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Tuesday, May 02, 2006 

Poor Planning

April 15, 2006

Getting to Amsterdam was an ordeal. We checked out of our hotel in Brussels, went to the train station and, since we had "open" tickets, hopped on the first Thalys train heading for Amsterdam. Unfortunately, it didn't work that way. The tickets were good for any regular service train - not the fancy, schmancy Thalys. The ticket checker lady (TCL) was really nice, and said "No problem, just get off at the next stop, and change there." Okay, easy enough, right?

The next stop happened to be Antwerp. TCL advised me to ask the uniformed man on the platform where I needed to go. I made the mistake of asking him in French. Brussels is technically a bilingual city, with all signs being in both French and Flemish (or as Bink called it, "phlegm-ish".) In reality, I only ever heard people speaking French. That was a no-no in Antwerp. He tried to respond in French and then asked me "Do you speak English?" When I said that I do, he said "English is much better for me." I had read in a guide book that north of Brussels this was generally the case, but I guess I'd forgotten. I realized that this was the first time I'd been somewhere where I didn't have at least a rudimentary grasp of the language. It was a strange feeling. I couldn't understand any of the signs or announcements. I didn't like that feeling, I must admit.

Anyway, we made it to the correct platform and got on our train. Man, was it sloooow. It made every conceivable stop. While the original Thalys train had arrived in Amsterdam at 1:45, we got in at 4:30. Good lord.

Since I sometimes tend to be a "flexible" traveller, I didn't have any hotel reservations. Sometimes this works out okay (4 star hotel in Brussels,) sometimes not (spending the night in the train station in La Spezia,) but whatever. It's all an experience. Not a good plan in Amsterdam, though. In the spring. At Easter. We went to tourist info. to find accomodations, and were told that there was no room at the inn - any inn in all of Amsterdam, as a matter of fact. The only thing left were luxury hotels fetching over 200 euros per night. She recommended a place in Rotterdam - about an hour and a half by train. Um, no. I asked about Haarlem, and Jordaan, but nothing was showing up as available. She was finally able to find us a room in Utrecht, a suburb about a half hour outside the city. Not ideal, but available (it actually turned out to be okay because the trains between Utrecht and Amsterdam ran hourly 24h.)

So. We took the train to Utrecht, took a tram to our hotel (the public transportation in Holland is great,) checked in, dropped our bags in the room, and went back to Amsterdam.

We walked around for a while, and then it started to rain. Lovely. We couldn't decide on dinner, so we had take out Indonesian food - which served as a great preview for the next night's dinner.

It was really pouring by 9:00 when we decided to catch our train back to the hotel. Before we left the city, we stopped at the easyInternet cafe where I could check my email (and make a brief post.)

We looked forward to things being better the following day...

I'm turning the page...hint hint, I'm turning and nothing is happening:)

k

you should check out andreas daily photo blog about brussels, today she has a interesting picture about Brussels ;-)

oh my god I haven't been keeping up I had no idea where you've been.

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