Day 5 & 6 - Sunday/Monday, May 29/30, 2011 - Brussels
Sunday was a rather quiet day staying in all day just resting up and catching up on old times. We did watch the Monaco Grand Prix which was really great as we were able to get it on BBC1 with uninterupted coverage for the entire race with the announcers Martin Brundle, David Coulthard, Eddie Jordan, etc who really know their stuff and make watching the race all that more interesting. Compared to the Spanish GP, which I watched on TSN before leaving Ottawa, which was covered by SpeedChannel for the first hour or so then BBC for the rest. The Speed guys really don't have a clue about what is going on.
Later on in the evening we went out to a local Chinese restaurant for dinner. Spring rolls (2 each), Special House Noodles (for me), Chicken Chop Suey (for Vivien), a glass of white wine (for Vivien) and a 1/4 l of red wine for me cost 39.50 €.
While at the restaurant I asked the manager/waiter if he knew of a nearby shop where I could get my "Orange" mobile unlocked. He recommended a shop called TPH (The Phone House) Tongres at 20 rue de Tongres an area which Vivien was familiar with and which was within walking distance of her apartment on A.J. Slegers.
Monday I decided I would cycle to the TPH shop and see if I could get my French mobile sorted out. After a short ride of less than 2 kms I arrived at 20 rue de Tongres using back streets there was very little traffic.
I stopped at an Apothek (drug store) on the way to get something for my sore throat which I seem to have gotten from my freezing flight on AirTransat and the subsequent chilly, windy, rainy bike ride from Amsterdam to Rotterdam. I asked the pharmacist for Strepcils and she produced a rather large box from behind the counter. I asked if there were a smaller size and she replied everything comes in a large size in Belgium. While she was ringing up my purchase she started coughing so I offered her one of my Strepcils - at a price of course!!!
Unfortunately TPH was not able to unlock my mobile. I was beginning to think that the Orange phone was not such a good purchase after all. It seems I would have to go to France to get it unlocked. He recommended the Mobistar shop next door who had some sort of connection with Orange France. They might be able to unlock this Albatross.
Once again after fiddling with my mobile for 5-10 minutes I was told I would have to go to France, possibly Lille, to get my phone unlocked. Or I could try calling the Orange Customer Service number and ask for the code that would unlock my phone. I said how can I call them when my mobile is not working thinking that she might volunteer to call them for me. People were starting to line up behind me so that didn't get much of a reaction.
I then asked how much was it going to cost me to get a simple mobile that would work in all of Europe that wasn't locked as I planned to cycle all the way to Turkey. She didn't even bat an eye lash and said she had a Samsung mobile for 15 € plus whatever amount I wanted to put on it. In the end I paid 40 € for my new Belgian unlocked Samsung mobile which I was assured would work anywheres. We'll see about that.
I had specially chosen to wear my Canada jersey and sure enough a gentlemen who was hanging out in the Mobistar shop (I think he had the hots for the salesperson who was pretty hot herself) approached me and asked me if I was from Canada. I said yes. He then told me he was married to a Canadian from Montreal who worked as a locally engaged political officer at the Canadian Embassy. He turned out to be a Greek taxi driver and a bit later when I was standing on the corner trying to figure out which direction to take in order to get to Saint Josse Ten Noode, my old neighbourhood, he was able to point me in the right direction.
It was only a short 3 or 4 km ride to Pl. Saint Josse Ten Noode but nothing seemed familiar expecially along Ch. de Louvain. Once again I thought I had been transported to the Middle East. I wandered around on my bike for about 1/2 an hour until I came to a square that looked liked it could possibly have been where my apartment had been. Sure enough it turned out to be Pl. Armand Steurs. These were the two names I remembered from my past (1965-67) when I lived there.
I rode into the park on my bike, which was totally deserted. Stopped in the middle of the park to take a picture and out of nowhere (he must have been hidding in amongst the bushes) came a park warden who told me I wasn't allowed in the park with my bicycle. I explained that I was from Canada and that I had lived in one of the apartments across from the park in the 60s and that I just wanted to take a couple pictures. He and his partner who came to help said OK and left. After taking a few snaps I went over to a nearby café for lunch and a couple beers. They had Jupiler on tap (I would have preferred Stella Artois) but when your thirsty you have to make do. By this time I had worked up quite a thirst. The temperature was in the high 20s.
After lunch I cycled back to Slegers, had some hot tea with honey to sooth my sore throat and lay down for a nap.
I've mapped out my route for tomorrow from Brussels to Bonn. I've decided to skip Dusseldorf and Cologne having been there several times in the past. I'll probably have to stop around Maastricht as I don't expect I'll be able to cycle it all in one day. On the other hand the weather forecast for tomorrow is not looking very promising. It's dropping down to 14C tonight with thunderstorms and high winds, etc. Vivien has said I can stay as long as I like but I don't want to overstay my welcome.
This Notebook is tuning out to be quite an asset. I'm not sure if I like that or not but it sure is handy for keeping in touch and keeping my blog up to date.