Leuven to Chester in 12 Hours (Live Tweeting Adventure)

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?
Me: Um…
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?
Nasria: No.
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.

Illegal Picture of Beowulf15:21 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.

19:11 Chester!

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?
Me: No.
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!

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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26 Responses to Leuven to Chester in 12 Hours (Live Tweeting Adventure)

  1. Kerry says:

    Awesome! I wish I were there to bring this all in with you!


  2. WriteFitz says:

    Thank you, thank you for all of your lovely descriptions. I read your other post on wandering about Leuvin and felt (almost) like I had the luxury of visiting alongside you. I’m a world traveler that has yet to see much of the world…but pray that changes one day. In the meantime, I’ll vicariously enjoy it through the lens of posts like this!


    • … and the wing beneath wings, etc.?
      Maybe, just glad to be alive. You would love to be where I’m at: The Gladstone’s Library in Wales. Starting on my first of 140,000 volumes. May not get to them all today.


  3. Brenton, I take it back. Your tour of Europe and our tour of Europe–we’re on different tracks. We’re on different planets. We’re on different–substances?

    Just kidding.


  4. Good luck on the trip! I’ve heard a lot about hostels from various friends who have traveled Europe, and staying in one sounds like a very interesting experience. Would you say it’s a good kind of experience?


  5. jubilare says:

    Re sleeping in Europe: may that change. It’s funny, my close friend and often-traveling-companion is an insomniac who has difficulty sleeping in strange beds. But when we went to Japan, she somehow circumvented jet-lag and began to sleep soundly and easily. We decided that, somehow, her body is set to Japan-time, and always has been.

    Please tell me that the smurf-sized towel was blue…

    In my head, Interpol consists of Thomson and Thompson (Dupond et Dupont), so I think you are safe from arrest.

    *Gasp!* Beowulf! And that codex… Don’tbejealousdon’tbejealousdon’tbejealous… >_<


    • Look, I know–Beowulf. And Sinaiticus. I didn’t mention Leonardo DaVinci’s notebooks, and scores by the greats: Mozart, Bach, McCartney, Lennon.

      One of the Smurf-sized towels had once been blue. I believe they pre-existed the building I was in. I was quite grateful for the stay though.

      I hope sleep calibrates at some point. I’m definitely not “Europe” time-zone perfect.

      Thomson & Thompson are on my tail. Gotta run!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sounds brilliant. Live, learn, laugh. XOXO


  7. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    “What do churches do now in Europe? They are the centre of these small towns. Are they empty or life-filled?” My (hope-filled?) impression: it varies. Fr. Anthony Chadwick (whom I first met when he was giving a paper in Oxford) has some saddening remarks about the French situation in his experience: sarumuse.wordpress.com

    “Boots”: Formerly, ‘Boots the Chemist Ltd.’ – another drugstore word unusual to my North American eyes on first encounter. (One early diversifying step of theirs – into CDs – yielded a wonderful recording of Faure’s Requiem!)


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  14. keebslac1234 says:

    I’m definitely not Interpol. I’m six-plus years distance from you. With, well-done series. Reminded me somewhat of going the wrong direction on a British train. Had to be told by the ticket-taker (whatever the British term) to hop off and go the other direction. In that situation everyone spoke English, to boot.


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