; two on one side and one on the other and they are about the size of business class seats on an airplane; normal coach was four across. For my flight home, I'm going try to get to Gatwick early enough to negotiate a business class seat; if I have to pay a little extra (by a little, I mean no more than two hundred pounds) that is fine, but I have learned on this trip when an extra expense is worth something (see Hard Rock and the expensive, but wonderful, cheeseburger) and when it is not. For example, I think it is utterly pointless to fly first class from Austin to Houston. But if four hundred bucks will get me another ten inches of legroom and a seat that actually reclines for the ten hour journey home, I am so there.

Yay, farms! I miss farms. Sheep! Yay, sheep! And people working in the fields, personally. We are going at a normal speed again; and passing a lot of Creepy Italian Trees. They must have immigrated. I feel like I am passing any given town in South Texas, except these villages have been around for hundreds of years. And they have grass. As the train goes along, we remain level and the terrain changes around us; this puts me to mind of By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder, in which she described the uses of “cuts” and “fills” in track laying, so as to keep the tracks as level as possible.



Anonymous Ferrari said...

With all due respect my lady, unless the thing comes with a side of services I can't describe without making this a non-family friendly blog, no cheeseburger is worth $40.

4:46 PM  

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