We filled up on buffet breakfast in the hotel before catching a taxi into town. We wanted to get to the museums early before all the crowds came. Booking the tickets online was good move, it meant we could skip most of the queues.
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!
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.
The next morning we enjoyed another hotel breakfast including eggs, bacon, sausage and numerous pastries before loading up our backpacks and heading out to find the Arctic Circle. Conveniently there are a few signs, and even a line on the ground to let you know where it is.
The first day we had booked a guide for The Hermitage. It was within walking distance from the hotel, so we set off on foot. The cost of the guide paid for itself when they negotiated our way through all of the queues and straight into the museum before it was actually open. I think they used dad’s walking stick as an excuse. The only down side was I didn’t like being rude, and cutting past that many people was a bit award, they had been waiting a long time to get in.
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.