European Christmas: Belgium

Kids,

Brussels was an easy decision for our next stop, because it got us within 2 hours of the Netherlands, and ticked off another country for 2018.  While this location was planned, we found it hard to get good information on things to do in Brussels during the winter, so we decided to stay only one day.

Belgium Day 0: Saturday December 29th: Travel to Brussels

At the second longest travel day of our trip, the train ride was great.  We sat in the front car, ironically in the quiet section of the train.  You would have thought that they wouldn’t put people with kids in there, but oh well.  The transfer at Frankfurt was quick and easy, and broke up the 6 hour trip just enough to be enjoyable.

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During the trip we figured out that we could get out a stop before what we booked to catch a quick bus ride to the hotel.  The station was Brussels Nord, and it was the first of many locations that made us second guess our decision to visit Brussels.

We arrived at the station around 7:00 pm.  The reviews online painted this station as one that people should refrain from using, but it did have some good reviews too.  We tend not to put too much faith in the negative reviews at first pass because people generally comments when things are bad, rarely if they are positive.

The station was dirty, dark, full of people loitering around, and had very poor signage. Should have listened to Google.  Needless to say, we were on high alert at 7:00 pm trying to find our way directly to the bus station.  I’m honestly not sure you three noticed any of this until we exited the station and passed close to 30 people sleeping in the entryway.

The bus was the original plan, and we would have taken it if the signage was better directing tourist where to catch one.  However given the situation…we grabbed the first taxi we could find and headed as fast as we could away from the station towards our hotel.  And yes I had my phone out the entire time making sure we were going in the right direction.  First time all trip…

Dinner tastes so much better after an uneasy experience…

Belgium Day 1: Sunday December 30th: Brussels Grand Palace, Chocolate Museum, Manneken-Pis and Jeanneke-Pis

The recommended list of options for a family visiting Brussels was even shorter than Munich, but we were able to lock down four locations. We started at the Grand Palace Square by hopping on a bus, cleared by the hotel staff, which took us to within about three blocks of the square.

The landscape and city that we passed looked very much like Munich, but with more graffiti and bars on windows and doors.  As we approached the city center some of this fell away, but it never went away completely.

The palace and square were amazing. The buildings were large, decorative, and covered in metallic accents.

Usually the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Belgium is chocolate and waffles. So, we headed towards a chocolate museum for a tour and baking demonstration. The museum was small, but very educational.

The final part of the museum was a live chocolate demonstration, which for us was how to make a chocolate truffle.  It lasted only 15 minutes, but was pretty cool to see.  And it tasted delicious.

After the museum we headed to Moeder Lambic, a local tap room for a drink and a chance to warm up. We didn’t stay long, but the place was great. I know, I say a lot of places were great but we did a great job at selecting top spots.

Our final stop in Brussels was to visit the peeing statues. I know, but it’s also on the City of Brussels website, here. There are two statues in Brussels one of a boy and one of a girl peeing. They popped up on every list I found about places to see when in Brussels. And since our list was short, and they were near the Grand Palace Square, we headed that way.

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On our way to see the ‘Jeanneke-Pis’ we ran across a Belgium waffle vendor that had a line out the door and down the street. We knew we had to get in line and see what the fuss was all about, and we’re so glad we did. The waffles were amazing. Covered in chocolate, powdered sugar, and a variety of fruits – they were delicious. Unlike any ‘Belgium Waffle’ we’ve ever had in the US.

The female statue was about a quarter the size of the male statue and hidden down an alley that was hard to find. Funny enough, I found it listed on every list of tourist attractions, but found that it isn’t mentioned on the City of Brussels website.  This statue was about shoulder level right on the street behind some pretty serious iron bars, and when we arrived there were maybe 4 people there to see it.  If you want to know more about it Google away.

After checking both peeing statues off our list we headed back to the bus station to make our way back to the hotel.  It was a little early, but with all the stress of the city we needed some down time.  We arrived back at the hotel in the middle of the afternoon and headed towards the lounge to play cards and wait for dinner.

Belgium Day 2: Monday December 31st: Travel to The Hague

The departure from Brussels was our first real train traveling experience, let me explain. After breakfast, and a very tough checkout process, we headed to the bus station to catch a ride to the Brussels Airport Station. Upon arrival we found out that the train we planned on taking was not going to run that day.  Don’t freak out, don’t freak out…Lucky for us the Brussels Airport station had it figured out. They had people walking around the ticket machines to help answer people’s questions.

Our original train was supposed to take us directly from Brussels Airport to Rotterdam Central. With the help of one of staff we figured out our options and headed towards Brussels Midi to catch another train to Rotterdam Central in the the Netherlands.  He suggested that we wait 3 hours and take a later train to Antwerp and see what we could get there.  But that kind of planning doesn’t work for your mother and I, especially with you three.  So we figured out another option that got us into Rotterdam 30 minutes later than our original train.  Life lessons being learned on this one…

Although the architecture was amazing, Brussels was a hard place to visit in the winter with three young kids. Needless to say, we were excited to reach the Netherlands and see our friends.

Love,

Mom & Dad

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