On Friday, we had activated our 15 day Eurorail pass. This gives us unlimited travel for 15 days from when it was activated. We did have to reserve some trains ahead of time, do to demand or limited schedules. We said good-bye to our hotel in Paris and made our way to the train station. We had a reserved seat from Paris to Belgium and then from Belgium to Amsterdam. At the main station in Paris Nord, security was very tight for those going to Brussels. All the boarding instructions were in French, so we had to ask a few questions to go to the correct platform. We made it through security ( much like airport security, with x-ray machines for bags and metal detectors for us). We found our assigned seats and we were off. We felt pretty proud of ourselves to have made it to our first big train ride of the trip. Once we settled in, we were served a very nice continental breakfast. Which was a pleasant surprise.
We arrived at the Brussels Midi Station and safely stored our bags in a Baggage box.
We then used our Eurorail pass to access the city train to the Brussels Central station. We were headed to the town square, as we had arranged a free walking tour of the city. At the end of the tour, you pay the guide a tip for his services. Once at the Central station, we were not sure which directions to go. We had a city map, but we were still confused. Went to the information office, but the lady, kept pointing and yelling. We assume that we needed a number, even though there was no one else in the office. We had no idea where the numbers were, so being 3 somewhat “intelligent” people we headed off on our own adventure to find the city square. Disclaimer….we received instructions from another American tourist who saw we were lost!!! We were early for our tour, so set off to do a bit of exploring. The first stop was the chocolate shop.
We bought a bag full of various flavors of chocolate balls. We loved them all except the tiramisu…it was bad!!!
We looked around the square. Lots of buildings and activity and we felt very secure with the military presence.
We also wanted to try a Belgium waffle, so found a shop that sold an assortment of pastries. We got our waffle with strawberry syrup but later learned that only Americans order toppings, as they are usually eaten plain as they are so sweet.
It was now time to meet our tour guide. He was a British student, studying Parliamentary law, but he knew his history very well.
We learned that the city square was called the Grand Place. It started as labor unions surrounding the town square. There is lots of gold on the buildings. He took us past the Tin Tin and Smurfs paintings as both of these originated in Belgium.
We went past a sculpture that if you rub it, it is supposed to be good luck. Also saw the inside courtyard of one of the buildings. Had a gorgeous fountain. The star on the courtyard floor is supposedly where the architect fell when he jumped to his death.
We went to the Peeing Boy sculpture. There is an actual schedule posted of days when they dress him up for different occasions.
We saw various other sites in the city…including the Peeing girl statue
We visited several churches, one being St Michael’s. It was very peaceful. Hard to believe is was built hundreds of years ago, not allowed to take pictures inside.
We ended at the Royal Palace of Brussels and a view over-looking the city.
Before we left our tour guide, he gave us the history of french fries. They were actually invented in Belgium, but American soldiers who tried them thought they were in France and went back to the US and told everyone that they had eaten this new dish called French fries. The Belgium people are not very happy about their discovery being called French fries. He then told us the best place to try “Belgium fries” and when we ordered to ask for Belgium fries and we woiuld get a bigger order. So we thanked our guide and headed to Fritland.
We ordered Belgium fries and 2 hot dogs. As was promised, everyone who ordered French fries got a small tray, we got a very large cone. The hot dogs were Vienna sausages in a loaf of French Bread with sauerkraut and ketchup. The fry sauce is tartar and the special sauce in vinegar, mustard, and a bit of ketchup. We felt that we had experienced a wide range of culinary treats for our short time in Brussels. Headed back to the train station, made the transfer to Brussels Midi and collected our bags. Got on the train to Amsterdam and it was an assigned seat train. There were 2 people in our seats, an man from the Netherlands and a woman from the US. Not very happy to move and proceeded to swear and make subtle comments for the rest of the train voyage. These are the first vulgar people we have encountered and of course it had to be a fellow American from California… Because this was a reserved train that you pay extra for, we were served a light dinner, which made it nice as all we had eaten was waffles, chocolates, hot dogs, and fries.
We arrived in Amsterdam and found a very helpful attendant that told us about the 2 day intercity train pass. Jerie and Jim found the hotel quickly. We are on a canal street corner, abit noisy but very spacious. Jim was somewhat worried as it was described as one step above a hostel, but it was very nice. The only problem is we had a loft bed, with no ladder. We gave it to Jerie to climb up the couch and to her bed.
We took apart our backpacks and decided to do laundry in the morning, as our Bike tour was not until 11:45 am. We settled in for a well-deserved nights sleep. Day 7 would be exploring Amsterdam….