Saturday, October 27, 2012

Travel and Brussels! (With photos)

What a crazy trip!  

We got on the road on Tuesday at 8am (after being ready 45 minutes early – this crew is awesome).  Goodbyes were a bit tough for me, it’ll be interesting to be living in an environment now where we are saying goodbye all the time! Anyway, about 30 minutes into the drive, we got a call saying that our flight to Conakry was cancelled, and we needed to turn around and  head back to the IOC. We talked about it and decided as a group we’d rather spend the extra night in Brussels, even if we had to pay for hotel rooms ourselves… no one wanted to go backwards, we want to keep moving forward!  So our travel agent said she would try to get us some cheap hotel rooms, and we kept on going. The only issue was potentially our South Africa, Maryke, didn’t have a visa for Belgium and she was the only one of us that would need one. (US/Canada and EU countries don’t need visas).  We got to the airport and stood around for awhile as the Brussels airlines representatives tried to find our tickets, and unfortunately, Maryke was denied entry. Most of us had already gone through security and had our tickets, so we continued on and Maryke was rebooked for the following day.  

We boarded our flight to Newark and all settled in, it looked like we were actually going to take off about twenty minutes early which was great, because we only had 70 minutes in Newark and the potential was there to have to change terminals, which would be a LONG walk. We sat at the jet way for a good half hour before they came over the loudspeaker announcing there’s a problem with the fuel lines (or something) and we all needed to deplane. Awesome.  The Brussels airlines folks were super nice, and told us we would likely be rebooked on a flight to Chicago then on to Brussels, arriving about an hour after we were originally supposed to land.  Okay, no problem, right? So we settled in to wait for the Chicago flight set to depart about two hours later. 

Then the lady came on the loudspeaker and said we’re ready to go to Newark, they fixed the problem, and she told us we should still get there in time. Okay! So we piled back on the plane, but still sat on the jet way for a bit waiting for them to get our luggage back on, as they had pulled ours for the Chicago flight already.  Once we were finally airborne, we figured out we’d be landing at just about the same time that we were supposed to depart for Brussels, so hoped they would hold the plane for us, or the pilot could make up some time in the air (which he did). 

The flight was uneventful until the end. We’re literally a hundred feet from the end of the runway and the pilot pulls up and guns the engines – there was a lady stuck in the lavatory and we couldn’t land.  I don’t want to speculate on what happened but it wasn’t a bad thing, she was elderly (though a police officer met our plan e), we had to circle around and took up valuable time. We were watching the time, and praying we didn’t have to run to a completely different terminal to catch our Brussels flight.  As it turned out, we only had to go down about four or five gates! Awesome. So we piled in our new (big – 777) plane, and then we had seat issues….  

They held the flight for us, but had already reseated some people into our assigned seats!  So several of us had to look around and sit wherever there was space. Unfortunately, several of the passengers were less than friendly about the whole situation.  Oh, and the other thing – one of our team had a seat assignment in row J – THERE IS NO ROW J in a 777!  Crazy, huh?  But finally, we all had seats, and settled in…. and waited… and waited…. For our bags to be loaded. We sat on the jet way again for another hour, after being worried about making the flight.  Ah, well!   

Finally we took off and the flight was a pretty standard ocean crossing. The food was really good, I didn’t sleep at all, but it is what it is. Then, Brussels! All of our bags made it, which was huge considering how many times they changed hands! Brussels was awesome. Our flight to Africa was uneventful, very long, with a stop in Banjul before Conakry, but then we made it through customs with no problems, all of our bags made it, and we settled into our accommodations. I’ll write a separate blog post about that. For now, here’s some photos of Brussels, thanks to Suzanne. Love to all!

Where are we?

We enjoyed cute little cafes...

Beautiful cathedral, we got to go inside...

In the royal gardens...
 
 

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