Hi readers! Here we are - FINALLY - in Belgium. In Ghent. I am using my tiny, tiny computer, which has a tiny, tiny keyboard and I have one glass of gluwein on board so who knows what muddled words will come out! I suppose many of you have heard about the Eurostar mess. Spud and I saw the headline on the flight, while we were flying over Siberia, so were ready for it when we arrived in London. While we waited for the Virgin crew to locate Steve's lost luggage, we were able to come up with a Plan B now that we weren't going to be using our Eurostar tickets to Belgium. Lost luggage and cancelled train tickets is not the greatest welcome on Day One of one's holiday... However, we started humming Monty Python's "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life" and, after realising Spud had left his washbag with Warfarin in the 'loos at Hong Kong Airport, we giggled like schoolgirls, drank coffe and found a (rather expensive) flight with British Midlands that was due to leave at 8:50am. Just as well we did as today we discover Eurostar is STILL not running and we'd have still been trapped in London while mum was here in Ghent waiting for us to arrive.
At check-in Spud very cleverly heard the man mention that we could wait "in the lounge". Well, our ears pricked up at that, which is also about the time we realised that we had indeed paid top dollar to escape London. A LOUNGE! How exciting - and how wonderful it was readers when, after sitting on the 'plane on the tarmac for FOUR HOURS because Brussels Airport was closed due to heavy snow, we were finally able to leave the 'plane and stretch our legs. We RAN back to the lounge and used the showers and drank the coffee (I had a very big whisky at this point) and ate the salads and the peanuts and read the magazines. It was The Most Magnificent Experience of our last 36 hours. Our flight (photo above flying over France - I think) eventually took off about 6.5 hours late. We really thought that it could only get better from there but, when we landed at Brussels and entered the luggage retrieval area, our hearts sank. It was total K.A.O.S. You wouldn't read about it. It was the cherry on the icing. There were hundreds of unclaimed suitcases (offloaded luggage from cancelled flights), hundreds of people, about two carousels working, three one-armed luggage handlers ... Get the picture? It took us about 45mins to get our bags but best of all, Steve's bag was there! It was found in Sydney and tossed onto another flight that came in about 1/2 hr after ours. So, things were on the UP! We met a lovely Flemish man on the flight, Marcel, and he helped us get on the airport train to Brussels and pointed us in the direction of Ghent. Shall I mention the cold at this point? It was at the train station that we first had a taste of it. Ooooo, lovely! The train had snow clinging to it and all the houses and cars were covered in it. It's so pretty! Our hotel in Ghent is just gorgeous and we have the most wonderful view from our window!
Isn't it just BEAUTIFUL!?? Once we arrived, all the angst and tribulation of actually getting here disappeared and we felt it was all worth it. It is so pretty. The town honestly looks like something out of a fairytale. I can hardly believe I am here. After the sleep of the dead (11 hours without a movement), we were welcomed with the most scrumptious brekky in the hotel dining room. We then hit the sidewalk, rugged up like we were climbing Mt Everest. It took me 20 mins to put my underwear on! You know... wool tights, the thermal undershirt, the woolly socks, the wool jumper, the wool cardy etc. The footpath is a little treacherous due to ice hidden below the snow so we are all walking about with trepidation and clinging to eachother for support. Oh, and the chilliness! Gosh! Wow.... Just as well we have all this stuff on. You also need a scarf you can wrap around your face.
This is the window of just one of the many chocolate shops we saw today. Isn't it amazing? They are very into Christmas here and there are decorations everywhere. We even saw shrubberies with little red bows tied into them and today we found mistletoe hanging over the doorway of a restaurant! REAL mistletoe! We've drunk hot chocolate and gluwein and had hot soup for lunch. We walked on cobblestoned streets all around the old town, looking at very, very old buildings and visited the castle, which used to be a dungeon/gaol so was full of old torture instruments and swords etc. Kind of creepy.
Now we are EXHAUSTED and thinking about a nanna nap. It gets dark here quite early, which makes you feel like snoozing. I almost forgot to mention the Most Important Thing of all which is that IT SNOWED TODAY!! It snowed real snowflakes on top of me! I say "on top of me" because mum and Spud were hiding indoors watching me and thinking I was a total loon. I am loving the cold so far and have not really been very uncomfortable although if the temp drops below zero I think I will be feeling it then. Time to sign off until tomorrow, which is when we might visit Bruges on the train.
PS: I've just been reading back over my blog and have decided that I am being too polite really. Getting here was an utter, total shitfight and I will probably NEVER travel at Christmas again BUT finally getting to Ghent really makes it all worthwhile. It is utterly perfect and I am overjoyed. Also, those that know me better will be pleased to know that I remained jolly and calm and optimistic throughout the entire fiasco. True!