Europe 2017: Gent, Amsterdam, and Feeling Crappy

Posted by Mike Merritt in Travelogue on | No Comments

Castle in Gent

Although my primary goal of this trip is riding the trains, one of the disadvantages of spending only a small amount of time in any given place is that when something happens, you now have even less time to explore that place than you did before.
Such was the case with this leg of the trip. It actually started on the second night in London when suddenly I was experiencing a nausea-like feeling from my stomach. I’m still not sure what it was – maybe a stomach acid thing – but fearing a stomach bug, it sent me back to my room rather than seek out food that night.

I would note that I was still transitioning to the time difference, travel fatigue and all, as well as having kind of pushed myself the first day to stay up, so that may have been part of it.

Regardless of the cause, I was able to get up and to the station for my Eurostar trip to Brussels.
Thinking that maybe the issue was lack of food, I grabbed some breakfast after passport control in St. Pancras. The train trip itself was indeed fast and uneventful. We passed through the Channel and into France and then Belgium.

Upon getting to Brussels, it was clear this stomach issue wasn’t going away. Still thinking it might be food-related, I found some lunch, and then pushed off to Gent, my destination in Belgium. After some previous discussions, it was clear there isn’t a whole lot to do in Brussels, anyway, so I’ll visit properly another time.

It wasn’t long to Gent, about 25 minutes. Once off the train, I found myself in a bit of a bind. I knew I had to take a tram to a street near the hostel, but it wasn’t immediately clear to me how to get a ticket. The machine only took certain coins and even after getting them, it still didn’t work. I finally was able to ask a waiting passenger if they sold tickets about – turns out the answer is yes.

Once I checked into the hostel, I was feeling better, so I took a walk around the old part of the city. It’s a nice area, with some thin streets, some wider ones, and even a castle and some churches. All in all, it’d be a nice place to stay for a few days and I will return.

Although I was able to walk a decent distance, my stomach had other plans, and I had to return to the hostel. I got a few hours sleep. I wasn’t happy about it but thought it better than getting ill. After waking, I thought I’d better get some food, so went to a nearby place. Nothing special – just some nuggets and fries. Something was definitely up, though, because my appetite was shot. I ate as much as I could and returned to the hostel.

One thing becoming apparent by that time was my constipation. It is unusual for me not to need the bathroom at least once per day, and with Crohn’s it’s usually more. I now wonder if that was part of the problem, perhaps in combination with crap food and not a lot of food. The next morning I was feeling better, so it was off to Gent station and to Amsterdam.

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Europe 2017: London Part 1

Posted by Mike Merritt in Uncategorized on | No Comments

Hello from London! So far, mostly so good. My adventure started off on April 1 (no joke) with a bus ride from Hartford and then a shuttle to and flight from Boston Logan. Boston has done a good job getting people from the bus terminal to South Station, so props to them for that. No real trouble at Logan, except the flight was delayed 20 minutes. I even got an aisle seat in a nine seat row, so that was very nice since the Crohn’s was acting up a bit.

Passport control wasn’t bad at all, though getting though it took about an hour. Had some slight trouble at Gatwick Station accessing my ticket. I guess with my ticket, it is mobile only and I hadn’t downloaded it to my phone! Finally asked someone about the issue but their Internet was a bit shoddy. Eventually got my ticket and was off.

No such issues with the Underground to my hostel. It was very easy to get a ticket. Like with all subways, it takes a moment to learn it, but it was not too bad to figure out. After six hours in London, got to the hostel and settled in a bit.

I then took off to see some sights, starting with Trafalgar Square. Lots of people milling around there and going to the National Gallery.

I spent a little time there and then headed down to the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben. Despite the recent attack, there were a lot of people. I took a walk around the entire building and also took a look at the London Eye. Waited there until night to get a photo of the lit up building.

After that, I was tired as heck, what with being up since 9am on Saturday. Therefore, I headed back to my room for a nice sleep, albeit with a glance over at the Prime Minister’s residence and a trip part way across another bridge.

The next day I spent exploring the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. For the castle, definitely an interesting history, from its use as a home and a fortress, to its darker side as a place for torture and imprisonment, and a holding place for the Crown Jewels. I’d definitely visit again because it seemed like there was some things I missed, just looking at the architecture alone.

The Bridge was alright as well, with a fantastic history, though I’ve seen similar attractions elsewhere. Wasn’t there for a bridge lifting experience but I’d like to see one if I get back to London when one is scheduled. After that I ended up getting almost lost in the Shad-Thames area. It might have been just me getting claustrophobic from narrow streets, but it seems like an area that’s misleadingly sketchy. As I now know, it’s an area with many wealthy residents. 

I’d like to have explored it more but wanted to get to Buckingham Palace, so I turned back. I got back to Westminster and headed down to the Queen’s house.

No sight of the Queen but I did catch a guard-changing ceremony (not one of the main big ones, just literally one guard being relieved).

 I only spent a short time there, given the length of the train ride and walk but wanted to get back to the hostel to sleep before an early morning Eurostar trip. I cut through St. James Park to get to its station, where I had the weirdest experience.

One of the pelicans that resides there started marching toward me and yelling. I’d just been eating a snack, so I expect that had something to do with it, but I had nothing for it and wasn’t going to feed it, anyway. It didn’t hassle me after I went past it, though, and I continued on my way. Got to the station and headed back and prepared my stuff and showered.

I was still kind of dozing off from a long three days of travel and sight seeing, so you might think I slept well that night. No such luck. Got about four hours of sleep and couldn’t get back to it. So I uploaded some photos, checked some emails, and made sure my Eurostar ticket was downloaded onto my phone (lesson learned).

Got up, checked out, and Undergrounded it toward King’s Cross St. Pancras. Now I’m headed toward my next stop in Belgium. I’ll be back in London for one more day at the end of the trip, so hope to do a bus tour and maybe the British Museum. All in all, I think a longer future trip to the UK is warranted.