Brussels, Brussels, Brussels…Bruges!
We left Amsterdam at the crack of dawn, made our way back to Amsterdam central on the metro where we caught the train to Amsterdam Sloterdijk station to get onto our bus to Brussels.
As glamorous as traveling is by now we were exhausted, just check the morning we’ve had ↑ all this before 6. Fortunately the 3-hour bus ride was rather comfy and gave us the opportunity to catch our breath while enjoying the landscape passing by.
We arrived at Brussels North station where we had to make our way to Brussels Central station. I was rather taken aback when I saw armed guards with assault rifles at Brussels central, I thought something serious just happened. I was even more uncomfortable when the guards shifted their attention in my direction because I managed to drop my heavy suitcase trying to drag it up the stairs. I could not leave the station quick enough, luckily our hotel was only but a short walk away.
We stayed at the NH Brussels Grand Place Arenberg Hotel in the city centre, close to some of the major attractions. While it is a 4-star rated property, I would say the entry level rooms are more 3-star. That being said, the hotel does offer most of the amenities you’d find in your typical European 4-star hotel.
Our family who stays over in the UK joined us for this part of our trip and was waiting for us at the hotel. We checked in, dropped our bags and headed for a lingering brunch while catching up and finalising our plans for the next two days.
After brunch, we did a bit of a walk about to get a feel for the city and I must admit that feeling was not great. Apart from Grande Palace we found the city to be rundown and rather unsafe. You have homeless people on every corner and armed guards wherever there is a big crowd of people. As South Africans we hold our first world counterparts to quite high standards and I must admit that I was not prepared for the state Brussels is in… Prejudice maybe?
The next morning, we took an early train to Bruges which is about an hour away. The city centre is a 20 min stroll from the station, we decided to take the bus as it was pouring down, and we were not about to get wet before breakfast.
Now Bruges…! Bruges is like something out of a fairy-tale, it is unbelievably beautiful! It’s what I imagine when I think of Europe. It simply took my breath away. I love medieval architecture and it did not disappoint.
After a delicious breakfast on the Market square (Markt) we took off to enjoy the sights and started the hunt for the best Belgium chocolates. There was no shortage of either and so the day consisted of photo ops and chocolate tasting. Tania was on a banting binge so we had to find sugar free chocolates and we did! Honestly, I could not tell the difference between sugar filled or free, they were all just so good! Belgium really makes the best chocolates!
We came across a store with a gigantic snake, no idea what they’re supposed to sell and the coolest little shop selling Christmas decorations with an underground dungeon! I can’t decide if my next visit should be in summer or during the festive season to experience the magic of a European Christmas? Choices, choices 😊
We visited the Basilica of the Holy Blood after lunch. The chapel is located in a corner of Burg square and consists of a Romanesque lower chapel and a Gothic upper chapel. The crystal vial with a stained piece of cloth in it is believed to hold the blood of Jesus Christ. As we entered the upper chapel, the afternoon sun fell perfect on the stained window, the energy in there was magnetic, spiritual and peaceful. It really was a beautiful experience.
A worthwhile visit and entry is free. Just check the opening times before you go as it changes depending on the season.
Back in Brussels we were on the hunt for the best Belgium waffle, we had one the night before at dinner and one in Bruges but it just was not what we have imagined. Well, we found it at a street café and it was yum, we went back for more and more…and some!
Best of Belgium were the chocolates, beer and the people. Brussels, you are facing some trying times and maybe I did not catch you at your best, but with the resilience of your people and the right attitude I am sure you can restore yourself to your former glory.
The journey back home was a loooong one! I told myself I’ll take it easy for the next while, but as soon as I was rested I found myself planning the next one! Hi, my name is Lauren and I am a travel-addict!