Este texto foi originalmente escrito aquando do meu regresso da Bélgica. Era para ser a primeira parte de uma série de posts, no que era a minha blog experience da altura (ainda escrito regularmente em inglês). Entretanto, voltei ao WP.com, e não cheguei a escrever o resto dos posts da série (talvez o faça algum dia), mas de qualquer modo, achei que esta história era demasiado boa para não partilhar. 🙂 Ligeiramente editado para corrigir umas gralhas que topei entretanto.
It was early December 2011, and now that G was working there, I had decided to pay her a visit. It all went well, and I had a great time—except on the last day. Or more accurately, the last night. So I will go against convention, and begin my narrative with the journey’s end: the trip back home.
I was scheduled to return to Portugal on a flight on Monday 12th, at 06h45, Belgium time. Now, as I came to find only after booking and paying the flight, the first shuttle bus from Brussels to the airport my flight departed from (Brussels National—BNU—though it’s located outside the Brussels metropolitan area), on Monday morning, would not get me there on time to catch the flight. So I was faced with a choice: either spend the night at the airport, or wake up very early to get a cab, and pay the fare for a ride to BNU, ranging between €40–50 (it’s a 15 minute drive). I eventually decided to spend the night at the airport. So I walked, a long walk to the tube station, till the station where I would catch the bus at 23h30 (according to the online schedule, the next and last one was at 23h59). So I arrive at the bus’ stop a couple of minutes before eleven thirty, and at the ticket machine buy the 3 euro ticket. In the meantime, it starts to rain—and this is noteworthy because, despite being supposedly typical, it was the first rain I encountered after being in Belgium for five days in December! But as I was saying, it had starting to rain, and I took shelter under the bus stop. A couple of minutes the bus arrives, and as I walk inside, carrying my four pieces of luggage, the driver looks at me, very startled, and asks: “where are you going?!”. As I answer “to the airport” he replies “No! This bus doesn’t go there! The last one was at eleven!”. Great. “Then why isn’t that mentioned either in the online schedule nor at the paper one at the bus stop?!” I thought to myself, but never got around to asking him, for I had more pressing issues at hand than to get myself into an argument. So the bus takes off, and I’m left at the stop, amidst a strong drizzle, less than half-hour before midnight. The only thing left to do was to take the tube back to the one place where I knew how to get to a cab square—which meant going back to the tube station from where I had just come from, and then walking a whole lot more (all of this, of course, while carrying my luggage). To make matters worse, when walking to the taxi square, I managed to get myself lost! At this point my only solace was that I was under no rush to get to the airport, and thus was confident I’d get there with plenty of time to rest—or something like that.
It was quite late at night, and so the streets were almost deserted. I asked two different people for directions, and one thing that positively surprised me was their reaction: the first actually offered to search the cab number for me—which I idiotically declined because of my gut feeling that I was really close to the taxi square—and the other, whom I asked for directions after realizing my gut feeling was hopelessly wrong, patiently explained to me what was the quickest way to the taxi square (after mentioning that he had just got off the last bus coming form airport…). And so I went, once more, into the rain, to find a taxi. I finally got there, and with some luck kicking in, I found a cab a couple of minutes later. And so, I got to the airport shortly after midnight. The taxi fare, was €37—with hindsight, I should have just caught a cab in the first place, and save myself a lot of hassles. Lesson learnt!
Never I had seen a major airport so quiet—in fact the silence was so loud that it was quite startling. But anyway, I settled in near my check-in counter, and seeing as the luggage balances were still on, I weighed my trolley bag: much to my relief, it weighed only slightly more than the official limit. It had seemed a lot more (but then again, I had been carrying it for the best part of an hour…). I tried to get some sleep, and managed to, to some extent. The problem is that every ten minutes or so, I’d awake up, slightly startled, and check the bags. I just couldn’t help it, so in the end, I did get some sleep, but not very much.
People start coming in at about 04h00 (the first flight departed at 06h00). My flight left still in complete darkness, but during the trip I did get to see the sky clearing more and more until the sun finally rose (I was never one to be able to sleep much while travelling, and was seating at the left hand side window). Two hours and forty minutes later, tired, unshaven and sleep deprived, I was back in Lisbon.