Our next destination was only a couple of hours away by train so we settled in on the Eurostar and enjoyed the high-speed journey. Originally, we hadn’t planned visiting here as we weren’t sure we could fit it in until my friend advised that is was en route to another destination so it made sense to visit – and we’re so glad we did! We were able to catch up with my relatives – Aunt and cousins whom I have not seen for 20 years! It was lovely to spend a few days exploring and visiting – my husband and daughter got to meet relatives from my side of the family whom they had never met.
We alighted the Eurostar at Midi station in Brussels. My youngest cousin met us and took us to our hotel. It was so nice to see him, the last time I saw him was when he was visiting Australia – he was only 6 years old! After checking into our hotel, we set off to see the city. My cousin advised us that Belgium was not a big city like Sydney. He visited Sydney last year and said Brussels was much smaller, you could drive from one end of the city to the other in 20 minutes, unlike in Sydney.
The first stop for us was adhoc because as we drove past a large cathedral, it caught our eye – my cousin stopped the car so we could admire it and take a few tourist snaps! After that we had a tour around Brussels – he took us to see the Grand Place, Manekin Pis and his girlfriend – Janekin Pis ! We also visited Delirium Cafe to try some Belgium beer – two different types and found the alcohol strength to be double or more than that in Australia! I took a photo in the pub which I did not check until the evening and my cousin looks as though he had a little too much to drink because his eyes were half closed. I can guarantee that he was sober, it was just my poor photography skills! After our tour of the city, we went to his mum’s (My Aunty’s) pub to see the rest of my relatives except one who was away on vacation with her family.
We spent the evening at my Aunt’s pub where my daughter and my eldest cousin’s daughter got along very well even though it was the first time they met. They had interests in common and enjoyed each other’s company. It was lovely to see and the language barrier seemed non-existent! We had a big family dinner at a lovely Greek- Chinese restaurant (yes, an unusual combination but it worked!) You could order either Greek dishes or Asian dishes and the food was delicious. It was a full first day and a great introduction to the city!
The next day we headed out for a day trip to Bruges which is a Flemish-speaking part of Belgium. The Flemish or Flemings (Dutch: Vlamingen) are a Germanic ethnic group native to Flanders, in modern Belgium, who speak Dutch, especially any of its dialects spoken in historical Flanders, known collectively as Flemish Dutch. They are one of two principal ethnic groups in Belgium, the other being the French-speaking Walloons. Flemish people make up the majority of the Belgian population (about 60%)**.
I had been advised by a few colleagues and friends that if we visited Belgium then we had to visit Bruges. I had asked my cousin if we could visit Bruges when we arrived and he said of course! He was our chaperone, driving us there and taking us around for the day. Before we arrived in Bruges, my husband kept asking what is in Bruges and why did we have visit, to which I replied that it is the old part of Belgium and supposed to be beautiful. That was an understatement – we were absolutely blown away by the beauty of Bruges! We spent hours walking around looking at the buildings, sights, canals, tasting chocolate, waffles and mussels! It was a feast for all our senses! It seemed as though Belgium never ceased to amaze us, with each day better than the next!
The city of Bruges was an absolute highlight and we recommend it to anyone visiting Belgium – it is a must! It is only an hour and a half drive from Brussels or you can also take the train. There is a place in Bruges in my photos that is full of white swans. There is the legend of the Bruges Swans. I’ve included a link to the story so you can read it at your leisure. The history in Europe is so fascinating, we were learning so much in each place we visited!
My cousin also enjoyed Bruges because even though he had been there before, he said there were thingst he hadn’t seen before so it was also a ‘new’ experience for him too. We headed back to Brussels, dropping into my Aunt’s pub to spend a bit of time there and take some last photos. Then my cousin took us to see the Atomium which was lit up at night, it was built for the Brussels world fair in 1958. There is a panoramic restaurant at the top of the structure with gourmet food and views. We didn’t have time to have a look inside the spheres as we were heading to my eldest cousin’s home to have dinner with her family which provided another opportunity for her daughter and mine to spend some time together before we left the next day. We were grateful for the time we did spend in Belgium – being so surprised by the beauty of Belgium and discovering it was such an unexpected highlight of our trip so far!
My cousin’s husband cooked a wonderful, delicious pasta dinner for us and we were able to sit and catch up. Our girls were able to spend time together and attempt to make slime, it is a big trend at the moment with kids – big and small! We spent some time playing with her younger son with his police chief, hospitals, ambulance, staff and patients! He is currently obsessed police and their vehicles! It was a lovely way to spend our last evening in Belgium.
We were so grateful to be able to catch up with family and do some sightseeing, ticking off some of our main attractions. It was definitely a place where we put into action Laugh. Love. Live! We were enjoying our European adventure immensely and looking forward to our next destination. We were drinking in each experience with relish – filling our hearts, souls and stomachs with amazing nourishment! Hope you enjoyed this little snapshot of Belgium as much as we did – onwards and upwards to our next stop on our European adventure!