Venice is romantic, no? So wasn’t it a logical decision to take my girlfriend there and enjoy the Canal Grande by boat? It might have been and we did make it, but we ran into a couple of surprises…
We planned going to Venice a couple of months in advance and we decided we would be gone for slightly over a week. For me, that would mean staying in one place for far too long so we also considered going to either Croatia or Slovenia by ferry. Last time I was there, I fell in love with Dubrovnik and really liked Ljubljana, so either city would be a good choice.
I had trouble locating ferry companies sailing from the area around Venice to Slovenia or Croatia at this time of the year (October). Many ferry companies operate in the Adriatic, but frequently visited ports in Italy are much further south on the Italian coast. As we learned after arriving in Venice, in October, there’s only one ferry a week leaving for Slovenia and none for Croatia.
Sometimes, Raynair sucks too
Obtaining a cheap ticket from Raynair, flying out late Saturday night from Charleroi, we arrrived in Brussels early to spend the day there, enjoying the cafe’s, bars, restaurants and bookstores of the European capital. I lived in Belgium for two years some time ago and there’s this sandwich place I’m really crazy about, le Picodon. Needless to say, we started our day there.
In fact, we enjoyed Brussels so much that we left too late to catch our plane. Not that I was worried, at first. When using Raynair to fly to Ireland a year earlier together with a good friend, we arrived only 10 minutes before departure leaving for Ireland and only seconds before departure when coming back. This time, we had a full 20 minutes when arriving at Charleroi airport. However, we were not let in.
True, the check-in desk was no longer occupied, but the plane hadn’t left yet and people were still waiting to embark. We could have easily be let through customs, with still enough time available to place our luggage in the plane cargo area. Additionally, in true Belgian style, the lady at information showed no inclination towards helping us. I had a hard time to convince her to even call the gate to see if we could still get on. Her words after making a connection: “I’ve got two people here who want to fly to Venice, but they can no longer check in, right?”
To fully appreciate the situation here, you have to get a feeling for the size of Charleroi airport. The airport only has two gates, each with one waiting area. The airport restaurant is a snack bar counter that serves both waiting rooms and planes only stop for 20 minutes, maximum, right in front of the two ‘gates’ (regular ground-level doors in a glass outside wall). In short, the airport operates more like a bus station than an airport. Being there 20 minutes before departure is quite late, I admit, but not very hard to work with, given the size of the place. Still, we didn’t stand a chance. Our options? Not go at all or take the next flight. The following morning.
So not only did we have to find a place to stay, we also had to buy new tickets. As with all budget airlines (and most regular airlines), the cheaper tickets are not transferable. The tickets we had, had cost us 30 euros a piece, roundtrip. The additional fee for the next flight out cost us an additional 60 euros. A piece. We drove down to Namur to spend the night.