About Punt King

Punts, Kicks

Wednesday was a travel day.  Gent to Paris with train changes in Kortrijk and Lille.  The only small drama was the thin 12 minute transfer time in Kortrijk shortened to about five minutes because of a late start out of Gent.  If I had missed the Kortrijk to Lille train at 113 PM, I would have had to wait an hour for the next train to Lille.  The problem with that was the high-speed Lille to Paris train on my itinerary was non-changeable, non-refundable and probably a costly hassle to deal with if I’d missed the connection at Kortrijk.  

As it turns out, I frantically busted an OJ and made the connection at Kortrijk with a down and up stairs track change while toting a heavy suitcase.  

The fare from Gent to Paris was 40.2 euros with disbursement somehow split among both the Belgian and French train operators off the single transaction initiated through the SNCB web site (the National Railway Company of Belgium).  What makes it a deal is the speed on the TGV train from Lille to Paris.  That segment covers 127 miles in just an hour.  In spots, you’re hitting 200 miles per hour with the scenery going by in a blur.  

A trio of French immigration officers approached my seatmate and I somewhere after Roubaix on the slower train and asked for documents.  The woman leading the inquisition asked me if I had drugs in my suitcase.  I confidently said no.  She asked my seatmate (who appeared to have a passport from an Arabic-speaking country) what area of concentration his studies were in and he struggled with the question.  The kid asked the officer to look at the visa inserted in the passport and that seemed to satisfy her.  

The layover in Lille was about 45 minutes.  I was tempted to wander out of the station to get a quick look at the city but opted to stay close to the rails.  I ordered a ham sandwich and coffee at a station concession stand.  

From Gare de Nord, I took my fourth train of the day to reach the hotel.  The RER B to Denfert Rochereau.  The hotel is near Gare Montparnasse.  It’s owned by the Accor corporation and seems to be transitioning to a “Mercure” brand name.  There are a bunch of hotels with similar identifiers in the neighborhood.  I walked into the wrong place off my phone map’s steering but had a smooth check-in once I found where I belonged.  The room is nice.  A kettle, a fridge and some room to breathe.  The nicest by far of any hotel I’ve stayed at in Paris.

Just before going out for dinner, I put my passport and laptop in the in-room safe.  On return, I couldn’t access it.  It wouldn’t accept the code.  The front desk sent up a guy who looked like Steve Buscemi.  He changed the batteries on the front panel of the safe – and cracked the code.  All is good.    

Tomorrow night is the Pavement gig.  Claire and Lise are coming up all the way from Toulouse.

Day 2 in Gent, Belgium – a Tuesday – so there was way more life in the streets compared to Monday when most businesses were shut down.  

Is it Gent or Ghent you ask?  It’s Gent here with the H added for the English spelling.  We’ll stick with Gent.  As in “He’s the hairy handed gent who ran amok in Gent, lately he’s been overheard in Mayfair.”  

Rhymes with bent.  

I bought a public transit day pass (a Vervoerbewijs) for 7.5 euros and rode the tram all over the place.  A couple of the lines pass through narrow, congested streets in the city center.  In stretches, there can be just six feet or so of separation between the outer side of the tram and shop storefronts.  It’s visually thrilling when you stick crowds of people in between with the tram moving at a good clip.  

Without an agenda in a city I don’t know, I really like to explore via the take-the-train-and-see-where-it-takes-me method.  It puts you with the real people and produces moments and lasting images way beyond what the guidebook touts.  

As an aside, have you heard about the kid from NYC’s upper west side who has become somewhat of a celebrity because he’s cuckoo about riding the subway?  It started off as a Patch piece and then went viral to the point the MTA is making him a poster child of sorts to counter the public’s fear about the current level of danger down there.  The kid is three years old!  He rides the train with his parents holding his hands.  It’s cool but the coverage of his exploits is overstating the amazingness and uniqueness of what he’s doing given his inability to process all that goes with riding a train in NYC these days. 

Weather was nice here Tuesday.  60 degrees with sun moving in and out of clouds.

I had broccoli soup at Souplounge on Zuivelbrugstraat.  It was excellent.  5.5 euros with a roll and an apple.  Earlier in the day, I had the bolognese sauce on a bowl of penne from a small stand at the Gent-Sint-Pieters train station.

Tomorrow, I go to Paris on a three-segment train trip.