Travel from Paris to Brussels was 1.5hrs travel on a direct train. We bought our reservations on Eurail when getting into Paris so we had first class seats. This is when we realized how important it is to get to the train station early since it was sort of difficult to navigate in Paris and there were a few closed elevators/escalators at a couple of the metro stations that made the situation more difficult. I also had trouble with my metro pass and had to buy a new ticket – which made for a stressful situation since we were short on time. We ended up just getting to the train as we were all called to start boarding. We were supposed to get our Eurail pass validated on the first day of travel but because we were running late and couldn’t find the Eurail office we decided to chance it and get it validated in Brussels. It worked out, they didn’t check our passes during this train trip… the only trip it wasn’t checked (and some were checked multiple times). phew. It was a quick trip, (as you can see, I had to convert the km/hr to miles/hr out of curiousity), 182miles/hr! Also, we were offered breakfast, which I didn’t realize is included in first class tickets for some trains – what a perk! We also found out that once you exit the gates in most train stations you are left to have to pay to use the bathroom – this added an extra fun task to run into in every country since they were all different. We ran into this a little in Paris but Paris also had free permanent port-a-potty type bathrooms on the streets.
Brussels, Belgium: July 13-15, 2017; the place for “waffles, chocolate, fries, & beer.”
Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn Louise ($191 USD/2 nights). This was a good location, (close to the train station) and obviously your more normal hotel which was welcome for a few nights. For some reason I was feeling that I needed an american style hotel so I booked this one without any hesitation… to top it off Dominos is across the street. A bonus here was a king bed (many of the hotels in Europe had king beds but they were actually two single beds pushed together and in various ways held together successfully or not-so-successfully). It’s amazing how much better a bed that isn’t made of two single beds is. We did laundry here, $4 euro.
Transportation: Getting around in Brussels was easy. Like Paris, you buy a multi-day or multi-ride pass. We did a jump pass (multi-ride) that you share. You go through a double pass area and tap the pass twice. They have a mix of subways and above ground trams. I liked riding the tram especially when it was rainy because you could see a lot of the city and not get wet. We did see a dinner tram pass by a few times that seemed like a good tourist idea too.
- Fries: Frites Tabora made delicious fries while we waited. You could pick from 40+ sauces and they were given to us in a hand held container for walking. We chose a spicy/sweet sauce that was delicious.
- Waffles: these are everywhere on the streets for $1 euro. They have waffle stands, trucks and shops. They are Liege style with sugar crystals you can taste. You put whatever toppings you want on top for an extra cost. I got cream, chocolate and caramel. The chocolate was warm and immediately melted everything making a quick mess out of the situation, but delicious to eat. My warning is that there are businesses/cafes trying to sell waffles for a lot higher prices. Do not pick these places, choose from the shops selling them starting at $1 euro.
- Chocolates/Sweets: Chocolate shops are everywhere in Brussels, and you can’t go wrong. I liked the Neuhaus chocolates the best. Nutella and praline flavored products were very popular. We also went to Pierre Marcoloni which had tons of macarons. I got a golden flaked one that was pretty but I also had a chocolate one on the train to Germany that was really good too.
- Beer: Cantillon Brewery the oldest lambic brewery in Brussels. I happen to love lambic style beer and sour beers so this was something high on my to do list. Lindeman’s lambic brewery is outside of Brussels also if that is of interest. The brewery itself is not that welcoming from the outside as it is a big giant barn/cellar door. Once you’re inside everyone is welcoming and you can see the process of natural fermentation on a self guided tour with tasting at the end.
- Breakfast/brunch: Hinterland was a cute cafe we found close to the hotel that had brunch all day. The food here was great and many healthy options were available.
- Dinner: We found a restaurant close to the hotel with good reviewed on trip advisor or yelp called Ma Folle de Soeur and headed over. We arrived around 6pm (in typical American style) and the place was empty. Soon it filled up and they were turning people away by the end of our meal. The menu was hand written in french so our translator skills were put to the test but the waitress was very patient as well and helped us out. I ordered chicken risotto and Chris ordered duck confit. We shared ravioli risotto for starter. This dinner was soooo good and reasonably priced.
- Grand Place: This square is beautiful, old architecture with gold trim on everything. There are lots of shopping/eateries in little shops at the Grand Place and all around in the wandering streets surrounding the square. Make sure to see it in the daytime and at night. We were there at 10:05 at night and with a flip of a switch all the buildings became illuminated which was beautiful.
- Beautiful parks, churches, and government buildings were everywhere. There were tons of ornate statues lining parks, manicured bushes in parks with various designs. The buildings lining the streets would vary in architecture and period style from building to building which was very interesting. Lots of comic stuff for murals/street art as comics are very big here. We ran into the most interesting stuff while just wandering the streets of Brussels. In Brussels Park, there was an art exhibition with giant photos of Belgium from WW1 that German photographers were commissioned to take called “German photographs (1917-1918): Belgium’s artistic heritage through the Occupier’s lens.” This included many before and after photos with explanations which was fascinating.
Next, on to Prague….