Wednesday 22 May 2013
We had planned to meet up the next morning with Joris’s son, Quentin, in Antwerp. Our plans were scuttled, however, so instead we had a leisurely breakfast with our hosts and then packed our bags. Walter and Veerle gave us lift to Sint-Niklaas station where we said farewell. From there, Susan and I set out on the long road to Paris.
We alighted at Artwerp, which is an incredibly beautiful train station…
We found the bus station easily, thanks to good directions from Veerle. We were warned to expect that the bus will be late. We repaired to a dowdy café and order some very ordinary coffee and a cola to kill an hour. Susie ordered a toasted ham & cheese sandwich, which she had to devour quickly because we needed to get to the bus pickup point at midday. The bus was a good half hour late, however.
When we boarded, we had to sit in separate seats way down the back, surrounded by a large group of evangelical Christians from the USA who were reading books about spirituality and food allergies whilst devouring mountains of junk food. I disappeared into the noise-cancelling headphones for a few hours. After a while Susie secured a seat next to me and we both plugged into the iPod in order to escape the noisy God Squad. The bus was stuffy and uncomfortable but we survived the trip to Paris well enough.
We alighted at Gallini metro station and caught the metro to Rue Saint-Maur, from whence we found our way to Rue Crespin Du Gast. We had the street number on us, but not the flat number, so we phone our contact, Xaviere, who seemed a bit non-plussed at first but eventually let us in.
We traipsed up the five flights of stairs for a cursory welcome from Xaviere who did a poor imitation of someone who is even vaguely helpful or interested. The flat was small, poky and somewehat run down. But it was also cosy and quirky, and we settled in.
It was late by the time we head out for dinner. Susie did some research into the local restaurants and chose one called Ave Maria. This turned out to be a humming little nightspot. They did not have a table for us when we turned up, but we were invited to wait around for 20 minutes. So we ordered a beer and perched on a couple of bar stools. Before long, a space opened up and we settled in.
The food was excellent. We ordered a pork dish and a chicken dish that were fairly similar, and washed them down with a quart of house red which was very drinkable. We got a bit more elbow room when the crowd thinned out. The décor was funky and fabulous.
We stopped at a supermarket on the way home to stock up with yoghurt and fruit and grapefruit juice for breakfast, and beer, wine for the following evening.