08:59 Very thankful for church bells in Leuven; set my Mon-Fri alarm on Sunday #fail
09:00 Evidently I am incapable of sleeping in Europe. Ugh.
09:01 Breakfast: three leftover sips from a Coke Zero named Michaël
09:15 Finished last Belgian shower: hot, faintly rusty coloured water, Smurf-sized towel
09:22 Flee! Flee! Pack, clean the room, drop the key in the letterbox, and enter the rain
09:31 Great walk to the station! Light misty rain, cobblestones, brick townhouses, and… Thank God the bakery is open. Don’t know what I ordered, but it looks good.
09:24 Me: Van Leuven Naar Brussel-Zuid
Station Guy: I speak English
Me: Good, because I actually want to get there.
09:39 Tall Kenyan Roast at Starbucks.|
09:39 They don’t yet take Starbucks card, and the water is scalded. But: Coffee. Coffee.
09:40 Free Wifi at Starbucks!
09:41 Random Belgian bakery awesomeness makes the coffee better
09:43 Free Wifi at Starbucks doesn’t work.
09:49 Standing on the platform, pretty sure I’m going to the wrong place.
09:51 Me to Japanese Couple: Sumimasen. Eigo wakarimase ka? (=Do you speak English? I need help)
Them: Chaigaimasu! (=Nein!)
Me: Gomenisai (Sorry)
09:52 Still lost.
09:57 Get on the train anyway. I’m heading West, which is generally good.
09:59 Ancient City Wall of Leuven? Stella Artois factory.
10:23 Brussels-Zuid. Dumpy little train platform. Is this really international departure? #followthecrowd
10:27 Oh, I get it. Go to the basement = super duper train station (think modern airport, but for wheeled things)
10:33 Need food. Open the door of a restaurant. No one is there. Literally, I just broke into a restaurant in Brussels.
10:33 Running from Interpol.
10:37 Stop for a sandwich. Ordered Ham on the Lamb. They’ve got free wifi and are Interpol-free.
10:38 Do European cops eat donuts? Like, is that a UN sort of thing, or a North American thing?
10:51 Not a good sandwich.
10:59 French tip: Just start speaking with confidence. Say, “Je besoin de acheter une giraffe.” The rest will come quickly enough.
11:09 Customs officer: Where are you staying in England?
Me: Um… a hostel in Chester.
Her: The address?
Her: So, you would like to enter England with no evidence.
11:28 The guy that scans the bags is quietly singing Eastern European folk songs.
11:41 Europeans seem to like lines. Sorry, sorry. Queues.
11:56 We’re moving. I’m stealing that great big spacious window seat.
12:01 I forgot how fast Bullet trains go. It is like a lightning strike as we pass another. The trees blur.
12:08 Cows are forlorn in any country.
12:14 Windmills are like European accessories.
12:17 Sunshine breaks through the clouds as we approach the border of France.
12:19 What do churches do now in Europe? They are the centre of these small towns. Are they empty or life-filled?
12:21 What is it about abandoned farms? Haunting, sad, longingly beautiful—whether it is clay slate tile or wooden shake.
12:25 Just zoomed over a 4-lane highway. First highway I’ve seen in a week.
12:26 There’s a trailer park next silos full of grain. Don’t think Trailer Park Boys trailers, think Brad Pitt in Snatch.
12:28 I’m in France! I’m pretty sure, anyway. There is no sign of Dutch left and all the buildings are Modern.
12:29 I’m in Lille. Wish I could stop and visit my friend Marie and her Hardcore Rock Band Alwaid. Next time.
12:31 Very noisy and disoriented, but by all accounts friendly English geriatrics took the seat I didn’t pay for.
12:32 Marion (English Geriatric): “Petah, do you need your bib?”
Petah: “Shut up, Marion.”
Marion: “I can’t get Wifi on my phone.”
12:33 Geriatrics sharing a bag of crisps. Lays nature.
12:33 Marion: “Petah, are you trying to eat crisps with a fork?”
Petah: “Shut up, Marion.
12:36 Student next to me from California has majored or minored in almost everything.
13:30 Still chatting with this student as the French countryside zooms by. To be honest, the grassy fields don’t look particularly French.
12:33 Marion: “Petah, you have crisps on your shirt. You should have used the bib.”
Petah: “Shut up, Marion.
13:45 The English Channel Tunnel. Ears popping and need to put the clocks back an hour. It is 12:45 again.
13:01 Holy Cultural Diversity Batman… London.
13:23 Nasria from Seychelles—near Madagascar—sold me a Coke Zero named Nehu at a store called Boots.
13:23 Me: “Boots” like car trunks?
Me: “Boots” like the shoes?
Nasria: No, like Mr. Boots, the really rich owner.
13:24 Nasria is amazed that Canada isn’t always cold. I spoke of our rainforests and deserts and tundra. And Toronto.
13:24 Nasria never heard of Prince Edward Island, but I never heard of Seychelles
13:25 The other cashier is Corinne from Rwanda. She was born in a UN clinic as her parents fled.
13:25 I spoke of Canada’s role in Rwanda, and the memories. Then I was quiet.
13:25 Corinne: I don’t know how my parents escaped.
Me: They escaped because of you. I would for my son.
Corinne: I know. I feel blessed.
13:29 How does it not crush your heart? Or set it free?
13:41 Stealing Wifi from Starbucks. Drinking a Mozambique Dark. They’ve scalded the water.
13:43 A pigeon is looking at me. We are well inside the station. Starbucks pigeon?
13:44 Me: I haven’t got anything. Pigeon is silent.
13:59 I have about 2.5 hours to walk and get lunch. It’s just London. I won’t get lost, right?
14:19 No one can break a £50 note so I finally get a small sub at Subway. Tip: “salad” means toppings in case you are ever at St. Pancras Subway.
14:19 As buddy puts my “salad” on the sub, my hand rests on a white wallet. I could be a different identity, a new person in the sea of the city.
14:20 I give the lost wallet to the cashier. She panics.
14:31 an Anarchist/Socialist/Anti-Fascist/Feminist bookstore with a used section in the basement.
14:36 Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Wandering Fire for £1, since I loaned mine to my mom, who loaned it to my sister, who loaned it to her husband, who loaned it to….
14:56 The British Library. The big statue of Isaac Newton is on Google Maps, if you look.
14:59 Bag searched at the British Library. My dainties are on a table in the British Library. The security guard is more embarrassed than me.
15:03 Almost bought a Clockwork Orange t-shirt, but I would have to cash in my pension early.
15:20 Oh! There’s an exhibit.
15:21 Beowulf. Really, it’s actually Beowulf, the book that had been discovered and then saved from a fire and pasted into the pages of another book.
15:22 Me: [Click—taking a picture]
Security Guard: Under no circumstances is there to be any photography in the gallery.
15:23 Jane Austen’s desk top and the handwritten draft of Persuasion. No joke. Right there behind the glass.
15:24 Dickens’ henscratching. Makes me feel better squinting at C.S. Lewis’ handwriting.
15:25 I can’t believe it. There’s the first copy of “Yesterday.” I’ve heard McCartney woke up with the tune in his head, assuming someone else wrote it.
15:26 Michelangelo’s knee. Or someone else’s knee. Doesn’t matter—it’s Michelangelo’s sketch books! Right there.
15:27 The Monument’s Men letter by Churchill. I’ll have to watch that movie.
15:27 Prince Æthelsti’s will, 1014 CE. I got everything.
15:28 Me: Hey me, what are you looking at?
Me: Just the Magna Carta.
The Magna Carta!
15:29 A letter from Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn to Cardinal Wolsey (1528). Oh, never mind. That’s not cool. There’s a little water damage.
15:30 A 3rd-4th century papyrus with Exodus 40:26-32 in Greek. I can make out some letters, but that’s all. Revelation 1 is on the verso.
15:32 Nearly peed my pants. It’s Codex Sinaiticus. I mean, this is almost a whole Greek Bible, mid-4th century. This I can read. Some. See it online: http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/
15:38 The Kufic Qur’an, 9th century. Gorgeous, simple, clear. If only I picked up Arabic along the way.
15:40 The Gothic Roll—a 10 foot 12th century manuscript. Google this one.
16:04 How do I leave the British library? I was meant to live here, next to Isaac Newton.
16:51 Euston Station. Can’t find platform 9 3/4, so platform 18 will have to do.
16:52 3 hours in London and not one blue Police Box. #DoctorWho
16:57 They intend to board all 1000 people in 11 minutes. Really?
17:08 They did.
17:08 Someone has taken my seat. I point it out to her but she looks like she’s going to cry. Sit next to a Welsh girl reading Persuasion.
17:09 The Welsh girl is a seat nomad. She’s not sure where she’s supposed to be. It’s only her 2nd train ever.
17:39 I’m a seat nomad. I’ve got a window seat now.
17:41 Cows are forlorn in any country.
17:42 The sheep look like toilet paper rolls on a lumpy green mattress.
17:43 to ? Random English countryside and small towns. Finding it a little …
18:31 Woke up with a start. I thought I was falling.
19:02 The sun sets in pink flames.
19:16 Lost in Chester. Computer restarted and I lost my map.
19:29 Concierge: Excuse me sir, can I help you?
Me: No, that’s okay I’m just stealing Wifi.
Concierge: Are you a guest?
Concierge: Right then.
19:33 Dear Mr. Google. How do I know which direction is “north” when it is dark.
19:37 Dear Chester Town Planners. Please consider installing streets signs. Just one or two would be nice. Even inaccurate ones.
19:41 Never mind. I’m just going to guess where it is.
19:46 Found it!
19:59 I’m in my room. Sharing with a bike mechanic and another Canadian from Montreal. Both like Dr. Who apparently.
20:00 It’s called the “Bunkroom Hostel” and yet I’m surprised by bunk beds. Middle or top? Given the weight to floor-slant ratio… middle.
20:03 I have wireless. I’m going to call the fam and then good night, good night, good night! Leuven to Chester (and around the world) in 12 hours!