Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January 14, 2015 -- Brussels, Belgium

I have nothing exciting to report today. I had planned to visit the European Parliament, but somehow I frittered the day away and didn't get it done. It was cold and rainy this morning, but this afternoon the previously constant drizzle finally stopped, and the sun started peaking through the clouds. Now that the sun is setting, the sky is actually blue!

This is my last day in Brussels for now, but I'll be back in a few weeks, hopefully with better weather.

I had the unpleasant experience of not being able to get any money out of the ATM machines today. I hope that just means that there are network problems with transatlantic transactions. I called my bank thinking that it might be a security issue due to the fact that I'm trying to withdraw money while abroad, but my bank assured me that there was no reason from the bank's point of view why the transaction should not go through. The guy on the phone suggested I have the teller in a bank process the transaction for me. Fat chance of finding a teller here! Many banks are just lobbies with ATMs and other financial machines. The sign at BNP Paribas said there was a teller available -- from 8 to 12 in the morning. Another bank had a number to call to make an appointment if one actually had need of interacting with a human being instead of machines.

I will be in Paris tomorrow, and there I'm sure I'll be able work out something. Paris is still the number one tourist attraction, and I believe it still has a few old-fashioned currency exchanges and real banks with people working inside them.

I can use my credit cards at many places that have someone working there, but I can't use it to do something like buy subway tickets from a machine. European credit cards are chip and pin, meaning that one enters a PIN instead of signing. I do have one credit card with an embedded semiconductor chip, but it still requires a signature instead of a PIN, and unmanned point-of-sale terminals cannot handle it. I have to use cash.

Interestingly, in the Brussels South Train Station or la Gare du Midi I didn't see a single sign pointing to an ATM machine or currency exchange, although that is the big station from which most of the high-speed international trains depart.

The distance between the Gare du Midi train station in Brussels and the Gare du Nord station in Paris is just over 300 kilometers or 187 miles. It takes 3 hours and 17 minutes to drive it according to Google maps. The high-speed train makes the journey in 1 hour and 22 minutes. That's an average speed of 137 miles per hour if I've done my math correctly. Supposedly once the train gets out of town and rolling on the open track, it hits 300 kilometers or 187 miles per hour.


Steve T said...

Hope the weather improves
Great posts Jack

Jack Quinn said...

Thanks, Steve. The weather is still as lousy as ever, but it's nice to know that someone is reading this. :)