Jan. 10 – second to last train trip in Europe (Luxembourg City to Brussels MIDI)

I know I’m skipping around and possibly making my trip to Europe hard to follow but I’m not at my most organized while on vacation… This one happens several days after my previous entry – we’re missing a few days in Paris and two in Luxembourg which I’ll be putting up eventually.

We bought 2nd class tickets for Amsterdam as soon as we arrived in Luxembourg. I think they were about 70 euros each. We were surprised to learn there was nothing direct. We had to take a slow interciTy train to Brussels and then get on the Thalys high speed train to Amsterdam. 5.5 hours in all with 23 minutes to change trains in Brussels. My wife started having second thoughts – we should fly directly instead of changing trains. I didn’t want to bother researching flights but luckily a nice receptionist at the front desk of Novotel Centre checked for us. 1200 euros for a last minute flight from Luxembourg to Amsterdam. Ouch! What about the bus? No direct buses either.

We were stuck with the train so we upgraded to first class which cost us 94 euros combined. No reserved seats on the way to Brussels but we hoped there would be plenty of seats (and there were it turned out). We figured that would remove the stress of finding room for our luggage – my wife’s main concern. Of course the train to Brussels was 10 minutes late giving us only 13 minutes to find our Thalys train in Brussels, presumably a big station and one with which we are totally unfamiliar. I asked the ticket person what we could do if we missed the train and she told us about a train leaving a bit later we could get on using the same tickets we already had. I was happy enough with this but my wife sent me back there 2 more times with different questions. She was trying to send me back a fourth time (and I was telling her she would have to come with me this time) when the train finally pulled up.

We couldn’t find a conductor to ask where the first class car was (no numbers on the tracks or on our tickets to help). None of the passengers my wife asked knew so we just got on a car and started walking (with our luggage this was a bit slow going). Eventually we did see a conductor. First he said he didn’t speak English. Then when a nearby passenger translated first class into premier class he said he didn’t know. I thought my wife was going to explode. He eventually figured it out and led us to the first class car. Unlike Thalys, there’s no WiFi here so I type now and will have to post later. By then I guess I’ll know if we made it onto the Thalys train at Brussels or not.

If we don’t my wife is going to be pretty mad because the replacement train is a slower intercity one with no WiFi, like the one we’re on now. Presumably it’s cheaper than the Thalys 1st class we paid for and having “lost” that money will be tough for her to accept. I’ll just complain about it on my blog and then let it go. Interestingly the first class seats aren’t much bigger than 2nd class. The aisle is certainly wider and it’s much less crowded though – very easy to find luggage space with 10% occupancy or so.

My wife says she’s never taking a European train again. They’re just too inferior compared to Korean trains. There has been some talk of renting a car the next time we’re in Europe, the idea being to visit some smaller towns instead of major cities for a change. But we were also talking about a month in Prague with train trips to Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, and other places. Maybe that’s out?

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