We got up Monday morning and finished packing our backpacks. We were taking the train to London, so our suitcases were going to stay in the trunk of the car.
We tried the charger store again, and this time it was open. The old guy working there was fantastic, too. He got me the charger I needed, and asked us all about our vacation. He also told us that he had ridden his bike from Brussels to Rome once. Holy crap.
We got the President from the valet, checked out of the hotel, and headed to the Atomium. Matt had found information about it only a few weeks before, and we couldn’t believe we’d never heard of it before. It’s exactly our kind of nerdiness, and it was amazing.
The Atomium was build for the 1958 World’s Fair. The spheres are connected via tubes containing either stairs or elevators. We got tickets and went to the elevator to ride to the top, which has a great view of the surrounding area.
From the top, you return to the second level and the tour spirals upward from there, and then back down. There are exhibits on each floor.
The tubes reminded me of space mountain.
We stopped at the souvenir shop on the bottom floor, then went to grab lunch at the cafe and ate outside on the patio.
We didn’t have a ton of time before we had to head to the train station, but we’d seen Mini Europe from above and it looked pretty awesome. We decided to get tickets and rush through it if we had to.
It was worth it. Mini-Europe is great!
We saw some things we’d just visited, and others we’d be seeing very soon.
I was particularly excited about Prague, and the Szechenyi Baths in Budapest.
We had to rush through the last part, and then headed to the car and set the GPS for Brussels Midi. That part went well until we encountered road construction, and were unable to drive the direction the President wanted us to. We had to circle around several times and attempt a different route to get it to finally recalculate correctly, and then we were back on our way. Traffic wasn’t helping much, either.
We found the station, but it took us a while to find the parking entrance. We finally got to the right place, took a photo of where the car was parked, and grabbed our backpacks to go to the Eurostar. We printed our tickets from the machine, filled out customs cards, and went through British passport control. (I wasn’t expecting passport stamps, so that was exciting.)
We had a few minutes to stop in the bathroom and the gift shop, and then it was time to board. A ton of people headed up the escalator and rushed to their train cars. It was much more well-marked than the Italian train system, so we had no trouble finding our seats.
Once we had left Brussels, we went to get food. The only vegetarian item they had was a hummus salad, so I went with that. (I’d specifically chosen the car next to the snack bar, because getting a cocktail on a train is just awesome.) We got gin and tonics to celebrate going to the UK, too.
The train stopped briefly in Lille, France, and then again in Calais so the French passport control people could get off. I was eagerly watching for the Chunnel to happen, but figured we wouldn’t really have any notice. Matt went to the bathroom, and of course we went into the Chunnel right at that moment. The entrance to it was pretty uninteresting anyway, but it did look just like the model we saw at Mini Europe.
England was exactly as I’d expected: rainy. It cleared up a little as we got near London, though. We arrived at St Pancras station, went through passport control again, and found our way out of the station. Our hotel was only about a mile away, but it wasn’t a great walk with heavy backpacks in the cold. Something we noticed immediately along the way too: people jogging in backpacks. They were all over the place in London!
We checked in and got our very dark room. We decided that meant that the British hate light, obviously. I made coffee in the room just for the sheer novelty of having hotel-room coffee. We changed into warmer clothes (not that we really had them: I had a light hoodie, thin pants, and sneakers instead of flipflops), and headed off to find Cotton’s Caribbean restaurant for dinner. It was several blocks away from our hotel, so we walked. We got a table, and were instantly happy. Jamaican food in London!
I had vegetable curry with the best dhalpouri ever, and a Mai Tai. Matt ordered the mixed grill and Rum Punch. Everything was really good. When we went downstairs to use the restroom, we discovered a big band holding practice downstairs. That was unusual.
We decided to head to another place within walking distance of our hotel for cocktails, since it was getting late. We found 69 Colebrooke Row (also known as the Bar With No Name) and were seated at a little table near the door. It was our kind of bar, with classic cocktails we knew well. We hung out there for a couple hours until the bar was nearly empty, and we figured it was time to go. We went to the bar to get our tab, and while standing there noticed that they had a bottle of Templeton Rye. It’s not even distributed outside Iowa, so that was really unlikely. We talked to the bartender about rye for a while, and then walked back to our hotel around midnight.