This post is written by Katie, about her solo trip to Belgium, Germany, and Austria.
I awoke at 6:15am, packed and got ready in the dark, and then dropped my key in the key drop at 6:45am. Brussels Hello Hostel (Euro 22.05 for one night in a 4-bed female dorm on Booking.com) was fine for a night. It is actually located really well for exploring the city since it is near a metro and the walk to/from the metro felt safe enough in the dark. Reception was nice, and seemed to have plenty of information about the city. There was a market close. The showers were annoying (as I mentioned in the day 13 post), but this should not be a deal breaker. You have to make your own bed, but again, this was not an issue.
I caught the metro at the nearby Simonis station and took it to the Midi station. Then I had to wait in a long line to buy a train ticket to the airport since the automated machines refused my credit and debit cards and would not take bills (they just took coins, and I did not have Euro 8.50 in coins). I finally got on the 7:30am train to the airport, which did not actually leave the Midi station until 7:41am. As I was on the train I noticed that the shoulder adjuster straps on my large backpack should have actually been attached to secondary buckles since I had set up the backpack for my shorter body. That might have made carrying it a bit more stable and comfortable since then I could have gotten them to be at 45 degree angles like they are supposed to be. Live and learn – at least I will know these backpacks well for the four backpacking trips I’m leading this fall. We finally arrived at the airport around 8:10am.
I printed my boarding passes at a kiosk and then took my bag to be checked. The agent would not put my laundry bag containing my big backpack into a plastic bag (it is unclear whether they had none or she just did not feel like it) and then complained that there was no where to attach the luggage tag. She eventually attached them to the laundry bag drawstring but then gave me a lecture about how if the bag comes off then my big backpack will be lost. I had no choice, so I took the risk – but judging from the effort it took me to get my bag into the laundry bag, it was not going to come out without some help. For future trips some short rope might be useful for various things, and could be tied to the backpack and looped outside the laundry bag for attachment of a luggage tag.
I was through border control and security by 8:30am. I did not even get an exit stamp in my passport! They were not announcing the gate for my flight to London Heathrow until 9am, so I found a place to sit and use the Brussels Airport free 30-minute wifi. Once I boarded my plane I realized JT had done well while checking me in – I had a window on the exit row! The flight was only 40 minutes (75 minutes gate to gate) though and was uneventful. My seat was comfortable and I enjoyed the tea and crisps. I looked for the British Airways Concorde that is in storage at London Heathrow once we landed, but with no luck.
I easily made my way through border control and security at London Heathrow before making my way to the general departures waiting area. I went to sit in the same area I sat in during my trip to Brussels that overlooks lots of large British Airways planes.
At 10:40am it was posted that my flight to Austin would be leaving from the C gates. I took a train there with no issues. I boarded around 11:30am but we did not push back until around 12:20pm. There was no one in the middle seat of my row! And as we were taxiing, I was treated to a showing of many cool planes including the retired British Airways Concorde!
On take-off, I decided to watch the wings. The center section of the flaps moves around a good bit during take off and during turbulence. Additionally, the entire wing gives substantially at points which is interesting to watch. The 787 really is an awesome plane!
About halfway through the flight we flew over Greenland! The eastern side of Greenland was amazing to see – very clear skies, glaciers, and mountains. So awesome! The mountainous views lead to just glaciers and snow in the middle part of the country, and then the western side was cloudy but you could see some smaller mountains and lakes with shores. It was really magical! I will have to visit Greenland at some point – it looks like a beautiful country!
After landing in Austin I was able to use my Global Entry to get through customs quickly, but my big backpack was literally one of the last pieces of checked luggage to appear on the luggage belt. JT was waiting for me in the arrivals area with tres leches cake. It was a thoughtful gesture, but I really was not hungry after eating two of my biggest meals in the last week on the plane from London!