Date of Trip: May 2009
It was my wife’s first trip outside the US and she is SOLD! Speaking of which, although clothing is -almost- ridiculously expensive over in Europe, compared to what we are used to here in Florida, it is so different in style. Almost leisure like, where our idea was Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel and other European brands as we know them. That is all my dear, there are enough vintage stores around where we live.
The purpose of our trip to Belgium was art, was architecture, was history, was atmosphere and gosh we were in for a treat. Places we have visited on day trips were Antwerp (6 times), Brussels, Ghent, Bruges.
It is hard to pick a winner, although Antwerp seems to deliver a wide variety of restaurants, all kinds of grand places -many of which are hidden for the non-suspecting tourist- museums and architecture, nightlife. You walk from one area in another and it is so completely different. A great tip for sure in Antwerp is the Antique shopping with a few dozen of antiques shoppes one next to another on the West side of the city.
Bruges is likely the coziest city. With a lot of lace and the water ways are dominantly present where ever you walk through the city. Lots of terraces, lots of shopping too and some of the most amazing places and churches I have ever seen in my life.
Brussels: may be the capital of the country but there are only a few places worth visiting. One would not expect that from the center city of Belgium, known for the NATO and European Community presence. The Grand Place is unique, a jaw dropper with these ancient buildings covered with gold accents. Search for the Rue De Boucher when you visit Brussels and if you really want to find “Manneken Pis”, we suggest you bring a magnifying glass. Disappointing. The antiques are found in the Sablon but this has become a less safe neighborhood so we stayed away from that part of the city.
Another tour bus attraction seems to be the Atomium, a tourist attraction that dates from the World Showcase from 1958 and although recently cleaned and renovated, it is still… from 1958 or so. Maybe we had high expectations of this monument.
Ghent is one of the major college cities of the country (together with Louvain and Antwerp) and is comparable to Bruges. Really nice but if you have to make a choice, we agree that Bruges is not to miss. What is very hard for us to understand is the average American tourist will visit Belgium (and Europe) from a bus. “If it is Tuesday, this must be Belgium”? What a shame in our opinion, there is so much to see, so much to do. Our next trip will be France and Paris. Can’t wait to tell you all about it! See you all soon!