Not being able to get a flight from Ireland to Holland on the same day Niamh was heading for Sierra Leone, I flew to Belgium. First, in order to meet Ismail who was supposed to be in Gent for a one month residency, but that changed last minute, the gig being postponed by a good six weeks.
It meant I now had some time to kill, which I spent collecting a series of new murals and comic strip related art in Brussels, spotted over the last few years by avid posters to the website Brussel stripstad. One night’s stay, though, was enough, after our spending money like water in pricey Ireland.
On the up-and-up, the weather was excellent, almost sweaty. My sole evening in the city, I spent lounging in the Bois de la Cambre, munching snacks, reading my book, playing DS.
And then, the sandwiches. So good… so cheap…
Of course flying into “Brussels South” Charleroi airport, with Ryanair, I discovered things have changed significantly during the eight years, it seems, I hadn’t been.
The old, tiny, terminal no longer is in operation, replaced by a spanking new, lovely, much bigger, but already overly crowded, new terminal on the other site of the airport. When the bus which drove me from the airport to the Charleroi (sud) train station, I almost felt a pang of nostalgia for the times gone by. Now, Charleroi airport is just another medium sized airport amongst many in Europe.
It was my first time getting a proper glimpse of the town, as opposed to driving past it on the highway, and it appears to be more than excellent. A very cool social realist train station, some seemingly defunct heavy industry, an art deco sprinkling and a lovely little canal flowing through the city. I contemplated staying for the afternoon, but realised I had to get my murals in.
Making a run for it
My flight left at the ungodly hour of 745 in the morning. Niamh’s wasn’t much more convenient at 840, but it did allow us to get to the airport together.
However, my flight left over 40 minutes late, while arriving exactly on time. I’m now thinking that yet one more of Ryanair’s tricks is to fake the published departure times so that getting everyone on board on time will be less of a hassle for them.
That said, my check-in was fairly speedy. Niamh’s on BMI, took almost half an hour, just waiting in a queue serviced by one, sometimes two, counters.
A bit of the old in/out
Our last day in Ireland was spent in Dublin. Caroline was so kind as to hand over her single bed for the night and, this being Ireland, we enjoyed some more Guinness as well as G&Ts before nap time arrived. And a welcome fish and chips from a local chipper to offset our last of many Irish drinking nights.
The 6am departure was surprisingly painless.
A new place
In Brussels, I tried out a new place to stay, the rather cheap and clean Hostel Brussels Louise, a bargain at only 15 euros per night. It’s a bit out of the way, on the south side of town and outside the inner ring, but public transport in Brussels is good and a day ticket only costs 4.50, valid for unlimited travel on all public transport.
The dorm, yes, remember, I’m trying to save money after our spending spree, only has four beds, of which only two turned out to be occupied. Woot!
Interestingly, it’s solely run by, what seem to be, English speaking west Africans. And at least one of the occupants is Israeli, set to meat his Mossad general in Tournai in a few days. Odd.
Another surprising thing was that both Dublin and Brussels have implemented the exact same bicycle rental scheme. Even the bikes are the same. All over the downtown area, bikes are available for short term renting, which you can do by swiping your credit card. Charges are low, even free when you return the bike to one of the rental points within 30 minutes.
Ideal for commutes.
Money’s in the bank!
And, at last, my bank felt so kind as to compensate for the fraudulent transactions which I suffered through last year. The sad thing being that someone, somewhere, probably scored a few thousand euros, for free, without repercussions.