Based in Brussels

After looking at a map of Belgium, we decided to do things a little differently and based ourselves in Brussels in our own apartment for five nights, with daytrips planned to the nearby cities, rather than having to repack all the time! (So basically, we got to go far out Brussels sprout…) We booked ourselves a rather nice apartment which really felt like a home away from home. Being on the 15th floor made the views pretty spectacular – the apartment had two balconies giving us a vantage point of most of the area. The location was perfect having the metro train under the building, giving us direct access to the city and beyond. Out our kitchen window we could see this interesting building, which turned out to be a prison – so we got to watch the inmates do their daily yard time. There was also a nuclear power plant in the distance…

When planning our July destinations, we avoided going to France partly due to the heat, crowds, and also trying to plan a route around the Tour de France… and then on landing in Brussels, we found out that the ‘Grand Depart’ for the first leg of the Tour de France started from the city square in Brussels the next day! One advantage was all public transport around the city was free over the weekend. So, we joined in the atmosphere and pretended we had planned to be there…(whoo cycling…)

During the weekends Belgium also offers half price intercity train tickets, so we made the most of the system. We started with a Saturday spent in Antwerp. The ‘Antwerpen’ station is a beautiful building…

Outside the station is a zoo and lots of carnival rides/carts. We arrived around lunchtime and ended up trying the ‘frites’ in a cone (a Belgium tradition).

Lunch was quickly followed with a worthwhile visit to the world’s biggest Belgium Chocolate Museum. Once again, we were educated on the chocolate making process. The museum exhibition rooms were very cool and you walked through with an audio guide in a small group of visitors from room to room. This prevented any over crowding and also allowed for the many different languages spoken by the visitors. The best part was of course the unlimited chocolate tastings!

Suffering from chocolate-overload, we continued to walk the streets of Antwerp. It was a rather busy centre with many interesting buildings. We also enjoyed a walk alongside the busy harbour and the inner canals.

After all the walking, it was time for Belgium waffles and beer before heading back to Brussels.

Beer and Waffles

The next day, we continued to benefit from the half price weekend tickets by buying return tickets to Bruges. However, when we arrived at the Bruges station, we quickly jumped off the train and bought return tickets to Oostende (the final destination of our train). We managed to get the tickets from the machine in time to jump back on the same train just as it was about to depart. The train official must have seen us jump off and jump back on because he promptly came to our carriage to check our tickets. We soon arrived at our coastal destination of Oostende…

The main reason for our visit was to go to the Sandcastle and Sand Sculpture exhibit taking place at the beach. It was definitely worth the visit…

We had a brief walk through the town and admired the buildings, including a quick stop at the Cathedral. It was a beautiful Cathedral, matching in grandeur many of the others that we’d visited in main cities on our travels this year. Because Oostende is a bit off the tourist route, the church was almost empty…

We then spent some time walking around the park…

Next, we used our return ticket to train back to Bruges. Walking towards town from the train station we came across a large antique market. Many of the stalls were beginning to pack away as it was late afternoon. Luckily, we had limited backpack space because there were many interesting things to tempt a purchase…

When we reached the picturesque town centre, we treated ourselves to the most amazing Belgium waffles yet. Then we admired the buildings surrounding the square…

We continued our walk in Bruges by following the canals. There was an impressive amount of swans swimming in the water and we even got to see two signets. It was a lovely town to walk along and not that busy once you left the main streets…

Bicycle ParkWe’d hoped to spend the evening in Bruges’s Minnewaterpark, but unfortunately the park was closed due to a music festival! So, we walked around it on our way back to the train station, sometimes managing a peek through the fences. The bicycle park outside the festival gate was super impressive!

The next day we relaxed in the apartment. After lunch we went out to explore Brussels a bit more. We took the train to the north of the city. We walked towards the main park and on the way stopped in to see the Japanese temple…

When we arrived at the park, the gates were closed and the sign informed us that the park and gardens are closed on Mondays. Oops! We hadn’t planned that one well. Nethertheless, we were able to take a few photos through the gate, and because it was a Monday, we didn’t have any tourists in our photos…

We decided to walk to Brussel’s big balls. You can pay to go up to the top for a view – but we already had a pretty good view from our apartment so decided against it and opted for waffles from the food truck. “Best. Decision. Of. The. Day.”

Feeling satisfied, we walked back towards the main town centre. On our way we came across a small park that was open…

We walked pass many iconic Brussel landmarks and also came across some less well-known streets. Actually, we ended up walking all the way back to our apartment (over 12kms).

The next morning we had an early start for a sneaky visit to another country… Luxembourg! Some fun facts about this less-known European country:

  • Each day, about a third of the workers commute from another country.
  • It takes approximately 2 hours to drive from one side to another.
  • The City of Luxembourg has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • The official languages are German, French and Luxembourgish.
  • The people of Luxembourg celebrate an annual hopping procession where everyone joins in a traditional hopping dance around the town streets to honour the patron saint, Willibrord.

Unfortunately, our visit didn’t coincide with the hopping festival! After a three hour train journey we arrived in Luxembourg City. It was lunchtime, so we started with a break at a nice little café near the station. It was quite refreshing to see some modern buildings on this side of town.

After lunch, we walked into the centre of the old town. On the way we came across some different statues and enjoyed the views of castle tops through the trees.

We were luckily enough to have the world’s largest mobile observation tower in town during our visit. The ‘City Skyliner’ reaches the height of 81m and can hold up to 6o people. We weren’t intending to go up, but it was surprisingly affordable, had a very small queue and was just about to go up when we arrived, so we joined in on the fun…

We continued to enjoy the Adolphe bridge from ground level. There was a new pedestrian walkway underneath (opened in 2018) and the original on top. We crossed the bridge underneath and then came back via the top, enjoying the views from many different angles. Apparently, when the bridge was built in 1900, it was the world’s longest stone arch bridge.

We continued to roam the old town, then we came across the museum, which was free entry. We’d had some enjoyable museum visits recently (with the armour collection and Belgium chocolate), so we thought we’d give it a go… it quickly reaffirmed our lack of interest in museums. We lasted about 20 minutes – the toilet facilities were very clean and also free, so a worthwhile stop.

Back in the fresh air, we walked the fortified walls around the edge of the town. Luxembourg is a truly beautiful city…

We spent our last hour relaxing in the park before catching the evening train back to Brussels, ready for our next day departure to the Netherlands.

Have fun at work!
Gemma

2 comments

  1. Amazing sand art. Well worth the visit. Loved the housing behind the ‘artistic’ shot with their different colours. Can’t believe the variety of topping for a waffle !! The fritiesare great in a cone. Should find them in Holland also. There is a special type of mayonnaise that is eaten with hot chips. A delicious experience😆
    Keep enjoying your travels
    Carol ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Gemma what an awesome experience !!  Well done brilliant choice of avoiding France for now. You lucky girl ……Stay safe and loving your beautiful experience of travelling . Joy xx  

    Liked by 1 person

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