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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Heart-stopping, Part één

The train ran its way toward us; try as it might, it never outpaces the dawn.

It's 6:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. The air of Northern France breathes quite well; the only hindrance to a beautiful breathing experience is the smoke. However, this is no matter, as the olfactory senses it stimulates will serve me well as a memory bank. I need to have my memory jogged. Especially of this morning, of this day...

Things begin to unfold as soon as the train screeches to a halt in front of us. We climb aboard the local; our bleary, caffeine-deprived eyes grant us membership on the 6:45 train to Lille, France's 2nd largest metropolitan region. From there, half-an-hour on the TGV, the high-speed line, will drop us off in the capital of Belgium.

The pristine, manicured landscape we pass looks in on us. We are being observed by the neat, rolling hills out-of-doors. What do they see? Not just the country-side of Northern France, but all the nations of Europe? Perhaps the continent views us as children who needed space to grow; thus we ran away from home some centuries ago. The terrain of Europe looks inside, and wonders at urban-sprawl, and houses made of fine wood, and trucks whose roars would shame the heartiest dragon. Our interiors make the out-of-doors hum with speculation and wonder...

Or, perhaps, that noise I hear is only the sound of train wheels slowing to a halt.

Out come the passengers, a vomit of hurry and focus; the only attributes people who ride public transportation possess. My friend and I amble along; he's been to Brussels before, but never in this part of the city. The feeling of discovery sets us on equal playing fields; only the advantage of speaking a local language, a talent my travelling companion possesses in spades, will get us from point A to point B.

The list of point B's is endless and enthralling:

  • An entire museum devoted to Magritte.
  • Many exhibits on the series Tintin
  • A giant replica of an atom
  • Chocolate!
Each and every venue promises excitement and vivid experiences.

Our tour of the Capital of the E.U. begins well-enough, with a visit to a  majestic tower. This particular ancient edifice we find ourselves enclosed in is old; very old. To prove its antiquity, a beautiful display of artifacts greets us:

These public time-capsules reach inside and pull into the centuries past. And then there were the stairs:

Magnificent marble altars! Practical and beautiful, as only Europe can produce. Onward, ever upward they climb. They reach into the skies of Belgium, inviting us to ascend Valhalla as the gods in Das Rheingold do. Invitations this long-standing are not to be snubbed.

And, when the view is from this point of reference, we would be most impolite to refuse.

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