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Toronto to Brussels

Monday morning we woke up and went searching for more chemicals in our attempt to clean the drive way as well as a few more random items that we had either forgotten or realized were necessary. Unfortunately, it turned out to be Victoria day and the only open stores were those selling garden supplies and flowers so we headed back to Anne Marie's to begin prepping our bikes for shipping. Preparation meant re-organizing our luggage for what felt like the 20th time to accommodate as much motorcycle gear as possible while pulling out any necessities for the two days without our bikes. Once packed, we headed to the airport with a quick stop at McDonalds to ensure we were fueled up and ready for what we expected to be a long, tedious and likely frustrating process.

Locating the Air Canada cargo area took us on a wild goose chase around the airport but we finally located it with the help of multiple airport personnel. I had no complaints with this adventure around the airport as it gave me more time to enjoy an absolutely beautiful red sunset. We arrived at the cargo area and after being received by a very charismatic Asian security guard we ran into our first problem. The Dangerous Goods documentation we had received apparently had a few problems. The first and foremost being it was not printed in color. We all had a sneaking suspicion that Steve the "paper work guy" helping us may have been avoiding dealing with us as his shift was ending. Regardless we set out to get the document fixed and printed. As it was still a holiday and was getting pretty late (9:00) our options for printing were pretty minimal and we decided our best chance was a hotel. The second hotel we visited had color printing and after a bit of forgery to add the bike weights and some help from our buddy Ricky at the front desk we had the proper documents printed. On the way back to the airport we found a empty parking lot to drain some gas from our tanks to make them acceptable to ship. This process involved sucking on a rubber tube and a mouth full of gasoline fumes. Once we were satisfied with our gas levels we drove to the airport and began the process again.

Sunset at Pearson International Airport, Toronto

Graham emptying his gas tank

Arriving at the Air Canada cargo area for the second time we were greeted by our favorite Asian security guard again. He was extremely helpful and helped us locate a new guy to help us get the paper work figured out. We then went about disengaging our batteries and taping the terminals to prevent a short. We then had to run all of our luggage through an x-ray and have our bikes inspected by security personnel. During this process our Asian friend made sure we were well taken care of, had plenty of space and were entertained with stories and lots of advice. The rest of the night flew by as we waited for the paper work guy to get everything in order. After a small scare with a quote of $6,000 and a long wait, the paper work guy got us an even better price than we were originally quoted at $2,750 Canadian. At this point it was 2:30 am and were getting pretty worn out. We finished up paying and getting everything figured out and ordered a cab. It felt weird leaving the bikes in the hands of some random people (and just in general being separated from them), but the Air Canada personnel were extremely friendly and helpful so there was little doubt that they would be well cared for. On the way back to Anne Marie's everyone passed out, exhausted from the 6 plus hours of logistics and waiting we had just faced. We awoke at Anne Maries to a unpleasantly large cab fare but were too tired to put up an argument and quickly headed to bed thereafter.

The next day we woke late and decided to give the errands we had failed to accomplish the previous day another go. This time we were successful and found a place to copy and print some crucial documents. We also made a stop at the grocery store and wine shop to pick up food to cook up a nice dinner to thank Anne Marie for her hospitality. We spent the rest of the day scrubbing the drive way, cooking and catching up with friends and family.

The next morning Anne Marie dropped us at the train station to head into Toronto. We explored Toronto and visited the CN tower, some of the sporting arenas and took a walk by the water front. While not very authentic, the Chipotle we had for lunch was filling and tasty and necessary for the flight ahead. Heading to the airport we made a pretty dumb mistake and got on a street car instead of the subway. Two hours after departing Toronto we made it to the airport, excited to finally be on our way to Brussels. We were all pretty dubious of the airline we had booked on as the flight cost only $400. However, it turned out to be awesome and we were able to check a bag for free which saved Graham's pocket knife. On top of the free checked bag the seats were comfortable and they provided free drinks, a tasty meal and free movies. Graham and I watched a movie and passed out after a beer or two. Michael, however, couldn't let the opportunity for free movies and alcohol go and so he spent the entire flight watching movies.

Quick nap and some reading before the flight

On arrival to Brussels we got through security and after a brief conversation with airport personnel found that our bikes had not yet arrived but were arriving a day later. We made our way into the city to meet up with Graham's "aunt" Arleane. We met her at her very nice hotel near the city center in an area called St. Katherine's. After a quick greeting headed into the city to explore and get some grub. Lunch for the day was a Kabab shop which we were warned to get used to as they were common, cheap and filling. Fighting off jetlag we wandered the city exploring beer and chocolate stores. We made our way to the "Grand Place" and further on to the Manneken-Pis. Manneken-pis is a famous, yet very small, fountain of a boy peeing. It was quite entertaining but we weren't sure what all the hype was about.

The Grand Place in Brussels

We returned to the hotel for a nap before heading back into the city with Arleane for our first beers in Brussels! The first spot we visited was called Delirium and was a very popular location. It had a world record for having the most beers on tap in 2008 but what we enjoyed the most were the delicious, yet potent, Belgian beers. After beers we headed to a coffee shop to try the famed Belgian chocolate. Arleane treated us to a sample box of various chocolates from Caramel filled to salted to pistachio. Another beer at an outdoor seating area and we were all reading for some food. Michael found a place that, after some bargaining, offered 10 euro buckets of muscles and a beer. I got the same deal on a steak dinner that I was very happy about. Another stop at delirium for some post-dinner beers and we were all about to fall asleep where we stood so we retired to the hotel.

Breakfast the following day we decided to explore the European supermarkets and found some delicious bread, cheese and some very salty meat. We spread out on the curb, attracting attention as usual and ate our fill before returning to the hotel. Checking our spot app we found that the bikes had landed in Brussels so we headed to the airport to pick up our bikes. On arriving at the cargo area we did a few laps around in search of the cargo area that held our bikes. We finally found it and began the process to get them released to us. The big problem came in the form of customs and it took us walking to 2 different buildings before they even realized that we were not permanently importing the bikes into Belgian. This was only realized once we showed them our Carnet de Passage so the lesson we learned was to have all paper work that may pertain available. Once this was realized they had only a slight idea of what to do with us. The third location we visited, a lady walked us to our bikes to verify that they were in fact our bikes. The lady turned out to be very helpful and walked us through the remaining steps to get them released. An hour or two later and a few different buildings we had the proper paperwork and were led to our bikes and allowed to touch them. Being re-united with Jolene was a great feeling and I know the other two guys were feeling similar. Exiting the cargo area we headed into the city, ecstatic and a bit nervous about driving in Europe.

Figuring out customs in Brussels


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