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Published: October 1st 2017
Geo: 52.3738, 4.89095
It was rainy today, but not horrible. We spent the morning walking to see the places where famous Americans lived and worked in the 1920s, starting with Hemingway's second house, the one above the sawmill, the one he talks about a lot in A Moveable Feast. It is now part of an "Alsatian School" … presumably for children, not dogs. We then peered inside the Café of Cloisters de Lilas, where he frequently worked. The café is very beautiful, both on the inside, where it looks like the upscale restaurant it is, and on the outside, where the terrace is surrounded by plants in pots and the tables are secreted from the street by tall, narrow cypresses. We both wondered how much it had changed since Hemingway's day. We opted not to lunch there, thinking it a little overpriced, as if they are trading on the Hemingway name … so we went to a different café across the street and had a very tasty curry for lunch. With egg mayonnaise for starters, and coffee to round off the meal. I used the 20 Euros I found near the train ticket office on my way in to buy our wine,
which seemed like good Karma.
On our return, we took a slight detour to see the exterior of Gertrude Stein's house. A man was delivering a painting frame, which seemed very appropriate. I took photos; it was too bad there was also a work truck in front. We also passed L'atelier de Joel Robuchon and peered at the menu. Carol plans to try it later, so I'll have to find out what she thinks about it.
It was then time to leave, which was sad. Oscar seemed to snub me; Carol said he was so put off by my leaving that he would not say good-bye, which was cute. They walked me to the Metro, then I rode up twelve stations, then down three stations. The train was already at the track when I arrived at Gare du Nord, but I still opted to walk around a bit before boarding. So far, it does not appear that my seat has been sold (I write this as I wait), but I'm always nervous … partially because I'm always nervous, partially because of what happened in Agra, and partially because I read online that Thalys has sold seats multiple times to multiple people.
At least I bought mine on the Thalys site, so maybe that will help if there is a problem. In any case, lots of people around me seem to speak English as well as local languages, so maybe all will be okay. So … I just passed the conductor test, so all is well. Or almost well … the Internet is not great. I can access Google Belgium, google maps, and Wikipedia Belgium, but nothing like email, which, is, of course, what I really want. (Although my work email is clearly okay, because I sent myself a test message. Oh, the trauma.)
20h05: Okay, I have not been having much luck with train travel recently. When we arrived Brussels, a woman came to my seat and told me, “That is my seat.” When I showed my ticket to the steward, he said something about changing trains. I asked a different steward where I needed to go, and she said to talk to the train manager, who would be at car 15. So I found car 15, and the train manager looked at my ticket and said, “You have to wait for the next train. It will come here.” And I said,
“Do I have the same seat?” “Yes, yes,” he declared, “This is your seat,” and pointed to the reservation number. I was skeptical, but the train was leaving, and they would not let me back on. So when I looked at the Big Board, there was no indication of another train for Amsterdam, at least not soon. I went to the Thalys information desk, and they told me I had missed my train. I explained the situation, and he said, “You must talk to the train manager on the next train, which will come to track 3A. I can do nothing for you here.” I waited, found the train manager, who was in a crowd … another steward asked me if I needed help, and I explained the situation. “Get on board, and take any seat,” she said. I got on board, and the train left … but I waited until I could talk to the train manager. I explained the situation. “You're on the wrong train,” he said. “I know that,” I said. “But I was told to get off the other train. And someone else had my seat. And the conductor had validated my ticket.” He laughed (and
the steward laughed). “Well, take any seat. You can find a seat.” So I went into the train car and found an empty seat (there were lots of them). I dreded the stops at Antwerp and Rotterdam, but no one got on board. I figured Schiopol would be safe … people were unlikely to reserve a seat from the airport to town … and I was right.
Upon arrival, it took me a little while to find the right road, but then I was able to walk to the hotel. It is a charming hotel, but I'm a bit worried that they close the front door at 11pm; not sure Keegan will be here by that time. I may have to go sit in the lobby to wait for him. Without falling asleep.
At 11:30pm, I went downstairs, but no Keegan. Every time the front doorbell rang, I looked over hopefully, but he did not come. I used the free wired Internet in the lobby to check messages and learned that Keegan landed at 9pm. It should not take him three hours to reach the hotel … where could he be? I frantically emailed Paul, wondering if he had heard anything,
but he hadn't. Eventually, I heard him enter and start to explain to the front desk who he was … I popped around the corner, said hi, then quickly let Paul know Keegan had appeared. Then, we went up to the room to sleep.
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