This is the first part a narrative of a trip to the Flanders region of Belgium that my wife Frances and I took in September 2018. This was an independent trip, not a package tour. It was our third visit to Belgium. Our aim was to visit the towns where my paternal grandparents lived, Kortrijk and Waregem. In addition, we planned to visit Ghent, a city we had read about but missed in our previous trips. Our plan was to spend three nights each in Kortijk and Waregem, four nights in Ghent, and two in Brussels before returning home to Alexandria, Virginia. The stop in Brussels was planned for a visit to the Horta (Art Nouveau) Museum and some shopping. However, our plans had to be altered, as you will see in a later topic.
This first topic also includes a description (and a bit of a rant) of our air travel. If you want to skip that part, just skip down to the entry for August 31.
The second part can be found in Waregem, Ieper, and Oudenaarde, Belgium
The final part can be found in Ghent, but not Brussels
Thursday, August 30, 2018 (Alexandria to Brussels)
We are used to these departures, and we were well prepared. The cats were boarded at the vet clinic. Our bags were packed. Everything in the house was turned off. The thermostat was turned to a higher temperature to keep the air conditioning from coming on.
Our ride from the Super Shuttle appeared on time. The company was running a capacity and had to call in extra help. We got a private car instead of a group van. The driver was playing a jazz station on the radio—not my favorite, but easier to tolerate than country or talk. Traffic was no worse than usual. We arrived at Dulles Airport in good time. I gave the driver an extra tip for coming out on short notice.
We didn’t have any trouble checking in. We were in TSA Precheck, which got us through security a little faster and with slightly less inconvenience. Airports have a non-Euclidean topological property that no matter how many gates there are, an no matter who you are, your gate is always at the end of the concourse. All those people that you pass at what appear to be closer gates also walked to the end of the concourse. Your gate will appear closer to passengers arriving behind you. So it was this time for us. We had plenty of time (you always have plenty or none). We found a couple of seats and settled in to wait.
There was a tour group forming up in the waiting area. A guy with a clipboard was walking around trying to check in everyone. Many of them were sitting right behind us, chatting away among themselves. They weren’t doing anything wrong, but it was impossible to avoid overhearing little bits of other people’s lives. It was difficult to concentrate on our reading and sudokus with that in the background.
The time to board finally arrived, with the usual scrum in front of the gate. Of course, the first class, business class, and all the made-up privileged groups got to board ahead of us in coach. We were in Group 4 (out of 5). In a surprising display of rationality, they decided to board back-to-front, beginning with Group 5. However, then they lost most of their plaudits by not calling out the rest of the group numbers.