On to the rest of Europe

Trip Start Aug 01, 2005
Trip End Oct 04, 2005

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

August 11
We got up early this morning to leave Cardiff and Wales. Before heading out, we went to Caerphilly to see the castle and then we crossed the bridge back into England. Our goal was to make it to Stonehenge via Bath and then onto what we believed would be a quaint little English town on the coast that had been recommended to us by bartender at our hostel in Cardiff.

We got to Bath in about an hour and attempted to follow the signs to the ancient Roman baths. We drove around for about 30 minutes enjoying the sights (got lost) and ended up deciding that no silly pools of water were worth the continued headache of "driving around enjoying the sights." So we pressed on to Stonehenge. Unfortunately for us, Stonehenge is now gated off and one must pay 10 dollars a person to get within 50 feet of it. If you are touristy enough to pay this price, you still cannot get closer than 50 feet as they make you walk around it in a circle and then leave. So we decided to admire it from outside the gated area. I'm sorry but 20 bucks to look at a pile of rocks is a bit ridiculous.

After leaving Stonehenge we drove on to Brighton. As I stated earlier, Brighton was recommended to us by a bartender in Cardiff. We should have been a bit leery of this recommendation as every other recommendation turned out to be based on where we should go to get the best beer and the drunkest. We arrived in Brighton only to discover that it is England's version of South Padre Island. It's not quaint, and drinking and clubbing appear to be the only things to do. Our guidebook only recommended one hostel so we went to try and procure a bed for the night. Once there, we were told that the town was basically booked out and all the hostel had left available was one single bed in a room with 7 other people. As we were out of options, we had to take it.  I don't know if any of you have shared a single bed with another person, but it didn't make for a very comfortable evening. The hostel itself was also a bit questionable. We spent the evening watching pirated DVD's with some of the other people staying there and Bill actually saw people buying and selling drugs. Classy joint.

In the morning we were more than pleased to get the heck out of Brighton. We drove to London, returned our rental car and took the Channel Tunnel train to Belgium. This train travels at 185 miles per hour and goes underneath the English channel. It sounds really cool, but in reality it is fairly dull. The tunnel itself takes 20 minutes to travel through and you don't actually feel it going down underneath the water or up to land.  Just a train, albeit a fast one.  Once we arrived in Brussels, we found a place to stay and went to bed.

August 13
Belgium has three things that we found severely lacking in the UK. 1. They have trash cans on every corner whereas we often had to carry our trash in England for up to 2 hours before we were able to get rid of it. 2. They post their street names on every building whereas in the UK one must simply know where one is without the aid of signs. And 3. On every corner, a visitor to Belgium can buy that sweet manna from Heaven, the Belgian waffle. Waffle makers stand on every corner hawking their stellar pastries with toppings such as fresh Belgian chocolate and strawberries. I'm pretty sure that Bill and I have eaten twice our weight in waffles since we've been here. And we have no regrets.

We spent the day sight seeing at the Grand Place (see pictures) and the Chocolate and Cocoa museum (another thing that makes Belgium a pretty killer country). However, Belgium is not without its problems for us. Mainly, the predominant language spoken is French. Bill and I agree that it would be no different to us if someone came up to us and said "Blah blah blah, blah blah blah" than it is when people speak French to us. While we were visiting the Grand Place in the city center, an elderly couple came up to us and said (in French of course) "blah blah blah blah" and then pointed at their camera and then pointed at me. I figured that they wanted me to take a picture of them, but they shook their head, repeated their indecipherable words and again pointed at the camera. This exchange repeated itself for approximately 1 minute before I realized that they had just bought a brand new digital camera and were asking me to show them how to use it. I went and found my electronics genius husband and together we attempted to teach people who spoke no English how to use a complicated piece of electronics equipment. To add another challenge to the picture, the camera directions were all in French and once we turned it on, the digital readings were also in French. I believe that we successfully showed them how to turn it on and off, but from there, I don't think they learned anything.

August 14
When we woke up today it was stormy and very cold. We made our way to the Musical Instrument Museum where they display over 1600 musical instruments from all over the world and all over time. When you arrive, you are given headphones to wear and when you stand in front of a musical instrument, a sample selection of music is played for you. Bill and I both agreed that it was a very interesting museum and should absolutely be visited when coming to Brussels. The rest of the day was spent doing laundry, napping, and drinking Belgian beer. There are over 400 kinds of Belgian beer, so Bill had a lot to cover in three days. Another interesting thing about Belgian beer is that it is significantly stronger than most other beers and is often served in what can only be described as a small barrel. For those of you who might be concerned at this, Bill has been very responsible and has consumed his barrels over significant periods of time.

August 15
Our plan today was to get up and do a little shopping for interesting European fashions and purchase a USB cable as our enjoyed Cardiff so much, it refused to leave (I lost it). Much to our vast disappointment though, today is the Feast of the Assumption - translation: a Catholic national holiday we know nothing about for which every store in the entire nation closes. Needless to say, little shopping actually took place. So we packed our bags and decided to utilize our Eurail Passes for the first time by traveling to Bruge, Belgium.

Upcoming events: Bruge, Belgium and Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Miss you all!
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rickbranstetter on

Sara, you wrote an interesting, informative and entertaining update. You both are clever and humorous in your narratives. I really was really symphathetic to your misadventures in Bath and Stonehenge.

My folks and Uncle John got to read your updates through yesterday. They each had me send you a message. No, that was not me just typing fictitous messages. They all sat by the computer, read the dialogue, and talked about the pictures, especially Bill's beard.

rickbranstetter on

Waffles and Chocolate
Susie, You are right on when you told Bill you had eaten his chocolate bars. Can you imagine that he is sending us all these tempting emails loaded with pictures of Sara and him eating those lucious waffles covered with who knows what type of concoctions.

I believe it is the responsibility of parents to keep these kids aware of their actions. If they eat our souveniers, then we will eat their treats from family reunions.

rickbranstetter on

I am green
I am green with envy. Over the chocolates and waffles you are eating. Bill, I can't believe you like chocolate so much, maybe you aren't adopted after all...Belgium chocolate is the best!!!

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