On my way to Beijing and Hanoi, the next stop was Belgium: Brussels, Antwerp and some Roeselare and Bruges.
Getting to Brussels
For this trip, the train is the preferred method of transportation where possible. The Thalys train between Paris and Brussels seemed the most obvious choice to finish my French part of the stay, and to head for my motherland, Belgium!
Where to stay in Brussels
I stayed the weekend with my family. On Monday however I had to be early for an assignment in Brussels, so decided to find me a place to stay here. The Jam Hotel, near the center, had just opened. Enough of a reason to check it out. You can read about this in the review of the Jam hotel in Brussels.
Luggage storage in Brussels
The Brussels Midi (Brussel Zuid) station, where the Eurostar, Thalys and Ice trains depart, has both an automated and an attended baggage storage. For the automated one, you’ll need coins for the exact amount (4,50 Euro in September 2016). When my locker blocked, the attendant of the managed luggage store was friendly enough to help me out quickly so I would not miss my train.
Luggage storage in Antwerp
The Antwerp Central Station (Antwerpen Centraal) has lockers. Some of them even work. There’s no one in the station who seems to deal with the issues of these lockers. With the help of some people who were seeking a working locker as well, I located one that actually allowed me to safely store my stuff, so I could spend some time in Antwerp. But when traveling to Antwerp, keep in mind you might have to carry your stuff with you.
Thalys to Koln
After my stay in Belgium, hugs with the family and a great completion of an assignment I’m doing for one of my projects here (nope, can’t discuss that one for now), I was off to the Thalys early in the morning. Koln (Cologne) in Germany being the next stop on my Trans Europe and Asia project!
No cards accepted where most convenient
I knew Belgium as one of the most innovative countries when it came to financial transaction. We were the first in the world to have a digital wallet. But it seems that, just like the advance of France with the minitel made the coming of the internet slower, that this digital wallet adoption had slowed Belgium in the adoption of payment by card. The luggage storage being only one example. If you arrive in Brussels Midi station and need to go to the bathroom, you better have cash Euros on you, cause that’s the only way to gain access to the facilities…
The renewed stations
Santiago Calatrava, who we’ve seen creating both the new Transit Hub in Lower Manhattan as the associated budget disaster, designed earlier the Liege Guillemins station (and the equivalent bill shock for the Belgian Railways). The Antwerp Central station must be amongst the prettiest stations I’ve bee in so far. And many other stations have been renewed recently or are in the process of being modernized.
The trains are being renewed, but they are in no way prepared for some travelers over longer distance who carry more than just a laptop case. There is no space centrally or in the overhead area, forcing me to block multiple seats with my luggage. The international trains, such as Thalys and Eurostar, have both luggage space at the entrance of the wagon, and have larger overhead space.