Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Europe 2010 - Part Deux

October 9, 2010      Brugge & Paris

I woke up at 7.00am after a fight with sleep and got ready before I woke G and Babs up to have our breakfast. PS was still sleeping because he went out partying after our already late dinner last night. I kicked his ass and got him out of the sofa where he slept because he gave us his bedroom (Love you for that & Thanks!) and then checked the time for the next train out of Bruxelles Central station. It was at 9.00am and unfortunately it was already 8.45am and we were still at home. We quickly put things together and ran to the station. The train had just got into the station as we climbed down the steps without buying tickets. PS asked the ticket collector to let us pay inside and shoved us into the train DDLJ style. We waved him bye as we sat down by the steps outside the first class compartment watching Belgium pass us by, village after village. Babs enjoyed it, the green, the cows, and G and I admired the style of buildings and the green. But still we were not yet super excited. I wanted to see the Europe of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol and here we were riding on the steps of the train. We were missing the kind of excitement you feel. Like I said before, we were also doubting if we should indeed spend so many days in Belgium especially since BRU was nice but not as Great as you would expect. At least in the start.

We got off at Brugge and got information regarding where to and what to from the info center and headed into the city. Five minutes of walking and we were rewarded having taken the hour long train journey. First, there was the beautiful canal with bridges atop. Then the winding streets with typical EU home fronts, lots of beautiful window sill flowers and postcard vistas and avenues. Of course there was a beautiful church which had the statue of Madonna of Brugge statue by Michelangelo. It was beautiful and so peaceful. We lit three candles inside. Prayed and walked around and took in the beauty of the peaceful place.

So anyway, coming back. We got into Brugge by 10.15am and we were all super hungry. G and I decided to try out one of the quaint cafe's along the street and we stopped to pick up a croissant, a cheese pastry, a waffle, Gini (Orange soda) and coffee before moving a limb. Surprise, everything was yummy. My first meal that I fell in love with in EU. Another surprise, Waffle is not served with syrup, instead with either powdered sugar, or chocolate, or whipped cream. They can also get topped off with fruits or other stuff, but no syrup. The waffles are not circular but instead squarish. They have jagged edges and look imperfect. They are at least an inch thick too. And I had it with just powdered sugar and it was heavenly. It melted in my mouth. I look at the pseudo named Eggo's Belgian waffles with super disdain now!

From there we proceeded to take the canal ride. Brugge is known as the Venice of the north and it lived up to its name. The canal was beautiful. The houses and buildings along on either side had beautiful history. We were so happy to have come this far. It was just what we had wanted to see and more. Babs was super excited to be on a boat and enjoyed watching the bridges pass over our heads.

After the canal we headed towards the market square making a stop at the Church of St. Anne (I think) and admired the statue of Madonna of Brugge from very close. This was Babs first brush with Baby Jesus and she fell in love with him. Every time she saw any church after that she wanted to go in and see Baby Jesus.

We finally arrived at the market square and picked up a Subway. Yes, you read that right, a Sub and water. In Belgium, they do not give you water to drink, you have to buy them bottled. The concept of serving water is not there. Ate the lunch and then strolled around the square before taking the bus ride. Aboard the bus G and I were hit by a bout of jet lag. We could not keep our eyes open and took short naps. The most expensive naps ever, we had paid 14 Euros each.

After another long walk we were back in the station. PS had previously told us that our train to Paris was at 7.00pm. We were back in BRU at 4.30 and were in no hurry. I made dinner for babs while Babs had a shower. PS ran in with C in tow to inform us that our train was at 6.15 from BRU Midi station (not Central which was close to his house) and we had to leave right then. Once again, we panicked, packed Babs dinner and ran to the station with huge bags and Babs in one arm. Changed a train and settled down in our Thaly's train to head to Paris. The minute we settled down I fed Babs had two spoons of rice and dal and with that she rested her head on my lap. She slept through the entire journey while G and I admired the beauty of the landscape and windmills as we headed towards Paris!

Babs and C hit off well. She fell in love with her and was dying to play with her after we came back to BRU. Babs likes very few people on first sight, this time around it was Remi from our previous night and C from today. She could not stopping asking PS about C throughout the entire stay in Paris.

We also had a mild altercation in the train as a big black lady along with her two kids sat on our chair and claimed that it was hers and she would not budge in spite of us showing her our reserved seat tickets. She started speaking fast in French and when we tried to reason out with her she got loud and angry. On one hand I was feeling bad for her because she did have two super cranky kids but then changing seats would mean that I would not be able to sit together with G and PS and finally spend some quality time with them. We did not say anything. We just stood and waited as she moved out and sat elsewhere.

And then we reached Paris, after dark! It was 8.00pm. We got off at Paris Nord, bought 3-day pass train tickets and took a train to Bastille and walked to Sebastien's (Remi's friend from previous evening party) home in the city. He was Prash's friend who let us use his house in Paris. He has no idea how helpful that was especially with a child on tow having a home and not a hotel room helped immensely. His house was located at the Opera center of Paris and the walk to his house was lined with restaurants, bars, and all the show biz we could enjoy. The house itself was small in American standards but beautifully self-sufficient and impressive in terms of space usage. G and I could not stop admiring the way there was everything in the house but scaled down. Thanks Sebastien. G then discovered the Ledru Rollin station that was closer to the house than Bastille and that is where we started most of our Parisian adventures.

Once we got home and freshened up G insisted that we do Eiffel Tower that very night night. I wanted to put up a mild resistance but decided that he might have a valid point. So we took the necessary trains and headed tower-wards. The minute you get off the station Eiffel tower vision surprises your senses. You know it is big but you cannot imagine how big it actually is. It is Huge and golden standing against the dark night behind. The beauty is indescribable and something to experience. Once we went up we sang Happy Birthday to Babs as promised and she quickly pointed out, "Amma, but you forgot to bring my cake." I assured her that she will have one on the 17th and we took her to a carousel ride just outside the tower while I had my first ever Parisian Crepe with which I fell in love. The one with Nutella...yumm...yumm. Seeing them make one is an art in itself and then eat it...yumm...

In all the excitement of being at the Tower I lost G's and my three day train pass. 40 Euro's down the drain. This cost us considerable delay because we had to acquire new tickets and so we had to walk to a different station and all that among my feet hurting like crazy so we did not get home till almost midnight. We were exhausted. I was super guilty, G was slightly angry but he downplayed it real well, PS could not believe that I had screwed up, he knew a different me. Not the clumsy mother that I have become! We had no idea when each of us had gone to sleep. PS slept on the couch mid-sentence while Babs was half asleep as we came home and G and I slept as soon as our heads touched the pillow. I prayed to God that tomorrow my feet would hurt less!

In all the hurry that led us to the train to Paris I had forgotten to take my sneakers and my legs had already started showing wear and tear of walking a whole day on cobblestone in my heeled boots. It looked good in the photos, no doubt, but it hurt like crazy. We slept like babies that night, again.

G planned to head out early again the next day so that we could do a lot of things. He reminded me that we fell in love with Brugge only because we got there early before the rest of the tourists made it in making the place look quaint and special instead of another tourist place which it looked like while we headed home. We planned to start at Notre Dame the next morning.

  • Go to Brugge if you are in EU. It is a city that will make you fall in love with it. It was my favorite part of the trip.
  • Do not wear high heels in Belgium or Paris. You walk a lot and the cobble stone in Belgium does not help and the climbing in and out of the train station in Paris does not really massage your feet either. 
  • Always carry a bottle of water from home. A really small bottled water in Belgium cost 3 Euros.
  • Everyone smoke in Paris. The city smells of cigarette smoke.
  • Paris is not the most clean city.
  • Eiffel tower at night is magnificent. And once you see it in the night the morning view is just okay.
  • Parisian's are not fond of English and people who speak it. We had to put our knowledge of basic French to use. 


Megha Bansal said...

my fav parts are the references to babs, you know that right? :)
pl. put some pics with the blog, if privacy etc is not an issue.

good recos at the end!

Nitin Vaswani said...

following ur 'adventures' closely.....well chronicled, am saving them....will help me when i plan my own EU trip :)