Sunday, 31 March 2013

Belgium, Bruges: My Memoirs

On the third of March, me, Brandi, Liam, Laura, Leigh, and Neil flew to Belgium. Here are my memoirs.

- The 3 Scouse girls on the plane with curlers in their hair and drawn on eyebrows (...a 'fashion' thing). I hoped people in Beligum wouldn't judge England on that.

- Trying to find the big metal thing (later learned the name was the Atomium), but it was raining and horrible, so we gave up and had waffles and Haagendazs crème brulee ice cream.

- Being really, really impressed by how beautiful Bruges looked. Also, the apartment we stayed in is probably the nicest we've had on one of these breaks.

- Spending £67 on alcohol at a corner shop, which barely lasted the night, then trekking far to pick up a Chinese (accidental detour included).

- Got really drunk playing ring of fire. Leigh, for the first time in his life, managed to rhyme something in the rhyme round, even though it was by accident.. "It was very hot...", "it was very what?".

- Egg cup shots (couldn't find the glasses). Leigh, getting the short straw, having to do a shot off the plate.

- Not remembering much about the night, but little flashes. Left the appartment around 3, tried to go to a club though they were all closed, got talking to two guys from Bruges. Went back to their place, sat on the bed, stroking a cat, smoking weed and listening to Belgium rap.

- Everybody hanging hard the next day. I made a full 'English' breakfast at 5pm. It was disgusting. The bacon was weird, the sausage was weird, the beans were weird, and the only thing that shouldn't go wrong was the eggs, but they were weird too. Turns out it was because we used "Raison sugar milk", which was tragic.

- Woke up earlier ghdnext day so we could see the city. Got tandem bikes... Leigh and Neil were terrible on them so swapped.

- Tried to cycle to Damme, which looked like a nice village. Ended going in the very opposite direction. I went into a strange 'local' pub to ask if they could point where we are on the map. The first two men I went over to stared at me like I just pissed in their pint. Eventually two of the other people in the small pub got talking to me and helped me. Turned out we were way off the map to the south. No idea how it went so wrong.

- Cycled in the right direction. The wind was against us. It rained, snowed, and everybody wanted to kill themselves. Eventually, when we couldn't see the village in the distance, we gave up.

- I took the coldest "Vestman picture" so far. Colder than at the top of the mountain in Whistler.

- Took the bikes back as the snow came down more. Went straight into a restaurant and had a nice traditional Belgium meal. Some kind of meat with ale sauce. And tomato soup. The tomato soup was awesome.

- Spent more money on chocolate, waffles and hot chocolate than alcohol all weekend.

- Had a Bicky Burger!! I needed to have one after keep seeing Bicky Crisps! BICKY CRISP!

- Wandered around the city fairly late to get pictures, since we hadn't properly seen places. It was hard not to fall in all the snow.

The rest of the story isn't suitable for bullet form... and from now on will commence in paragraphs.

On the Tuesday morning we woke up early to get to the station in time for the 5:55am train to Brussels. Surprisingly we arrived there on time, after dragging ourselves through the snow. Our first problem (key word being first, not only) was that the machine didn't accept Liam's bank card, and the desks weren't open until 6am. I eventually got someone to help us, but he had computer problems, and it was starting to look like we weren't going to be able to get on the train. We managed to just minutes before it left.

Annoyingly all the trains were running slow and late because of the snow. We were getting slightly nervous as time went on. We arrived at Charleroi train station about an hour before the flight leaves, which we thought could be enough time... until we found out the station was 10km from the airport... and because of the snow there were no buses or shuttles running.

We walked around trying to figure out how to get there. We found a taxi rink that had a load of people waiting, without any sign of a taxi. We walked to hotels to see if they could call one to there, but no luck.

Eventually we stood at the taxi rink, but as it came to be 20 mins before the flight we though we needed to take action. What happened then was the least British thing I have done. We left the queue, and proceeded to walk past everybody. My thoughts were that we could walk down the road, around the corner and get a taxi... but not 10 metres from the front of the queue a taxi pulled up and rolled his window down.

I asked him if we could go to the airport, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a hoard of people come running over. We tried to get in, but forgetting people driving on the other side of the road, we were on the wrong side of the doors. Before we could get around people had started trying to pile in. I had almost given up hope... until the taxi driver got out, and started shouting telling people to get out and that he is taking us. I felt relieved, but very guilty as we walked through people, receiving death-stares.

We arrived at the airport 5 minutes before the plane was due to take off. We rushed through the gate, hoping there would still be a chance to get on. At this point it still hadn't clicked how the snow had pretty much taken the country to a standstill. We saw two people that were on our flight here waiting, so I went over and asked if they were flying back to Manchester. He told me that he is, but that he was supposed to be on yesterdays flight, and that it looks like today's flight is also cancelled.

This lead to the worst 24 hours I've had in Belgium, ever.

Ryanair announced the flight was cancelled, without any further details. We stood in a queue to talk to the airport customer services, but the queue was the length of the whole airport. In the hours that we waited one airport woman came over and gave us a print out, and said that our best bet is to go back to our house, fill in the form and post it to Ryanair to try and get another flight. Post. Who the hell would post something, and how long would that take!? We stayed in the queue.

When finally getting to the end (no thanks to some people, who thought that they could demand that a flight would leave later that evening for them), and was told that we can try and book in for the next day, and that we would need to find a hotel, and hopefully Ryanair would give us the money back.

Most hotels were taken by this point, apart from a really expensive, really terrible hotel that I can only imagine is where businessmen go to commit suicide.

We were cold, demoralised, and spent a load of money on burgers just so we could sit somewhere that could fit us all, and had internet. The hotel thought they could charge something like 12 euros for an hour of internet. On the evening we went for Italian food, which was nice, until we passed a man without socks, covered in orange peel, and injecting heroin into his fingers. That pretty much sums up Charleroi.

On Wednesday we woke up early to go back to the airport. I didn't expect we would be leaving the country that day, as the weather was no different to the day before. After a bit of an argument with taxi drivers we arrived at the airport. When we got there it was the same story... one by one flights were being cancelled or delayed by hours. I could picture us spending the rest of the day in the airport, and the night at the hotel... until they called for us to line up and board the plane.

I have never been so happy to get on a plane!


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