Belgium – Part 2

Belgium – Part 2

The real Mannekin Pis is tiny

Read Part 1 of this blog – here.

Belgium is bi-lingual so all signs and notices are in Flemish and French. Since I can speak Afrikaans I was more or less able to figure out the Flemish words.

So, what to see and do? We only had a few hours at the end of each day. Heading out to the Atomium wasn’t an option. That’s the structure that looks like a huge big molecule, Google Antomium to find it. We did see it in the distance from the train when we went to Antwerp. We also saw a red light district just north of Brussels from the train window. They have windows with girls in them, exactly the same as the ones in Holland. Who knew?

Belgian chocolatier

Fortunately our hotel gave us a map so we could find the key attractions. Once we got close to Grande Place/Grote Markt we encountered hoards of tourists, all with the exact same idea as us. The square is really impressive. It’s surrounded by some of the most beautiful and gilded old buildings I have ever seen.

Belgian beers in matching glasses 
Grand Place/Grote Markt

Mannekin Pis is not far away. He is much, much smaller than I was expecting. Trying to get a pic of him without other tourists posing is impossible. We wandered around this area finding pubs and shops. We noticed frescoes of Tin Tin and other cartoon characters on the buildings.
Brussels has signs pointing you to the various attractions. If you can follow the signs you can see quite a bit, even at night, as we did.

Grand Place/Grote Markt

The following evening we went walk-about in Avenue Louise area via the Palais du Justice. I guess Avenue Louise is the Brussels version of the French Champs Elysee. All posh and pretty. Then we walked back to a Lebanese restaurant we found the night before, near the Grand Place/Grote Markt area.

It was cold, raining and we just wanted to relax and eat. After a Belgian beer and Belgian chocolate of course!

Mediterranean food area

What we did do – because we were viewing boats – was catch a train to Antwerp and then another to Bruges. A train trip is around €7 one way. Because Belgium is so small, the ride doesn’t take long.

The great thing about getting out of Brussels was observing ordinary everyday Belgian life just outside the city and seeing the countryside. Both Antwerp and Bruges are different in character to Brussels. We had to make a detour via Ghent due to an accident on the train line. I wish we had been able to stop and see Ghent. It looked lovely.

Although Brussels is the home of NATO and plenty other international headquarters, it’s a relaxed country, free of pomp and ceremony. I loved the juxtaposition of comic characters alongside awesome architecture.

It’s as safe a city as you can get, and strolling about, working off beer and chocolate, is a great way to explore the city.

Up around the posh Avenue Louise area

Just don’t forget your umbrella.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.



Travel in Belgium in 2012

Eurostar train times ex London

This was a whistle stop trip as we only had two nights and three days in Belgium. The point of the visit to Belgium was essentially for my husband to look at boats. Fortunately Belgium is a small country making it possible to squeeze in a fair amount of sightseeing around the boat viewing. It’s the ideal place for a long weekend or city break.

The Eurostar

We arrived at London Heathrow early Friday morning and took the tube to St Pancras Station. That cost around £5. From there we took the Eurostar, which traveled south through the UK, into the underground tunnel, back up and on to Lille in France, ending up in Brussels. The train takes 2 hours from London to Brussels and cost £69 each. There is a one hour time difference between the UK and Belgium so bear that in mind if you make any travel connections.

Ibis Ste Catherine

Turns out the Eurostar is a great way to get around much of Europe. There are trains to Holland, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium. See more here – Eurostar.

Tin Tin fresco

The Belgian weather is a lot like Holland and Britain. It’s a sequence – the sun comes out and then it rains – all day long. We arrived at Gare du Midi/Zuid Station to a chilly, drizzly Brussels. We usually stay at Ibis Hotels since we always look for bargains. The cheapest Ibis was Centre Ste Catherine which was in the heart of the city. It wasn’t the most upmarket area but their rooms were of the same standard we have come to expect from Ibis Hotels. Affordable, comfortable, clean and decidedly compact. Most services are usually extra at Ibis, however in this particular Ibis, wi-fi was free.

More frescoes

Read more about Ibis here – Ibis Hotels.

Ibis do a buffet style breakfast, for a fee, with emphasis on local cuisine. We always eat breakfast out.
One reason is because we usually find cheaper food elsewhere and the second reason is that it gives us a chance to explore the place we are visiting.

Breakfast on our first day wasn’t great. We were in a helluva hurry and ate at McDonald’s. No need to explain. But on the second day we found a gorgeous place where they served pastries and quiches with coffee.

Waffles and ice cream vendor
Art at one of the underground stations

There were plenty fancy restaurants in and around the Grand Place/Grote Markt which was walking distance from our hotel. Since I don’t eat meat and Belgian food is similar to French fare, we opted to eat at the one of the Mediterranean places that we found. They are cheaper and healthier with lots of fresh salads. But not before we tried a Belgian beer, or two, in a pub. And we ate Belgian chocolate. After all that is what Belgium is famous for. Be warned. Belgian beers are surprisingly tasty and some of them pack a punch. The chocolate is divine. You can buy assorted individual hand-made chocolates and we tried loads of different ones. Good thing we only had a few days in Belgium.

Read Part 2 of our Belgium city break – here – or go back to the – Travel Archive – page to read about other destinations.

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

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