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Trip Report Belgium and The Netherlands - Trip Report

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My husband and I travelled to Belgium and The Netherlands for 2 weeks earlier this month, using frequent flyer miles to purchase our airline tickets. The exchange rate between the dollar and the euro is still lopsided, but not having to purchase plane tickets made the trip doable.

Day 1 and 2:

We flew United from SFO to London-Heathrow and then took a British Midlands flight to Brussels. Flights were uneventful and once we arrived in Brussels, we took the train to the central train station. There is a direct airport express train, which stops at the 3 main train stations in Brussels, fare is 3 euro per person - couldn't be easier.

Our hotel was Le Meridien, which we reserved through Expedia for $107 per night. The hotel is just across from the central train station and a few blocks from the Grand Place, so very convinient. There is major construction between the hotel and the train station, so they've set up a temporary lobby on the back side ofthe hotel - a bit inconvinient, but ok. The people at the hotel were perfectly friendly and our room was very comfortable, reasonably spacious, andthe bathroom was great.

We arrived in Brussels in the early evening on Friday, so we cleaned up a bit from the flight and then went out. A half block from the hotel is a small square lined with inexpensive restaurants, waffle places, and ice cream shops. We had a quick dinner of fries and chicken on a stick at one of the places there. Next we went to the Grand Place, which is a wonderful square - the town hall, the guildhouses - all beautiful and every detailed. There were plenty of people out and about in the square and the atmosphere was very festive and fun. We wandered around a while and then found a small bar down a side street playing salsa music, went in and had a couple beers. Duvel was my first and my husband had the Leffe Bruin. Both were good, although we decided that due to our jet lag, we needed to try them again at another time to make sure :)

Day 3:

We slept in a bit and then went out for breakfast at a little place in the square near the hotel - it was fine, but not overly memorable. We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon walking around the old town center just seeing the sights and soaking up the atmosphere. My husband took tons of pictures, of course (3000+ by the end of the trip).

Lunch was at a restaurant on the Grand Place called Le Roy de Espagne, where we sat outside on the terrace overlooking the square. I had a flemish beef stew cooked in Leffe Bruin beer with potatoes and pears, which was quite good - and of course a glass of Leffe Bruin to go with it. The people watching from the terrace was great.

In the afternoon we went to the Comic Strip museum, which we thought was just ok. The Art Nouveau building that the museum is housed in is great though. Afterwards we walked back toward the train station to see the St Michele Cathedral, I think it is called. Huge cathedral, absolutely stunning. A service was in progress, so we got to hear the organ, which was wonderful. The accoustics in the place were great. Afterwards we relaxed in the park in front of the church for awhile with snacks and a cool drink.

In the evening we got a light dinner on "greek street" as we came to call it, but it is actually called Kaasmarkt, which is a small street a block or so off the Grand Place lined with greek restaurants - each with outdoor seating. After dinner went to check out some bars. We found some live music at a British pub in the old center, so we went in there for a couple beers. We walked through the Grand Place about 11pm or midnight and stumbled on a light and music show - lights were projected onto the town hall from across the square while music played - very neat. I think it may have been part of the Meyboom festival which was going that weekend. Then we wandered around a bit more and found more live music at a bar called Cafe Georgette, also in the old center. Stayed out until about 3, sampled several beers, had a heck of a good time.

So far, Brussels has pleasantly surprised us. We picked it as an entry point because we could get good flights using our miles, but it turned out that we really enjoyed the city.

More to come...

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