We’ve been to Brugge, Belgium—we’ve seen the colorful, quaint city where horse & carriages clomp their way through the main square, where we ran across town to get to the chocolate museum in time, and where we ate Belgian waffles and stocked up on Belgian chocolate. But the Belgian city that we see far too often is Liege. This is where we go to book trains.
At this moment, I’m sitting in the Liege train station with Rachel (listening to her funny comments as she people watches). We got up at 6:30 this morning to come book a few trains for our two weeks of travel, and we’re stuck here for about an hour because a train was cancelled. Luckily this round of train-booking went semi-successfully. If I haven’t already mentioned it, let me just tell you: planning, booking, etc. is a complete hassle. Nobody prepared us for this. We definitely were not warned at all that we’d spend just as much time planning as we do studying and reading.
Basically, there are two things I wanted to tell you.
1- Rachel is the best planner in the world. Ok maybe that is an exaggeration, but she deserves some serious credit here. If you’ve ever planned travels for three months worth of weekends and then two full weeks WHILE going to school and experiencing the most difficult semester of your college career, then you might be able to understand Rachel’s complete awesomeness. I help her often, but even I can’t touch the surface of understanding how totally ridiculous this planning stuff is. When I get overwhelmed to the point of tears, I have to tap out for a while and work on something else (like writing a blog or reading Donald Miller). I’m sure some of you have planned major things like this, so if I’m preaching to the choir just scroll down and read about my day in the park or something less stressful. But if you want to hear about a part of this trip that has taken up hours upon hours upon hours of our days, let me give you a little summary.
We decide what country we’d like to go to (not always easy seeing as there are three to seven of us deciding) and what cities we’d like to see. We research trains that we can take to get us there, excluding Thalys and other trains that cost an arm and a leg. Another thing we didn’t know at all is that, even though we have a Eurail pass, we still have to pay to reserve certain trains. To me, booking trains is the most difficult part of planning. It’s complicated and irritating to figure out the perfect and cheapest route to take, but Rachel knows the system like the back of her hand by now (and can spout out the military time translations for us as if she grew up with it all her life).
When we (let’s be honest… by we I mean mostly Rachel) figure that out, we have to take a train to Liege and begin the exhausting process of actually attempting to book the trains. Sometimes our plan works out, and we can actually book them all, but sometimes the plan falls to pieces when trains are already booked, and we have to go home and start the train search over again.
Then there’s the flights. Thanks to Ryan Air we can fly decently cheap (anywhere from 33 Euros ($45) to about 70 Euros ($105).) You have to be careful with Ryan Air’s website, though, because it can get you in a bind sometimes. Then there’s figuring out the buses we need to book before we get there. Then there’s the hostel or couch surfing that we search for—making sure it’s in the right place, that we can get to it from the train station/airport, that it’s centrally located in the city, that we can afford it, and all that jazz. Then there’s the events and things we have to plan to do in the city before we leave. And there’s even more than this, but I’ll spare you the drudgery of reading it all.
Let me interrupt this little rant/Rachel praise time to tell you a few of her people-watching comments:
-“Look at that baby’s legs—they’re like little sausages!”
-“Lots of kissing. Can you imagine our guys back home doing that? Daniel walks up to Luis and kisses him on the cheeks. Haha.”
-(About a bald man): “Women marry men like him every day…. One day he had hair. And one day he just didn’t anymore.”
Now for the second thing I wanted to tell you.
2- I absolutely can’t believe this semester is almost finished. I should be studying for a final I have tomorrow and the one I have the next day… or writing the paper that’s due on Wednesday. BUT after all of this (plus two more papers…), I will be finished with this semester. Finished with college. And I’ll be headed to three new European countries before going home. But we will need some serious prayers for our two weeks of travel because we’ve set our sights high on places we’d like to go, and we’re hoping we won’t be too rushed and frantic and will actually be able to enjoy it. For example, we’re stuffing eight Italian cities into five days…. So let’s just say we’ll be booking it through that beautiful country so that we can see (and eat) as much as possible. And that’s just one of the four countries we’ll be seeing in the two and a half week span.