Wednesday, 9.6.00 Arrive in Brussels, Belgium
All in all, we had a good flight to Brussels. We knew that we would be arriving early in the morning, so we managed to get some sleep on the plane, and felt well rested. A very helpful woman at the airport greeted us and explained where our bicycles would be arriving.
While we were waiting for our bikes and our host for the trip, we met some of the other cyclists who would be joining us. As it turned out, almost everyone had decided to get there a day early to acclimate.
Shortly after claiming our bike carriers, Gerhard (our host) appeared and ushered us to the van (which would carry our bikes and luggage) and a taxi (which would take us to the hotel). We felt like celebrities, as the line for taxis was incredibly backed up and other people on our flight probably had to wait an hour to get a cab.
Our hotel was actually in Louvain-La-Neuve, a small college town about 30 km outside Brussels. This saved us from having to bicycle through Brussels (which was a traffic nightmare) to start our trip. It was a lovely hotel with a path that led into town where we ate dinner in the evening and had our first experience with the Internet from a European computer. The keyboard was almost alien and not the QWERTY keyboard that we know so well. We spent about half an hour typing a one-paragraph message.
In the afternoon, we put our bikes together, and packed the carriers, which would be sent on to our last hotel for the trip to wait for our arrival. Since it rained the entire day, the hotel gave us a conference room to use as a bicycle shop. We had an informal get-together at the hotel to get acquainted with others on the trip, and then had dinner in the town of Louvain-La-Neuve. We celebrated being in Belgium by eating a great Italian dinner. What can I say - we already missed our beloved pasta.
Thursday, 9.7.00 Introduction to Belgium
At 6:00 AM this morning we were up and ready to go. This would be the regimen for our entire trip. After showering, preparing all of our gear for the day, and dressing, we usually arrived at breakfast between 7:00 AM and 7:30 AM. Today we needed to be ready by 8:30 AM to leave on a bus trip into Brussels and take a several hour walking tour of the city.
We had a nice tour of the city, which included seeing most of the "Old" section of Brussels. It is quite a large city with some beautifully restored buildings, especially around the town square. We visited some of the lace shops, and of course we had to stop for a Belgian waffle, fresh and hot from the waffle iron and as light as air.
We visited the Palace where all of the kids gathered to try to coax the Princess to come out and visit with them. The grounds are beautiful and we took many pictures of the gardens. We decided that we definitely want to return some day to spend more time in Brussels.
This afternoon, we embarked on a warm-up ride of about 43 km just to make sure everything was working okay on our bikes. The route took us through some hills and small towns outside of Brussels and was very relaxing. We encountered a little mist in the air toward the end of the outing, but no rain.
In the evening, we enjoyed a "Welcome" dinner with all of the other bicyclists. They are in interesting group with some great stories. As always, the people add so much to the learning experience of the journey. We try to sit near different people each day. Its great to hear about their lives as well as their days experiences. Dinner was at the hotel and the first of many great vegetarian delights.