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Michael’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 23 Aug 2007

Location: Brussels, Belgium

MapOkay, so I promised you guys something, but have been busy trying to get the visa sorted (more on that at the end). As such, I'll give you Friday and sort out last Saturday-Monday on the weekend (it is a long one over here!)

Friday morning up nice and early to get to work at 730, for the old 1230 Friday knock-off. The plan was for Robbie and myself to head to Belgium in the afternoon after work, but Tommy and Pottsy wanted to make the most of the Friday, and booked a 740 am Eurostar ticket to Belgium. That meant that they needed to leave Southampton by 610 am at the latest, but with trains running at 455 am and 555 am they decided on the early train to ensure they had the time to pick up their tickets and get through customs. In typical Tommy fashion, he left everything to the last second and missed the 455 am train. Somehow he managed a series of trains that got him into London early enough to meet up with Pottsy. Now the drama started...

Having picked up the tickets, they headed for the border security which you pass through in England rather than at the end of the train ride. Tommy had sent his passport through the washing machine after it was left in his pants one day after work. As such, the passport took a battering, and he was worried about his ability to get through the border. What I didn't realise was that he had handed in his 'washed' passport to the consulate to get a new one. The returned the 'washed' one with a fancy new stamp - it was red and said CANCELLED. The new passport would be ready on Wednesday... that sucks when you're going to Belgium on the Friday before that.

As such, the French/Belgium border police told him that he wasn't getting in. And that was that. Dragged off to a side room, made to sign a statement saying that he wouldn't again try to get into Belgium without a valid passport. Then there were three....

I found out all of this whilst at work, and by the time I had finished work, Potter was wandering around Belgium, lost and struggling to find the hotel.

Robbie and I caught the 330 pm from Southampton to Waterloo, picked up our Eurostar tickets and had a cheeky beer to start the trip while waiting for the train. Firstly, let me say that the Eurostar ain't that glamorous. It's not particularly cheap, but you do cut down on travel time with shorter check in, and the fact that it is as close, if not closer than most of the London airports to Southampton. But as we'd booked the trip on Lastminute.com, the total package price that included the accommodation was quite reasonable. But anyway, there isn't all that much leg room on the train, and there's a whole lot of not much to see on the trip as well, aside from a 20-25 minute journey through a tunnel under the English Channel.

We arrive in Brussels at 930 pm local time, and after grabbing some Euro's headed to the hotel. Unlike Potter who wandered for the best part of 6 hours, we made it there in about 20 minutes on the subway. Checking in, we found Potter in the Irish bar next door to the hotel - it would be the first, but not last, Irish bar we'd visit over the weekend. Seriously, I have never seen a city with so many Irish bars, it was silly.

Soon we realised that Tommy was actually there in Brussels. Well, kinda. Potter got bored during the day and draw a characiture of Tommy that he took to th epub with him. It wasn't long before it was deemed anyone forgetting to get Tommy a drink (water) whist getting themselves a drink would have to buy a round of shots for the rest of the group... and Tommy MUST be included in all group shots.

One drink at Kitty's and we headed into town. Arriving just before midnight, we headed to the Grand Place, possibly one of the most stunning town squares I have seen in Europe. Walking around looking for a bar and a feed, we didn't have much luck. We did end up in a small place that had stopped food, but served us a drink. Some chat with the bar man and he suggested a place around the corner, left, right stright and around another corner called Celtica - yep, another Irish bar.

We headed in there and there was an acoustic duo playing downstairs to a packed crowd. We headed upstairs instead to the nightclub and quickly met a helpful trio of Belgian girls. Tommy ended up with a list of 10 different things to see and do in Brussels that should keep us busy most of the weekend - Delerium being the highlight of their choices (more on that Sunday night).

Anyway, Tommy was served as often as we were most of the time, and getting more attention from the girls than the rest of us! I'm sure he was in more photos than anyone else on the trip! So the night went on, an occasional mistep from the lads resulted in Tommy going 'thirsty' and we spent much of the time on the dance floor.

Robbie soon enough hooked up with one of the Brussels chicks, and Potter went home suffereing from a long day alone in Brussels. That left me partying solo in the club waiting of the 'do not disturb' tag to be taken off the door handle. Given the time was 430 when Robbie left the club and it was due to shut at 6, I said he had till then, and not a second after. On to the Red Bulls to keep the eylids open (it was a long day at work and travel, and I'm not as young as I used to be!).

Groovin away on the DF, I thought it was getting late - or early. As I wandered down stairs, as the club upstairs was dying, I noticed daylight outside. Next thing the downstairs DJ called out it's 715, last drinks at the bar. WTF? Okay, I stuck it out till 730 when the bar shut and caught a train home arriving to the hoetel at 803am - with only Robbie in there. Sweet.

- As I said, Sat-Mon will come shortly.

Visa - Well I thought it was a shoe-in to be submitted tomorrow (Friday), but the HR department at work mucked up their reference letter that stated how much I have earned and now it doesn't correlate with the payslips... a sure fire way to have the application knocked back. The problem stemmed from the time I took off in December as leave without pay and they didn't take that into consideration when stating how much I had earned in the last twelev months. Looks like the application, now housed in an A4 binder as opposed to an envelope, will be sent off on Tuesday or Wednesday next week with the Monday being a public holiday.

More to follow soon guys ;-)