July 2 – Wednesday

Well, I figured out where my worry came from.  On Saturday at the Flandres station I tried to get my railpass validated but he told us to wait until next Wednesday and to have the conductor do it.  According to the instructions, you are supposed to have it done before you get on the train.  This morning at the station, I tried again to get it validated, but all the man would tell me is where the train to Antwerp was. 

So sure enough as we are going through Belgium the conductor comes up.  I asked him to validate our passes because the man at the station wouldn’t do it.  He was frustrated and told us we had to get off at the next station to get our passes validated.  I asked him if that meant we had to catch another train.  He said we had 10 minutes to get back on the train. 
So we got off at a station with a lots of k’s, o’s, and j’s in the name and ran like demons trying to find out where we can get our tickets validated.  Johnny (who thankfully runs fast) found the station and got it done.  As we were getting them validated, I felt such a feeling of forboding like we really needed to hurry.  I think the woman went slower on purpose.  Finally she gave them back to us and we ran like crazies to make it back to our train.  Sweating and breathing heavy we sat down on the train and it took off about 10 seconds later.  I silently started cursing those in Lille who wouldn’t validate my rail pass.

Once back on the train, we were met with another conductor who was very nice.  I think the nicest train employee I’ve met so far.  He asked us where our final destination was and then told us exactly where to go to make the connection.  He even knew the platform number. 

I’m starting to think that visiting Europe is more like childbirth as each day passes.  We come home and only talk about how wonderful and delightful Europe is as if it’s like living in a dream.  We don’t mention about how rude people are, how poor customer service is, and confusing it is to not speak all the languages.  It’s like we only remember the good parts, or maybe we leave out the bad parts because that is a rite of passage that everyone needs to go through.  As we take pictures to post on Instagram and Facebook, we crop out the pigeons, cigarettes, graffiti, garbage, and scantily clad women.  All that is left is the amazing architecture, romantic gardens, and postcard-perfect scenery.  

Just met BriAnna Jenkins for lunch in Rotterdam.  We walked around for quite a bit and then just jumped into a restaurant that reminded me of Kneaders.  The people were very friendly.  It took quite a while to get our meal because they had blown a fuse.  Seeing BriAnna was fun, to be so far from home but to talk to someone familiar.  I’m really glad that we set up this lunch appointment.  Otherwise I still may be at that K station trying to find the next train to Lille. 

One thing about The Netherlands that is different than France is that EVERYONE seems to be able to speak perfect English.  Our hostess came over to chat with us to see how we liked our meal and to find out where we are from.  I’m realizing that is something I miss about living in Lille, the ability to talk to people and make connections.  I guess I have quite bit of my fathers (Bruce, Bob, John, Stanislas) in me and I like to talk to strangers.  Not being able to speak French really changes my personality.  All the more motivation to want to learn French.

For lunch we had homemade lemonade.  It was fresh squeezed lemons in sugar water with a sprig of mint.  The hostess said, “You can make this at home.”  And I replied, “And when I do I’m going to call it Rotterdam Lemonade.”  She thought that was funny.

Now that I think about it, Rotterdam reminds me quite a bit of Vancouver.  Rotterdam is known for their architecture and I can see why.  It is very striking, very modern.  I’m realizing just how devastating WWII was for these countries since everything they have is so brand new in Europe terms. 

We just finished an hour layover in Antwerp.   Considering we got on the train to Antwerp with just a couple minutes to spare, barely made it back on the train after getting our passes validated, and barely made the train back to Antwerp, the kids wanted to get on the train back to Lille with time to spare.  So we are waiting on the train ready to go, 8 minutes early, which is quite early considering.
Antwerp was an interesting city, at least what we saw of it.  We walked over to the historical district.  The building look to be quite old, yet high fashion stores are inside.  Down the middle of the street is a series of outdoor seating with different cuisine Italian, English, Irish, Dutch, and American which were hamburgers of course.  I’m starting to think that hamburgers are unique to America and they think we eat nothing else, thank you very much McDonald’s.
The Antwerp train station is very nice.  I paid 50 cents to go to the bathroom.  Money very well spent.  The toilet had a seat, was clean, and flushed.  The sink had water that was cold, soap in the dispenser, and a hand dryer that worked easily.  All the things that I take for granted in the U.S. but would happily pay 75 cents for here.  

Johnny made the comment that it is strange that he can visit two countries in one day and still have time to go to Scouts that evening.  That is pretty amazing actually.  Couldn’t do that in America.   Alice has spent most of the time on the train sleeping.  I keep trying to get her to look out the window, but she seems really tired.  Comes from getting up at 5:45 a.m. I guess. Johnny now has his laptop set up on our table and is playing minecraft.  It will be a short train ride for him. I’m just glad I don’t have to get my eurail passes validated ever again.   I feel like finding that guy at the Lille station and giving him the what for.

We parted with Alice at the train station and went directly to the Line 1 to go to the Church.  Two stops in the metro stopped and the lights turned off.  The operator was able to open the door for some air flow.  We stood in the car for 20 minutes not knowing what the problem was.  We finally got to Scout about 30 minutes late only to discover that it had been cancelled.  Some of the missionaries agreed to play with Johnny anyway.   I also learned that being trapped on the Metro is rare but does happen.

I ran into the Sister Missionaries and a woman who I think is an investigator.  I asked the missionaries about how to rent a bike, since they aren't allowed they didn't know.  So they asked this woman to tell me.  In English she said quite shortly, "You just read the instructions at the bike stand."  I said, "But those would be in French."  She said, "Well, you are in France."  Oh, I was so angry.  I wanted to scream, "I just spent 20 minutes stuck on a Metro with the announcer giving us updates in French, I'm very well aware that I am in France!"

I later found out that in order to rent a bike I have to go to the train station and pay a 200 Euro deposit and get a subscription card, and then go to a bike stand and read the instructions (which also happen to be in English) and then I get a bike.  Seems like the woman could have at least told me that!  But maybe she was having just as hard of a day as I was.  I should give her a break even though she wasn't willing to give me one.