An African mum living, learning, and documenting the process.

Marcy Madzikanda: On my not so solo travels: Belgium

After the success of my post on traveling to Marseille with my child and commitment to blog more on some of our activities follows this short post on our trip to Belgium.

I attempted to describe how I found train travel in the previous post. That was a long journey and I was keen to do a shorter trip. We’d been to Paris a few times as a family so didn’t have to worry about luggage and metros etc. however as this trip was planned with my child in mind it was important that I was able to carry my luggage alone and use public transport if necessary. Yes people ‘may help’ if you ask but sometimes they don’t or are thinking about their own travel anxiety so never have more luggage which leaves your child unattended or you unable to manoeuvre yourself. We traveled with Eurostar from London St Pancras in two hours.

Le Pain Quotidien: service needs improvement I only ordered one item for her

Tip: Make sure you are able to lift your suitcase on to the conveyor to be x-rayed alone. If you can’t you have too much stuff you probably don’t need.
Based on this I decided it would be easier to stay nearer the station for convenience. It also worked out as we’d planned a few trips that required us to use the local trains and the metro was also a few minutes from the hotel. 
Do bear in mind that some areas near stations are not the prettiest. This is purely a strategic decision: 
  1. To easily wheel your suitcase (and buggy) and walk toddler to a nearby hotel base and back to station on your departure.
  2. Easy access to a travel hub and information centre.
  3. Likely to spend less on taxi fares to and from the station on arrival and departure if you are anything like me and reduces the need to bring a car seat. This our travel one (though only for older children).
  4. Imagine if you are ‘rained in’ would you be happy to spend the day in the hotel you’ve chosen. If not don’t stay there.
I am also a sucker for a ‘new hotel’ especially if the rooms are carpet free (clean) and preferably with a ‘no pets allowed’ notice. The hotel we chose was a three star and for a short stay perfectly suitable. The staff were super friendly and we were able to check in early, on another day one offered to take our post cards as we’d forgotten to post them (we already had them stamped).
If you recall in an earlier post I mentioned how I pack a carton of UHT Milk (I hardly see fresh milk in Europe so decided to pack one), a bottle of water etc. This is purely for ease, to minimise the need to go out after leaving luggage to buy supplies you already have in your house. Travel with what you need. 
Tip: Buy a travel kettle, pack your own tea bags and a bottle of water if a tea drinker. (Always amazed that people complain on hotel reviews ‘no tea making facilities in room or English or XX brand of tea’).
Once checked in we were able to just relax in the room before going out to get a late lunch / early dinner.
We didn’t get to see as much as we had planned to in Brussels as my child was ill (winter cold) and had started the day really early she fell asleep whilst waiting for our food I had to change the order to take away.
The next day we managed to buy our train tickets for Bruges and Ghent really easily with assistance and rushed for our train with minutes to spare. I had also downloaded this Omio app which I think I’ll use and doesn’t require a printed ticket.
We had planned to do the two towns in one day but had such a lovely time in Bruges we didn’t want to rush it and then it was a little late to be out with the little one. I’d probably suggest you leave earlier (9am perhaps) then go to Ghent first. You’ll need to change trains at the stop you get off to get closer to the the centre. Then head to Bruges after. 
Once we got to Bruges (about 40 minutes) we caught a bus into the centre of town (apparently about a 20-30 minute walk). The Christmas Market had just opened when we arrived so had a look around.
Request for waffle and only took two bites!

I like a city tour so will always make my way to the tourist office first to book one if I can. This way you are guaranteed to see as much as possible you may not normally see with toddlers. 

Our tour was about €13 for about 90 minutes I think. In a closed bus with a panoramic roof. Nice and cosy on a cold day with an audio guide. The driver also pointed out monuments.

Perfect opportunity for nap time: the real reason I do guided tours . Which makes the day easier.

We’d also wanted to go on a boat ride and enquired in the office if any were available in winter. We managed to find one and they set off once the boat is full. We arrived about 15 minutes before they had enough passengers. This was the highlight of our trip. I understand it’s even prettier in the evening. 
The guide made a rather racist comment (as a joke) and we didn’t tip him!
We bought the most delicious chocolate that didn’t make it back to England. 
The return trip back to Brussels was hassle free and we made a stop in Carrefour for fruit, milk and treats. Also managed to buy our dinner and get back to the hotel really easily.

With her activity pack after we wrote our postcards on the train back to Brussels

Checkout was painless and I’d timed our departure train to sync with this and lunch. Meaning we could check in (Eurostar) just after lunch. 

Another light lunch after lunch in the station
I found this trip really easy and would encourage you to try it more as a confidence builder. I found the locals extremely friendly and every where we went my child was showered with free gifts and super attentive staff.
Tip: Learn a few basics words of greetings, thank you etc and teach your child, this goes down well!
I’d probably go again when it’s a little warmer and stay a day longer to explore Brussels in two days and actually tick off what I’d wanted to see then visit Ghent, Bruges again and Antwerp. 
Do let me know your thoughts if you managed to visit Belgium and what you enjoyed most.

3 Responses to “Marcy Madzikanda: On my not so solo travels: Belgium”

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