In the morning Dad and I left the hotel to collect the rental car from the central station. Gare du Midi is much larger than Gare du Nord, where we had been taking trains from. There were a lot of shops and places to eat. We found all of the car rental places together and commenced negotiations.
On our last day dad wanted to go see the old town square, he had missed it at his conference when mum and I saw it on the first day, so we took a train out to an original gate tower from the old town. There was a small park with some grass and a couple of benches. There wasn’t much of the old wall left, just the tower. We caught a train back to the city and walked into the city square.
There were a few more places for us to visit in Brussels in our last two days. The first was the Atomium. A huge thing built in 19 something something for the something something. It was built in 1958 for Expo 58, the Brussels World’s Fair. Why don’t we have World’s Fairs anymore as an excuse to build big things? Not that Australia needs an excuse to build more big things, we love a good big thing, but they aren’t in the same scale as an Eiffel Tower or the Royal Exhibition Building.
We decided to go to Bruges on Wednesday looking at the weather for the rest of the week. It was supposed to be sunny and 28, but rain later in the week. After a successful trip on the train the day before we set off again for Gare du Nord to get another train, this time in the opposite direction to Bruges. We sprung for 1st class tickets again, noting the insane number of campers and travellers the day before. Turns out the previous day was a public holiday, while there were still a lot of people on the train the tickets were about 3 times the price!
Day 1. Dad headed off to his conference from Gare de Bruxelles-Nord, mum and I headed out of the hotel to look for a tram into the city. There was a tram stop not far from the hotel, and there were a few locals patiently waiting. We asked the hotel where we could buy tram tickets, but we were told we just bought it from the driver when we got on.
I think I might have discovered one of the best ways to get to Europe from Australia. A direct Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to Brussels. The aircraft was an older 777-300, but the seat layout felt considerably more spacious than a modern Qantas A380. I had a seat right near the back so I got to board fairly early. At Bangkok airport they were actually checking boarding passes to ensure everyone did board in the right order! I put my bags up in the locker and sat down. There were about 15 people in the rear compartment.
When traveling I have a bad habit of arriving in, or leaving from, a country within days of a major sporting event. One year I think I missed two Grand Prix races in a month. When we were in Singapore last the grandstands for the Grand Prix were still up, and dad managed to stand in some wet concrete where they were repairing the road.
Traffic in Cambodia is fairly hectic, there is little regard for road rules, but even compared with places like India the use of intersections with traffic lights is interesting.
We checked out of the hotel fairly with a big drive ahead of us. We headed north-west towards the border with Norway. There isn’t very much between Inari and Norway. Trees, some reindeer, more trees, mosquitoes, and rain. We managed to find a lot of rain and mosquitoes. Even though Norway is not a member of the EU, they are part the Schengen Area (like Iceland). If we blinked we might have missed the border crossing, just a tiny sign on the side of the road that said Norge.
We got up fairly early in the morning after a decent night’s sleep. Breakfast provided the usual affair of bread, pastries, eggs and fruit. With a polite sign asking that you didn’t make sandwiches to take with you. We got our stuff together and headed off for a walk to Pielpajärvi Wilderness Church. There was another car in the car park before when we set off, so we were pretty sure we were in the right place. The start of the track was a bit rough but was fairly easy going.