An ordinary private computer science student from the College Historical Society, Aughrim Street Scouts, National Venture Scout Programme Team and Da Northsoide began his year abroad with a 6.25 flight to Charleroi (Brussels South). Now by 6.25 I mean 7.10 and by Brussels south i mean Frankfurt, Germany. Turns out Belgium was under heavy fog so the guys couldn't land the plane. It actually worked out well the best because I was only 4.5 hours away from my actual destination - a new record for R***air.
Anyhoo, queue a walk up to the nice people in the info booth in Frankfurt and the use of my best German. Discovered that the bus to Charleroi would shortly be outside the door, marvelled at the distance between Frankfurt and Brussels on a nearby map and got on the bus. 50 mins later the driver felt it was time to start moving. On the way we crossed the Moselle, and saw the only castle remaining on the river to have survived the war, which was nice, (the castle, not the war).
Despite the fact that UCL told me I could get a direct bus from the airport to the town, I decided to accept the advice of a kind stranger and hopped on the shuttle bus to Charleroi, the town not the cattleshed ("airport"). When we got to Gare Charleroi Sud, I heaved my 3 bags of over 35kg up the steps to platform 5 and it was off to Nivelles with me. In Nivelles i got a suburban train which went north to Brussels and back down to L-l-N.
Having taken several breaks on the way up the stairs on to the main street of L-l-N, I saw it. The best college town in the world ever.
Imagine if you would if Connolly station was placed smack bang in the middle of new square of TCD. Now imagine if only students got the train there, and the next station on was for a theme park. Now imagine if Stephen´s Green shopping centre was also placed in Fellows Square, but had the shops from Dundrum, and a basement bit with a Louvre-esque glass covered sous-terrain. Now imagine if all the main roads around TCD went under it, and every building (apartments, newly relocated Connolly and Stephen's Green SC had underground parking. What you are currently imagining is Louvain-la-Neuve.
After finding the hostel in which i would be staying temporarily, I went for a stroll around the batements. The place was quite noisy as 5 or 6 fraternity/sorority type groups were initiating their new recruits; press-ups, rolling around in beer and food, and generally being shouted at.
Then i went into the aforementioned Shopping centre and found the greatest toy shop ever, better indeed the ones I'd visited in NYC, Oberbeieber, Cologne and Brussels. They've got 6 foot tall Marsupilami's and loads of board games in a strange language called French and the best selection of Top-Trumps I've ever seen.