Jacques Brel – Ne me quitte pas

Ne me quitte pas
Il faut oublier
Tout peut s’oublier
Qui s’enfuit déjà,
Oublier le temps
Des malentendus
Et le temps perdu
A savoir comment
Oublier ces heures
Qui tuaient parfois
A coups de pourquoi
Le cœur du bonheur
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

Moi je t’offrirai
Des perles de pluie
Venues de pays
Où il ne pleut pas
Je creuserai la terre
Jusqu’après ma mort
Pour couvrir ton corps
D’or et de lumière
Je ferai un domaine
Où l’amour sera roi
Où l’amour sera loi
Où tu seras reine
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

Ne me quitte pas
Je t’inventerai
Des mots insensés
Que tu comprendras
Je te parlerai
De ces amants là
Qui ont vu deux fois
Leurs cœurs s’embraser
Je te raconterai
L’histoire de ce roi
Mort de n’avoir pas
Pu te rencontrer
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

On a vu souvent
Rejaillir le feu
D’un ancien volcan
Qu’on croyait trop vieux
Il est paraît-il
Des terres brûlées
Donnant plus de blé
Qu’un meilleur avril,
Et quand vient le soir
Pour qu’un ciel flamboie
Le rouge et le noir
Ne s’épousent-ils pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

Ne me quitte pas
Je ne vais plus pleurer
Je ne vais plus parler
Je me cacherai là
A te regarder
Danser et sourire
Et à t’écouter
Chanter et puis rire
Laisse-moi devenir
L’ombre de ton ombre
L’ombre de ta main
L’ombre de ton chien
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

And the same song in other languages:

Frank Sinatra – If you go away

Γιάννης Πάριος – Μη μ’αφήνεις μη

Gino Paoli – Non andare via

Marlene Dietrich – Bitte geh nicht fort


Switching from a «special» to an ordinary Belgian ID card

After having a «carte d’identité speciale» for 2.5 years here in Belgium, I decided to switch to the ordinary (electronic) national ID card, for the following reasons:

  • the CIS is rather large and does not fit well into most wallets (the ordinary one is the size of a credit card)
  • the CIS does not offer any benefits compared to the ordinary one, once the 1-year period for VAT-free purchases has expired*
  • the ordinary ID card can be electronic, i.e. include a smart card, which (combined with a smart-card reader which you can buy for 8-10 euros, and some software that you can download from the federal government website), you can access all the e-government services here in Belgium (for tax declaration, obtaining certificates from your commune, etc)

* I confirmed this both with the relevant office here in the EP, as well as with my commune.

So, the procedure for switching from a «special» to a regular ID card is a little cumbersome, as follows:

  1. First you have to go to the office in your EU institution which gave you the CIS, and give it back. They will send it back to the Belgian Foreign Affairs Ministry, which will then send them a certificate proving that you have returned the card, called «attestation de restitution de la carte speciale». This takes approx. 2 weeks
  2. With the above mentioned certificate you can now go to your commune and ask for a normal ID card. You must bring: your national ID card or passport, your rental contract, your work contract (in our case, a certificate that you work for the institutions), and 5 photos
  3. Once you have applied for the ID card, the police need to come to your house and check that you actually live there. They had already done that 2.5 years ago for the CIS, but apparently they need to do it again. Of course they don’t tell you when they’ll come. After exactly 1 month, and as I was starting to become restless, my commune sent me an email telling me I could now go and complete the application for the ID card. The police never came to my house
  4. When you go to the commune again, you can ask for an old-fashioned or for an electronic ID card. The electronic one costs €19.2 (in 2014). Having done that, you are told to wait another 2 weeks. The PIN for the ID card is sent to you by regular post, and the ID card arrives at the commune. I am not sure why this step couldn’t have been done together with step 2 above, and save us all a little time?
  5. With the PIN code in hand, you can go and pick up (and activate) your new ID card

Belgian license plates

Here’s a description of the procedure to obtain Belgian license plates for a car already registered elsewhere in Europe, after I went through it. I hope this helps others thinking of doing the same.

There are 7 steps in this procedure:

  1. Collect the necessary documents (certificate of conformity, current vehicle registration). You can obtain a CoC online, it will most likely be much cheaper than asking your car dealer. I got it from here: http://cocexpress.fr/ Please note that the CoC is not asked until the 5th step, so feel free to go through steps 2-4 while waiting for the CoC to arrive
  2. Go to customs (Douane, 11 Rue de L’Entrepôt, 1020 Brussels, 08.30-11:00 + 13:00-15:30), fill form, obtain the «pink paper» which shows that you’ve started the procedure of changing license plates. Here they only ask for the current vehicle registration form. In the field «when did you bring the car into Belgium for the first time», the customs officer told me to simply write the current date. You will be asked to pay the symbolic price of 1€ here
  3. Go through inspection (controle technique, http://www.autocontrole.be/). For vehicles less than 4 years old (as in my case), they will not actually check the vehicle, just put a stamp on the «pink paper» from step 2. No money is necessary in this case. Otherwise, you need to take an appointment and go through an actual technical control of your car.
  4. Buy insurance. You can do this even if you don’t know your new license plate yet. I went with Ethias. They will ask you for some proof from your current car insurance about your bonus-malus level
  5. go to DIV, register your car ( http://www.mobilit.belgium.be/fr/ )
    (60 rue du Progrès, 1210 Brussels, 08:30-14:30). Be ready to spend 1-2 hours waiting here. The actual procedure takes 5 minutes. They will ask for all the documents from the previous steps (current vehicle registration, CoC, the «pink paper» from customs, the insurance document). They will keep your current vehicle registration, so you might want to make a copy beforehand. The rear license plate and new vehicle registration will be delivered to your home on the next working day by Bpost. You will have to pay 30€ to the postman.
  6. Make copy of the rear license plate for the front of your car (cost me €20). Note that the front plate is now the same size as the rear one, not smaller like in the past or as in some other Member states
  7. Register at your Comune in order to get a parking permit (carte d’habitant). This is valid for a calendar year and allows you to park for free in specific parts of your comune. For Woluwe Saint Lambert his costs 10€. They will ask you for the vehicle registration and identity card ( http://www.woluwe1200.be/fr/cadre-de-vie/deplacement/stationnement/test )

Reference: http://www.blbe.be/en/importing-and-registering-car

PS I will update this post once I’ve completed the 2nd part of this process, i.e. getting rid of your old license plates

Why I hate Ryanair’s website

Here are a few of the reasons why I hate Ryanair’s website:

  1. there’s no user account; each time you have to insert details like flight reservation number and credit card/email address in order to go to your booking and perform any type of operation
  2. having no user account, in order to check in you need to re-insert every time the details of your passport, expiry date, date of birth, nationality, etc
  3. they try to sell you lots of unwanted stuff (choice of seat, travel insurance, roaming phone calls, luggage, etc) and you have to carefully scroll through each menu and find the option that allows you not to buy it

Ryanair, why can’t you be more like Easyjet? Why?

Traveling to Sardegna (and back)

This summer we went for 12 days to Capo Coda Cavalo in Sardegna and stayed at the apartment of a friend. The flights, booked online at brusselsairlines.com, (but as we soon found out, operated by Lufthansa) were with a stopover in Munich.

The problems started even before the day of departure: we tried checking in online in order to print the boarding passes, but the website wouldn’t let us do that, without any indication on the source of the problem. We didn’t think this was a big deal, as we had to drop off a luggage anyway. Upon reaching the check-in counter and explaining that we didn’t have our boarding passes yet, they sent us off to check-in ourselves at the automated Lufthansa check-in counters available at Brussels airport. There we had the same problem as at home. We went back to the counter and explained our troubles. After investigating briefly, the nice lady found out what the problem was: the tickets of Beatrice and myself were not registered in the system as «e-tickets» but as «paper tickets». That was why we couldn’t check-in online. After 30 seconds the problems was solved, we took our boarding passes and went to the gate.

Flying with Lufthansa was a great experience: very polite and professional personnel, unlimited refreshments (even wine) onboard, they offered us pillows & blankets, they even gave Beatrice a small toy. Munich airport was an equally fulfilling experience: free wifi for 30′, free (unlimited) coffee, free newspapers, big interactive airport map with directions to chosen shops. They have even placed a chair next to each available electrical socket, so you can sit comfortably while charging your phone and tweeting about how awesome Munich Airport is 🙂

The trip back was much more of an adventure: again unable to check-in beforehand, but this time they were unable to fix the problem at Olbia airport. They managed to give us the 1st set of boarding passes, and to send our luggage directly to Brussels, but not the 2nd set of boarding passes, even after numerous attempts, phone calls, etc. Instead, we were told to check into the 2nd flight once in Munich, where we had a razor-thin margin of 55 minutes between the 2 flights!

Soon afterwards we found out that a private jet’s brakes failed while landing and was stuck in the middle of Olbia airport’s only runway. No flights landing or taking off for 4 hours (until they finally managed to move the aircraft out of the runway). In the meantime all incoming flights had been diverted to nearby airports, which meant that the plane that would take us to Munich still had to come to Olbia.

Eventually we left with a 6-hour delay, obviously missing our connecting flight as well as any other flights from Munich to Brussels during that same day. Once in Munich, the Germans once again proved worthy of their fame: a guide was expecting us at the gate in an empty Munich airport (we landed at 22:30), who took the approx. 40-50 of us who had missed their connecting flights to a set of 10-12 open counters who knew exactly our situation and who promptly booked us into the gorgeous Kempinski next door and into a connecting flight of our choice to our destination for the next day.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, but it was a good thing I didn’t have to work the next day…

The Husband Store

A store that sells new husbands has opened in Manchester , just off Deansgate where a woman may go to choose a husband. Among the instructions at the entrance is a description of how the store operates:

You may visit this store ONLY ONCE! There are six floors and the value of the products increase as the shopper ascends the flights. The shopper may choose any item from a particular floor, or may choose to go up to the next floor, but you cannot go back down except to exit the building!

So, a woman goes to the Husband Store to find a husband. On the first floor the sign on the door reads:

Floor 1 – These men Have Jobs

She is intrigued, but continues to the second floor, where the sign reads:

Floor 2 – These men Have Jobs and Love Kids.

‘That’s nice,’ she thinks, ‘but I want more.’ So she continues upward. The third floor sign reads:

Floor 3 – These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, and are Extremely Good Looking.

‘Wow,’ she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going. She goes to the fourth floor and the sign reads:

 Floor 4 – These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Good Looking and Help With Housework…

‘Oh, mercy me!’ she exclaims, ‘I can hardly stand it!’ Still, she goes to the fifth floor and the sign reads:

 Floor 5 – These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Gorgeous, Help with Housework, and Have a Strong Romantic Streak.

She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor, where the sign reads:

 Floor 6 – You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store.


To avoid gender bias charges, the store’s owner opened a New Wives store just across the street with the same rules.

The first floor has wives that love sex.

The second floor has wives that love sex and have money and like beer

The third, fourth, fifth and sixth floors have never been visited.

"If you think you're too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito!" – Amnesty International