After Prague, another three weeks flew by at work. The last week of August, I got another chance to travel. This time it was with my fiancé Chef, whose best friend C was about to get married in Neufchâteau, Belgium. As Chef and I had a very limited budget and little time off work, our only shared vacation this year was planned around the wedding weekend. The cheapest AirBaltic flight from Helsinki to Brussels required a five-hour stopover in Latvia, but it wasn’t a problem. The whole Pokémon hype was still going strong, so we spent those extra hours happily chasing after pocket monsters around the beautiful parks in Riga.
At the Brussels airport, we immediately noticed how this year’s terrorist attacks had had a major impact on security policies. Three years ago, when I first visited Belgium, I hadn’t noticed anything special about the arrangements, but this time there were guards and metal detectors at every corner. Somehow we managed to steer away from the “official” route leading to the correct train platform and ended up in a queue of people trying to enter the airport. Stressed out and already running late, we figured we would never catch our connecting train if we had to go through yet another security check. A friendly guard let us jump over the fence when he heard the situation and, thanks to him, we got to the train just in time. Either the the massive security operations were just for show to give people a sense of safety or we both seemed 100% harmless. I would probably put my money on the former.
At the actual railway station it became clear that there had been no need for rush. First, our connecting train was only supposed to be a couple minutes late, but then the bonus minutes really started piling up. Finally, 45 minutes behind schedule, we were on our way to Liège.
Our welcome to Liège was luxurious. C and his future wife B had already travelled to the village of Neufchâteau well in advance for their wedding and left us their apartment (and car!) to use. Their friendly neighbour gave us the keys and encouraged us to knock on her door if we needed anything. We hadn’t discussed the specifics with C, so at first, we were looking for an inflatable mattress or something similar for sleeping arrangements. However, a peek at the master bedroom revealed that, in addition to the apartment and car, the “good” bed had also been reserved to us. Gotta love Belgians! <3
After a long day of travelling, I would have been ready to collapse into bed immediately, but hunger drove us back to the city centre. An unusual heat wave lingered above Belgium, and Liége by night felt almost Mediterranean. Deux spritz, s’il vous plaît. I managed to order us drinks without using a word of English, despite the fact that I had painfully pushed my way through spring semester French with the lowest grade possible. 100 hours of study truly paid off, here!