A Super Bowl in Brussels

Time to switch themes for a bit and move on to topics of great travel experiences.

I feel like I have so many good travel stories that it was going to be really hard to choose the first one. However, watching Peyton Manning lose his second Super Bowl last night made the decision easy.

In mid-December of 2009, while I was still at IBM, I decided that I should present at a sales meeting we were having in Brussels in early February of the coming year even though it was the day after the Super Bowl. This was not an easy decision for me. Hosting a Super Bowl party every year is “a thing” for me. For other people it might be birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, or any other day. For me, Super Bowl Sunday. Not close.

I almost always start trips off an event or attraction – even if it is adding to a business trip. In this case, although not your standard Brussels attraction, I had to plan for an expat bar for the Super Bowl. Too good of an opportunity to miss! So, I found a friend who worked at the Canadian embassy in Brussels for a number of years and he recommended Fat Boys in Place du Luxembourg.

Place du Luxembourg

Place du Luxembourg

From there I got on to planning. My hotel was preselected for business so I didn’t have to worry about that. I was presenting on the Monday at 3 PM local time so I didn’t want to risk coming in on a red eye the night before nor did I want to miss the game. This meant flying on the Saturday red eye.

Flying is not something that I mind, however, making connections – especially at London Heathrow – is not something I ever look forward to doing. And man do I love trains! So my advice to get from North America to Brussels – unless you can get a direct flight – is:

– Fly to London Heathrow
Heathrow Express to Paddington Station (15 mins)
– Take the tube (and mind the gap!) for 5 stops to Kings Cross St Pancras (10 minutes)
– Take the Eurostar to Brussels (2 hours)

So much more enjoyable than connecting flights!

After arriving, I checked in and explored the area around the hotel and made sure I picked up chocolate to bring home. Normally, I would have found local places where tourists don’t go, but Super Bowl Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday!

Just before the game started I jumped in a cab and headed for Fat Boys, telling myself to take it easy. It was super late local time and I had to present in 12 hours. Well, in Belgium, drink Abbey and Trappist beers, right? I love those beers, but in my excitement and jet lag, limiting myself to 5 or 6 failed me when I wasn’t thinking that they were averaging 12% ABV. The next day was rough, but it was an accident!

The game itself was great. The Who at halftime (even if they played exclusively from the “CSI playlist”) and New Orleans taking home the prize while they were still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

Not a typical trip to Brussels, but a great experience for sure.

’til next time … Kirk, out.

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