Since Christmas fell on a Friday this year, I took advantage of the long weekend to head to Europe to visit some Christmas markets. The markets in Germany close on December 24th, so I did a little research and discovered the markets in Belgium go thru January 3rd. Since I also have family that lives there is was a easy choice to make.
For various reason, I choose to fly Delta Airlines. I have not flown Delta since I was 4 years old. Having been exclusive to United/Star Alliance for last 4 years, I’ve been interested in seeing what other options were out there. I was actually looking forward to it. Silly me.
My first flight was Chicago to New York. It was middle of the day and Christmas Eve, so no surprise it was mostly leisure travelers. But there was something about this group that was just bizarre. Like we were being filmed for a TV special on strange airport/flight behavior. It was like a seat assignment was a foreign concept, and why can’t I bring my kitchen sink in the cabin. It was just weird. Even the flight attendants agreed. Maybe it was just holiday stress.
I had about a 3 hour layover in JFK, so I went to the lounge. Now this impressed me, it is one of the nicest domestic lounges in the US I’ve been to. They had real, edible, tasty food. Chicken in some sauce and roasted sweet potatoes. Yum. All was fine until I got yelled at my some surly attendant for sitting in the “paid” section of the lounge. I just wanted a table and I guess the middle section of the tables were for people that wanted premium drinks/food. I was told to move. It should be noted I was on the only one that was told to move, even though the section was not full nor was anyone else asked to move. Including the lady sitting next to me, who had not ordered anything either. Christmas spirit and all, I just let it go.
I took the 500 mile walk to the gate, where general boarding had already commenced. I had priority boarding. I know from experience, people in general boarding are not interested in letting you cut the line. I was not expecting the red carpet when I boarded the plane, but I was little shocked at the reception of the flight attendants. Given the light load, there were a lot of standby’s on the flight. Great for them, bad for me. I was virtually ignored. I am not complaining that I was not treated like the Queen of the Sky that I am. ( Totally kidding). I am just saying it was like they were being inconvenienced to have me on the flight. After having stuffed my face on sweet potatoes in the lounge, I declined the dinner service. This was before the door even closed. This was the last interaction I had with anyone until about an hour before landing. All I can say, Delta made United look like Emirates.
Brussels has great public transportation. Trains, Trams and Buses are a plenty. You can get from the airport to the city center by train or bus. I opted for the train, which takes about 18 mins and cost 8.50 euro. I booked in the Hilton Grand Place which is located right outside the Gare Centrale. Little tip for visiting Brussels, book over a weekend. Hotels can be found extremely cheap due to the high occupancy during the week when the EU parliament is in session.
I spent Christmas Day with my aunt and cousins. It was quite nice. I also visited the Grand Place. It was nice and not so crowded.
I would like to say the next day I did all this sightseeing. That would be a no. I just wandered around the city. I did make a new friend though. Howard of Howards Brussels. My wallet, however, remained a stranger to Howard which a good thing.
I just wandered around the streets of Brussels, taking in the sights and enjoying the wonderful mild weather.
At one point I tried to head back to my hotel and I discovered surprise surprise, Google did not work. Notice the weird route it gave me.
Now no trip to Brussels is proper without an obligatory waffle on the street. Back in the day you had to look for them, now they drive to you.
I guess it’s hard to resist a good waffle. The Hop On Hop off bus driver, saw a truck and just stopped the bus. It was not even a scheduled stop, he just hopped off and got a waffle.
On a fun note, I found the same hut outside the church at the Christmas Market near the Grand Place. They were selling the same truffles that I fell in love with back in 2010. I found the market was not as magical without the freezing temperatures and falling snow. The heavy police and military presence also did not help.
I am glad I went and got to spend time with my family. Soon enough it was time to head home, and what adventure that turned out to be. Chicago was hit with a horrible winter storm and all flights were cancelled. 20 hours past schedule, I eventually made it back to Chicago. Delta handling of the situation took my by surprise. I respectfully reverse my previous negative comments. I will chalk up my negative experience to holiday stress. I would probably not fly them again internationally unless the get more comfortable seats.
I hope all had a Happy Holiday!