Interrail day three – Bruges to Leiden

30 Apr

Thankfully I slept a lot better in Heidi’s attic than in Hotel Barry. I did slip coming down the vertiginous, smooth wooden steps in my socks while carrying a rucksack, but fortunately managed to keep my balance and only hurt the soles of my feet rather than breaking my neck.

After waking my host to open a front door that was merely stiff, not locked 🤦🏼‍♀️ (it must be a pretty safe area!), I walked briskly through Bruges to the station, picking up a very nice croissant and mini waffle on the way. This transaction was conducted entirely in Dutch, except for the word for raisins, which I didn’t understand. I have been very impressed with how well my minimal Dutch has served me in Bruges. I only hope it works as well when I actually get to Holland.

A nice piece of art on my way to Bruges station.

I had a few different trains to get today, to take me to Leiden. The second train passed through the middle of Ghent, and it looks OK, actually – plenty of those tall, brick townhouses, a wooden house with more planes and angles than seemed really necessary, and some kind of cathedral-thing. The canals are a lot grittier and less chocolate-box than Bruges, though!

As I’m doing so much train-hopping today, this might be a good time to tell you how much I like the Railplanner app. Despite the name, this is actually my Interrail pass. It also holds all the information about my planned trips, which I can add to my official trip or not (for example, yesterday I just bought the ticket to Bruges, to avoid using a travel day for such for such a short trip), and magically produces a scannable ticket that works for all of the trains in my official trip on the appropriate day. But what I really like about it is the widget, which tells me which train I’m on, where I’m supposed to get off, and even what the train’s next stop is. It relieves a lot of potential anxiety and checking! Five stars to the Interrail app developers.

I arrived in Leiden late – approximately 26 months late, in fact, as I was booked to come here in February 2020 before Storm Ciara cancelled the ferry and Covid made rebooking a bit pointless. Leiden Centraal station looks exactly like Bruges station from the inside, and I had a weird moment of feeling that I hadn’t gone anywhere.

It turns out I have booked my hotel a reasonable walking distance from the other station in Leiden, which is initially a bit annoying, but it’s the kind of anonymously efficient place where you can really relax because nobody cares who you are or what you’re doing there. And the TV was showing the BBC Snooker World Championship coverage – hooray!

It’s a businessy hotel, and I’m sort of here on business, because Leiden is one of the settings in my mystery thriller series The Sarcophagus Scroll. It’s therefore one of my three key destinations, the others being Ferrara and Samothrace. I’ve actually already written the novel that Leiden appears in, and now that I’ve visited its library there are a few things I’ll have to change. This is annoying because I hate editing, but I also hate to be wrong 🤣

The library I came to see.

Leiden seems a lot bigger than Bruges, more like a ‘real’ place rather than a tourist’s daydream. The canals are neither cute nor gritty, they are pleasantly domestic. I mean, why not have a watercourse at your back door?

I could have stayed all evening in the library, it was so relaxing, but hunger drove me out. Now I’m fed and on my way back to the hotel with a bottle of wine to watch the snooker. I know, I know – you envy my exciting life 🤣

Update: It turns out Heidi had covid, not a cold 🙄 But we were both very careful, and obviously I will be extremely careful around others now. In fact, in certain countries I’m legally obliged to be extra careful for 10 days. You don’t have to isolate in the Netherlands or Switzerland, but you do in Italy, where I will be from Tuesday afternoon. As much as I like the look of Ferrara, I don’t fancy spending five days inside a hotel room there! I’ll keep praying and, of course, keep you updated.

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