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Belgium

2015 JUNE BELGIUM - BACK TO BRUSSELS & WAIT CONTINUES

LATE TRAIN BACK TO BRUSSELS, DAYS WAITING FOR INSURANCE COMPANY TO TAKE ACTION.

Sunday 14th June 2015 (day forty-one)

Dinant to Brussels

Included breakfast was help yourself coffee, tea, packet waffle and yoghurt. Not very exciting, but enough to get us started. We were able to leave our luggage while we went out to explore the sites of Dinant. This is a really pretty place and lots of photos were taken today.

Most prominent sight in Dinant is the Citadel which can be reached by a 45 second gondola ride or by climbing the 418 steps cut into the cliff face. We split up with the Lemons taking the cable ride and Sarah & I only minutes (about 20 minutes) behind them climbing the stairs. We took it pretty slow and the climb was not too bad.

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At the top we rewarded our climb with a Hoegarden Rosee – as you do!

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Of course the tour of the citadel was not conducted in English (only French and Flemish) so we trailed behind the group with Toni giving an English version of the tour that she was reading from a brochure in English that the guide had handed over. Pretty interesting place.

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We splurged by buying lunch at the café on the Citadel, Sarah & I shared a chicken burger and the obligatory frits!

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We all caught the gondola back down to the bottom. Next on our list was a visit to the ‘La Merveilleuse’ grotto which was situated right on the edge of town, so just a short walk across the bridge and up the hill. We had to wait 20 minutes for the next tour to start, which luckily was in French and English. This cave was discovered in 1904 during excavation of a railway line.

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As luck would have it after the cave tour we just missed the 5pm train back to Brussels, so had to wait an hour for the next one at 6pm. Unfortunately this had us arriving back into Brussels at 8pm, so we missed visiting hours at the hospital. They are very strict, and will not let anyone in after 7.30.

We also missed the supermarket so found a nice Portuguese restaurant to have dinner. The Lemons had been hanging out for steak and they had my favourite Vino Verde wine, so a winner all round.

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Monday 15th June 2015 (day forty-two)

Brussels

The last week while all everything has been going on, I of course have been working in the background dealing with our travel insurance company. I must say they have been absolutely uncaring and not the slightest bit helpful. From not answering questions, to not returning calls when they promised, to just not giving any guidance or assistance and giving the impression that they just don’t give a shit. Really get the vibe from them that we will get the shits and just book a flight ourselves so they will not have to pay out.

I’m stressed!

We are really just hanging around trying to get a decision from them, which just isn’t happening.

Of course none of us are going to leave Brussels until Lyn is safely on a plane home.

Bloody hell why is the insurance company making it so bloody difficult.

We spoke to the surgeon, Dr Ster, again today, and he advised he has not been contacted by anyone from Australia regarding anything. The insurance seem to be stalling saying they need clearance from the doctor but are doing nothing to get information.

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I was hoping to have Lyn on a flight home tomorrow as the doctor had recommended but I can’t see this happening. The Hospital want to discharge her as well. It’s only that we’ve told the doctor our accommodation is not suitable that he has agreed to keep her this long.

I had to pack Lyn’s back up today in anticipation of her upcoming flight home. Hardest thing I’ve had to do this trip. I cried.

I have been in contact with another new person at the insurance office and maybe something is now going to happen. This person seems to be a little more sympathetic and seems to be getting the ball rolling.

Hospital are definitely discharging Lyn tomorrow morning.

Tuesday 16th June 2015 (day forty-three)

Brussels

Amazing insurance company finally are responding. After all my emails and calls, they have booked a nearby hotel for Lyn and have approved her early return to home. About fucking time!!!!

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The doctor did not come again before Lyn left the hospital but had left a prescription for pain killers and told us yesterday to ask for a sling to support Lyn’s arm. Funnily enough when we asked for a sling they suggested we us a scarf! Are you kidding? We advised insurance insisted on a proper sling and were finally given one.

Sling fitted and medical records in hand we walked out of the hospital which had been Lyn’s home for the last week and a bit.
It was a short walk from the hospital to the booked hotel, but of course the room was not yet ready so we sat in a nearby café and had a bad overpriced coffee.

We checked into the Pentone Hotel and were soon joined by the other members of our little group. We all had dinner together back at the apartment that the rest of us had been calling home for the last week and a bit. It was a little sad because we all knew that one of us was about to go home and the reason for this was due to injury.

Later after dinner Lyn & I walked back to the hotel. I managed to wash her hair in the shower without getting too much water inside the cask. I daresay this was a bit of a relief as she had only been having sponge baths in hospital and no hair wash at all.

Wednesday 17th June 2015 (day forty-four)

Brussels

Email received first thing this morning had action from the insurance company in the form of a flight booked home for Lyn. Of course they had picked the longer, more stops flight which left at 11pm at night. I phoned them and requested they change it to the morning flight that was shorter travelling hours and only one stop.

Our last day in Brussels, so we took Lyn out to do the Brussels things that we had done.

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First stop was up at the local market in our square, then off to the flea (thieves) market on the way to walking to see the famous pissing boy, Manneken Pis. Of course this closely followed by a feasting of cream and strawberry covered waffle. Which we noticed is not the easiest to eat by yourself if you are only one armed.

A walk around the famous Palace Square and soon it was time for a little lunch, which of course had to be a serve of frits from the most famous frit house in Brussels.

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We found the shopping street and our favourite haunt Hema store. Although disappointingly they did not have any tompouce – only sold in Holland. But we had come prepared with Portuguese pastel de nata that we had purchased earlier.

A bit of shopping to fill the afternoon.

The night ended with a snack dinner of Hectors Chicken.

Brussels we have been there and done that!

Posted by Cindy Bruin 15:15 Archived in Belgium Comments (1)

2015 JUNE BELGIUM - STILL IN BRUSSELS.

JUNK MARKET, WALKING TOUR, WAFFLES AND FRITS

Thursday 11th June 2015 (day thirty-eight)

Brussels

Visited the local flea market today on our way to the centre for a ‘free’ (donation expected at the end) walking tour of Brussels. Lots of trash and treasure at the market, but only small trinket items could be purchased as we are still supposed to be on a bicycle tour with no room to carry larger items.

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I must say the weather has been beautiful here so far. Lovely sunny days with the temperature dropping off just a little at night, but not really affecting us because we are sleeping indoors anyway.

The tour was good, our guide Mike Birmingham was very informative and interesting. Little chance we will retain any of the information, dates and statistics he told us but it was an enjoyable tour.

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After the tour we had a lunch of baguette and frits. Belgium must sell millions of kilos of frits every tourist season, seems that everywhere you look someone is eating frits, and it’s usually one of us.

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Lyn is a little better today. Pain management is working to keep the pain at a minimum. We bought her a waffle which helped as well.

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After our hospital visit we went up to the square and found a little bar selling sangria – a nice relaxing hour to try and remember we are still on holiday.

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Friday 12th June 2015 (day thirty-nine)

Brussels

Nothing seems to be happening, why is the insurance company just doing nothing. Why are they not assisting us to get Lyn on a plane and on her way home? Why is this all so hard for them? I’m starting to lose it.

We took dinner up to Lyn at the hospital tonight. ‘Hectors Chicken’ a local fried chicken place the Lemons had discovered earlier in the week supplied our picnic dinner. We also snuck in a couple of beers to be enjoyed bedside, much to the amusement of the family that was visiting the lady in the bed sharing the room with Lyn.

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Afterwards at about 10pm we wandered back up the square for another taste of the sangria enjoyed yesterday as the sun set in the background.

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Saturday 13th June 2015 (day forty)

Brussels to Dinant

Guiltily we left Lyn for the weekend and headed 2 hours south of Brussels to a little town called Dinant. This town was on our original itinerary but would have to be missed if we did not make a weekend side trip from Brussels. This is a place I had seen and fallen in love with on the internet so a visit was a must. Here was aslo where we could try our hand at a couple of hours kayaking on the Lesse River.

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The train travelled through beautiful countryside, every now and then giving us a peek at the river we would have followed had we ridden.

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Arriving at the Dinant train station our first objective was to find the accommodation I had pre-booked so we could drop off our luggage and then go find kayaks. We only managed to get a little lost and climb unnecessarily up a long hill but finally found it in the end. Splendid Palace Hotel our home for the night looked like an old hospital and immediately was given the nick name ‘the asylum’. Check in was usually not until 6pm, I had contacted the owner and he welcomed us as soon as we arrived. Our room was not yet ready so we left our bags and went to sit outside in the sunshine to have our picnic lunch. By the time we had finished eating our room was ready and we took our bags up stairs. This was a hostel type accommodation where you needed to bring you own linen or hire theirs for 4 euro per person. We come prepared with our camping sleep sheets.

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Walking back down to the train station, we bought tickets for a couple of stops up the track to where the kayak trips started. Spying the river from the train it was obvious this was a popular activity for a Saturday as the river was already crowded with many kayaker winding their way down river. It had turned into a warm sunny day so this had encouraged the crowds as well I’d say. I had pre-booked the hire kayaks online but when we got off the train there was a bit of a mix up and we ended up going with a different company. Not a problem I guess and they were all the same price.

So the next couple of hours we spent drifting, paddling, getting pushed, being rammed by other kayaks, ramming other kayaks, hitting the river bank, getting stuck on rocks (turns out this was a Sarah favourite), laughing at and with the antics of the young locals and stopping for a few beers as we also made our way down the river from Gendron to Anseremme side by side with about another couple of hundred or so fellow water thrill seekers. We didn’t manage to get too wet until close to the very end, where I wore a bow wave full in my lap while coming down ramp of a weir.

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Lucky the sun was warm enough to dry us quickly and it was not too uncomfortable.

It was a fun afternoon which we finished off with a cold sangria and a serve of frits!

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On our way back to the nearest train station we saw a train just leaving and upon reaching the platform realized that next train was not for another 2 hours. Bugger. From Anseremme back to Dinant was only 3 km so it was either wait 2 hours for the next train or walk back along the Meuse River. We had been using only our arms in the kayak so our legs could do with a stretch and workout as well.

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Back in Dinant we’d had grand ideas of ‘frocking up’ for dinner. But none of us felt like walking back to the asylum and then coming back into the centre to eat. So we just picked a restaurant, out of the handful that were open with tables and chair riverside, and had dinner in our now completely dry kayak clothing.

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Worked muscles, full stomachs and hot showers back at the asylum, I don’t think anyone is going to have trouble sleeping tonight.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 16:45 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

2015 JUNE BELGIUM - A FALL IS NOT A HIT!

In Brussels we stay.

Sunday 7th June 2015 (day thirty-four)

Bruges to Aalter to Brussels

We woke to a beautiful day, never knowing it would turn to tragedy. 

Again a filling breakfast delivered to us by our slightly hung over host, Hugo. There’d be a bit of a party downstairs at the B & B last night and someone was paying dearly for it today.

As we took our bikes out onto the streets to load up the day looked promising as the sun was already shining warmly. Today the plan was to ride approximately 42km to Ghent, have a quick look around and then take the bikes on the train to finish our day in Brussels where we have an apartment booked for the next 2 nights while we explore the city.

Lyn, Sarah and I were to follow the canal bike path from Bruges to Ghent, while Toni & Shawn opted to meet us in Ghent via the train. All was going good the bike path was well sign posted and smooth, a lovely ride along the waterside. We had ridden for just over 1 hour before we had a 10 minute pit stop at a picnic table alongside the path. The weather sure was making this a beautiful enjoyable ride.

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A little later, back on the path, we passed a bicycle accident involving two lycra clad cyclists who had collided head on and were now sitting in their own bloodied mess. They said they were ok, so we rode on cautiously.

It was at about the 32 km mark that our tragedy struck, Lyn fell off her bike! At first the damage seemed minimal until the pain in her elbow was telling that this was more than just a fall and knock. The grinding sound of shattered bone could not be heard but could be imagined by the pain on Lyn’s face. Shit!

We picked up the bike, pushed it and our own a little further to a wider part of the path and I rode off looking for the nearest train station. It was obvious Lyn’s day of riding was over. Little did we know this may just be the end of her riding forever. I discovered it was 3km to the closest train station, Aalter, and by the time I returned to where Sarah & Lyn were waiting the problem of how to transport Lyn’s bike was removed by the presence of the police. They had been called to attend the accident we had passed but one of the riders had already been taken to hospital. Which is what was to happen to Lyn also, who was starting to feel greater pain as her natural adrenaline died down.

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We sent a message to the Lemons advising them of the fall and to meet us in Brussels not Ghent as there would be no stop there today. The police called an Ambulance who took Lyn to the hospital (turned out to be back to Bruges hospital) and Sarah & I rode to the train station and took our bikes onto Brussels to meet up with the Lemons. We still really had no idea of the extent of Lyn’s injuries and silently hoped it was just a bump, knowing full well it was much worse. The Police said they would take her bike and gear to the local police station to be collected later.

Arriving in Brussels we met the Lemons at the Midi station and rode to our loft accommodation, which by the way was amazing. In the meantime Lyn had messaged and advised it was bad and that her elbow was smashed. She was on her way to Brussels to go to the hospital there.

Shaun & I trained back to Aalter to collect Lyn’s bike & gear, while Toni & Sarah waited for Lyn to arrive to escort her to a public hospital in Brussels as she would require surgery asap to the damaged elbow.

What a rotten day!

Nothing works quickly here in the public hospital system and it was well into the night before Lyn was actually attended to and finally admitted into Sint Pierre Hospital, after we had paid a 50 euro fee. Not sure what that was for, but everyone seemed to have to pay it before they were seen to.

Not being able to do anything to assist, we returned to our beautiful loft apartment to return to the hospital in the morning.

Bike computer stats for today:
Time cycled: 2 hours 14 mins
Distance: 35.32 km
Average speed: 15.8 km/h
Max speed: 25 km/h
Calories burnt:366
C02 5.29
ODO 195

Monday 8th June 2015 (day thirty-five)

Brussels

Nothing worse than when worst case scenario comes true!

Lyn was admitted into a ward. Xrays confirmed operation would be needed. She was added to the list and told perhaps today or tomorrow. Visiting hours from 1pm to 7.30pm, so we were able to have a look around the centre of Brussels and enjoy some local treats before we would be allowed back in the hospital.

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Of course when in Brussels a visit to Manneken Pis is a must. This is the 4th time I have seen this little guy, and I think the 1st time I have seen him naked, usually the Manneken Pis Society dress him up.
Manneken Pis is a landmark small bronze sculpture in Brussels, depicting a naked little boy urinating into a fountain's basin. It was designed by Hiëronymus Duquesnoy the Elder and put in place in 1618.

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Our second night in the lovely loft apartment. Took full advantage of the washing machine and washed everything. Apartment and deck looked like a Chinese laundry. Have to find a cheaper place to stay, this loft is nice but at 160 euros a night it was a nice 2 night splurge but too expensive to stay any longer. And besides it's booked out so we have to move to another place.

Lyn was still waiting to hear from the surgeon as to when operation would take place. Communication is a little difficult as not many of the staff at the hospital speak a great deal of English. At least they are keeping the pain killers up to her. I am having no luck with the insurance company. They do not seem too concerned about the whole situation, offering no assistance or support of any description. Hey you heartless bastards, how about a bit of compassion and at least pretend that you care a little about the travellers that are paying you hundreds of dollars and never making claims. Guess you only find out how good your insurance company is when you need them. And at the present time – ours sucks!

Tuesday 9th June 2015 (day thirty-six)

Brussels

Visiting hours are not until 1pm , and when we went up to the hospital Lyn was still waiting to go in for the operation. Apparently the theatre was running behind schedule.

Lyn just before going in for operation:
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We moved to new accommodation today. Major/minor drama that we finally won and found a suitable place close by to the hospital. We have booked it for 4 nights.

Travel insurance company does not seem to be real interested in assisting us. Looks like this is going to be a fight. No support or guidance or anything from them.

They finally did operate on Lyn today. We went back up the hospital and were still there when visiting hours finished at 7.30pm. Lyn was still in recovery and we hid in the room hoping to be there when she was brought back to the ward.
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Just after 9pm the nurse came in and told us that Lyn was sleeping well and they were keeping her in recovery, that she would not be brought back to the ward so we may as well go home.


Wednesday 10th June 2015 (day thirty-seven)

Brussels

At the hospital visiting Lyn, Dr Ster, the surgeon said her elbow was a real mess, but should hopefully heal back to 97% normal. Had to insert a couple of plates and pins to try and jigsaw her elbow bones back together. Lyn still in a lot of pain, but is being given medication to try and keep her comfortable.

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Surgeon said she should be able to fly on Friday, so trying to coordinate with insurance company to arrange a ticket. Why are they not helping?
Battle with insurance company continues.

Just killing time.

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Posted by Cindy Bruin 15:55 Archived in Belgium Comments (4)

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