German Hospitality and Touring the Solar System

By Mike Kerr

Steven and I were on our tour of Poland and Germany and where extended an invitation to visit our German family (the cousins of Steven’s cousin’s wife)  in the small town of Donsdorf outside of Stuttgart. Steven had been to Donzdorf for cousin Jode and Carol’s reception and I was yet to experience the beauty of the town and yet to meet the extended family.

In an earlier post we shared our journey down the Autobahn in our faithful Renaud Megane and Donzdorf was our final destination. When our trusty GPS directed us to the German family’s home, we were happy the long drive was over, of course there were a few quips from the mostly Audi employed family about the jalopy we were driving, but what were we to do? It was the only car left to rent with a GPS, and my German highway and road navigation skills aren’t what they could be, and we didn’t realize we were heading into the home of Porsche (<– Steve had convinced me this one was Italian), Audi, and Volkswagen. Luckily we brought a bouquet of flowers as a gift, so we were soon forgiven as our hosts owned a flower shop and couldn’t remember the last time someone had actually brought them flowers.

We were shown to the room we would be sleeping in, asked to drop off our bags, and our tour of Donsdorf began. Starting with a quick jaunt through their neighborhood, we quickly learned that aside from ourselves, our hosts were the only ones in town who could speak very much English at all, but what can you do when you’re in small town Germany?

Our next stop was a trip by the local flower shop (the one owned by our hosts) on our way to the local castle and church where Steven’s cousin was married. In behind the church was a beautiful open park, filled with art on display by local artists. My favourite part of the displays was a scale model of the solar system, starting with the sun in the center of the park, and continuing out through the town with each of the planets including the now dwarf planet Pluto. In elementary school, the solar system tends to be studied, and dioramas made of coat hangers and Styrofoam balls are pretty commonplace, but actually getting to see it in scale, and walking the distances between each planet really gives a realistic sense of just how big our Solar System is, and a feel for the sizes of each celestial body when the sun was bigger than my head, but Mercury is the size of a ball bearing.

One of mine and Steven’s favourite things about being in Germany is Hanuta, a delicious hazelnut cream sandwiched between two crispy wafers. It sounds kind of ordinary, but it is the best chocolate treat ever. Although it is made by Kinder, which tends to be pretty internationally known, Hanuta, the best of their products, is only available for purchase in the German market.

After getting some (a lot) of sugar in us, we decided to work it off by playing some football with the kids. Steven and I are definitely not MVPs so needless to say, we had our butts handed to us by a very talented kid. We also discovered that flip flops are not the ideal footwear for the game.

Later on we sat down for a family meal, learning more about the family itself, enjoying a bounty of local sausages and meat, and getting more drunk than I ever had before. A good point to remember when visiting your German relatives, is they have a much higher tolerance for beer than you, and aren’t afraid to fill your glass while you are distracted. After my first couple of beers (giant beers) I was starting to get a bit of a buzz on, upon telling this to the German family they insisted I have another, as a buzz in Germany just isn’t good enough. By the time I hit the bottom of my fifth bottle there was no doubt I was drunk. Now at this point I would normally have stopped, but somehow the Germans managed to convince me that I would be fine having another half (and another, and another) soaking up as much as I could in my stomach by eating some authentic soft pretzels, I managed to not throw up. Steven, having been with the family before opted for the lighter lime beer.

At some point during the night, the family heard a noise that we could not, and were up in arms running to the house for a glass of water and some dish soap. Not knowing what was going on, we had to join them to figure out what all the fuss was for. The noise was apparently coming from the ground around the family garden, a quick squirt of dish soap, and a splash of water and the scariest bug I have ever seen in my life revealed itself from the depths of the earth. Imagine a cricket with mole arms, now imagine it being ten times bigger, now imagine its face being so large that you can actually tell what it is thinking by the expression on its face. That my friends, is a mole cricket, the largest bug I ever want to see for the rest of my life.

After an amazing night, and the deepest drunken sleep I have ever had, Steve managed to shake me awake in the morning, gather me up, and get me back in the car to catch the first of our connecting flights home from Stuttgart. Out of all of the small towns I have visited, Donzdorf is my favorite, not for the sights or local amenities, but for the amazing people I met who I can look back and think of as a branch of my family.

Germany Posts:
Autobahn jaunt to Düsseldorf and Köln
East Side Gallery
Outlet City Metzingen
Potsdamer Platz – the platz to be!
Glass Ceiling walking tour: Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie
Shopping in Berlin – ja, das ist gut!
Schloss Charlottenburg the Palace of Berlin
Chic Outlet Shopping – Europe


Sightseeing on the Seine

By Steven Wright

Sitting at Cavalier Bleu, my favorite Parisian patio, enjoying a buttery croissant and baguette with fruit preserves and a cappuccino is my favorite way to start the day. Art, history and culture coupled with amazing cuisine and fine wines make Paris a favorite destination among visitors to Europe. Many of the tourist sites line the banks of the River Seine, which runs through the centre of the city. One of the best ways to take in all that Paris has to offer is to take a ride on the Batobus, a hop-on-hop-off boat tour with access points to many of the attractions in the city. The boats offer a panoramic view a glass ceiling and offer an outdoor section for photographers. Get a different perspective of the great city as you travel by water to one of the 8 stations. A day pass can be purchased for 15€, 2 consecutive days for 18€, or 5 consecutive days for 21€.

Port de la Bourdonnais is the stop at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, one of the most famous landmarks in Paris. Built in 1889 for a Universal Exposition celebrating the centenary of the French Revolution, look for a bust of Gustave Eiffel at the foot of the tower on the north pillar. Climb the stairs or take the lift to the 1st & 2nd floors where there are a number of displays talking about the history and innovation of the tower, a circular gallery you can find and identify many of the sites and monuments in Paris using the panoramic tables, restaurants and souvenir shops. Make your way to the top of the tower in the glass elevators, giving you amazing views of the city on your way up. At the top you can explore two levels, one is open air and the second is covered by a roof. Here you can visit Gustave Eiffel’s office restored to its original condition and then head to the Champagne Bar for a glass while enjoying the views from your position 180 metres from the ground below. As this is a very popular destination I would recommend getting tickets to bypass the lines from your travel agent before your departure.

At Quai de Solférino you can find the Musée d’Orsay. The Museum was installed in the former d’Orsay rail station to show the great diversity of artistic creation in the western world between 1848 and 1914. The museum itself is a work of art and its collections include painting, objects of art, sculpture, photography, graphic art and architecture. Admission to the museum ranges from 9-14€. The Faubourg Saint-Germain quarter surrounding the museum is filled with 18th century mansions that now house many of the embassies and ministries in Paris and provide a great place to take a walk and view some of the finest buildings in the city.

Quai de Malaquais is where to depart for Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the area centred around the Saint-Germain Church and is known as the artsy area of the city. The streets have bookshops and galleries with a recent influx of ready to wear fashion. There is a  market on Rue de Buci and an number of famous cafes including Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore.

Another highlight is found at Quai de Montebello, the famous Notre Dame Cathedral on Île de la Cité, one of the natural islands in the Seine. Notre Dame is tourist favorite so there will be a line up to gain access to the inside of the church but definitely worth the wait. Inside you will find some incredible stained glass, art, sculptures and wooden altars. The exterior of the building is also quite remarkable and one of the first buildings to use flying buttresses to support the walls around the choir and altar, a great example of French Gothic architecture. There are many gargoyles that adorn the structure around the building which finished construction in 1345. The other buildings on the island are filled by the city’s Prefecture de Police, Palais de Justice, Hôtel-Dieu hospital and Tribunal de Commerce. Head down to Point Neuf for a great view of the Seine and an equestrian statue of Henry IV.

Quai Saint-Bernard is the home of Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle which includes the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, the Mineralogy Museum, the Paleontology Museum, the Entomology Museum and the Jardin des Plantes on a one hectare site with demonstration gardens, horticultural displays of decorative plants, an Alpine garden  Art Deco winter garden, Mexican and Australian hothouses and the Rose Garden.

There is a lot to see and do at Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville, the l’Hôtel de Ville is a beautiful building that is Paris’ city hall, children love to ride the antique carousel in the front of the grand building. Other highlights of the area include the Centre Pompidou which is focused on modern and contemporary creation, where the visual arts would rub shoulders with theatre, music, cinema, literature and the spoken word. The building itself and surrounding fountains are a works of art and worth a visit. Inside you will find exhibitions by contemporary masters like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. There are quaint shops, restaurants and cafés on the small streets outside, including some of my favorite places to eat including Cavalier Bleu and Pasta Papa. Continue across Boulevard de Sébastopol to the heart of shopping at Le Forum des Halles which is a combination of shopping centre, Metro station, park and movie theatre.

Depart at Quai du Louvre for a view of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa inside the Louvre. But that is only one small highlight of the museum and its grounds which include the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and the Jardin des Tuileries not to mention I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid (and inverted pyramid) which is the main entrance into the Louvre. The museum itself is one of the largest and most visited in the world inside a former royal palace, with collections including Egyptian, Near Eastern, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities, Islamic art, sculpture, decorative art, painting, prints and drawing. In the area around the museum there are luxury boutiques of Faubourg St-Honoré and the antique shops in the Louvre des Antiquaires.

Departing at the Port des Champs Elysées the first thing you will see is the golden top of Obelisk of Luxor, given to the French in 1829 by the viceroy of Egypt, Mehemet Ali. The Obelisk of Luxor is the central feature of the Place de la Concorde, the largest square in Paris, continue on Avenue des Champs-Élysées past the Grand Palais, with is glass roof and known as the primary venue for Chanel fashion shows.  Then the Avenue des Champs Elysées becomes a bustle of activity with luxury boutiques and shops, street side restaurants and cafés leading to the Arc de Triomphe. For the ultimate luxury shopping experience, ditch the crowds on Avenue des Champs-Élysées and head north-east of The Grand Palais to Avenue Montaigne and L’avenue George-V. All of the luxury brands boast a spot on this coveted strip.

Paris Posts:
Finding Karl, Jean-Paul and Christian in Paris
Enjoying My Cake in Versailles Gardens
Pasta in Paris, Brunch in Blue – My guide to finding good eats.

Schloss Charlottenburg the Palace of Berlin

By Steven Wright

A statue of the goddess of happiness Fortuna sits on top of the grand cupola at Schloss Charlottenburg. The palace built as a summer residence and was named after Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Friederich III. The building design is a homage to the palace of Versailles and also references Italian architecture of the time. Construction started in 1699, and was extended numerous times to include the annex and Orangeries.

Located in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Schloss Charlottenburg is the largest palace and the only former royal residence in Berlin. Visitors can tour inside the Old Palace to see the baroque style royal apartments, the largest collection of 18th century French paintings outside of France, and Chinese and Japanese porcelain and silverware collections. The New Wing features the rococo style and some incredible fine furniture  added by Friederich the Great. You can get tickets for these exhibits in the main courtyard through the golden gates.

The palace was badly damaged during WWII, and in the ’50s reconstruction started to bring the palace back to its former glory. The palace tour gives visitors a bird’s eye view of what I consider to be the gem of the property, the magnificent and massive gardens that surround the palace.

The Palace Gardens are expansive covering 33 hectares with one side bordered by the River Spree, they are a great place to relax and enjoy the day, and a popular place for runners and cyclists alike. The garden design references both French baroque and traditional English gardens and feature the Belvedere Teahouse (now a porcelain museum), the mausoleum of Queen Louise, and the Schinkel pavilion.

The baroque portions of the gardens lead to a central fountain, to the west there are a number of tree lined paths leading you further into the garden. Spend some time at the Carp pond, pack a picnic lunch and watch the tour boats travel down the Spree. I enjoyed the variety of plants and trees and was amazed at the maturity of the Agave and other plantings throughout the garden in large pots.

Definitely worth a visit!

Germany Posts:
Autobahn jaunt to Düsseldorf and Köln
East Side Gallery
Outlet City Metzingen
Potsdamer Platz – the platz to be!
Glass Ceiling walking tour: Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie
Shopping in Berlin – ja, das ist gut!
Garden Posts:
Enjoying My Cake in Versailles Gardens

Steve’s Picks for Luxury Stays in Italy & Greece

By Steven Wright

Hotel Castello de Casole
(opening July 1)

Be one of the first to stay in this fabulously restored 10th century castle in the heart of Tuscany between Florence and Sienna in Casole d’Elsa. Located on a 4,200 acre estate, the main hotel offers Junior and1 bedroom suites, spa services, restaurants and a fire baked pizzeria. They feature wines and olive oil made on site, there is a game reserve where you can observe wild bores and even hunt for truffles. The estate also features an outdoor amphitheatre, pools and outdoor terraces. There is great opportunity for mountain biking on any number of trails, or take a cooking class, pottery class and language class on site. The hotel has a personal shopper on site that can bee booked for shopping trips to Florence or Sienna, even the Gucci and other luxury brand outlets. Private transfers can be arranged from Florence or Sienna.

The out buildings on the estate are available for a more intimate experience, they feature 1 bedroom suites with private gardens, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments and 4 and 5 bedroom villas. The Limonaia Suites are 2 story 1 bedroom suites with their own private garden terrace, the contemporary Oliveto Suites are more like a private 1 bedroom apartment overlooking the olive groves and vineyards with their own large private terrace. The apartments and villas have access to all the amenities of the main hotel, but are spread over the property offering a very exclusive experience.

Canaves Oia Hotel & Canaves Oia Suites

Set on the cliffs of Oia Village in Santorini, Greece, overlooking the Caldera and volcano. Canaves offers two properties, the modern and contemporary recently renevated Canaves Oia Hotel and the more traditional Canaves Oia Suites. Most of the rooms and suites have a private veranda, all overlooking the Caldera, some feature outdoor jacuzzi tubs while others have their own private pool. There are Superior Doubles ,Junior Suites and Superior Suites for 2 and 4 people. For the ultimate stay book the Honeymoon Suites that feature their own pool. Both of the properties have their own pools, the Canaves Oia Suites is the only hotel in Santorini to offer elevator service. The hotel features wines from the local vineyards, and the opportunity for room service to be sent to your private terrace. Canaves Oia is an amazing location for destination weddings and offers special packages. The property is open from April-October.

Explore the famous beaches, the volcano and the Caldera on a semi private or private catamaran yacht tours on Santorini’s hot springs and therapeutic waters. Whether you prefer to spend half the day in the sun or opt for a romantic sunset cruise this is a highlight of any trip. If you are looking to explore more of the Greek islands there is a Ferretti Motor yacht “Alexandros” available for your group, family, wedding or private excursion.

Armani Hotel Milano

After the success of the Armani Hotel Dubai in the Berj Kalifa, Georgio Armani opens his second hotel in the heart of Italy’s fashion capital Milan. The building is home to the Armani Privé boutique and Armani/Nobu Japanese restaurant. The hotel features 2 room styles and 5 suites styles, each with the Armani signature style including a neutral palate and items chose for their sculptural, aesthetic and sensual qualities. The Armani/Ristorante offers Italian cuisine, drawing from the rich gastronomy of the country and the Armani/Lounge gives you the opportunity to relax over cocktails while enjoying some great music. Both feature large windows with panoramic views of rooftops and terraces of the great city of Milan.

Armani’s Lifestyle Manager will help you with everything you could possibly need to enjoy your stay on site, and can also help with transfers, tours and other excursions. They can also get you an appointment in the Armani / Spa with its steam and sauna experience, then retreat to the relaxation pool with its louvered windows, roof and walls. Stay in ultimate style with Armani Hotel Milano.

The Haven – 3 Bedroom Garden Villa, Norwegian Jade

See both Italy and Greece aboard the Norwegian Jade in their exclusive The Haven – 3 Bedroom Garden Villa. The suite features 3 bedrooms each with a king or queen sized bed, large living room with a baby grand piano and your own private garden terrace equipped with your own hot tub and private dining area, and 3 1/2 bathrooms. The suite includes 24 hour butler and concierge service, priority boarding and VIP seating at restaurants and entertainment venues on board. The Haven guests have access to the exclusive courtyard, a private enclave at the top of the ship, outside all The Haven suites. The courtyard features areas for lounging, relaxing, and dining, with its own swimming pool, fitness area and hot tubs.

As with all Norwegian Freestyle Cruising, there are a number of restaurants on board and give you the flexibility to dine on your schedule, or order your meals in the exclusive courtyard or indulge in privacy having your meals on your private garden terrace. The concierge will make arrangements for all of your entertainment and shore excursions, and even set you up for a relaxing day at the on board spa. Cruising will never be the same.

Contact me to book your luxury stay in Europe – there has never been a better time to visit!

There has never been a better time to visit Europe!

By Steven Wright

I have been traveling to Europe for a number of years now. Almost immediately I have a European pastry and cappucino in hand, as soon as I land – there is nothing better! The news of late has been a bit dire with the tragedy on the Costa Concordia, the EuroZone financial crisis with austerity measures, public strikes and protests. That being said, the CDN dollar is the strongest it has ever been against the Euro making it cheaper to visit Europe than it has been in the past few years, to the tune of almost 20 cents on the dollar!

It is much easier to get from destination to destination throughout Europe than it is in Canada and the USA. Eurorail is a network of regional train services for each EU country, they give you the opportunity to buy country passes and multiple country passes that give you a certain number of days on the train for one price within a certain time period. There are two service levels 1st and 2nd Class. In 1st Class you have a reserved seat on a scheduled train, generally the items on the concession cart are complimentary, the seats are wider and leave more leg room. Some trains offer private sections within the rail car and some offer bunks for overnight hauls. In 2nd Class your ticket is a little more flexible giving you the opportunity to catch the next train, however seats are not guaranteed, you may find yourself sitting on your suitcase in the stairwell. The concession services are offered at a fee, and on busy routes the train can be quite crowded throughout the summer. I often opt for 1st Class seats on longer or very busy routes and 2nd Class for shorter distances. Chat with a travel agent about what tickets work best for you.

Europe is also the home of many discount airline carriers, some offer the opportunity to get 1 Euro flights, that’s right a plane ticket for 1 Euro (plus the fuel surcharge). On one of our trips to Europe, Michael and I planned to start our trip in Poland and decided to meet my sister and friends later in Berlin. We started exploring options to get from Warsaw to Berlin and snagged a flight on Easy Jet from Warsaw to Paris Orly for 1 Euro and then from Paris to Berlin for 10 Euro a couple of days later. Having flexibility in our schedule and early planning afforded us a less than $50 CDN voyage from Warsaw to Berlin and the option of a short stop over in Paris! Some of my favorite of these discount airlines include Easy Jet, Ryan Air, Air Berlin, Vueling and Transavia.

Now let me make a quick note about these discount airlines as they are not for everyone. These planes are equipped to carry as many passengers as possible, so if you are looking for extra legroom or wide seats I would suggest looking elsewhere. Often there are no seats assigned, which leads to passengers jockeying for pole position through the gate hoping get the best seats on the plane.  Often past the gate there is a bus loading the passengers for a transfer across the tarmac to the stairs onto the plane. Once aboard you can grab a seat and get ready for departure, everything on board is an additional charge including food and beverage. Some offer other items and gifts from their on board magazine. My tips for taking these discount carriers include, arriving early for your flight, having patience with other passengers, and bring something to read as there are no video terminals here. Relax, you are on vacation and saved a bundle on this flight.

Many of the major airlines feature regional airlines that provide a more traditional experience with business and economy class seats. These seats are confirmed and assigned. Your travel agent can assist you in booking these inter Europe flights as part of your package or as stopovers on your overseas return flights.

Car rentals are another way to get around Europe and it can be a great experience to drive a luxury sports car on the Autobahn, but here are a few things to consider when renting a vehicle in Europe. Unlike the US and Canada, the cities, towns and villages were around long before the automobile, this can make traveling a little more difficult. There may only be one road between point A and B, and construction, accidents and traffic can extend your travel time. The cars are generally much more compact than offerings in North America, and many of the rentals are standard versus automatic transmission. Parking can be another issue for rentals as parking is at a premium in many cities and not all hotels offer parking. One way rentals, dropping the car off in another location, can carry additional charges, especially if you are returning a rental to another country. I would suggest taking all of the insurance coverages, as the employee that gave you the keys may have a different opinion than the person who completes the rental on the other end, that scratch on the bumper that was not a concern at pick up can mean additional charges at drop off. Chat with a travel agent about what rental and insurance will work best for you.

One of the reasons Europe is a favorite destination for travelers is the proximity to other attractions, cultures and languages, you can see London, Paris and Rome in one trip. If you are flexible or trying to keep on a budget, the proximity of countries is also a huge advantage, you can mix in the more expensive destinations with ones that are more cost effective, for example in Warsaw you can get a 3 course meal for 2 people for about $15 CDN, a similar meal in Paris would cost at least 50 Euro. These bits of information can also help you in planning your accommodation, you may opt for a 3 or 4 star hotel in Amsterdam and a luxury 5 star hotel in Barcelona for the same room rate.

When I plan a personal trip to Europe I apply cappuccino economics in my planning. What you ask is cappuccino economics?

Well for example the price of a cappuccino in:
Barcelona is 1,50 Euro
Berlin is 2,50 Euro
Amsterdam is 2,50 Euro
Warsaw is 1.50 Euro
Paris is 5,00 Euro

These cappuccino prices help me to determine the cost of the destination and to balance my expenditures, so with this information I may choose to stay in Paris for less time than in Berlin or Amsterdam. When planning your trip I would suggest working with a travel agent who has knowledge of the destinations that you are looking to visit and can make suggestions to help you make decisions on what will create your ideal vacation.

Speaking of cappuccino, Coffee CompanyCoffee Heaven and Kamps are some of my favorite coffee chains in Europe.

Brussels, EU Headquarters & A Great Link to the Rest of Europe

By Steven Wright

Belgium may not be the most popular destination for Canadian’s traveling to Europe, but if you are planning to tour many countries, close proximity to France, The Netherlands and Germany makes Brussels a more interesting entry point. As Brussels is the home of the European Union, there are amazing air links to the rest of Europe, and rail links to The Netherlands, Germany and France, including a high speed link to Paris. Jet Airways now offers service from Toronto Pearson direct to Brussels.

Brussels is one of the few cities in Europe where it can be less expensive to stay over the weekend. As many hotel suites are occupied by the business of the EU through the week, when the weekend arrives and these officials go home you can get great rates on room nights, especially if you stay in the EU Quarter. We have stayed in a great one bedroom suite with a patio at Marriott Executive Apartments Brussels, European Quarter, a great king suite at Brussels Marriott Hotel, and hosted a group at Brussels- Le Palace.

Speaking of the EU, at Gare Bruxelles-Luxembourg‎ Station, the European Commission buildings are worth a visit. Walk through the Esplanade to discover the circular walkway that resembles the EU flag, guided tours are available for Parlamentarium and Chamber.  Continue behind the buildings and explore around the lake in Parc Leopold, a great little escape from the bustle of the Parliament. Then head over to Place du Luxembourg and grab some dinner at Quartier Léopold Brasserie, they have a great wine list and remember Belgium is the home of over 450 varieties of beer so it’s worth indulging the local culture.

For me the highlight of Brussels is the area around the Grand Place (Grote Markt). This square is called Grand for a reason and it is exactly that, the buildings that line the square are amazing, embellished with gold, there isn’t a bad vantage point from inside the square. The area surrounding the Grote Markt includes some great shopping, especially for lace, tapestries, beer, waffles and of course chocolate. My favorite place for chocolate is Chocopolis (Rue du Marché aux Herbes 110 Grasmarkt) and the Godiva at Grand-Place 22 for the chocolate dipped strawberries.

Other attractions around the Grand Place include Everard ‘t Serclaes (touch his golden body for good luck and to have your wishes come true),  Manneken Pis (the famous peeing boy statue) and parts of the comic book walk and Tin Tin. This area is a hot spot for restaurants and bars, many restaurants looking to lure you in showing off their catch of the day in the small pedestrian walkways around the square. I like Taverne du Passage in the Galeries Royales St. Hubert.

The Parc de Bruxelles is the oldest park in the city, it filled with statues and is bordered by the Royal Palace and Belgian Parliament. Throughout the summer there are many events every weekend. On the outskirts of the city you can visit the site of the 1958 World’s Expo and the Atomium and Mini Europe.

Gare de Bruxelles-Central offers rail links to visit other Belgian cities including historic Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp. If you arrive early you can shop the booths of the open air market outside.

For someone who never planned on visiting Belgium, I have now visited on many occasions. With a smaller airport hub than Paris, Frankfurt, London and Amsterdam and great rail and air links to the rest of Europe, Brussels is one of my favorite arrival destinations in Europe.

Belgium posts:
Gnoshing in Brussels
One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow smaller – Mini Europe and Atomium
366 Steps to Heaven in Historic Bruges
Antwerpen – The Diamond of Belgium
Chic Outlet Shopping – Europe