Now that I have spent a full day in Brussels I feel adequately informed enough to express some views on Brussels. Excuse me for not doing that yesterday.
The conference officially started last night. It is only a 5 minute walk from the hotel. The ladies were complaining about the cobbled streets and high heels. Wasn’t an issue for me though. Crossing the road was especially when I thought it was a one-way road and only looked the one direction before crossing. Fortunately wasn’t a problem because clearly Brussels must be a very unsafe city at night because there was only one car driving on the road and it came from the direction I was looking in. (This morning they were about 10 cars during the rush hour so I had to remember to look both ways.) Still wandering where all the people are in Brussels. At lunch time today I went back to my hotel to do some emails/phone calls and 2/3rds of the shops were closed. In fact I have yet to see a shop open except the Belgium Beer shop next to the hotel (we would call that a bottle store in SA).
The start of the conference was quite good except that there was no where to sit for dinner. They had tables out but those could only accommodate about a third of the people present. The key note speaker was a journalist (Paul Mason) and I was surprised at how nervous he was for someone who is on television regularly. He stuttered and stammered his way through the talk. Good content though. For those technologically advanced people reading the blog, I am now on Twitter and so if you want to follow the exciting developments at the conference then you can follow me. My Twitter name is @ptactuary (go on Marcus I know you will).
After the keynote there was a ‘Taste of Belgium’ which was actually a chocolate fountain which you could dip cheese under. And Belgium beer on tap. I was tired after having been woken up for breakfast at 4:30am on the plane so I went to bed.
The Belgians know how to do breakfast though. Pancakes and Waffles for breakfast. What more could you ask for?! My kids would have loved it. I did. Definitely having those again tomorrow.
Full day conference today. Paul will be proud of me as I only missed one session and that was on Solvency II (and who really cares as that is now postponed until 2016). If you don’t know what that is, don’t worry, it isn’t important unless you’re an actuary and then I consider it unimportant anyway. The sessions have been very good in general except one of our competitors marketed themselves in their presentation which I thought was very poor taste for an industry conference. I also spoke today so that is out of the way. Good turnout for my session (more people attended than had signed up) and seemed to get a good response (sorry you weren’t there Jules I don’t think I did justice to your slides).
Belgians are clearly not good engineers or planners though. The conference centre is the worst I have ever been two. The venues are miles apart (no really miles is correct). It can take you at least 15 minutes to walk from the one venue to the next. Worse than walking between lectures at UCT. And only 1 escalator between floors. Ever seen 1 escalator and 1000 people trying to go up simultaneously. You would have thought that by now they would have figured out how poorly laid out the conference centre is. And then to get to the upper floors (because the exhibition hall is on floor -1 and the other venues are on floor 3 or 4) you have to walk up stairs. No escalator. There are some lifts but they are so small they can take about 4 people at once and there are only 3 of them. Similar logistics problems at lunch today when the queue for lunch was about 100 people long. Fortunately I got there early so I managed to finish eating before most people even had their food. You would swear that they would have figured that out already.
Weather was overcast and raining most of the day. Still around 7-10 degrees C. Gala dinner upcoming. Go to go and put my suit on.
PS: Was trying to add some photos but couldn’t because of software upgrade issues. Will try to again tomorrow.