Arrival in Brussels

We arrived in Brussels on a cold morning in October after a journey of more than 24 hours. Needless to say, we were exhausted, and we were not exactly looking or smelling our best.

By the time we arrived at our hotel, the Ibis Budget Airport, it was 10:45 AM. We asked Jacob, the desk clerk, if it would be possible to check into our room, but, of course, this was not possible because check-in time was not until 11:00. We stood in the tiny lobby while Jacob tried to look busy. Eventually those 15 very long minutes crawled past and he handed us our key.

On the web page, the room had been described with words like "basic", but the word that popped into my head when we opened the door was "stark". There was no closet or bureau. The bed was small and somewhat hard but who cared? It was a bed. And there was a tiny shower stall! We collapsed and slept until late afternoon.

These pictures are from the Ibis website. The eerie blue glow in the picture on the right is the shower stall.

There didn't seem to be any interesting food options in the area, so we took a streetcar into the city. We walked and walked and walked some more down streets lined with large office buildings. The traffic was intense. The cars were getting nowhere and the drivers expressed their frustrations by pounding on their horns. We weren't finding any restaurants, but eventually, we came upon this park full of people enjoying the pleasant autumn weather. Curiously, there were signs that prohibited jogging.

Finally we decided to retrace our steps back to a small café near the streetcar stop. We sat at a high table near a group of businessmen who were having a heated discussion. They spoke for awhile in one language, then switched to another language, and then switched to a third before returning to the first.

A waiter stood in the corner watching as we studied our menus intently. Finally, he wandered over and asked for our drink orders. The businessmen were drinking Stella, so we requested a couple of glasses of that. "Humph." He scoffed. "Table beer. Would you like me to recommend something?" We were soon enjoying our first glasses of Leffe along with a little dish of crackers and nuts,. It seems that Belgians always serve a small snack along with a drink, and each beer is served in its own special glass. In fact, the waiter told Walt he couldn't serve him a half liter of Leffe because the half liter Leffe glasses had not arrived yet. He could only serve him a .33 litre glass.

That was the moment when the vacation began. It was so pleasant sitting in the cafe, drinking the Leffe, eating a giant sandwich, listening to the men slip effortlessly from one language to another. I began to embrace the European experience.