Sunday, July 11, 2010

summer trip : DAY 11

Sunday, July 11, 2010 2
:: THE END ::

That morning, I once again had to reluctantly skip the breakfast prepared at the hotel. The ticket we booked back to Paris was going to be leaving Brussels at 7.15 am. Breakfast usually started at 7.30 am up ‘till 10.00 am. I planned on eating the instant noodles before checking out of the room. But we woke up late that morning. We were supposed to be meeting the girls downstairs at the receptionist at 6.30 am. When I opened my eyes, it was already 6.30 am. I managed to take a shower and rushed everything. Thank God I’ve already packed most things the night before.

Anyway, we were not that late. The hotel is not too far from the main station. When we arrived at the station, we had to wait for a couple of minutes before allowed to enter the train. I had a cappuccino that morning. It was great. I guess better than the espresso I had the day before. The journey back to Paris took us about an hour. I spent most of the time reading ‘Home’ as I couldn’t get myself asleep after the cappuccino I drank before. Besides, it was a little bit awkward sitting in front of the girls. The seats were arranged facing each other. That was awkward wasn’t it? Haha.


Arrived at Gare du Nord, Paris, we waited until afternoon to move to the airport. We didn’t have anything actually at the station; we just thought it was too early to get to the airport at morning since our flight was gonna be at 3.30 pm. At 11.00 am, we took the RER train straight to the airport. Upon arrival, the check-in counter hadn’t been opened yet. Yet another waiting.



On the plane, we had a special request dinner. I mean, we’ve already requested the Muslims meal when we booked the ticket online. It was better than the first one we had when we flew to Paris before. A fish meal!!! Fishes are blessed that they never fail to make my day gaiety. LOL.

There was kind of a situation inside the cabin. I was too focusing on the meal that I didn’t notice it involved a passenger seating in front of me. When I finally realized, few people were onto something, the passenger was already taken into the business class compartment. I asked Danial but he was busy watching the movie being played. I think somebody got sick. Then there was an announcement from the pilot (I think so) informing a presence of a doctor boarding. That was it. I don’t really get what he meant by that. I supposed he meant anybody feeling sick could consult the doctor we’ve got on the plane.


The flight reached Larnaca, Cyprus around 8.30 pm. I witnessed a mouth fight while waiting in the line to retrieve my next boarding pass at the connecting flight area. An old man was mad at how the woman at the counter ignoring the passengers going to Amman, prioritizing the passengers going to Beirut. I too was sent to the next counter when I mentioned my destination at the first counter. But listening to her reason, it was quite acceptable actually. The flight to Beirut would be leaving in a short time and I didn’t want to be the cause of any delayed flight or worse, of anybody missing the flight. That is just intolerable.


That words quarrel just brought me to realize that I was approaching Jordan or the land of Arabs. It was even closer when the flight to Amman was opened for boarding. I’ve never seen people crowded at the gate to enter the plane. But they were indeed. I well understood the flight was delayed like more than an hour, but couldn’t it be more civilized to just make a line in front of the gate. If this is their identity, I couldn’t agree more that they should start to find a new identity which should be more Islamic and civilized. All I’m asking is manners. Doesn’t Islam thought us about akhlak?

We’ve already contacted Abdullah asking for his help to arrange a transport from the airport back to Irbid. It went smooth and we reached Irbid safely. We paid Abu Seif as agreed.

No other words.

Alhamdulillah…

I would like to thank everybody involved in this travel. Well especially my travel mate, Danial. We had a great time, didn't we?


Some people would not recommend Europe as a place to have distinct and unique cultural experiences. It’s kind of true actually. Asia is more like it. I would recommend Europe as a place to approach people as people rather than as cultural representatives. It’s an approach of a life in a different kind of world. Well, not literally. This is just my two cents after visiting just 5 out of 50 countries in Europe. Errr, Turkey is considered one right? Heh.

Monday, July 5, 2010

summer trip : DAY 10

Monday, July 5, 2010 2
QUOTING; GOOD GIRLS GO TO HEAVEN, BAD GIRLS GO TO AMSTERDAM

I was so reluctant to skip the prepared breakfast at the hotel. It was included in the hotel bill for it to matter much. But the girls were insisting to go out early before the breakfast time. The officer at the ticket counter told us the earliest train would be at 6.14 am. If we miss it, the train would be available hourly for the next hours for the whole day. The thought we had in mind was to maximize the time we’ve got in Amsterdam as the ticket would be available just for a day. In other words, we had only a day to visit Amsterdam.

We bought a special weekend ticket for each of us. We could just pick any time we want to leave and we could go back to Brussels also at any time within a definite time. It was cheaper after all.

It was 5.30 in the morning. We left the hotel for the main station, Gare du Midi. I think Midi stands for middle. We searched for any train to Amsterdam leaving Brussels at 6.14 am. There was none on the screen. The earliest train going to Amsterdam would be at 7.14 am. We waited ‘till the train information office opened. I went and asked about the ticket I bought. The woman confirmed it was the train at 7.14 am. So I found myself a place to get a nap. Before leaving, I got myself a cup of espresso. That was my first coffee in Europe and that caused me unsleeping through the almost 3 hours journey to Amsterdam.

We made it to Amsterdam, Netherlands. The journey in the train was beautiful. Not that the train brought the beautifulness. It was the scenery along the way especially when approaching Amsterdam. It was somewhere at the outskirts of Amsterdam. Green pastures. Prairies wind. Mottled cows. Watery canals. Colorful petals. Aligned trees. Cottage houses.

I couldn’t help myself mumbling words from the song Over the Rainbow. I’ve listened to 3 versions of the song. It was like a theme song for that journey. Heh. I had the Kamakawiwo╩╗ole’s version in my phone. So I kept on listening to the song throughout the journey.

At first when arrived, we couldn’t find any tourist centre. So we stopped by at a book shop looking for any travel guide. I found a novel I’ve been looking in Malaysia and Jordan. The Diary of A Young Girl : Anne Frank. It was a definitive edition. But anyway, I bought it. It was after we went out of the pretty station that we finally found a Tourists Information Office. They didn’t give us any free city map; luckily we’ve got the travel guide book. The lady at the counter gave us recommendations on how to spend a day in Amsterdam. We asked for any suggested routes. We then asked her how to get to the windmills which are popular in Netherlands.

We took bus 91 to Zaanse Schans. It is a peaceful village. The scenery is amazing. It has a collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses. There is also a place where we can see how cheeses are made. Netherlands is after all popular with cheese apart from windmills, tulips and wooden clogs.






After that, we went back to the central station and started walking throughout the city. The city’s spirit is embodied in its canals and waterways, spanned by many beautiful bridges, and with elegant houses.


We passed by the National Statue, Madame Tussaud, Bloemenmarkt which is a floating flower market (or actually used to be) and many other monuments and buildings.






We were freaking tired that we decided to just head for our last destination and then find a place for praying. It was Museum Plein, where it has the big words saying ‘I amsterdam.’


I’ve read that Netherlands has about 300 mosques so we were intended to find one. We asked a kind guy at a souvenirs shop for the direction to any nearby mosque. We reached the street where the mosque supposed to be at. We blurred a while as we couldn’t see any building close enough to resemble a mosque. It is a Turkish mosque. So we thought it must be like a small praying room in any building on the street. We were looking for any Turks to ask for the mosque. Thank God suddenly two guys passed by greeted us with Salam. They must’ve noticed the girls with scarf that they were confident to greet us. We replied and they introduced themselves as Umar and Murad. They are Turks. I was so grateful that they greeted us in the middle of nowhere.

So they brought us to a big mosque. It is not a single building. But it is great enough that it has like 2 small towers above it. There is a moon symbol up there. They told us it was a church about 30 years ago. The people of Netherlands though claimed to have faith in Christianity; they didn’t really have a strong relation with the church. The Netherlands is one of the most secular countries in Western Europe. Therefore, Muslims applied for turning the churches into mosques. They succeed since the Christians didn’t seem really care about the church.

This mosque we visited was once one of those churches turned into mosques. With drastically growing Muslims population in Netherlands, more and more churches were turned into mosques. There are about a million of Muslims in Netherlands currently as been told by him.

He also told us that Amsterdam is famous for its coffee which has marijuana in it. I was surprised. It is indeed true. The country is like a country of free wills. You can do anything you want around here. Drugs and pornographies can be found widely in the city. That’s just bad for any kids who happen to enter the shops as these things are also being sold in any regular shops like souvenir shops. I think Netherlands is the first country to legalize gay marriages. We can found the special needs for this community as in Gay City Map, Gay Tourists Centre, Gay Guide Book, Gay Information Centre and many others. I was shocked by the fact that this country is free as hell. Human rights as people always say.

Back to the mosque, it is indeed a large mosque. It was a church once for a matter of fact. After performing our obligations, one of the guys (I couldn’t remember which is which – I think it was Murad) offered us his car to take us to the central station where we would take the train back to Brussels. But we didn’t want to trouble him any longer, so we just took a tram.



One after another. It was indeed God’s help. The tram driver gave us a free ride. I glanced at him. Seemed like Malay to me. But he spoke English. Anyway, God bless him. We thanked him and he said, “Next time.” Oh and I believe we passed by an R-rated museum while in the tram. Yeah I saw a board written on it Sex Museum. I can’t imagine what they have inside it. Haha.

We took the last train to Brussels that day, at 8.54 pm. It was almost 12.00 am when we arrived. I was damn tired. The next day would be the journey of coming back to Jordan. So our vacation was approaching its end. Throughout this summer trip, I found many cyclers around the city. It is indeed a good choice to ride a bicycle to have a tour around any city in summer. I was hoping to experience once too if I ever come back to Europe again. I had an intention to rent a bicycle while in Belgium and Amsterdam, but I thought it was ridiculous since I wasn’t traveling alone. Heh.



to be continued...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

summer trip : DAY 09

Sunday, July 4, 2010 3
IN BRUGES

It was the second day for a visit in Belgium, or our third day actually upon arrival. We had our breakfast at the hotel and went out soon finished. Today, we were going to visit a little distance city from Brussels, Bruges. Bruges is best known for its canals through the city, thus commonly known as The Venice of The North. Cruising is very popular in Bruges. The historic centre is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO. Located in the northwest of Belgium, it’s the largest city in the Flemish region of the country.



We walked to the train station, Gare du Midi and bought the ticket to Bruges. It took us an hour from Brussels to Bruges. We arrived at the main station in Bruges at 9.30 am. The tourist information centre was not opened yet, so I just bought a guide book and walked out of the station to the Minnewater or the Lake of Love. It’s famous for its romantic environment with canals and swans. Just beautiful. Greenery, water and houses blend in perfect harmony in this oasis of peace and cannot fail to enchant the numerous visitors.



Bruges is just like Brussels in the way that we can just walk from a place to another place for sightseeing. Nothing much except the canals it has which make Bruges more special. We followed the suggested routes in the book and walked around the city ‘till we found the traditional nostalgic (as claimed) windmills. Of many windmills once stood along the city walls, only 3 left. But we just found 2. The other one was said to have been turned into a museum. We took a rest there and then went back to the station.





Other places we visited in Bruges including the famous Church of Our Lady, the Belfort Tower which holds the pride of the Belgians as the French proud of their Eiffel Tower, the Basilica of the Holy Blood which claimed to house an urn containing drops of Christ’s blood and many others. There are also some museums but we didn’t really concern to enter any museum at the moment.






We went by the Beguinage on our way back to the station. The place is very beautiful and peace. More beautiful than Minnewater.





We went back to Brussels main railway station and surveyed the price of a return ticket to Amsterdam, Netherlands since we have another one remaining day. It was the girls’ idea. Danial and I were just following. I pitied Danial though since he economically didn’t prepare for visiting any other countries apart from France and Belgium. Me neither, but I fortunately brought some extra money just in case.

The fact that we settled Belgium in 2 days was just abrupt. A day in Brussels and another day in Bruges. The remaining one day was reserved for Amsterdam, Netherlands. It was a sudden plan and decision. Anyway, I was hoping to enjoy precious moments in Amsterdam for what it’s worth. I was starting to miss my room in Irbid for a matter of fact. Oh, that was so irritating.

We finished our tour around Bruges early that day. The evening was free as hell. Danial was too tired of walking that he slept all that evening. 2 days in Belgium was in fact 2 days of walking. I myself didn’t find myself to wanting to sleep. That evening at around 8.00 pm, I went out alone to the Grand Place. I indeed enjoy walking alone. Heh. Danial stayed at the hotel. I enjoyed the crowds and the atmosphere. So I thought I would do some shopping at the Grand Place. I bought a shirt written on it BRUSSELS.



Then I went into a chocolate shop, Leonidas. I was hoping to buy just a small piece of chocolate to get a taste of the local chocolates. But then I was surprised with the numbering system inside the store. It has a concept of pick-what-you-want-and-we-will-pack-them-for-you. I came across a name of Pick & Pack. How was it? No matter. I would have to wait for the others to finish their businesses ‘till I can pay for my chosen chocolate. So I decided to leave for another shop. The one that attracted me was the one I bought a box of chocolates for my family yesterday evening. It was Guylian. It has a fountain of chocolate. I went in and a nice guy greeted me politely.

“Hello Sir. How can I help you? Is it something for anyone else or just for yourself?”

“Hello. I just want to have a taste of any local chocolate. I mean, for myself.”

“Well I can suggest you this one.”


He pointed at a small box written on it Guylian.


“It has 3 chocolates in it, or you can buy the one with 6 in it.”


“Oh this one tastes good right?”


“Absolutely. I would say seashells from Guylian are the best.”


“These are all from Belgium right? I mean, I want to have a real taste of the local chocolates.”


“Yes! Except for this one. We just sell it because it’s too famous.”


He laughed while pointing at boxes of Ferrero Rocher.


“Oh yeah. I have this one in my country, in Malaysia.”


“You’re from Malaysia? So you’re travelling in Europe. I’m from Scotland myself and I can also find some Belgian chocolates there.”


He knew Malaysia. I was relieved with the fact that I didn’t have to explain where Malaysia is.


“I’m a student actually. It’s holiday.”


“Oh I see. So you’re studying in Europe and you’re traveling.”


Oh crap! I didn’t like this. Now I had to mention where I study.


“Oh no. I study in Jordan. So I came to Europe from Jordan.”


There I said it. I really don’t like the Islamophobia thing. That’s so racist. Huh.


“Oh Jordan. Well it’s not so far from Europe I guess.”


Thank God he responded well.

So I bought a box of 6 Guylian seashells for myself. They are named seashells just after their shapes. Again, I’ve checked the ingredients and they were okay. A shuttle would take me back to the hotel at 9.05 pm. It was getting darker. The sun was preparing for a beautiful sunset and set for a twilight. I was waiting at Mc Donald where the shuttle would be coming. There was a match between United States and a black country. I couldn’t recall which country. I think it was Ghana. Or wasn’t it? Then I heard somebody said “F**K AMERICA!” He said that few times. Haha.

I opened the box and let out a seashell. This was the moment. I would taste the claimed best chocolate in Brussels. At least that was what that Scottish told me. The minute I put it in my mouth, the seashell melted in a way I would describe as extravagant. It was so pleasant! Guylian is indeed the best chocolate I ever tasted. Belgians do know how to make good chocolates. Just delicious! I drew a smile of satisfaction recalling the chocolates I bought for my family were also the Guylian. Thank God I made a good choice yesterday. They must taste this one!


I rode the shuttle and went back into my room where I found Danial already woke himself up. I handed the Guylian over him. He already tasted the Cupido. So I was hoping him to compare it to this one. There he nodded. Guylian is so much better than Cupido. He couldn’t put a word to describe the moment the seashell melted on his tongue. As for myself, Guylian is the best. The second goes to Belgian. Then Cupido. Heh.


to be continued...

summer trip : DAY 08

BRUSSELS IN ONE DAY

The day was as sunny as yesterday, but windier. Just nice for a walk around the city. We had a little breakfast prepared downstairs at the hotel. Damn good! Heh. From the hotel, we just walked to the centre of the Brussels city as most of the attractions are located at the central area. I was thinking of taking the metro, but the receptionist suggested to just walking from the hotel. Anyway, we could save some money.

The first destination was the Grand Place. It is the city’s chief landmark. We blurred a while upon arrival. We didn’t have an idea of what that place is and what the surrounding buildings represent. We went there too early that we couldn’t see the real life there. So I went to the Tourists Information Office to ask few things. Grand Place is actually popular for the flower carpets they put in spring every year. We came in June, so we missed that celebration.


We later went to the famous Manneken Pis. It is a statue of a pissing boy. I’ve read few versions of the legend on the statue which I thought are like quite absurd. No matter. The city was very silent that morning. We didn’t see much people. The great thing was that we saw many Muslims along the walk. I was really proud and relieved by the fact that Muslims contributed quite a number on the population in Brussels. We saw many women covering their hair. There were also a bunch of Halal shops and restaurants.


From the so-called famous statue, we moved our feet to reach the Grand Sablon where the tourist officer told about how the place is quite known with chocolates. But we didn’t find any. We did see maybe two or three stores. But that was it. Nothing like a paradise of chocolates I expected it would be.

The walk didn’t go well from the beginning. We were clueless. This included our next visit to the Place Royale which is said to be a great palace. This time, we couldn’t find any entrance to the palace. So we thought it was either not opened yet or it is not opened for public visits.


Decided to move on to our next destination, we walked away from the palace and saw a beautifully designed park just beside the palace, Parc de Bruxelles. It is like a garden with many trees and an ornament fountain. We walked to the end of the park and found the Parliament just at the opposite side of the street. Our next stop was the Kathedraal. I think it is the great church of Belgium. Or so I thought. The design of the church is somehow resembles the Notre Dame in Paris. They could be related. I mean, who knows… Next, we dropped by at the Comic Museum. It was built upon the famous cartoon Tin Tin originated from Belgium. We decided not to enter the museum so moved on to our next destination.



It was at the Bruparck that we had more enjoyment. We bought a promotion ticket for 5 people to be used in the metro, buses and trams for all day. We took the metro to reach Bruparck. The first place we visited was the Atomium. It symbolizes an iron crystal. There are 9 spheres connected by tubes but only 5 are opened to the public. We didn’t enter it despite the combined ticket (with Mini Europe) they promoted. Too expensive.



Then we headed for the Mini Europe. Of all other places we visited that day, this was the most satisfying. This place recreated any monuments and landmarks found all over Europe down to small sizes. It was a very unique experience. It was like travelling the Europe in few hours. We were provided with a descriptive booklet to give brief information on every model exhibited. Models including Eiffel Tower of Paris, Melk Abbey of Austria, Rila Monastery of Bulgaria, Burg Eltz of Germany, Bath’s Circus of United Kingdom, Acropolis of Greece, Venice of Italy and many others.



I kept on reminiscing the lines from The Duchess, when passing by the model of the city of Bath in United Kingdom.

“We’ve come to Bath to get away from London and all of London has come away to Bath.”

There are also simulations like the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the fall of the Berlin Wall and many others.

At the end of the visit, we could find an exhibition called Spirit of Europe. I think it was included as a package together with the Mini Europe. It presents the information about the European Union (EU) with interactive ways of exhibitions. There are multimedia quizzes and games. I even got a chance to send an e-card to anybody with my face on the Mini Europe themed card. I sent it to my sister, my friend in Egypt and another one to my own e-mail. Heh. I wanted to send it to my mother but I forgot her e-mail address.


On our way to exit the Mini Europe, we passed by a shop selling our pictures with the mascot of the place. Or so I thought. I bought 2 pictures and 2 key chains (with a picture of us on it). The guy at the store asked me where I’m from. When I said Malaysia, he asked again from which city in Malaysia. I answered Johore, and to my surprise he knew Johore. He’d been in Malaysia on vacation once. He told us how he visited Malacca, Kuala Lumpur and Penang. He had a tour around the country. There was a sad story behind his holidays in Malaysia when he met a Malay woman. He sort of fell for her and asked her hand for marriage or so. The name was Suhaila. She refused due to the different in their beliefs. He brought up this story as he saw one of the girls smiling reminding him of her, as he couldn’t forget her. That was quite a drama I guess. Heh.


There was this idea of spending a day in Amsterdam. So just in case, I thought we should have a day reserved for that idea. Thus I was eager to finish Brussels in a day. From Bruparck, we went straight to Palais du Cinquantenaire, situated in Parc du Cinquantenaire (Park of the Fiftieth). It is a building built by the government for the 1880 National Exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence.


Later, we took a metro to have a look on the European Union Parliament Quarter. It is indeed very near but we just thought it would be worthy if we maximize the use of the whole day ticket. At first, we kind of lost our way in the park behind the Parliament. We just saw the back of the building from the park. But later, on our way back to the nearest metro station, we finally found the front view of the Parliament unintentionally. Haha. There are actually 3 European Union Parliaments located in 3 different countries; France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Then, for all we were worth, we headed back to the hotel.



At 9.00 pm, we went back again to the Grand Place to experience the night environment. There was a shuttle provided from the hotel. The night at Grand Place was completely different from the morning we had that day. The place got crowded as the night crawled darker. We reached there before the sunset. Maghrib in Belgium (in summer) was at 10.00 pm.




The last shuttle back to the hotel would be at 11.00 pm so we just hanged around and bought some souvenirs and chocolates. Yeah! We tasted a sample that morning and we couldn’t agree more that Belgian chocolates are the best! Well of course we checked the ingredients before buying. I bought some for me and friends in Jordan and a box for my family. We ought to take some time watching a street performance; an acrobat riding a unicycle.



At 11.00 pm, we waited the shuttle at the place been told. It was in front of a building called Bourse. Brussels was as crazy as Paris that night. It was again about FIFA. I think Spain must’ve won a match that so many people crowded that building and the cars honking here and there. There were also people running here and there with Spain flags in their hands. It was a nice view actually seeing them altogether assembled and sitting on the stairs of the Bourse building. They were shouting and cheering.



to be continued...
 
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