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Trip Report Brugges,Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels

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As usual Fodorites gave me a lot of good advice planning this trip. It all worked out well so here we go with my report.

Here is some background that may help:
We are a senior couple (68 and 71).
We used all public transportation.
We traveled from New York to Amsterdam (day trip to Haarlem), Otterlo, Utrecht,Delft, Bruges,Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels with a day trip to Maastricht.



Bruges

When we arrived in Bruges from Delft, I went to buy my train tickets for Belgium. We were given a senior rate E5.60 anywhere. So our trips for two from Bruges to Ghent,Ghent to Antwerp and Antwerp to Brusselsp was E36. What a bargain!!!!

Of course we walked in a few circles till we found our hotel. Again on the second floor which is the third floor.Settled in and set out amidst the wall to wall tourists . We visited the Church of Our Lady and saw the Michaeangelo. Then of course we had to have a Bruges beer and fries. They even have a frites museum here.

We saw a sign for a harp concert so we went. It was actually quite good. It was free but of course you gave a donation at the door.

Then we just walked around the square- lace shops, chocolate and more chocolate and beer. We did buy some chocolate and we did have a beer and some fries in the middle of the market so that we could just sit and people watch. We have just had the greatest weather. The local people say it is unusual. Who says there is not global warming?

Later we went in search of The Flemish Pot for dinner. Both Rick and people we met in Delft highly recommended it. It did not disappoint. I had the Flemish stew which was like a thich beef burgundy.PB had endives wrapped in bacon and baked with cheese with carrots and potatoes. We had a pate with berries and for dessert a Flemish pudding with chocolate sauce. We had a bottle of red wine. It was great.

The next day we set aside for bike riding. The ride was great. First, I had to tackle the town cars and bikes. Then it was a lovely ride on a path next to the canal. It was horse country. I never realized how bad horses smell. After awhile we went off the trail into farm country with the cows and sheep. We met an old man (older than us) who had fallen off his bike. After we got him back on the road we saw a sign with an ice cream cone on it. We got so excited - ice cream with all these cows! When we arrived the sign said it did not open on weekdays till 1:30 and it was only 11:30 so we reluctantly kept going. We arrived at a little town called Sint- kinst and had lunch then back on the road. We finally made it to the town of Damme where everyone goes who go straight up the canal path from Bruges. Of course we had to sit at a cafe along the canal and have a beer.

We decided not to go back the "normal" way but to retrace our steps so we could have ice cream. We had a few minor problems and wound up in people's driveways but eventually we started seeing signs with ice cream cones. Yes, we got there! We got on line with all the school children in their uniforms. Of course I had to have two scoops! It was worth it. We got a little lost finding our way back to Bruges but we met a nice man (three days younger than PB) who put us back on the right path. It was actually a different approach to the city which took us through a lovely park past several windmills. It was time to return our bikes and go to dinner.

We went to Tom's Diner recommended by Rick. It was good but not my favorite. You could only have the price fixed if you ordered it for two people. Usually, we get one price fixed and one main course. I got meat loaf because it came with a rhubarb sauce and PB got monkfish with baby shrimp and a ravioli stuffed with cannelloni beans and pesto. We sat next to a couple from San Diego.

The next day we joined the tourists again. We went to the Memling, Picasso and Groeninge Museums.After all that serious stuff, we had to take a beer brake. Then we went to the Beijnhof courtyard and museum . They have these cloisters all over this part of the country . The women who lived here were not nuns but they lived a cloistered life as free women with no vows. Then we went on a canal tour because it was such a beautiful afternoon. Later, we went to the Gruisthuse museum which was a 15th century mansion.

After that we went to Mass at the Church of Our Lady. We were late because I misunderstood the organist whom I spoke to on the phone in the morning.

For dinner we went to The Hobbit, of a course a Rick place. It was a real homey place with all you can eat ribs. They were so different and delicious. We got two price fixed meals one came with an aperitif and soup
and the other with port wine and cheese. We had beers instead of wine because the ribs were really spicy.

Then we went to a concert at the church. It was disappointing. It was a chant and organ music. The organ was really loud and there were no alleluia chants.

Ghent

Had our last breakfast in Bruges and headed to the bus and then the train station. The train was waiting so we just hopped on and off to Ghent which takes 1/2 hour.

A few museums are near the train station so backpacks and all we set out on foot to the Fine Arts Museum (SMAK) which was really great. Then we went across the road to the Contemporary Arts Museum (TRAK). It was not that great because they only had one temporary exhibit and they were in the process of putting up another but it was not completed yet. Then we went to the Abbey at St.Pietersplein. I was kind of churched out and tired since I had been walking around with my backpack.

Then we set out to find the tram to go to our B&B. We bought the Ghent 3 day pass which covered all museums and some attractions and all transportation. We got our money's worth!

Our bed and breakfast (BB King) was beautiful. It was in a little residential section about 2 or 3 little blocks to all the action. The room and the bathroom were magnificent. Sarah and Dominick were a very welcoming young couple. The breakfasts were wonderful- only the best ingredients. Dominick made his own yogurt and the coffee was from a local shop. There was always fresh fruit and jams made by Sarah's mom. They were wonderful and the location was great!

We arrived at the B&B at 2 and Dominick told us about the open monuments but each one we arrived at either required a tour or was closed.

It was now time for dinner. We found a Rick place with outside seating('tStropke). Doubting PB didn't want to stay because no one was eating. I warned him not to doubtRick . Sure enough,people started coming in and ordering. We had a 1/2 carafe of wine. PB had a shrimp salad with large shrimps and I had a Flemish stew which was cooked with beer. It was lighter than the one at the Flemish Pot but also good.

The next morning after a wonderful breakfast we started out to do an almost museum free day. It was Monday and we knew many places would be closed. It's hard to plan around Mondays when you are going from place to place.

We started at St. Bavo's Cathedral. He is the patron saint of Ghent. We didn't realize that the day before was the last time you could see the Van Eyke brothers Accent to the Cross before they started the restoration process. We did get to see many of the Peter Paul Rubins that were being exhibited in St. Bavo's while the Fine Arts Museum was being restored.

We then did a tourist thing and went to the Belfry. It was kind of interesting. It was such a beautiful day so we walked around a lot.

We had lunch by the canal in ,of course ANOTHER Rick place . It was called Souplounge. They had pumpkin, zucchini , tomato and onion soups and you could add whatever you wanted- pasta, meatballs, cheese etc. You got two rolls and a piece of fruit. With our two drinks, it came to E11 and we got to sit in the sun along the canal.

Later on the street I bought 8 Ghent noses. They look like a Hersey kisses but they are not chocolate. Four were berry and four were anise. Yum!

It was such a beautiful day. We walked some more and then found a table by the canal and had a few beers. Everyone was there.

Later that night believe it or not we had dinner at a place that Rick did not recommend (Vismijin). We had a table right along the canal . I had mussels and PB had el in a green herb sauce. It was lovely.

Antwerp

We went straight from our B&B in Ghent to our B&B (Enich Anders) in Antwerp. This was a hoot. It actually was more like a two room apartment over a sculpture gallery. Ine was there to greet us. We arraigned that she would leave our fixings for breakfast outside the door each night. We had a kitchen/living room, bedroom and bath. It was great. The location was perfect.

We set out as soon as we got settled. Our first trip was to a museum called MAS ( Museum Aan de Stroom). We had a long walk by the water and we got there kind of late but we saw quite a bit.

We walked home following a Rick walk through the Red Light District. PB loves Red Light Districts. I think it's funny.

We had a drink in a funky place Ine told us we had to see. It was a bar with a statue of every saint you could think of and more.

Several restaurants we wanted to go to were closed. We walked out of the historic center and found Hungry Henrietta recommended by you know who. It was sleak and delicious. PB had sirloin tip and potatoes and I had striped bass with mango sauce and snow peas. We were so surprised that this was a Rick place. It was different from his usual places. We loved it.

The next day we tried to get much in because we only had one day.

We went to:

Our Lady's Church and saw more Rubins

Then we walked through a shopping area and found this department store I had read about that was a renovated dance hall. It was really fun. I even paid 50 cent euro to go to the bathroom and took pictures.

Rubenshuis (Rubin's House)

Just passed this house we found a great place for lunch and had the meal of the day ( soup, wine, ratatouille and sausage ) for E10.50.

Rockoxhuis ( home of a mayor of Antwerp who was a friend of Rubins and collected art)

Museum Mayor Vanden Bergh ( another mayor of Antwerp who collected Renaissance and 18th century art) There was a special Bruegel exhibit.

Maagdenhuis Museum ( art donated to social welfare agencies)

FoMu ( photography museum)

MHKA ( contemporary art).

When we left MHKA, we were down by the water so we had a drink before our trip back.

We went to this restaurant Ine recommended (Ulcke Van Zurich) . It was wonderful . We had a smoked cod appetizer. I had lamb chops and PB had skewers with four kinds of meat. We both had baked potatoes and salad. The chef was great.

The next day we said goodbye to Ine and headed to Brussels .


Brussels

Again we walked around in circles until we found our hotel. PB was using my compass on my iPhone which was no help.

Our hotel (Hotel Mozart) was right in the center of everything . Luckily, we were on the fourth floor in the back so we did not hear the noise in the street. This time we had an elevator. Now close your eyes and picture how you have seen Mozart dressed. That is how our hotel was decorated. It was so funny.

After settling in we walked around the square. We were hungry so you went into a place in restaurant row where they all try to get you to eat in their establishment, Actually it was Ok.

We had to go see PeePee Boy. It is amazing to see everyone getting a picture with him. We visited City Hall which told the story of Brussels. They have a display area where they have PeePee Boy dressed in all his costumes. Each day, in the museum, they dress him in a different costume. The day we were there he was a rock star.

Then we visited an art nouveau bar (Falstaff). We felt we had to order a beer so we could walk around. While we were there others just came in walked around and didn't order anything.

Then we took to the mall. It has a roof but each end opens to the street so you feel you are outdoors.

We had had a late lunch so we went to a crepes place(La Mason Des Crepes) for dinner. It was good.

Maastricht

Our second day in Brussels, we took a side trip to Maastricht which is actually going from Belgium back to the Netherlands. It cost E7.70 each and took an hour and 45 minutes. We had to make one change in Liege. It was not bad. We set our after breakfast for the first train we could take with senior fare which was 9:02 . Our train was a little late but all connections worked out well.

We started at the "I" and bought a map and a walking guide. My tourist guide, PB, took us all over the old town. Of course along the way we found two interesting places to eat. One was Tribunal 507 right near the university. I suggested the stop because I had to go to the bathroom but after we got in we decided to try some food. I got a hot chocolate because I was so cold. Then PB got these meatballs (mestreechler belkes) and I got a German bacon with cheese on dark bread (landbrood met schwarzwalders ). Both were great.

My guide took me further through the old town following the old wall and fortresses. Eventually, we came to a grist mill with a gigantic waterwheel. Right next to it was a bakery (Zo Bart de Bisschopsmolin) with its door open. The smell could not be ignored. We went in and had two unusual pieces of pie. I had gooseberry and PB had plum. They made their own whole wheat flour and the texture was different from any other pie I ever had. The gooseberries were tart and so good. We sat with a couple from Ghent who were doing the same self walk in the opposite direction.

The tour finally took us to two churches. The first was a very sweet one- Our Lady of the Sea and the other was the basilica of St.Servaas.

We walked through the market and the mall but then the weather got really nasty so we headed to the train station.

Our train was waiting for us when we got to the station. It was a real old train and there were no visible numbers on the outside so I thought it was a local train and didn't have first and second class. The inside was decorated like a 50s movie with goldish-orange upholstery. When the conductor came to take our tickets he spoke kind of annoyed in French. I asked him to speak English and he was throwing us out into second class. I apologized and gathered my belongings.

We got back to Brussels at 7 pm and the sun was out.

We had dinner in a great place( L’Estaminet du Kelerke). I had to have mussels one last time. We had a big bullet of mussels and a price fix meal. It included a great herring salad with apples and a light cream sauce and for dessert we had a great cheese with a syrup from Liege.

Saturday we decided would be museum day. We started by doing a Rick walk up toward the museum. All of a sudden we were in a market that was being set up. When we saw the meats, cheeses and wine, we knew we had to return later.

We saw the Palace of Justice just from the outside, a beautifully landscaped sculpture garden, and another church of Our Lady. Eventually we wound up at the museums.

First we did the Magritte . The approach was kind of crazy. We had to go downstairs then an elevator to the third floor and then down again. It was tremendous. Then we went to the Royal Fine Arts Museum. It was laid out beautifully.

Now it was time for the market which was the highlight of our day. The weather was great for outdoor eating. We bought a plate of assorted cheeses, ham, sausage, pâté and bread for E10. Then we got a bottle of red wine for E8 and PB got another chunk of a really aged cheese. We were in heaven and we sat at a table with a family. The father sat down with theses delicious looking snails with that Belgium green sauce. I asked him where he got them and he showed me. They were sooooooo good . I used some of my bread to soak up every drop of green sauce.

On our way out we eyed dessert. One was a little pecan pie and the other was a chocolate brownie with a mocha frosting.

It was Open Monuments weekend. We had a booklet that showed several places on our way home. First we went to Bellvue. It was mostly Belgium history. PB went around but I was bored. I met a cute old couple who came in from the suburbs for the free monuments. They were so interesting and wanted to hear all about things going on in the US and NY.

That night PB had an allergic reaction to something he ate so we went to bed early with no dinner.

The next day was a special day. It was a car free day. All public transportation was free and only bikes, emergency vehicles and public transportation was allowed on the roads.

We went to St. Michael’s for a high, Gregorian Mass. It was beautiful. Then we went by public transportation to the Horta Museum. We were early so we walked around the neighborhood, went to a market and had lunch.

The Horta Museum was beautiful. We then went in search of more open monuments. We found St. Giles( city hall), St. Michael’s hall and a theater being renovated.

For dinner we went to Victors. It was our last great dinner.

Monday we took the train to the airport and home!

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