I learned another French word, Gare du Nord. That’s French for North Station. 🙂 I took the train from this station which is known to be one of the busiest train station in the world. The Gare du Nord even have an airport-like departure/arrival schedule board.
[Note: About a week after I left Paris, there was a major riot in this station where a few hundred people battled the police for roughly handling an African immigrant who did not have proper papers. When I was in the station, there was a large presence of police and military armed to the teeth. I can feel the tension.]
My plan for the day is simple. Get an early train ride into Brussels and then spend a part of the evening exploring the city. Well, I did not count on needing to book a seat — I thought that it’s just to show up at the station and then you’ll get on the next available train. For that I had to wait two hours to get on the next available train.
I thought it was just an ordinary train from Paris to Brussels but it turned out to be a TGV variant called the Thalys. They run on dedicated high-speed rail track and on certain section on the same track that EuroStar uses.
Although I had myself a first class ticket which just costs a bit more from second class, I did not expect the comfort at all. I thought it was just only wider, more comfortable seats. For one, there were free newspapers given out by the stewardess (yeah, they had stewardess on trains!). After so many days of French, I was glad to see an English newspaper.
They came by with some disposable wet towels. Nice touch …
They even served food on board. This is included as part of the ticket price. I was told that there will be snacks on board but I did not expect this.
I remember there was a choice of two. After all these weeks, I can’t remember what was offered. I think the sandwich below is fish sandwich. It was cold but tasted fresh.
Some oranges …
… chocolate mousse …
… and my favourite drink, tomato juice. Gosh, they even gave me a small pack of Celery Salt to go with it — just how I always had it at home. Fancy that.
They came by the second time round and asked me if I wanted second helpings too … and they asked in English. 🙂
There are several different seating configurations on every train. This certainly is more comfortable than the Eurostar to me.
Before we arrive at Brussels, they even came by with a small bar of chocolates. Service was excellent. They came by also asking if I needed a taxi at the station so that I can have a taxi waiting for me the moment I step off the train.
I’ll give them 11 out of 10 points.
The entire journey took just under 1.5 hours. The train zipped along at 300 km/hr. I was thinking this is three times the highway speed in Canada and I hardly feel that it traveled that fast.
The Brussels Midi/Zuid station is a much brighter and modern facility than the Paris Gare du Nord. Already, I feel more at home already as most people spoke perfect English although the official languages in Belgium is Flemish, French and German. That explains why this station is called both Midi and Zuid. There are no gypsies, no police armed with machine guns, nobody wanting to loop coloured strings around my fingers …
I’ll officially start the next series of my travel within the Low Countries. Brussels is the de facto capital of Europe. This clean and beautiful city houses the headquarters of NATO and the European Parliment. It is also where the most powerful of the European Union institutions are located.
The picture below is the Atomium which is perhaps the most iconic image of Brussels. Later … I’ll be blogging about this amazing structure.
OK, most importantly, there more more food related entries in this series. I think you will like this coming series. I enjoyed Brussels … the people are very friendly and helpful and the streets felt safer. Later …