Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: train station

Little surprise in Maastricht

This will be a brief entry on the final weekend travel destination before accomplishing my mission in Belgium for 2012, which was Maastricht in the Netherlands.

On a map, Maastricht is nested in a small part in the extreme south of the Netherlands that sticks out between Belgium and Germany. In fact, Maastricht is the southernmost city in the Netherlands. It is practically right across the border from Belgium, easily reachable from Liège by train or bus.

The skies were gray and the air was sombre when I reached Maastricht, but the absence of rain meant that it would probably be much more pleasant than the trip to rainy Antwerp. Actually, there were some little surprises too… 😉

The train station at Maastricht resembled a huge cathedral. Upon exiting the platform, I was immediately surrounded by stained glass on all sides and I wondered if I was really in a train station at all. Maybe the building was indeed a cathedral before it became a station?

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A few hours in rainy Antwerp

A trip to Antwerp was long overdue. I’ve been meaning to go every single time I was in Belgium, but it eluded me time and time again. After I go back to Bordeaux next week, I don’t know when I’ll come back to Belgium, so I decided last Friday that I’d make that trip to Antwerp on Saturday, rain or shine. Well, it rained, and it rained hard. (Not that I was surprised – I had no hope of a sunny day when the weather forecast boasted a 80% chance of precipitation.) It wasn’t the best condition for going on a day trip, but hey, I wasn’t going to back out. Let the rain fall!

Antwerp is located in Flanders, the Flemish region of Belgium. It is the second largest city in Belgium, after Brussels, and it has one of the largest ports in the world. Antwerp is one of those Belgian cities, like Ghent, whose name is different in English, Flemish, and French. Respectively, the names are Antwerp, Antwerpen, and Anvers.

I had wanted to stay in Antwerp for the whole day, take a stroll around the city, maybe a nice promenade along the Schelde river, but the rain ruined most of the plan. As a result, my umbrella died (it was half broken already) so I got a new one, and my shoes and socks were soaked. Yuck. Definitely not pleasant to walk around with wet feet. So instead of leaving in the evening, I went back to Louvain-la-Neuve in the afternoon to escape the gloom.

I played around with today’s set of images on Picasa, in order to make them look better than they really are, due to the grey skies which show up horribly in photos. Being in the rain all day also trained me in the “skill” of single-handed picture-taking, absolutely necessary in order to stay somewhat dry for the day!

Arriving in Antwerp central station, it was almost 11:30 in the morning. The train station itself is a grand attraction in Antwerp. From every angle, up and down, left and right, in and out, it looks and feels more like a sophisticated museum than a train station.

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Short update: Brussels to Bordeaux

Yes dear friends, I am back in France. My trip from Brussels to Bordeaux on Saturday took about 6 and a half hours – 8 and a half if you count the time getting to Brussels from Louvain-la-Neuve. Goodness, I was so tired, mainly sore from carrying heavy luggage, but I’m sure glad to be back!

I’m currently in Anglet for my annual PhD training school. This will be a short update as my days are filled with lectures, presentations, and workshops. Oh, and like last year, internet is only available in the lobby. It’s all good though, the proper entry on Anglet will come next week 😉

The departure station was Brussels-South (or Bruxelles-Midi), and the first stop was Marne-la-Vallée-Chessy station in suburban Paris, where I had a transfer train to Bordeaux. This is actually quite a fancy station, and I believe it’s where people take the bus to Disneyland Paris. Another 4 hours to go…(till Bordeaux, not Disneyland!)

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Not enough time for Leuven

I’ve been to Leuven, but I’ve never written about it. In fact, I’ve been to Leuven four times last year, but each time I went, I headed directly to a specific meeting point for fellowship, and never explored the city beyond the route that I took.

To introduce Leuven a bit, it is in the Flemish region of Belgium, which means people there speak Flemish, not French. Leuven is located north of Louvain-la-Neuve and east of Brussels, forming an equilateral triangle on the map. Leuven is home to the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL), which is directly related to the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL, where I am at) as UCL split from it in 1968. I don’t know the entire history behind the event, but due to some language tensions, what used to be known as the Catholic University of Leuven split into KUL and UCL, and UCL “moved” to Louvain-la-Neuve in Wallonia, providing French-language instruction.

My visits to Leuven generally began at the train station as I arrived at around 19H00. Then I would stroll down Bondgenotenlaan (name of a street) until I got to the Grote Markt and took a turn onto Naamsestraat (another street name) until I reached my destination at 19H30 for the start of fellowship. At the end of fellowship, I took the same route back to the train station at 22H00 in order to catch the last train back to Louvain-la-Neuve. Unfortunately I don’t attend this fellowship anymore due to the tight timing. Sometimes I can’t make the train that gets me there on time, and leaving early at 22H00 doesn’t give me much time to mingle at all 😦

The few times I was there, however, I really liked Leuven. The wide streets and the gorgeous Gothic architecture were certainly refreshingly different from Louvain-la-Neuve. I’m sure there’s much more to see beyond the limits of the city centre, and it’s a trip I’ll have to re-take one of these days, when the weather is slightly better.

The silhouette of an unknown structure glowed prominently straight ahead of me as I walked down Bondgenotenlaan, towards the Grote Markt. In October last year, I usually arrived in Leuven right before sunset, just as the sky was turning dark. This was taken during my first time in Leuven, and that silhouette really stood out and amazed me.

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Short stay in Liège

Last Saturday I went to Liège for the second time, again to visit my friend who studies there. I was getting a little stressed, and I felt like going some place where I could relax a little.

Last time I came, all I did was chat. There was no time for picture-taking, and in fact, that trip was made with the decision of taking no photos in mind. This time, however, I told my friend that I intended on snapping some photos of Liège as we strolled around the city, so he would know what was up if I stopped randomly in the middle of the street.

Compared to some of the other cities in Belgium, Liège is much less touristy. No water canals like Bruges, saxophone bridge like Dinant (although Liège lies on the Meuse River as Dinant does), and no Grand Place like Brussels. I can’t think of anything Liège is famous for other than its waffles. And once again I missed them.

I ended up taking not as many pictures as I had wanted because I wanted to focus on catching up with my friend, and when I did stop to shoot, they were quick snaps. Here’s what I’ve got.

The Liège Guillemins train station is probably the fanciest station that I’ve seen so far and as my friend says, the coolest looking thing in Liège (and there aren’t many). Pretty impressive welcome for a visitor.

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