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Passport stamped in Brussels, spring 2000



Brussels en route to Paris, New Year '04


Thanh, a co-worker of mine who'd loaned us his car, gave us a "route-planner" printout that would take us through Lille and straight then to Paris.

But we got a late start (from Nijmegen,) and it looked by the route planner that we would end up in Paris at about 6 o'clock. That's rush hour in any city, which seemed a bad idea.

We decided to go through Brussels and stay the night there. We'd end up in Paris on New Year's Eve, which was our intention.

The road into Brussels came to a stoplight, and we were in the city. We got lost, and went in a random search for accommodation.

After driving around for a bit, we stopped at a petrol station convenience shop and went in. K_ asked if he spoke Dutch, and he proceeded to direct us to an area where there was inexpensive lodging.

We were on the "ring-road," I believe. (The Ring Road later turned out beguiling and elusive, a crazy bastard to find and follow and lose and regain.)

On this section of road, in any case, we were to go back the direction we'd come, and go left at a certain roundabout, the second or third.

I realized, back in the car, that we hadn't gone through any roundabouts. K_: "Maybe you just didn't see it." Me: "A roundabout isn't something you see; it's something you drive around." "That's true." On this part of road, the main route goes under the crossing streets. It dips, and re-arises on the other side. Your exits would keep you at ground-level, and you'd either stay this side or turn left across the bridge. We went back as many bridges as the fellow had told us to go back. We turned left over across the top.

We passed a couple of painters who were out at their van, and K_ spoke with one of them. He said he didn't speak Dutch. He suggested Italian, and something else; maybe a couple of others. He didn't mention French; and he didn't mention English, though he listed his languages in English.

We parked the car for a while. We had a cup of coffee in a great little cafe that was bustling with people of all ages. We walked around a bit, and had some french fries.

We finally decided that we would just drive to Paris. Then — after losing and finding the ring-road several times — we found the road out of town. There, off the freeway entrance, was a "Formule 1" hotel.

Thanh had given us a brochure of this brand of accommodation. We'd have never found one by direction, but here one was. That was enough to form a decision.

I can't remember what the fee was, but it was less than 30 euro. The provision is a bare, systematized "place to stay." Nothing to complain about, and no luxury either. Showers a sterile plastic efficient self-cleaning setup down the hall near the reception/lobby, where you can get a cup of tea and a bit of pastry to eat in the morning. I think we woke up too late for that.

We checked out and headed out for Paris.


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