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Paris for Christmas & Belgium for Christmas CX and New Year

Paris for Christmas & Belgium for Christmas CX and New Year

Old May 14th, 2024, 11:31 AM
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Paris for Christmas & Belgium for Christmas CX and New Year

Hello Fodorites, Thanks in advance for having a look at our rough plans and providing any advice or answers. Please also chime in on anything you think could use some tweaking!

Our family, 2 adults and a 13 and 16 year old, will be in Paris for Christmas this year. We'll arrive on the 20th and leave on the 26th for Belgium.

The Details:
  • We've rented an apartment in the Marais - I remember hearing great things about this neighbourhood when I booked my last trip to France almost 19 years ago. Is it still a great neighbourhood to stay in? Last time we stayed near Luxembourg Gardens, but thought the Marais might be better this time around?
  • We plan on enjoying the many culinary delights of Paris including bread, pastries, hot chocolate, wine, and bistro meals as well as homecooked meals with lovely french delicacies. We would likely want 2 or 3 splurge meals with the rest being modest or even on the cheap side. Suggestions appreciated. So far on my list are: Le Baron Rouge, Chocolat Chapon, Le Bonaparte, Laduree, Bouillon Julien, Angelina Paris, Breizh Cafe, L'Ange 20, Piere Herme, Robert et Louise, La Belle Hortense, Chez l'Ami Louis, Le Grand Colbert, Le comptoir du relais. Can you help me narrow this down? Also, should we take the kids to Le Train Bleu for the opulent dining room? Is it worth the surroundings?
  • For activities, we're planning to walk around Paris a lot (we're an active bunch), visit a few museums on colder days or rainy afternoons (we're not big museum people, but there are so many beautiful ones in Paris - should we do the Louvre, or some other smaller ones?), see the Christmas lights at night, visit the Catacombes, get some great pictures from the Montparnasse Tower, perhaps some classical music at Sainte-Chapele, and the rest of our plans are completely open.
After Paris, we'll be heading to Belgium and staying in Ghent. I think it's centrally located for the plethora of cyclo-cross bike races that happen at that time of year. We plan on taking the train to the races (likely 3, which ones TBD), visiting Bruges, and other than that, no particular plans. We'll fly home on the 3rd or 4th of January.

Thank you so much!
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Old May 14th, 2024, 02:06 PM
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Hi jennycptbo, it would help to know which of the races you will be attending. Not all of them at that time are that close to Ghent, some are closer to (east of) Antwerp, some to the east of Brussels, which makes Ghent not very helpful as a base. So planning this is essential before booking accommodation.

At this time of year you still have the Winter Wonders market going on in Brussels - there will be ice skating, vin chaud, good food. It usually runs to about 6 January.

Lavandula

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Old May 14th, 2024, 05:44 PM
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Thanks Lavandula for the insight! So far, the only World Cup that will work for us is the one in Gavere. We’re waiting on the rest of the schedules to come out for the other series. The winter market sounds great. Is there a place you’d recommend for basing ourselves (we know we will need to travel to every race). Thanks!
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Old May 15th, 2024, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by jennycptbo
Thanks Lavandula for the insight! So far, the only World Cup that will work for us is the one in Gavere. We’re waiting on the rest of the schedules to come out for the other series. The winter market sounds great. Is there a place you’d recommend for basing ourselves (we know we will need to travel to every race). Thanks!
If the only race you are going to is Gavere then Ghent makes sense, but there are a whole lot of races at that time and so without knowing which others you choose, I can't really suggest something. I was looking at the 2023 schedule but I guess it is better to wait for 2024, no?

In Brussels the Winter Wonders is partly around the Grand' Place and partly around the Ste.-Catherine district. If you end up in Brussels accommodation-wise then I'd recommend basing in one of those areas, but since most of your time is taken up with cyclo cross I would wait until you know more about that.

Good luck, it sounds like a lot of fun!

Lavandula

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Old May 15th, 2024, 03:12 PM
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jennycptbo, we did London and Rome at Christmas and New Years.
Many restaurants will be closed at that time. Book way ahead! We booked in October but earlier would be even better. Many chefs leave the cities for their country homes.
Like you, we were in an apartment with a full kitchen. We ordered a special Christmas Dinner that we picked up Christmas Eve morning with reheating directions for the next day.
If you know anyone who lives there who can give you the local scoop on food shopping that would be great. Or your rental agent or AirBnB host. It is a special time but also a difficult time to be in these cities at holiday time. A friend of a family member of ours gave us much needed local information and resources.

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Old May 15th, 2024, 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by HappyTrvlr
jennycptbo, we did London and Rome at Christmas and New Years.
Many restaurants will be closed at that time. Book way ahead! We booked in October but earlier would be even better. Many chefs leave the cities for their country homes.
Like you, we were in an apartment with a full kitchen. We ordered a special Christmas Dinner that we picked up Christmas Eve morning with reheating directions for the next day.
If you know anyone who lives there who can give you the local scoop on food shopping that would be great. Or your rental agent or AirBnB host. It is a special time but also a difficult time to be in these cities at holiday time. A friend of a family member of ours gave us much needed local information and resources.
happyTrvlr, this is really good information to have. We will make reservations in advance. There are many markets and food places and we’re good cooks so I think we’ll find some great stufff for actual Christmas (as well as a bouche Noel) but the days in and around I hadn’t really considered so thank you!
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Old May 15th, 2024, 05:57 PM
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Originally Posted by lavandula
If the only race you are going to is Gavere then Ghent makes sense, but there are a whole lot of races at that time and so without knowing which others you choose, I can't really suggest something. I was looking at the 2023 schedule but I guess it is better to wait for 2024, no?

In Brussels the Winter Wonders is partly around the Grand' Place and partly around the Ste.-Catherine district. If you end up in Brussels accommodation-wise then I'd recommend basing in one of those areas, but since most of your time is taken up with cyclo cross I would wait until you know more about that.

Good luck, it sounds like a lot of fun!

Lavandula

Lavandula

Hi Lavandula,
yes unfortunately the schedule changes a lot from year to year. In addition to Gavere, we do plan on the Sven Nice New Year’s Day race and then we’re waiting on the other series to announce their dates. I’ll pop back on (if you don’t mind) when we’ve got those set.

Do you have any other recommendations of what to do while we’re in Belgium? We will only be at races 3-4 of the 7-8 days. Thanks again!
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Old May 15th, 2024, 10:15 PM
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Apart from the winter market I would absolutely plan some indoor activities as Belgium isn't just cold, it's also prone to rain if it's not quite cold enough for snow. So perhaps the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, which is a complex of art galleries. Magritte is quite good for kids, his art is a bit 'out there' and captures the imagination. I would also look at the museums of illusions - there are two and I have only been to one of them, the one near Rue Neuve, but everyone can appreciate museums like this. I would look too at Coudenberg, which is an underground museum of a former royal palace. If the weather is OK then perhaps the Atomium (a partly indoor attraction) and Mini-Europe (outdoors), which are on the outskirts of the city (Heysel, you can get there by metro). And then of course the chocolate / beer / waffles / mussels / frites. Very easy to find these, but if you want specific recommendations let me know. And then outside of Brussels (which you might see anyway depending on the competitions) the typical destinations are Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, but we will perhaps wait for these. If you are doing Ghent, you need to see Gravesteen (castle) and the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, which is an altarpiece in St Bavo's Cathedral. I will let some other people contribute here about what you might see indoors in Bruges, but the Historium and the Basilica of the Holy Blood are also good indoor activities. Other people will have better tips for Bruges, it's a Fodor's favourite.

Lavandula


Last edited by lavandula; May 15th, 2024 at 10:20 PM.
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