Good morning Brussels! This little weekend getaway came about when we saw how cheap it was to take the train to Brussels. So with a 5 am morning call to catch the Eurostar from St. Pancreas at 6:30 am, we just had a backpack for the two days worth of clothes that we would need and of course my running gear. After a little mishap with finding our way out of the train station we were on our way to the hotel to that they can hold our bags while we toured the city.
We stayed at the Royal Windsor hotel which is central to the old city and in walking distance of everything that you can imagine. We were lucky enough that our room was available at 11 am, never hurts to ask the front desk. After dropping off the bags we were off to have lunch in the little plaza around the corner in front of the Grand Dash Place which is the town square and are able to see the spire from our bedroom window.
After confirming with our tour company that was booked through Viator with Brussels City Tours for where and when the pick up would occur, we were off to explore the Royal Gardens as well as the outside of the Palace. I talked Josh into the challenge of taking on the Metro to get out to see the Mini-Europe as well as the Atomium from the World Fair that was outside the city and not with in walking distance.
After reaching the end of the line 6 on the Metro we made it. Now a little warning, the Metro is not like the one in London or Moscow. This is old school where you need to pull the handle to open the doors and they are super loud when they close so a nap is out of the question. Trust me I tried.
After standing in line to get the combo tickets it was up to the exhibit that was in the Atomium, see some of the photos and read the information from the world fair. After some amazing views of the city it was time to head over to Mini Europe.
They provide you with a pamphlet that gives you the history of the country and the building that was used to represent the country as well as a little background information on the currency and the population at the time of printing. I kinda felt like Godzilla taking on Tokyo in the park but it was educational and there were buttons to press to hear the anthem of that country.
Since it was starting to get dark and we had an early morning, we headed back to the hotel with a little stop at the Little Peeing Boy. You can’t miss his tiny street corner. Look for all the tourist huddled around the street corner and the signs listing a waffle for a euro and you are there. Do not get the waffles there! Go to an actual restaurant where they are so little you do not fell guilty about eating a couple of them with ice cream of chocolate.
The hotel was amazing! The beds were nice and soft with plenty of pillows. The staff was helpful in providing directions and suggestions on what to see. In the morning I went to the gym and had a nice work out with adequate equipment for both cardio and muscle training. It was a little hard to find, but they even had a little sauna in the dressing area to enjoy before or after your work out. We checked out and had breakfast at a local cafe before heading over to the pick up point.
We met another solo traveler, Ashley from California, who was great pleasure to spend time with on the bus and around the city when doing the tour of Ghent and Bruges cities. The only issue I had with the tour was that it was in three languages. Now this could have been done better with an audio guide but we had the live guide repeat the same thing in English, French and Spanish. While this was impressive, it ate up a lot of time that we could be spending in the cities on our own.
So after the walking tour of Ghent that included the cities of the old, a meat and fish market as well as the medieval castle, we were off to Bruges. Ashley, Josh and I decided that we would split from the group to walk around and see the city. After lunch at the local brewery and a lovely and highly recommended boat tour, we hit up the local markets. There was some amazing art work, pottery and scarves. You don’t realize how big the city is until you actually get lost in the heart of it. I would recommended spending a couple of days here. Half a day was not enough time to take everything in.
Because we had to catch the late Eurostar back to London, we booked a ticket for the train running from Bruges to Brussels to make sure we had enough time to go through check in and passport control. At this point the UK Border Control is getting a little concerned about my coming and goings but I have my return flight to prove I intend to go home and not immigrate illegally. Next stop is in a couple of weeks to Birmingham but right now I have to get my Doctor Who Convention outfit together. Now to go as a Darlek or the TARDIS…