Sunday, April 16, 2017

[LIÈGE] Breakfast in Belgium

The problem of the day was whether the soft copy of our Belgian Rail tickets was valid or not. Their website had contradicting instructions. On one hand, it said that we can just show the ticket to the officer on our smartphones, which made sense because there were barcodes on it anyway. And then another page of the website said that the soft copy of the ticket was just the proof of purchase and that we had to print it out, the hard copy serving as the actual ticket. WTF, Belgian Rail? Make up your mind?

And then the next day came and it turned out we stressed ourselves out for nothing. Friend from Aachen conversed en français with the inspector who didn’t even look at the details! That was for the first leg of the 55-minute journey. For the second half, at least the two inspectors actually verified the barcode with their barcode gun thingy. And so we therefore conclude that you can travel on Belgian Rail just by showing the ticket on your phone, because this is Belgium and it’s 2017. Right?

What I love about the Euregio is how the languages change in a span of less than an hour on the train! We left Deutschland immersed in German signs, obviously. As we made our transfer in Liège, the announcements and ads were suddenly in French as well as many of the conversations around us. Of course, later that day French would be replaced by Dutch as we crossed over to Maastricht. Personally, I like Liège better than Maastricht, maybe because there are more attractions here that display contrast?

The city has three names, which makes it rather problematic when booking tickets. The name itself is French. In Dutch they call it Luik, while the Germans refer to it as Lüttich. The city has its own airport but I suggest arriving by rail at the ultra modern Liège-Guillemins. Designed by a prominent architect, its white arches can be quite hypnotic. The juxtaposition with the traditional houses that now serve as shops farther down the road makes for a good visual spectacle, making you appreciate the stark contrast in style.

We opted for a long stroll because we didn’t have an idea where to go. But walking around is fun when you are in a city like Liège. Not far away from the station was a futuristic looking building, which Aachen friend said looked like a ship docking at the riverside when viewed from a certain angle. This skyscraper is not alone in the skyline but it does dwarf the neighboring buildings that are neither as tall nor as modern. You then cross a bridge and find yourself at a park, runners abound jogging along the riverbanks.

On the other side, tulips are in full bloom. It’s a lovely sight to be honest. Don’t we just love spring? We walked some more until we reached the center. Liège has a popular church that subscribes to the same architectural style as most churches in the region. It was under construction when we were there, so the view of the façade was once again ruined by tape everywhere. As it was a Sunday, most shops were closed, and most of the people we saw in the streets were also tourists. Next stop: Breakfast!

Our main objective here in Liège is to climb Montagne de Bueren, a residential area on a hill requiring you to hike all the way up through its 300+ steps. But before that, yeah, breakfast. We passed by some notable monuments and more cobblestoned streets until we reached the opera house which was also under construction, or at least the building behind it was. Why is everything under construction here? Anyway, there was a resto café on the other side of the avenue where we ended up having breakfast.

Breakfast in Belgium! I love how soft the croissants were. I guess the pastries here are legit. I only ever get to eat rock hard croissants wherever I go. It was good to take a break and pack up some carbs before the climb. On the way, we passed by a huge palace which now serves as the city’s hall of justice. In front of it is a big square which appears to double as a central bus stop of sorts. The name of the palace is Palais des Princes-Évêques de Liège. Take your selfie there.

We finally reached Montagne de Bueren after ten minutes or so. The ascent is not supposed to be that challenging but the last time I stepped foot in a gym was back in 2009. So yeah, it was hard for me. But we always survive anyway. The actual reward here is the sweeping panoramic view of the river and most of the city center from above. We were also able to trace the path we took all the way from the train station because most of the route is visible from the hill.

The stairs were sandwiched by houses which I assume are there not just for display. You have to admire the guts of its residents. I bet they must be fit AF having to go up and down those steps every single day. The climb doesn’t stop here, though. At the top you will suddenly find yourself in a narrow street that doubles as a parking lot. Farther uphill is a monument and a new set of stairs, maybe around 30 more steps. The vantage point is higher but the view is obscured by the foliage.

Of course, the descent was easier, albeit still challenging. We ended up at the back of the palace where a pedestrian overpass gives you a nice view of the palace itself as well as the train station adjacent to it. Most of the houses there look old but the complex next to it, whatever it is, has a modern design. And then there are four neon colored posts in front of the train station. Make my life easier and just look at the photo. Again, don’t you just love the contrast!

[LIÈGE] Breakfast in Belgium

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