Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Brussels South Station Incident

Our European trip this time took us to three countries: We first visited Holland for a week, then we spent a week with our friends in rural Belgium, and then we moved on to Paris, France. 

For our weeks in Holland and in Belgium, we rented a car from Avis. But we didn’t want a car in Paris. Who needs a car in Paris?! No way!

So we drove our Avis car from Holland to Belgium, and we used it there for a week. Then, we planned to return the car in Belgium at the end of our visit to that country, and take the train there to Paris.

The train to Paris is the TGV, the Thalys bullet train. We had to catch it at the Brussels Midi Station - the South Station. So that’s where we also had to return the rented car.

On the morning of our departure from our friends’ house (about an hour outside of Brussels), we punched into the car’s GPS the address of the Avis rental car return at Brussels’ South Station: Rue de France 2. Read more...

Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Visit to Quebec City

We just returned from Quebec City, my husband and I, and I can honestly say that it is the most beautiful city in north America.

We made a stop over on our way up from Boston, to visit some friends who live in the northern most part of New Hampshire. The North Country is part of the Great North Woods, a vast wooded area stretching across most of the Eastern States. It is the area north of Franconia Notch in the White Mountains, that most tourists find too far and too remote. That is why we like it so much.

The North Country is a mix of pine forest, and mostly non-working dairy farms and, as is often the case when cultivation meets wilderness, the result is a unique landscape of rolling fields covered with yellow dandelions against a background of dark green pine forests.

Our friends live on a 300 acre property, set deep in the forest, away from the small town of Colebrook. Sadly, ATV’s (All Terrain Vehicles) are taking over this northern-most corner of the state. Giving these monstrous vehicles access to the habitat of the remaining wildlife will certainly kill the goose that lays the golden egg, but the locals see it as one of the few sources of income for an area where most residents are on welfare. The local authorities have opted for a shortsighted and temporary solution by allowing their pristine forests to be destroyed. It’s either the deer and local fauna or food on the table.

The day we left, the ATV season opened. There is a hunting season, a snowmobile season and an ATV season. We heard them thundering down the peaceful country lanes, usually in groups, which made the noise deafening. At the local gas station we saw them stack up on six-packs and cigarettes before hopping onto their ‘quads’ and ‘goosing’ them until the air was filled gasoline fumes.

Ten miles up the road, we arrived at the Canadian border. Gone are the good old pre-9/11 days when all you needed to cross was a driver’s license. Now, you need a passport. It is not les Canadiens’ fault. The US won’t let you back in without proof of residency and valid identification. Because I was a political refugee for most of my childhood, I felt the butterflies having a field day in my stomach while we were waiting for the border guard to come back with our documentation.

With a sigh of relief, we drove on. Speed limit signs in kilometers left us guessing at our speed, so we just followed other cars’ lead, hoping that they were are law abiding Canadians. Read more...