6 Oct, 2005 | TravelTdp

Bear with me here, I'm a touch tired, I was up at 4am (Belgian time) this morning, to be ready for a cab to Brussels airport so that I could catch my flight home at 7:10am so it's already been a long day for me and I've only had 5 hours sleep.

Anyway, one lesson I learnt from my trip was: always ask your taxi driver how long he has been doing the job. I landed at 9pm Monday night in Brussels and had to get to my hotel Antwerp. I could have used public transport, but I didn't fancy wandering around an unfamiliar city at night looking for my hotel, so I grabbed a taxi from the airport.

Now, the guy did pause when I told him the name of my hotel and that it was in Antwerp. He confessed he didn't know Antwerp very well, later he told me he had only been a taxi driver for 7 days. That is not a good length of time as far as I'm concerned. So, he's only been doing the job a week and we're headed to a city he doesn't know very well looking for a hotel he's never heard of and, as it turns out, is so new many of the locals have never heard of it either.

Now, for perspective I should point out that my return trip took 35 minutes and cost just over €70. My trip from the airport took 90 minutes and the driver stopped the meter at €92. My taxi driver on the way out was of Greek decent and barely stopped talking the entire way there until we got into Antwerp and we had to stop so he could check the map. We then proceeded to go around Antwerp in every direction for about an hour.

At one point we pulled over and he asked a cyclist for help. So there was the driver and the cyclist pouring over a map and speaking rapidly in Belgian (which is actually Dutch on that side of Belgium -- they speak Dutch, French, Flemish and German in Belgium). On the way back to the airport I realised that the road we stopped on was the same road we were now using to get out of Antwerp on. At one point he leapt out of the car to check out the name of the road we were going to turn into while we sat at a red traffic light. The next person he asked was in a petrol station (he was hanging around the pump on his mobile near his scooter). As it turned out, the petrol station was right next to our work building and 5 mins from the hotel, not that we found it. We drove straight past the end of the road it was on, ended up 'pulling a u-ey' (as the Americans call it) and then he stopped again to ask some people at a bus stop (they looked like customs officials), he had to hop out of the car to go find them. One of them told him where it was before another said no, it wasn't there and that he'd never heard of the hotel before the first guy piped up that it was new.

So, after seeing what felt like all of Antwerp by night, I finally got to the hotel.