We had arrived in London, and it was our first night. I had decided that one reason I was experiencing so much stress about this trip was the feeling that there were so many things I should do. I lay there, trying to sleep because I knew I’d wish I had later, and thinking maybe I would read a book, but I shouldn’t, certain there were more important things to do.
Really? What is more important at 3am?
So I had some tea (funny how hydration helps those headaches!) and some of the dried apricots and nut mix that the Boy picked out for us, and it was time to curl up under a blanket and not make plans, not be worried about anyone’s edification (though did I mention how interested the Customs agent was in Homeschooling?) and not be worried about the dreaded Missing of the Train. Rather, I read some Pratchett (Small Gods) and drank more tea (kava kava) and listened to the sounds of the world waking up and of B whistling to himself as he read.
Good night, San Diego. Good morning, London.
Later… The room is quiet. Outside I hear the sounds of people talking, cleaning the kitchen after late-evening guests. We’re staying in t’Hert (“The Deer”), a tavern in Genk, Belgium, and outside, from the thin metal balcony, I can see through the greenhouse-style skylight and white-and-gold gauze curtains to the diners below.
I love this little balcony. When we booked this hotel (sorry, tavern), we had the option of a room with a bathtub or a room with a balcony. Immediately B chose the balcony and I was with him. It didn’t really matter what it looked down upon. I just liked the idea.
The little white pressed-metal balcony looks out over the roofs of other buildings, a few trees in the distance, nothing special… Except for the area directly below our room.
I cannot figure out the topography here. There are the skylight and a differently-shaped one, more like a transparent hangar, and a completely flat one the size of a double bed, and they are all in a sort of hidden trench between the rooftops of this urban landscape. A few fruit trees grow in pots there, and every time I’ve looked down on this hidden space, an older man was sitting there, on a metal garden chair, smoking something smelly and smiling up at us. I cannot figure out how he has inserted himself into the space (where is the door? The urban equivalent of a rabbit hole?) and I am reminded that so many of my favorite old tales began in places like this.
We did not stay long in Brussels, but Bing and I really liked Genk. He, in particular, likes the fountain that we discovered in a kind of courtyard–long and flat, maybe 1″ – 3″ deep but 40′ long by 15′ wide, with spouting water that he chased from one spout to another until he was soaked through. He walked home to the hotel, happy and squelching, with a bag of mystery cheese and mashed potatoes for our dinner.