I could have probably found a cheap flight to Amsterdam, but I liked the idea of a bus trip through France and Belgium and I only paid £65 for my MegaBus ticket, so it was a cheap trip. It was also a long one because I did not arrive at Amsterdam Sloterdijk rail station until last night.
I checked out from my rented room at 12 noon on Thursday. I didn’t need to be at the bus station until 4.30 pm, but noon was the agreed time for me to leave and someone else was checking in at 2 pm. Fortunately, the weather was fantastic, so I took the metro to the bus station, stashed by largest backpack in a locker, and went and explored a couple of nearby parks. I also made a point of seeing the Arc de Triomf.
The journey through France was quite interesting until it got dark. After that it was hard to see much through the bus window, but Toulouse looks like an interesting town to visit. Things got more “interesting” at 01:00 when a some blue lights began flashing in front of the bus and the driver was obliged to follow what appeared to be a police car. It wasn’t a police car. It turned out to be officers from the local customs and excise office. When we stopped there were several more cars there to meet us and someone got onto the bus and began checking our passports. After that we were all told to get off the bus, the luggage hold was opened, everyone was reunited with their baggage, and a sniffer dog checked all the luggage and sniffed our legs. The dog handler made it do this twice and it only swayed from its duty once, for a couple of seconds, to cock its leg on a nearby rock.
This highly trained canine that was so good at multi-tasking its own business with the business of sniffing for drugs didn’t seem to find any contraband, but one guy was told to take his bag behind the bus anyway and had to unpack it under the close scrutiny of one of the officers. I kept the dog under closer scrutiny. If it was still carrying water and came in my direction, I wanted to ready to move my bag out of the way.
I didn’t time it, but I think this unexpected stop delayed the bus by more than an hour. I tended to view it more as an adventure than an annoyance.
It was raining when I arrived in Paris at 07:30 on Friday morning. I had to catch another bus to get to Amsterdam, but it was not scheduled to leave until 10:20. I was quite hungry and needed to go in search of food, but there are no longer any storage lockers at the bus station in Paris so I had to take both my bags with me. I asked a bus station worker about the lack of lockers and she said they were removed after the terrorist attacks last year. It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s easy to see the reasoning behind it. Placing a bomb in a locker would be easy as pie for a terrorist. In fact, thinking back, when I took the train from Seville to Barcelona, I had to put my bags through an X-ray machine similar to those used at airports. I asked someone why this was and they said it was an anti-terrorism measure.
The bus ride from Paris to Amsterdam went without a hitch. We stopped in Brussels. A few people got off, a few more got on, The weather was much better than in Paris and the city looked so nice I will have to make a point of visiting it some day.
I didn’t know it at the time, but there had been two terrorist attacks in Brussels earlier in the week. One at the airport and one at a metro station. Some people were killed, others were severely injured. It’s a terrible state of affairs and I have to wonder if the French sniffer dog was trained to look for explosives as well as drugs.
I arrived at Amsterdam Sloterdijk rail station at 18:30 on Friday night and got the train to Utrecht. It’s now Saturday morning and I’ve got some more travelling to do this afternoon. I’m going to Enschede and plan to stay there a month. After all the travelling I’ve done since Thursday, I think I deserve a rest. So no more travelling for a while, but I still have some articles to write for a client, so I won’t be putting my feet up just yet.
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