It is Friday at 9:20 am. I have not been blogging like I intended to, but that’s fine. Might as well go see places while I’m traveling instead of being on my computer, right? I can always ketchup when I get back to Canada.
I’m on the bus from Brussels to Paris. It gets in around 12:30, and my plan is to find a coffee, refuel, and then go to the Pompidou Centre. My lovely host Helene is working until 3:30, so I’ll kill time until she’s ready. Here’s hoping the Centre has coat check / luggage storage!
And then tomorrow, Helene, her boyfriend, his brother, and I are going to Versailles in the morning. I hear it gets hella crowded, so I’d like to get there early, to ensure we have enough time. Because tomorrow at 7:45 pm, I fly back to Montreal. This one is direct and lands at 9:30 pm local time. I’m strongly considering staying the night in MTL and then seeing friends / spending time there on Sunday. Still gotta find some friend to put me up, and I haven’t fully decided (might want to just get back and sleep in my own bed), so we’ll see.
Where did I leave off last time? I was on the bus from Paris to Brussels. Typed up a quick update (quick for me, I mean – it was still 5000 words lmao) and then watched the first 2/3 of Zodiac. David Fincher is one of my favourite directors, Jake Gyllenhaal is great, and I love horror – but this one was a bit too plodding for me. Glad I watched it, though, and it did make the ride go quickly.
Then I arrive to Bruxelles-Nord station and have to make my way to Sam’s, by Place Flagey. Perhaps watching a scary movie wasn’t the best idea, since wandering around a strange city, alone at night, had me jumpy. It didn’t help that the North Station is in a sketchy part of town and my Maps wasn’t working (kept showing me as being in Nantes). So that was a struggle. Eventually, I did manage to find the right road (after somehow happening upon Brussels’ red light district) and got on the tram. I only got to Sam and Francois’ around midnight, which is ridiculous. I should’ve been there 3.5 hours earlier! UGH so annoying. I still need to email Flix Bus to try some recompensation. Wish me luck, I guess.
I rinse off in their waterfall shower, catch up with Sam a bit, and then go promptly to bed, because the next day, I had an 8:30 am bus to Luxembourg! Honestly, I wasn’t feeling it, and when my alarm went off and the skies were dark – I considered just going back to sleep. This is a vacation, right? And I had just spent 8 hours traveling the day before, and before that was 18 hours of traveling, all told. So did I really want to spend another 6 hours on a bus? No.
But I figured, whatever, I already bought the tickets. I picked up some baked goods and an apple on the way there, caught my bus right on time, ate a cinnamon bun, then snoozed the entire way to Luxembourg. That’s what I’d hoped to do, and although it wasn’t super comfortable, it still energized me. Thank goodness, because I had six hours in Luxembourg City and wanted to see as much as I could!
I disembark, get a map from the ticket counter, and go explorin’. As I had just woken up, though, my first priority was a coffee. It’s very unlike me, but I went into McDonald’s for this. I know, right? Ugh. But the cashier told me the €1 coffee was a café-crème and there was free WiFi, so why not. Except it was an espresso, not a café au lait, and the Internet was nice, but the washrooms cost another euro to get in. not what I expected. Regardless, an espresso for $1.50 Canadian is a great deal, and they even had milk you could put in, for free.
Then I walk into the city in earnest. [K, I’m suddenly tired – I had no coffee today yet either. There was no time this morning, and I barely made this bus as is. So I’m gonna rest some now.]
Okay, now it’s Saturday at 9:30 pm. I did manage to fall asleep on the bus yesterday, and then I had a very full afternoon, evening, and day today as well. Gotta make the most of my trip before it’s over, right? I’m exhausted, but I don’t feel like I missed much of everything. No, I didn’t make it to Rotterdam, and there was no time to see the Montmartre Cemetery (sorry Tony!), but I caught up with old friends and saw some amazing cities. No regrets.
I’m currently on the plane ride back to Montreal. It’s a direct flight, but not with Icelandair this time. That disappoints me, since I was so pleasantly impressed with them on the way in. No biggie. This one was supposed to be Iberia Air, but for some reason, I’m on this airline called Level? Never heard of it. It’s a bit strange. Ditto with how I got to the airport and went to the ticketing counter (since online check-in was not available for this flight), and the woman there said “You’re lucky. We would’ve closed already, but we are delayed today. Please go directly to your gate.” So I’m like, sh!t, okay then, let me rush through security. Even the screens say boarding… But I still need to wait 40 minutes to actually get on the plane? Peculiar.
It’s all well and good, though, since I was placed in one of the first rows on the whole plane, after first class. So I have nobody in front of me – and thus more leg room – and there’s nobody beside me either! I even have a little overhead compartment to myself! Not sure how I got so lucky, but I’ll take it.
I just watched last week’s episode of Survivor David vs Goliath (which had a supremely satisfying #blindside), and now I figured I’d write a bit more in here. This plane does have monitors with free movies, so I’ll chronicle some of my journey and then watch a movie. I’m thinking Deadpool 2, or maybe Love, Simon. Both have queer representation, but different flavours. Ha. Probably the former to start. I gotta stay awake somehow, right?
Unfortunately, once I get to Montreal (at 9:30 pm local time, or 3:30 am Paris time), there are no more Greyhounds back to Ottawa. I was considering staying the night and spending most of the day there anyway… But I also miss my bed and have no clean shirts, let alone a winter jacket. No idea what the temperature is, but I have been B L E S S E D with the weather this past week. It only rained twice – the day I spent commuting to Brussels from Paris, and in the morning when I was walking around Antwerp. Beyond that, it was sunny and mid- to high twenties! In October! I love it. Chanceux.
So I’m sleeping over at Matt and Tyler’s (not Chris’ as he’s out of town). Tomorrow, I’ll walk around, go to the AntiCafe, and hopefully see some friends. Then, at last, return home, throw all my stuff in the hamper, take a long, hot shower, and make nachos before watching the latest episode of The Challenge: Final Reckoning. I decided not to view it on my trip, since I didn’t really have a comfortable setup for a TV show. Might as well just wait and watch it on my big screen.
And then, go to bed early, and hopefully not be jet lagged for my return to the office on Monday morning!
Anyhow, back to my trip. I don’t reckon I’ll finish describing it now, but I suppose we’ll see. Now, where was I?
Ah yes, Luxembourg. It was another glorious day. I spent the afternoon walking around this luxe city. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s easy to see why. Great architecture and a quaint village feeling. The colours of the trees were splendid, too. Especially with how nice the weather was, I am jubilant I decided to go in October. The autumnal hues, smaller crowds, and ideal temperatures – just perfect. Maybe somebody’s looking out for me.
I saw lots of the main sites of Luxembourg, including “the world’s most beautiful balcony” (something Corniche – phenomenal views the entire way down it, wow), the Grand Duke’s Palace, Place d’Armes, this old Abbey, Andolphe Bridge (which was the one thing captured in Mini-Europe, which struck me as a strange choice), the valley park, etc. The #1 site according to Lonely Planet was the Museum of City History, but as it was Monday, it was closed. So I went to the second best attraction, the castmates. Which are these tunnels dug into this ridge, used for defense during battles, for shelter during storms, that kinda thing. Only €6 to enter, and although it wasn’t mind-blowing, I still enjoyed myself. Lots of stairs, though, which – despite how I climb 110+ flights in 20 minutes on the stair climber, thrice weekly – sucked.
I decided to walk over to the modern section of the city as well, and poke around there – why not, right? – but let me tell you, it was a waste of time. It was onerous to get over there – down a big hill and then up another large incline – and then it wasn’t very exciting. Not really sure what I expected, since it’s not like Luxembourg City is known for its contemporary architecture, but I thought I’d regret it if I didn’t. But on the contrary, I regret going over in the first place. I didn’t want to spend more time, so I did not explore that part of town thoroughly, but I did see the Philharmonic and some government building and the Modern Art Museum. Nothing wowed me. So, if you happen to go to Lux City (if only to add another country to your list, or not), feel free to skip it.
On the better side of the city, they have this grand elevator, which is free to use. I didn’t go down it, but I’d advise you to do so. However, what was cool about it was how there is this long walkway to get out to the lift, and at the end of it, they have a glass floor. Not sure how high up it is, but the view raised my hackles. I still went and stepped on it, though. Gotta #faceyourfears.
By that time, around 3 pm, I was ready for some lunch. I tried to go to this one place, A La Soupe, but they were completely out of sandwiches and didn’t have more of their soup of the day. So disappointing, since it was a creamy pumpkin one. Like, YUM!!! And then the sandwicherie beside it didn’t have its kitchen open. But to counteract that, they were having a degustation – so I got to try two of their offerings, for free! Superb.
I leached off some WiFi from another McDonald’s and did more research on “best cheap food Luxembourg,” then set out looking for these places. I did find the one, a coffee shop, but a café-crème was like €4. No thanks. Instead, I went right beside it, to this Italian place I just happened upon. Got an iced espresso and homemade pomodoro-mozzarella panzerotti. It hit the spot, even if the latter was just a glorified pizza pocket. Lol. I ate this stuff with glee while reading Less, which I have since finished and definitely recommend. The ending was a bit sh!t, but the book overall was wonderful. Very fitting for me to be reading while on my Eurotrip, since it is about an older gay man who declines an invitation to his ex’s wedding (why would he even invite his ex anyway……) and instead accepts all these offers he has, to attend conferences and retreats and ceremonies around the world. Kinda like how I was like, “f*ck work right now, it’s a bit much, let me fly the coop and go exploring more of Europe.” And it was great!
Sufficiently fed and watered, I meandered more around the Old Town, crossed the famous bridge, descended into the valley between the, like, buttes, and made it back to the bus station. Exhausted by this point, I plop down on the concrete, enjoy the warm sun, and read more.
Of course, the Flix Bus is late again (though it was timely that morning, so) and I start to get worried. I ask the woman next to me if she’s waiting for Brussels as well, which she is – but for the bus direct to the airport. Hm. She and I get to talking, and she’s actually great. Pretty, charming, funny. She was Irish, so I loved hearing the accent. But it was also nice to meet new people, something I didn’t do much this trip (since I wasn’t staying in many hostels). She called the places I decided to visit “the most random choices” and generally just was entertaining. Unfortunately, we weren’t on the same bus (since mine skipped Charleroi), but both of our rides arrived, I made it back to Brussels, and presumably she flew back to Ireland that day.
I was drained from pounding the pavement for six hours in the hot sun and with a not-not-heavy bag on my back, so I put on an episode of the Brain Candy Podcast (about The Real World, natch) and watched the Belgian countryside fly by out the windows. It was a great view and a good podcast, and I dozed off towards the end. Then I awoke, finished watching Zodiac then an episode of Floribama Shore (omg, if you haven’t watched it, y’all should – it is wild), then one Modern Family before getting back to Bruxelles-Nord.
I take the tram back, drop my stuff off at Sam and Francois’, chat a bit, then go wandering for food. The original plan was for me to meet Sam somewhere in the centre, at a bar or something, but the bus didn’t have wi-fi (of course), so that was impossible. Plus, they ended up making chicken nuggets from scratch, so all was well at the end.
The two happen to live in a residential section of the city, so by the time I went walking around – around 10 pm – almost nothing was open. I was desperate at this point, since all I had that day was an apple, cinnamon bun, blueberry muffin, and the panzerotti. After I was on the go and doing light cardio since 7:30 that morning. Needless to say, I was famished. Fortunately, I found one place whose kitchen was still open, and I plopped myself down. The waitress recommended the ginger chicken wings, so that is what I had, with some free baguette + butter and a Belgian beer. Not the cheapest meal, but oh-so-satisfying.
Then, back to Sam’s and back promptly to bed. And that is Day #3. I’ll cut it here, for a while. I’ve had a headache all day – maybe related to how I didn’t have a coffee until 7 pm, but don’t call it an addiction – and I tire of this. Time for a movie, and hopefully some sleep later! Zzzzzz.
This is becoming one of those updates. It is now 8 pm on Sunday, and I just sat down in the rideshare to (finally) head back to Ottawa. I had trouble finding a good way back, actually. I wanted to see a friend, but he was working until after 5 and only got home around 5:40. So I reserved a spot in a covoiturage for 7:30… And later got a text asking if it was okay if we left at 9 instead. But, uhh…. That’s when you said we’d be arriving there? I’m not trying to get home at 11 pm tonight. One, I wanted to go to bed early, but also, damn, I gotta watch the Challenge! So I looked around for another, it was a whole to-do, but I’m sitting in this one now. So I can relax.
I did watch Deadpool 2 yesterday, which was alright. I liked how there were other X-Men in it, and it really is self-aware. I tried sleeping for a bit, but it just wouldn’t work – so I turned on another movie: Love, Simon. It was much better than I was expecting. I thought it would be some arty, symbolic movie (maybe like Call Me By Your Name, which I admittedly haven’t seen) – but it was modern and straightforward (or maybe gayforward). Either way, a cute movie, definitely check it out if you are inclined to queer topics. I even cried a bit during it. You know, coming out ain’t easy, especially if you don’t have a choice in the matter, as I didn’t. On that note, happy belated National Coming Out Day.
After, I finally managed to doze off, but by that time, there was only about an hour left. Not a big deal. I cleared customs quick, hopped on the shuttle, and headed right to McGill Metro. The absolutely sweethearts, Matt and Tyler, agreed to put me up for a night, in their exciting and beautiful new place. I was expecting to sleep on the couch, but it was MUCH better than expected. I slept alone in a king-size bed with 6 pillows available, AND I had a whole bathroom to myself. Like, what!! So unexpected and so phenomenal. I felt like a proper princess. And by the time I got to bed, it was 5:30 am Paris time, so maybe I deserved it. Weirdly, though, I had trouble falling and then staying asleep. But I did get a solid 8.5 hours, so hopefully the jet lag isn’t too bad tomorrow, when I return to the office and host trivia (and possibly go to the gym).
Finally, to end my vacation, I had another marvelous day. Montreal was much chillier than Paris – only about 10 Celsius – but it was a sunny and clear day, which warmed things up. I struck out of the house early, walked through the Village, checked out the new open-air gallery, then went to the AntiCafe, where I had two double lattes (handmade by the employee there, who was actually so sweet) and some snacks, while charging my phone and watching Instagram stories. Then I saw my friend Stephane, then met Ndaku for a delicious lunch (Southern fried chicken with fries, cornbread, and potato salad at Diablos BBQ on St-Laurent). I was also shopping at Eva B, looking for inspiration for a Halloween costume and also for sunglasses. Found a nice pair for the latter, but didn’t buy it immediately – and when I circled back after lunch, they were gone. Damn! I also found this great pair of women’s high heel leather boots, that fit me, for only $9 – but the heel was a bit unstable, so I didn’t purchase. I’m also regretting that. Guess it wasn’t a good shopping day for me. Alas.
Then swung back to Matt and Tyler’s (“The Durocher Domain”), grabbed my things, talked about Laganja Estranja, said goodbye, saw my friend quickly, then went to Plamondon for the rideshare. I’m FINALLY back home now – it’s after 11 pm. Got the coffee brewing so it can be cold tomorrow, already unpacked, and am getting the file for Le Défi from Paul. YAY.
And that’s enough for now. Ciao!