And then we headed out on another journey. Early Sunday morning Carina's mom drove us to the airport express train, and not long thereafter we were in the air on our way to Brussels, capital of Europe.
After getting off the plane we started following the exit signs at the airport, and after a while we started wondering how far away it actually was. It turns out that from the most distant gates where the planes from Norway are located, it is nearly a 3 kilometer long walk along rollers to the exit, and along the way you must take escalators up and down a total of 8 floors, so it can easily take half an hour or more just to get out of the airport, not counting the time you have to wait for your luggage! But eventually we did get out, and as the walk had worn us out and we had lots of luggage, we just hailed a cab to take us to the B&B where we would be staying the next couple of days.
Sunday 10th: Walking around Ixelles
The B&B was a very tall but narrow townhouse belonging to an elderly but active couple who were really nice! They had even stocked our fridge with an assortment of Belgian beers for us to sample! Our room were on the 4th floor and had a very nice private balcony so we could really enjoy the terrific weather, however there was only some very narrow stairs so getting all our luggage to our room was quite strenuous. After getting settled we headed out to walk around the Ixelles area to see what kind of a neighborhood Carina was going to live in for the next year. We stopped at a Belgian institution, the Fritterie, and bought a chicken sandwich for lunch, which strangely enough was filled with fries in addition to the other stuff, apparently is a typical Belgian thing. It turns out that French Fries are actually invented in Belgium, where it is almost like a national tradition to have them with Majo and some other strange sauces I've never heard of before, like Curry-ketchup, Samourai, Tartar and Andalouse. Anyways, we brought the fries-sandwich along with us and found us a bench at the VUB university campus to sit down and enjoy it, and it was actually pretty good. Afterwards we walked by the apartment Carina will be renting on our way back to the B&B. There we settled down on our private terrace and sampled a couple of the beers the landlord had left in the fridge, before just calling it an early night as we were both exhausted from our all the traveling lately.
Monday & Tuesday: Tourists downtown and drinking beer
After getting a good nights sleep we took the Metro downtown just after lunch to see Grand Place, the main square of Brussels, and the surrounding shopping area and the world famous tourist attraction, the 30cm tall Mannekin Pis statue. We also sampled our first Belgian waffles and by chance ran into Davina, a girl from the states that will be studying along with Carina at BSIS. After walking around downtown for a while and having another waffle, we headed back to Grand Place and had dinner at a "Greek" restaurant there. It was quite far from beeing genuinely Greek however, and it was definitely overpriced like everything in the main tourist area, but the food was still quite good.
After returning to the B&B we sampled some more of the beers we'd been given on our terrace in the fantastic sunny weather, and then headed out to meet Davina as well as Amber, Jake & Charles at Place St. Antoine. There we first sat down at a bar, and then at another bar, and then yet another. At them all we tried more kinds of Belgian beer, mostly just Stella Artois, into the wee hours of the night and had a great time!
As usual this caused us to stay indoors and in bed most of the next day. We only went outside twice that day, first to get some Fries and Pittas in the morning, and then back to Chao for dinner in the evening. It is a really excellent yet cheap Thai restaurant that we found during our walks in Ixelles on Sunday and really liked due to its modernistic and stylish yet classic Thai decor both inside and outside, as well as the food and service beeing excellent, so it is well worth a visit!
Wednesday 13th: EU-district and the ponds
When we got back on our feet after another night of rest, we started out by going to the Belgacom shop down the street to order an Internet connection for the apartment Carina will be renting. However their earliest availability to install DSL was in 3 months, which was totally unacceptable, so instead we went
down to Avenue de Louise to locate the offices of ClearWire, a WiMAX based ISP that gives you a wireless broadband over most of Belgium. No installation required, and after running to a post office to get cash for the deposit we got the "Internet box" immediately. Afterwards we found a Deli where we got ourselves lunch, and then we headed past the Ixelles Ponds and Flagey Place to see the European Union headquarters and the beautiful Cinquantenaire park with the Belgian Arc De Triomphe. It was a much longer walk than we expected so we ended up taking a taxi back to the B&B, but we didn't stay there long but headed over to a nearby Italian restaurant and had pizza for dinner before calling it an early night.
Thursday & Friday: Trip to IKEA and cleaning the new apartment
And then our stay at the B&B was up and we had to move all our luggage down the stairs again and head over to Carinas new apartment in Avenue de La Couronne. This place at least had an elevator, so we quickly got our luggage inside and then walked down to the Metro station to visit IKEA. I really don't like IKEA as they appear to never have any staff available, and when you finally locate someone they are unable to help you anyways, and just like in Norway and in the US, this was true in Belgium. But after some hassle we got what we came for, had dinner in the warehouse restaurant, and found a "merchandise-taxi"-van to take us home. After getting everything inside it was once again straight back out to buy food and cleaning aids at the SuperGB grocery store nearby, and then after getting most of the new IKEA things assembled it was cleaning time. The apartment was horribly dirty, some parts had obviously not been touched with soap and water since the place was built, so we spent all of that night and the better part of the next day cleaning and scrubbing every inch of the place, and then we still had the kitchen and bathroom left... We couldn't be bothered to do them too, so for the time beeing we just ignored them and instead readied the main room so we at least had one likable room to stay in, and when it was clean and tidy it was was actually a pretty good apartment! Small, but very nice and with large wall-to-wall windows. Not bad for renting an unseen apartment :-)