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January 22nd, 2012

Cambio

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So because I don't have a lease-car anymore at the very least until I get a new job , I signed up with Cambio, a car-sharing service. So far I am very happy about the service. 

The idea is quite simple. You pay a 35 euro entrance fee into the program and you choose between 3 packages. There's the Start, Bonus and Comfort packages. The monthly fees are respectively 4, 8 or 22 euro's (1 euro less if you do automated payments), but the price per hour/day/week and per km are all cheaper for the more advances packages. Also, they all have a limited use per month which equals the deposit, which is 600 euro for the Bonus and Comfort package, and between 150 and 260 (as per own choice). This deposit is returned to you when you cancel your subscription with Cambio. Since we're also going to drive one of these to England this week, we went for the Bonus package. 

The use is really simple. You can book online or by phone. Reservations can even be made only a moment in advance. There's many different pickup sites in cities all over Belgium and Germany. You can pretty much always get a car of one of the 4 different size types. At the pick up site closest to our house, at the St. Jacob square, just down the hill, they have about 8 cars and even should those all be gone, you could just go to one of the other sites. For example, there's 9 pickup sites in Leuven alone. When using the bonus package for a small car, you pay 1,75 euro per hour, 21 per day, 125 for a week. Between 23:00 and 7:00 you don't even need to pay the hourly fee. It's 26 cents per kilometer for the first 100km, and afterwards it becomes 22 cents per km. When booking online you can already put in the distance you expect you'll be driving, and you can already get an estimate for how much it will cost you. No worries with the gassing up cause there's a tank card in all the cars for all Esso and Shell stations in all of Europe (for the cars in Leuven it's a Total card cause there's no Shell of Esso around here).

Using the car itself is also quite simple. You get a magnetic membership card, which you can use to unlock a car that you reserved. Inside you then take the little board computer out of the glove compartment, type in your pin-code, and you can take the key. Then you can just use the key for further use of the car to lock and unlock as needed as long as your reservation lasts. And when you're done using it, you just put the key back in it's place, and you can lock the car again with your card. When you're running a bit late, and need to extend your reservation, you can just use the on-board computer to call Cambio, and you can usually extend without any issues. (though there may be an extra fee if someone had it reserved already and there's no other cars available for the next customer on that site, if there's another car free though, they'll just transfer that person to the next car). If you bring the car in earlier then your reservation ended, you only pay 1/3rd of the price for the remaining time. 

I've used it 2 times already for job interviews I had on thursday and friday, and will be using it again for a job interview in Rumst on tuesday, and then again to go to Conception from wednesday till sunday. It's really nice and I can advice it for everyone. Of course if you're using it alone, then public transportation is cheaper, but the convenience is already worth it, but as soon as you get in there with 2 or more people, it's often cheaper already. For job interviews it's a godsend, especially for those in places that are hard to reach with public transportation (have been screwed over with bus connections that only go once every hour and then either don't show or show up half an hour late a few times already). But it's especially nice for those occasional trips. A family visits, trips to the vet, a pick-up at Ikea, a weekend away in the Ardennes, you name it. It's easy to use, quick and reliable.

Go check it out! There's also similar services in the UK and in the Netherlands.


September 10th, 2009

So this weekend Jules and me went on La Transardennaise. A normally 7 day walk (not including the 1st day of arrival) through the Ardennes. We not being that experienced in the walking department, opted for the shorter, 3 days of walking, from La Roche-en-Ardenne and ending in Nassogne. In total a whopping 75 km of walking in 3 days. Of course, google can't follow all he little paths we took, we had a lot of times where there was no path at all, but this is sort off how we went.

We arrived in La Roche the evening before we would start on our hikes. This night in the hotel there, Hotel les Arcades, was included in the arrangements. We checked in at 18:30, and had our first dinner, consisting of a salad with friend goatcheese for starters, duck sided with cranberries and red cabbage for the main course and a Dame Blanche for desert. We then proceeded into the town to scout out our starting position and then returned to our hotel, watching the first cable tv we'd seen in years and went to sleep early to prepare for the days ahead.

After breakfast the next day we started on our walk. The starting point was just on the edge of town. Just outside the edge of town we came across our first obstacle. A gruelling climb that would bring us from the modest 250 meters that the town was at to 350 meters at the top of the hill. being faced with this we suddenly remembered that we had to do our stretches. Remember kids, always do your stretches before going on a 30 km walk. Yes, the first day was a whopping 30 km. Mind you, it was a really cool 30 km walk. After the initial climb we trudged along on the top of the hill a bit with amazing views, and came to the cillages of Hives, La Vaux, Cens and Wyompont passing a variety of fields, forests and hills as we went. But originally the first day would have been 25,5 km according to our route description, but our hotel was changed form the one in Sprimont to Lavacherie (with Aviscourt in between). But that wasn't all that bad in the end cause the one we passed in Sprimont looked a lot less fancy than l'Auberge de Lavacherie. Anyway, all in all a great walk and the 30 km wasn't that bad, even though our training walks in the High Fenns were only 20-22 km. Having arrived in Lavacherie, we relaxed in the luxurious room, had a shower and were treated to a nice dinner. Some small apetizers, followed by chicken and mushroom soup, which tasted a lot like chicken ragout, for starters, followed by a main course of Ardennes Ham from the bone with a mustard sause, and strawberry icecream with strawberries for desert.

The next day we had the luxuy of sleeping in late, because our first hotel was further down the road then uit normally would have been, we only had to do 18 km the second day, in stead of the 23 the scedule said. The second day was lined with a lot more woods then the first, not as many fields and not a lot of climbing. Muscles were still a bit sore from the day before now and then, but all in all i was a pretty easy day. We made our way from Lavacherie to Saint Hubert, basically making a nice stroll through the woods. Our hotel was not actually in Saint-Hubert itself but in a little neighbouring village called Hatrival. We got picked up by the owner of the hotel Gaussignac, Michel, an incredibly friendly man, by car. We got asked when we'd like to eat, since we were the only guests at the time and we were treated like royals. We started with an apertif of red wine with strawberry, which went excelent with the tiny, tiny soup with frog, shrimp and basil, which was extraordinary combined with eachother. We then got a delicously light pate, followed by a main course of risotto with sun dried tomatoes and goat cheese, and chicken in a cream sauce. For desert, nougat icecream. We had a nice little chat with Michel after dinner and went to bed utterly satisfied after this feast.

The last day we were dropped off by Michel again and we continued on our way. The last day was utter hell. It was going to be 27 km of hills. To get out of Saint-Hubert, we had to climb a very steep hill. We then had to walk through a fairly freshly manured field (which didn't stink but our shoes were covered). Then into the woods, where the only upside to that days walk appeared. Suddenly to our left was the sound of wild boars. As we watched through the trees as they scattered about, we saw a about 4 females, 1 big male and between 6 and 8 piglets. Now wikipedia tells me that the males don't generally travel with the 'sounder' but if this was not a male, with the high shoulders and another half added to the size of the other females, then it must have been a crossdressing boar. It was very cute to see the piglets darting through the sunlight. When they cleared out we kept whispering and a good thing too, cause when we moved about 50 meters up the road to the bend, we saw them again, this time a bit easier to spot as one was standing in the high grass, with no trees. We eventually moved on again, whispering for at least another hour. A descend, another ascend, another descend, nothing special, lots of pretty trees and streams. And then we had to make another climb leading us 100 meters up. Spread over 2 km according to the maps, but damn, that was hard on us. Another descend, only to prepare us for our last climb which was steeper then all the ones before, finally bringing us to our destination town of Nassogne. Here we got picked up, and brought back to our car, where we drove back home, to our kitty, who missed us loads it seems.

In conclusion, this was a great 4 days out. Getting to walk from hotel to hotel was great for us, cause if we'd just gone to 1 hotel and planned some routes from there, we know we'd not have walked nearly this much. The fact that we got to stay in fancy hotels and that our luggage was brought to the hotels ahead of us was great too for starting hikers like us. So we can definitely recommend these trips for people who are interested. A few words of advise: Go hiking a few times in advance as well to train, if you're not accustomed to this. It will wreck you if you don't. And never ever forget to stretch, before and after a hike.

June 1st, 2009

WTF addictive

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This is such a simple game. It's all basically up to chance. And yet it's so addictive.

It's My Brute. Feel free to challenge me!

May 21st, 2009

Change of phone number

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So I got this phone from work. And for a while I carried 2 phones with me. Then I started putting my old phone in my bag. And now I really just don't use it anymore and I keep missing out on phone cals and messages cause I haven't given people my work phone number yet.

So here's my new number: +32 (0)4 70 99 04 27
 You'll have a better chance of reaching me there.

May 14th, 2009

I guess this gives some hope about the Star Trek Film.


Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'

May 12th, 2009

Prague Report

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We just came back from Prague yesterday. It was a great holiday, though not entirely without setbacks.

The night before we left I wanted to put the address of the hotel in the GPS and started putting down "Tsjechie" for Czech Republic. But as soon as I put down the T it said: Destination not found. Turns out my GPS only had Western Europe. Now I wanted to download Eastern Europe as well, but then that didn't fit, because my GPS only has 1GB in memory and the maps of Western Europe were already over 800MB. So I had to delete the map of Western Europe, so I could get the map of Eastern Europe on there. Lot of trouble, but it still beats having to try and find your way with a map.

So the next day we get in the car, you know, the one I got the day before that. I plug int he power cable for the GPS into the 12V Lighterplug and I notice the light doesn't come on. I twist it around a bit, but to no avail. I put the lighter back in and press the button and it just doesn't pop up. Yay, no power for the GPS! But we managed to make due by just turning it off a lot. Luckily most of the instructions still included: drive straight on this road for 250 km. I'd just turn it off, turn it back on after 245km and this way we managed to still have enough battery power to get around in Prague. And we could still make out planned detour at Castle Weissenstein in Pommersfelden, Germany!

Castle Weissenstein was really pretty, but we could not get inside, as there was only 1 tour a day and that was at noon or something. But then again we didn't really want to go inside anyway. But it was nice to walk around the castle a bit. There wa also a garden where you have to pay 1 euro to get in and we decided to go for it. At the gate was a sign saying: "Careful, free roaming animals. No dogs allowed". We scoffed it off, thinking there would be some bunnies. Anyway, the gardens were gorgeous, nice outstretched fields with trees, a lake, cute little groundskeeper houses. And then out of nowhere a deer bounded across the little path in front of us. We decided to follow it for a while trying to get some pictures in, and found another 3 deers as this one re-united with it's herd. So we learned the lesson that when Germans say there's free roaming animals, to not underestimate them.

After this refreshing break we continued on to the Czech Republic and got to Prague no problem. Had a bit of a hard time finding a parking spot for the receptionist at our hostel told us that if we continued down the same street for a few minutes there was some parking there that was free for the entire weekend. After some looking around and checking the Lonely Planet we found out that Po-Pa actually meant Mon-Fri (as in which days it was paid parking) and so we found the area the receptionist meant. We went to have some dinner at a place that serves typical Czech food, and we had stewed pork, sauerkraut and potato and bread dumplings. Not world shockingly good food, but nice enough really. Also we found out that the Lonely Planet LIED to us! It said that the Czech words in there were basically pronounced as written (with some exceptions listed). So we tried to thank our waiter in Czech, "Dekuji!" We said this as written, so de-ku-ji. The waiter looked as us funny and said: "You must mean Dekuji". Feeling thoroughly shamed, we took his kind language lesson to mind and wrote down the word in as you'd spell it in French (Descuit). We ended the day with a walk to the river to have a look at view over the bridges and Prague Castle.

The next day we were going to Prague Castle, but before we went there I wanted to check on the car. I was a bit paranoid that we'd misunderstood the parking meters or that they'd just give me a ticket anyway cause I'm a tourist or that the car had been broken in to. You never know. But walking through the street there there was one distinct thing missing:

MY CAR WAS GONE!!

We quickly found a police officer (there is by the way a great number of police in the streets of Prague) who spoke hardly a word of English but he seemed to understand my car was gone. And he radioed in to ask. And thank god my car was indeed impounded by the police. When asked why the man didn't know what to say really and with help from the maps we had in out Lonely Planet he managed to explain where the car as taken. The receptionist did speak English and she called for us to check what had happened (she was feeling very guilty because she was the one who pointed out that car park to us). They'd explained to her that my car had been towed because the streets had been cleaned. Apparently there had been signs. Of course, we never saw any signs, and if there were signs we never would have been able to read them, and considering that all the parking spots were filled it seemed like no other cars had been towed, so it did feel a bit like we were being screwed over. But we made our way to the station, got the car and 'only' had to pay 1450 Ckr (+/- 60) in stead of 2000+ Ckr (+/- €80+). The experience was totally weird by the police's entire lack of English or German and the fact that they had this little teller window where you could not see the face of the person on the other side. This all of course ensures that there's the least possible amount of argument while they try to rip tourists off and it worked. Yes I'd been screwed, but there's no way to do anything about it when they have your car behind bars and they pretend to not speak any other language. At least I got my car back.

The rest of the day we just did some of the walking tours in the Lonely Planet. Prague is really beautiful with all the elaborate architecture. It would look completely like a city of over 200 years ago, if it was not on the fact that capitalism literally exploded there. There's more signs for McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks and other big chains then you can count. All the beautiful buildings are littered with neon lights. It's still delightful to walk around though as long as you manage to avoid the throngs of tourists, which we managed to do due to the help of the Lonely Planet. It always helped us to find the little gems behind the big tourist attractions and the quiet little squares just behind the street filled with 100's of people. Of course sometimes you can't avoid the tourists, like when you go to see the Astronomical Clock, but you're quickly led away from their main routes again.

We had dinner in an Afghan restaurant (never seen one before, but it's a lot like many other Middle Eastern restaurants) and had drinks in a nice, typically Czech, bar for the rest of the evening. On the way back passing by the car again. Caranoia had struck me. Luckily it was still there.

The next day we went to Prague Castle (after having checked ont he car of course). This is the largest ancient castle in the world. This is a great claim and no doubt true, but sadly you don't really get this feeling walking around in it. The castle's foundation are from the 9th century and in some things on the castle grounds you can really tell, like the inside of the small Basilica of St George. This little building is really where you can see what has happened with the castle. The inside is really ancient Romanesque style, with graves from the 10th century and remains of a 12th century fresco. The outside however shows nothing of this. And this goes for most of the castle really. It's all gone along with it's time, now showing more Renaissance style, some Baroque, but over the years it's always been renovated to fit the current tastes of the rulers of the castle. And this is what sort off takes some of the glory of the castle. The buildings inside look a lot like the regular buildings in the streets of Prague. And if you've seen a McDonalds in a prettier building just the day before, it sort of steals the glory of such a grand castle. But at least having done the tour in the basements of the castle, you can still appreciate the numerous layers of history underneath the visible layers of the castle. That's were I appreciated it most, in what I could NOT see.

And with that in only 2 days, we had pretty much sen most of what there was to see in Prague. Granted we didn't go inside any museums, other then Prague Castle itself, but the city itself is a museum enough already. You can see something beautiful on every street in the city.

May 6th, 2009

The new car

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Turns out the Volkswagen Passat had some techincal problems that the lease company decided not to fix, so instead I got a Volvo V50.



April 15th, 2009

This post is unrelated

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Just some video's I want to share:




(especially check after the 2 minute mark on this one)

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