Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Saturday, August 04, 2007 00:06:52|
Rolls Around the World 2007: 11 - Chichester England to Brussels, Belgium
Thursday, August 2, 2007
Miles for the day - 136 (219 km) Mile to date 3,926 (6,318 km)
I purchased more internet time in the morning before leaving to pick up laundry and hit the road for Folkstone. Navigation as far as the Eurotunnel train was flawless, and traffic not too bad. After getting a run down on the procedure to board the train we continued to Folkstone to locate the Best Western Clifton Hotel. A 180 degree error took us on a scenic drive up the coast before getting sent back in the right direction.
The hotel is old but well located, close to town and overlooking the cliffs that drop from Folkstone to the sea. The elevator is the size of a phone booth, but at least it doesn't talk to you. Most hotel elevators in England feel compelled to tell you whether you are going up or down, whether the doors are opening or closing and which floor you are on - along with repetitive safely tips. Telling them to please shut up has no effect at all! Marilynn, with her claustrophobia, chose four floors of stairs while I took luggage up the elevator. The room was good value - large with a sea view.
The hotel had complimentary email, so we get caught up again. There was bad news from Charles Veley as he continues across Russia. They crossed a stretch of mud road a few hundred kilometres in length where bulldozers were pulling trucks through the mire. He says it is the only road, no way to avoid it. To get an idea of what a mud Russian national highway can look like check out http://www.englishrussia.com/?p=315.
This hotel is in the traditional old style. The bar opens at 6 PM and guests congregate for a drink. (After the news from Russia I downed a couple of gin tonics in pretty short order). The dining room opens at 7 PM, and the guests promptly desert the bar to take their table for dinner.
Friday, August 3, 2007
Miles for the day - 145 (233 km) Mile to date 4,071 (6,552 km)
The desk clerk made us tea and toast at 5:30 AM before giving us directions to the Eurotunnel. A couple of navigational problems were quickly rectified by 'U' turns - not a problem that early. The train operation is highly organized. We drove to a security check, where they didn't even open the trunk, straight past passport control where the employees had not arrived for work yet, and into a designated loading lane. There are two loading areas, one for over height vehicles and one for vehicles which fit under a bar fixed across the road.
After a short wait, the traffic moved to the train where openings in the side of the first two coaches gave access. Traffic was split into two lanes, one for each of the cars. Regular height vehicles travel on double deck coaches - the entry to one coach leads to an internal ramp to the top level and the other to the lower level where we were directed. There is only one level in coaches for over height vehicles such as transport trucks and motor homes. The inside of the train stretches ahead like a long, well lit tunnel where you drive forward until reaching the car ahead - the coaches are completely enclosed but open inside. Loading took about 15 minutes.
During the safety announcement overhead doors lowered to separate the various coaches, and from each side door frames with doors swung out to give foot access to the next coach. There are walkways on each side of the cars where passengers are free to stretch their legs or stay in the car for the 30 minute trip. There are actually three tunnels - one for trains each way and a service tunnel between them with frequent access to each of the rail tunnels.
We travelled a fair distance above ground after leaving the tunnel in France. The doors between coaches were opened and we drove to the front of the train to exit. There were no customs or passport control - the access road quickly became a four lane, 130 kph (81 mph) expressway with exits to various destinations. The route to Brussels was clearly marked, as were all other exits. It impressed me that in spite of the vast size, Canada and the US have some of the lowest speed limits in the world, and while it is possible to travel anywhere in the European Union without customs or immigration hassles, Canada and the US are busily initiating more strenuous immigration and customs checks, and making passports necessary for the first time in history. One or the other must be moving backwards!
The trip to Brussels was much quicker than we expected - we were in the city by 10:30 AM, but finding the hotel was another matter. The Sheraton Four Points has driving directions on their web site, but I challenge anyone who doesn't know the city well to follow them. We first went to the wrong side of the city, where we got directions in a shopping mall while picking up some things and trying to change money. The bank changed the English pounds I had, but would not change US dollars.
We had a wonderfully scenic tour of the city and its magnificent buildings while searching for the hotel. Tour bus drivers provided the best information for routes through the city's winding streets, but a hotel desk clerk got us to our final destination by providing us with a map. The car is causing much more of a stir here that it did in England - it became the attraction when we stopped at tourist sites to ask directions.
The hotel is great, but the restaurant leaves something to be desired. Marilynn did a lot of photo editing, so we'll get some away. The day ended with a superb meal with Jean Pierre and Janna Olivier, who we met while travelling on the Palace on Wheels train in India. They introduced us to a restaurant in the old part of the city renowned for its Belgian specialties. It was so low profile we couldn't even find the door to get in, but the food, wine and companionship were great.
After dinner JP and Janna gave us a walking tour through the area, where we stopped to watch a sound and light show against the gorgeous city hall building in the central square. The buildings around the square are highly ornate, built in the 1600s. The twisting, narrow streets of the old town were alive with people eating and drinking in sidewalk cafes and bars. It is an amazing place, full of life! All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening.