One month on from thinking I was going to cough myself to death in a hotel room in Casablanca, I am in a hotel room in Brussels, cross checking figures and rehearsing tomorrow’s presentation.I’m not 100% better, but I’m well enough to travel.
Normally this kind of meeting would warrant a one day trip on Eurostar: get up at 4am to get to St Pancras for 5am to get on the 6.15am train to Brussels. And spend the rest of the day with that “got up too early – feels like a hangover” feeling.
So although I am often awake around 4am (it’s one of my preferred night times for a coughing fit), I prioritised my health and travelled out the night before, so I could get a good night’s sleep and go to the presentation feeling fresh and confident.
My journey on Eurostar was pleasant enough – I had two seats to myself but was in seats 1 & 2 in the carriage – the position where there is no window. So no idle gazing out at the landscape for me on this trip.
I was also close to the luggage rack and watched in despair as the group of Belgian school students stacked their bags incorrectly on the luggage racks. (Vertical! Not horizontal!) Happily this group were seated further down the carriage so their noise didn’t bother me too much.
I arrived into Brussels Midi at 9.05pm, and after a bit of a walk to the metro (with one pause when I felt a cough coming on… but I managed to control it), took line 2 directly to Rogier and was at my hotel ~9.35pm.
The Thon Hotel Brussels City Centre looks like it has some nice facilities – the bar was busy when I came in and I saw they have a games room as well as a gym and (according to my colleague) a sauna on the 29th floor with a view of the city, but none of those enticements for me.
Instead, cue two hours of going over tomorrow’s presentation in detail, cross-checking figures and making side notes about things I need to mention. But it’s OK, I managed to hook my phone up to the TV (wow – it’s like I really get modern technology!) and have my “women singing” playlist on to power me through.
My hotel room is nice enough. It’s a simple budget business hotel room. But there are some nice touches, like the sewing kit (not many hotel rooms give these out anymore – I know this because they are near the top of my “things that fell into my suitcase” list).
The bathroom is a little bit dated looking but it has a bathtub and I am pleased to see the Thon chain use Eco style large size squeezy soap containers. I hate those tiny plastic tubs that most hotel chains provide. Some people see “luxury bathroom products”; I just see “more waste plastic”. I had planned to have a bath and steam my cough but work got in the way and that didn’t happen.
I have a mini-fridge and a safe, not that I’m going to use either of them. There’s a desk space with lots of power plugs nearby. The lamps all have obvious on/off switches – I love that I don’t have to puzzle for ages over how to switch off the lamps. (In other hotel rooms I have pulled out the plugs to switch off the lamps because I could not find any other way to switch them off.)
The hotel has provided me with earplugs due to construction works happening nearby. “Your sleep is our first priority,” the little accompanying note says. “The result will be more than fantastic.” I’m not sure that part is true. But again, it’s a nice touch.
When I woke up in the morning and was able to see the view outside my window, I could clearly see the reason for the earplugs.
I was booked at a rate that included breakfast, unlike my colleague who booked earlier, paid more and didn’t get breakfast included. His Nespresso machine didn’t work either, so he really did badly on this trip.
I enjoyed the breakfast buffet with its diverse range of options – fresh fruit, hot food, pastries, gluten free, salad options, fishy options (including smoked salmon), cheese board… even biscuits and chocolate.
However I didn’t get to fully enjoy my breakfast as a coughing fit when I got back to my room meant I “lost” part of it. If it had to happen, better it happens in the privacy of my room rather than on the metro or in the meeting.
Met my colleague and we took the Metro to Arts-Loi for our meeting. We’re in a different room to the usual today – this one has a video conference unit. Although no catering. But I’ve brought my own tea in a flask just in case my throat seizes up during the presentation. Happily it doesn’t, but that could be down to me regularly sipping at my tea.
After the meeting, back to Arts-Loi and back to Brussels-Midi station. Apart from that one time we had a nice meal downtown, we always eat at the Brasserie de la Gare. My colleague swears by the calzone here. Calzone and a half litre of Hoegaarden and he’s happy. The pizzas are good but today I have a steak (which is maybe cooked a little more than medium should be – but the waiter probably assumed that as English speakers we couldn’t handle European medium) and a small Leffe Brune, which I only have just enough time to finish before heading across to take my train back.
I’m in the last batch of people to check in, they close check in five minutes after I enter the queue. It’s quite nice to arrive a little later I find, because by the time I’m through security and passport control the train is already open for boarding so I can walk straight up and spend no time waiting in limbo in the lounge.
On my journey back I’m sat at the opposite end of the carriage but these seats also don’t have a window. For some reason my work laptop will not connect to Eurostar wifi so I have no choice but to listen to music and read my book for the journey home.
Another successful meeting, another trip complete, but all this activity has left me exhausted. I’m not sick anymore but I’m certainly not 100% better.