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Chasing The American Dream

September 29, 2006

TRAIN WRECK

How not to travel from Miami, Florida to Gent, Belgium. It started off well and good. I flew first class from Miami to Philadelphia without incident. My next leg from Philadelphia to Paris went smoothly. Flying business class sure helps the 12 ½ hour flight pass by quickly. It was 7:45 a.m. and all was according to schedule. So it appeared all the hard work was behind me, but little did I know.

After I got my luggage, I realized that I was in a different terminal than the last visit. Therefore, I had to figure out how to get to my train station to catch the train from Paris to Brussels. The last visit was easy because the train station and was in the same terminal as my flight. I waited in the information line to get instructions to the train station. I dunno, in Europe, people seem to move slowly. Lines don’t move and you could be standing at a counter forever without being noticed. And you all know my lack of patience for line waiting. The woman told me to take an elevator, out to the street, and get on a bus to get to terminal three. Ever been on an elevator in Europe? It has a capacity for like two people and that’s excluding luggage. So the line to get on the elevator was once again, long and slow-moving. I finally just got on the ‘up’ elevator just to get on it even though I had to go downstairs. Once outside, I ran for the bus which was friggin packed. I was smashed in so tight that the door couldn’t even close because I was blocking it. A 15-minute curvy ride with no windows on a hot bus with people sneezing is not my idea of fun. I couldn’t wait to get off that bus.

Once I got to the train station, things were once again familiar. I ordered a Coke Light (Diet Coke) which was served warm. Man, I could never live here. My train was scheduled to leave at just past 10 a.m. I ran into my colleague who, for some strange reason, was booked on a noon train. He looked at my ticket and told me I was on the slow train and not the bullet train. Thus, it would take me two hours to get to Brussels instead of one. I didn’t have enough time to change the ticket and left to go catch the train. After waiting and waiting, they posted a message saying the train was ‘retard’ which I think in English means late. I finally boarded 45 minutes late. Meanwhile, my colleague got on the 10:45 fast train and easily beat me to Brussels because my stupid slow train made five stops.

Now 12:45, I had to get a connecting train to Gent. I made a quick ticket purchase and caught the 1:10 train to Gent. It’s hot and exhausting lugging a 50-pound bag around up and down stairs to catch trains, lemme tell ya. I collapsed in my seat barely making it before the doors closed. Ten minutes into the ride, security came through to check tickets. The dude rudely said I was in first class and needed to move. I really had no idea and was wondering what could be first class about this ordinary seat I was sitting in. Plus, the train was empty. I was tired and didn’t feel like lugging my luggage across cars so I just paid the extra four Euros. Aaah, peace and quiet for the next 20 minutes…

I think I was awake for 18 of the minutes because the next thing I new, the rude security dude told me I missed my stop in Gent. I’m sure he took pleasure over the fact that I fell asleep and missed it. Man, all I wanted to do was get to my hotel, but now I had another 30 minutes to the next stop and another 30 back. I decided I was done with trains for the day and figured I’d take a cab back. I arrived in Brugge and followed the signs that said, “Taxis.” As I got to the street, I saw one cab pull away from the curb. It was the only cab in sight. I couldn’t believe it. No cabs? Finally, I saw one approaching and hailed it. I asked the driver how much the ride would be and incredibly, he told me it would be 135 Euros or around $175 dollars. Are you kidding me? A 30 mile cab ride for $175??? Meanwhile, the vultures were ascending upon my cab. It was the only one in sight and 100 people wanted it. One quick decision disappointed 100 people cuz I decided I’d take the cab. I was desperate. At last, I was on my way to the hotel with no more issues.

We got close to the hotel, and there was some sort of festival going on with certain roadblocks. The idiot driver said he could get no closer and that I’d have to walk. I told him for $175, he was going to drop me at the hotel. So he went round and round and finally gave up and refused to go to the hotel. He ordered me to walk. It was unreal? I had to lug my 50-pound dead weight along cobblestone streets to get to the hotel and I didn’t even know where it was. The driver said it was 150 metres to the right. Uhh, wrong. I couldn’t find it and now it was raining. I called my colleague who arrived hours ago and who was dropped off directly at the hotel. He gave me some guidance and I finally found the hotel. Dripping wet from rain and sweat, I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier to see a bed.

Man, traveling can be a bitch sometimes. And to my Belgian reader out there, I ate at Pakhuis and Belga Queen. Great food. Well, I’m off to Paris. Gonna check out Versailles. Wish me luck getting there.

3 Comments:

  • What is it with you and trains? You seem to have the absolute worst luck.

    How long will you be in Paris this time? I can suggest a few restaurants and a few things to do that might be outside the norm. And, with more time, there are a few more things you probably shouldn't miss.

    Anyway, welcome back to Europe, and I hope things look up for you!

    By Anonymous EAO, at 9:57 AM, September 29, 2006  

  • I love Europe! Here's to small elevators and slow queues - you can meet the most entertaining people on them :) It's all about taking life slowly and in your own stride...

    By Blogger Lady, at 10:50 AM, September 29, 2006  

  • HI! Hope you are having a great time in Paris!
    Silvina

    By Blogger Silli, at 3:52 PM, September 29, 2006  

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