I’m having second thoughts about my “draft” itinerary, which is why I’m glad it’s draft. I’ve booked nothing ahead, so can pretty much go where I want and when, with little worry.
On that note, I decided to take the train to Belgium today. I took the high-speed Eurostar from London’s Waterloo station. The check-in agent remarked on the hour of sunshine we’d just had, as if God had worked some kind of miracle. After passing through security and informing the immigrations officer that I was headed for Brussels, he offered a skeptical glance and stamped my passport.
After boarding the train, I lasted about ten minutes in my assigned seat; I found myself sharing a small 4-top with three French guys who were well-intended but blissfully unaware of those around them. What was especially interesting is that everyone stuck to their assigned seats despite there being entire cars of empty seats. I decided to pick up and relocate to another car – partially in hopes of getting a better view, but also to quench my American urge for a little more space. I settled into a pair of seats against the window in a nearly empty car.
The English countryside out through Canterbury and Dover was gorgeous and strangely regal – rolling green pastures with several small villages that seemed to have been built around the ancient stone churches set in their center. Then it was time to leave…
The concept of the Eurotunnel was exciting enough to make up for the rather obvious fact that it offered little in the way of sensory stimulation.
When we entered France, it was evident that while we were under the Channel, the landscape had drawn in a giant breath and puffed out its chest. Lush vegetation and vast swaths of farmland were dotted with fat, fluffy sheep and punctuated by inexplicable ditches of latte-colored water. More towns with enormous stone churches in the middle. Most of the homes were stone or brick with roofs that looked copper in color, but as if they’d be soft to the touch. There were odd batches of trees that stood together, leafless, tall and narrow like islands of splintering matchsticks. Were they firs? The cows and horses roamed comfortably but seemed to congregate in groups, as if to mimick the towns that sat below them. The vegetation has such a secure grip on this place that it’s even crawling up the sides of the homes and farming equipment as if to remind everyone who is the ultimate farmer.
One odd sight breaking it all up was a small, dimly lit campground filled with RVs, trailers and Mercedes cars. Across the street one farmstand trailer had its awning open, and under it a purple neon light called out to the campers across the way.
It was just after six o’clock, and as if a tornado were looming, the sky quickly lost its brightness to the night as we zipped into Belgium at 200 miles per hour. The next mission of this traveler: to find out if what they say about Belgian chocolate and biscuits is true.