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Stamped in Brussels,
anno 2000


December 2003 —

I don't know why we were in Brussels. We had planned to go through Antwerp, toward Lille, on our way to Paris for the New Year.

As soon as we got to the city of Brussels, we were in the city, stopping at a stoplight.

Oh, I remember. We'd wondered if we wanted to stay in Brussels instead of pressing on toward Paris, because it was going to be rush-hour in Paris by the time we got there, 6 o'clock or so. We hadn't seen any hotels outside the city of Brussels. We saw one from that first stoplight, but it didn't look right. We decided to stay on that road, the "Ring."

We kept finding and losing the Ring.

We asked at a gas station directions to hotels: back to roundabout and turn left. But we hadn't gone through a roundabout. Kim: "Maybe you just didn't see it." Me: "A roundabout isn't something you see; it's something you drive around." "That's true."

But we went back and turned that way anyhow. We didn't find any hotels.

We stopped for Kim to ask two painters. One spoke for both; he said he didn't speak Nederlands. He suggested a few languages. He didn't mention French; and he didn't mention English, though he listed his languages in English.

We came to a roundabout that had no apparent signs for us — and the road nearest to continuation proved to be the wrong one.

Kim asked at a shop. The woman didn't like her.

Ultimately, we stumbled accidentally onto a "Formule 1," the brand of super-cheap simple hotel recommended by Than, my co-worker who had loaned us the early-model Mercedes for the trip.