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!
During my last trip to Paris I was still recovering from something I had eaten about a week before in Hungary, and it was at the end of a long trip. Our hotel was a little “boutique” thing we found on wotif, it was quite nice, but it wasn’t in the best area, within a couple of minutes of Gare du something. I think it was Nord, mum thinks it was Est. Either way, it wasn’t an area we wanted to be out in at night. Still, last trip I did enjoy quite a lot about Paris. I loved the museums, including The Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. I really enjoyed walking down the Seine past the book sellers, and Versailles – seeing that place it is no wonder there was a revolution.
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.
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.
The train ride back to Helsinki was punctuated by the Russian border control taking my passport for a while and going for a walk, to another carriage. Turns out my visa had been stuck in the passport upside down, and they couldn’t scan it on their machines. Didn’t have any issues getting into Russia, but this time they wanted to check with a supervisor on what to do – manually type in the visa details on their machines.
We spent the next couple of days around Helsinki. What we didn’t know was this time of year was holidays and a lot of things were closed. Dad had bookmarked a few museums to go to, but even these were closed. I was desperately trying to find a place to fix my laptop, but most of the shops were closed.
We had finally started getting onto GMT, and woke after 7, without an alarm.
Today was spent around Reykjavik. First stop was the Leifer Erricson monument out the front of Hall church. They have a lift to take you up 8 stories in the bell tower. Much easier than stairs. From there you can see most of Reykjavik.