On a whim we pulled off in a designated walk/bike/horse way to take a stroll along a brook under the shade of trees and have a picnic of bread, cheese and hard boiled eggs (we also enjoyed a bottle of brett sour beer.
We were a little concerned about our next b&b as the hostess had not written to confirm our stay nor to give us directions until after Jo found her email address and wrote to her which we then we got a confirmation for only one night rather than the full three nights we had reserved. Eventually we got that settled and we wrote it off as a minor SNAFU.
Check-in was normally scheduled after 6:00 PM but our hostess said that she had to pick up her son, feed him and then take him to an afterschool activity so there was a window of opportunity between 3:00-3:30. We arrived around 3:20, were told that we had no access to any public areas and were shown to our room: a small, sterile room with a view of the driveway and the street that seemed more like a child's room or a rather depressing college dorm room - this wasn't pictured on the website that advertised the place. There were no drapes to provide any privacy from street-level gawkers - we were told to shut the mechanical, metal louvers which locked-down to create and even more oppressive, claustrophobic experience. It appeared to us that the hostess had overlooked our reservation and set us up into an unplanned, overflow room. As we had no welcome access to the kitchen, we timidly asked if we could put our perishables in the refrigerator for the days we would be lodging. Stephanie, our hostess, was amenable to our request but somehow we felt guilty for asking.
After the hostess left with her child a quick exploration of the shared bathroom facilities revealed that they weren't thoroughly clean. A damp washrag was in the half bath, and the upstairs bathroom with shower (accessed by climbing an unfinished concrete stairway with a makeshift, flimsy railing) had several personal toiletries lining the counter next to the sink.
Depressed at having to pay to stay in this less than optimal setting with hosts that had made no effort to make us feel welcome, we started researching alternative housing. When we were aware that our hostess was in the house around 5:00, we timidly knocked on the living room door and requested to talk with her. She told us she was seeing a patient (apparently she is a physiotherapist) and could possibly speak to us at 6:15.
When we finally were able to speak with her about 6:25, we told her that we were very unhappy and wanted to find alternative housing. She was shocked as, "no one has ever been dissatisfied before", but she agreed to our proposal that we would pay and stay one night and leave the next night but, if we couldn't find anything, we would stay the full three nights originally contracted. Satisfied by our mutually amicable agreement, we left in search of an eaterie for dinner.
Have we said how much we do not look forward to exploring with the car in larger towns? The autres directions or "rings" are damned annoying. There is never enough time to read the signs while coordinating with maps or memory. Although we have learned to just keep going around until we figure it out, it still causes us to bark at each other. Regardless, Jo sited a tavern on a corner as we were approaching the city center. The problem, however, was to navigate the city center before we could figure out how to (re)find the cool little tavern Jo spotted. Totally turned around, we found ourselves outside the city centre once again. Deciding upon retracing our first route in, we noticed a Best Western off to the right, thinking if worse comes to worse, we will just stay the night there. At any rate, after some navigation, Jo directed us to the tavern on the corner.
Long story short, great meal (gawd, the butter), great beers - 2 hours later we head back to our cell. We arrive jovial and full to be met by the quite agitated HUSBAND. Merde. The entire exchange was incredibly undignified by our Belgium hosts (more details will be available on our review of the guest house). Stephanie, the wife and hostess, had backpedalled on her previous agreement with us and now the husband wanted us to pay, pay, pay. Wife then decided that "why wait"; if we were going to leave then leave NOW; at 10:15 at night; in a foreign country with no place to go. Believe it or not, despite all this, neither Jo nor I swore (although Jo repeatedly stated Shame on You!!! This is wrong and unethical. You are bad people.) FORTUNATELY, we knew where the Best Western was. Off we go.
Spent another couple of hours that night into morning and the next morning attempting to find a place to stay for the weekend. Many phone calls with the booking service, booking.com - they were great, by the way - dealing with stupid accusations like "no shows" and "stealing towels". After spending the entire morning using up our limited international sims card (but Best Western did offer a very impressive breakfast buffet), we finally booked a room 20 km south of Brussels. Of course, there is much more detail to this than space permits...
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Decided to drive to Luxembourg (the country), a few kilometers away. Gas is cheap there...something about the taxes. Filled up. Found a little hike (not the one we were trying to find on the map, of course). Had a nice, but sweaty walk (very hot and humid). Unfortunately, we hadn't heard the final verdict on the SNAFU, whether our anti-hosts were going to try to force us to pay a cancellation fee for them canceling on us or if they were going to press charges on their "missing towels" so we wasted a lot of beautiful country (the "mountains" and forests, with a mix of dense village-based population and farmland, reminds us of upstate New York in the Adirondacks) talking about this nonsense.
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We arrive at the Piano II Hotel in Corvais near Ottignies-Louvain-La-Neuve , a college town. We were quite happy to find that the owner of the hotel was a wonderful and pleasant woman who made us feel quite welcomed. We opted out of the optional breakfast as the room has a small kitchenette (what makes us most happy is to be able to fix our own food - especially salads!). We are currently sitting out on the terrace behind our room.
We explored some parks, the ruins of a massive abbey, and a brew-pub(!) that was empty as it was still quite hot and they had no outdoor seating. Good beers, very impressed with the care given to washing the proper glass for each brew - even if it was just a free sample as we made up our minds what to order. Unfortunately they were sold out of their t-shirts which featured a troll ecstatically sucking on a tap.