Heading south

Trip Start May 01, 2006
1
71
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Trip End Sep 01, 2006


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Where I stayed

Flag of Belgium  , Antwerpen,
Sunday, July 9, 2006

The bed was so comfortable that I was sound asleep when the BOSS woke me at 9.30 announcing we were about to miss breakfast. We hurriedly got dressed and stumbled down the killer stairs, still half asleep to be greeted by the nasty little dog. I really must teach the BOSS how to tell the time as it was only 8.30 and instead of being last to breakfast, we were actually first.

We had the idea that we would spend the day in The Hague and then later in the afternoon, catch the train to Antwerp. This would hinge on two things: that the Peace Palace was open on a Sunday (and if it wasn't then there was something else open on a Sunday) and that we could store our backpacks.

We caught the tram back to Central Station. [Digression: the public transport system in Holland is designed to confuse the locals and totally confound the tourist. You must buy a strip ticket before you get on the tram and then date stamp from the machine the amount of zones you are about to travel - except as a tourist you have no idea how many zones equals how many strips and if you don't stamp enough strips then the transport police will fine you 37 euros on the spot - no excuses accepted - even the ignorant tourist excuse does not wash with the transport nazi's. The easiest way to avoid any sort of confusion is to buy an all day ticket - which is cheaper if you buy it from a newsagent than if you buy it on the tram - but beware, it is a 24 hour ticket and if you go past the time stamp the following day you will be up for a 37 euro fine.]

Anyway - back to Central Station Den Haag. There is no tourist information office at the station, you have to go into the city centre, however it is closed on Sundays. There is another one at Central South station but that is also closed on Sundays. The only one that is open is 20 minutes by tram - back at the Beach! Nobody could tell us if the Peace Palace was open on Sunday and when we asked about a locker room we were told that you could only use the locker room if you had a Dutch Debit card.

So we did what any rational tourist would do when faced with such inane opposition - we bought a ticket to Belgium and said goodbye to the Netherlands.

We arrived in Antwerp at 1pm and planned our next move. We had accommodation so we needed a map and an ATM and a tram. We obtained the map from the Tourist Information Office at the train station (which was open on Sunday), staffed by the rudest man I have ever encountered behind a Tourist Information desk. We managed to squeeze the tram information out of him although he was very reluctant to give it to us.

I had booked 2 nights accommodation over the internet at a guesthouse aptly named Guesthouse 26. It is always a risk to book cheap hotels online especially when they take the deposit from your credit card. However, I have not been stung yet and the Antwerp guesthouse turned out to be the nicest (and cheapest) so far. It was within spitting distance of the cathedral in the pedestrian mall of the old town. The whole area is full of cafes and bars and Belgian chocolate shops. Quite divine!

We had been told about some sort of procession with a big elephant and a marionette - not quite sure what it was commemorating but apparently it was saying goodbye. So we spent a delightful afternoon wandering through the cobbled streets, watching the elephant, drinking coffee and eating chocolates!

For dinner we went back to the town square and as there seemed to be free wireless internet all around, we choose a café, had dinner, uploaded emails and watched the world cup final.
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