Monday, July 17, 2006


Trip dist: 147 kms. Trip time: 8 hrs, 25 min. Tot dist: 3,972 kms.

Blech. I screwed up. I could've headed for Aachen via Amiens and Brussels (i.e. head north after Paris instead of northeast to Reims), and would've that way seen more UNESCO World Heritage sites (Brussels by itself already has two of them!), but I stupidly wasn't really looking at the map that far enough ahead (I only tend to plan the route at most 3 or 4 days in advance, and by the time I left for Reims I was convinced I was headed for Trier, not Aachen, first). Unfortunately from Phillippeville to Brussells it is already about 110 kms away, too far to bike without significant time impact. Oh well, like in Portugal, where I left off Guimãraes, on the way north from Porto and an easy addition to the route, but I hadn't marked it on my map as a WHS and ended up missing it until I realized my mistake when I was already somewhere in northern Galicia, this at least gives me a good excuse to come back. Right? {sigh}. I hate it when I'm stupid in these kinds of easily-avoidable ways. Oh well.

I found a great radio station on the radio, Dutch, I think, which was playing some excellent world music: everything from the Jackson 5 to Amalia Rodrigues to Reggae and everything in-between (including, can you believe it?! Yodeling! Ha ha!). It was good company. {shrug}. At least until I got tired of the yodeling. ;)

Hmm....I think Belgium must've been razed almost to the ground in the last war...even in the most recondite little towns it seems like reconstruction went on well into the 1970's, judging from the style of buildings and modern layouts they have. It does give them a very clean and efficient look, though.

Anyway, I wanted to get to Aachen today, but I didn't have a Belgium map (up until 9:00 a.m. yesterday I was rather convinced I was going to go to Trier via Luxembourg, but finally decided to save a day instead--day trip to Trier from Köln, that is---and figured that since I was only going to be in Belgium for a day or two, the road indicators would suffice to get me out of there. Tiny country, right? No map needed, right? Wrong), which resulted in a 30 km mistake in the neighborhood of Liége, a not-so-scenic roundabout with not only no forward progress, but actually backward progress instead (not even "stay put" waste of time, that is) that served as memento, to wit: "Elisa, you get what you deserve, and this is what you get for being an idiot."

I arrived in Liége, you see, right on time at 5 p.m. (plenty of time to spare for the 55 remaining kilometers to Aachen), but headed off in the wrong direction after asking in horrible French (my fault on that one) to people who instead of admitting they did not know they invented an answer, and I ended up in the teeny weeny town of Herstal, way up north and on the wrong side of the river, in direction of Maastricht, not Germany, and by the time I sorted out a map (that is, bought one, finally admitting defeat after running around in circles callejeando through lots of towns I should've never even ever come to hear of) and figured out the directions to correct the mistake it was already 6:30 p.m. and I was 15 kms north of the correct highway (somewhere between Cherate and Visé, that is, for you map fiends, whereas the correct highway was supposed to be the N3, which you catch by riding southeast from Liège).....with a huge steep hill in-between. Not good. (Hill not doable, much less in the time available--required imperative pushwalk, judging by the grade, at least 12% by eye estimate) Had to return to Liège and stay there. Oh well. Lesson learned: Buy your maps, kids.

The internet is cheap here (lots of things, except hotels, seem cheaper, even soft drinks at shops and bars), only 60 cents per hour! This is even cheaper than Portugal! At the Youth Hostel, of course, they charge everything at four times the cost (which is ironic, since you'd expect they'd try to cut the non-working, parent money dependent youths a break or two), but even here it is only 1 Euro and 60 cents an hour (cheaper than Spain let alone France). Must be that the internet is ubiquitious here.

Oh, by the way, guess what I figured out during my trip today? The word "restaurant", it comes from restorer, to restore! I had never really thought about it until I saw the signs here that said "Restauration rapide" or variants thereof outside the diners. Neat huh?

Belgium is so pretty, all red brick.


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