20,000 leagues under the sky, 2004- travel blog

Final leg.

15949km from Hong Kong.

Last stop from home but it didn't mean that the adventure had to end there. It was early evening when the train went through Brussels and it passed through a few "Brussels" stations, Nord, Midi, Sud to name the easy three, so I had to pick one to get off at. Logic dictated Midi, I wasn't sure that it was such a good choice once I got into the concourse, there wasn't much around in the way of information and the area seemed a little seedy. I had looked up hostels in Brussels on the internet but I hadn't bothered to book anything or write down any details. Then I had a brainwave, I remembered at the end of my Interrail with Alex many years ago that we returned overnight from Oostende to Dover and trains were leaving from this station to Oostende. I checked the timetable and tried to book a ticket on the automatic machine but it proved too difficult so I went to the booking office where I was sold a cheaper ticket than the one the machine was offering anyway.

It was an hour and a half to Oostende on a high speed rail line on a virtually empty train with a nice salad I'd just bought at the station, luxury. Then we arrived and I couldn't remember the way to the ferries. I wandered around outside the train-station and found a small ferry office which opened at 10am the next morning. Back in the station I asked some local who gave me directions to the port but thought that there was only one ferry per day. I wandered off in the suggested direction but there was obviously nothing open over that way so again returned to the station. The station was now locking up and deserted and the last train back to Brussels was on the platform, not wanting to spend the night on the streets of Oostende I legged it onto the train, minus ticket but there hadn't been a ticket booth open anyway. When the ticket inspector came around I appologised and explained why I didn't have a ticket. He started to process a single to Brussels on his machine and then said that a return was cheaper and asked for 13Euros. I'd paid 13 for my original ticket and the machine had quoted 13.50 and a penny dropped. I pulled out my first ticket and asked if it was a return, "silly man, you have a ticket already" was approximately what he said.

Back in Mrussels midi it was gone midnight when I got back and the seediness of the station had racked up a notch or three but I'd seen a chain hotel advertising rooms for 70 euros just outside the station so checked myself in there for the night.

The Sunday morning I decided to treat myself to the Eurostar home, after 16000km of train journeys from Hong Kong I thought it was only fitting to arrive in London by train too.

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