With just a few days left on our trip to Europe with Alyssia we wanted to give her one more travel experience before we sent her back to her parents, so Charlene put together a day trip to Brussels by train.
Years ago Charlene and I rode the Flying Scotsman from London to Edinburgh, but riding the fast train from Paris to Brussels with Thalys railroad was a great new experience.
The fast train system is a huge travel tool and can take you across Europe in a matter of hours. The price of the tickets variate quite a bit so shopping for deals is a good idea. We spent almost $200 a ticket because we decided to go at the last minute, but with a little planning we could have spent around $70 a ticket. This is an example of some bad Geezer planning but sometimes it’s worth taking the hit.
The fast trains are amazingly comfortable offering moderate Internet connections, food and drink stations, and seats that are comparable to any airline coach seat.
We caught our train at 6:55 in the morning out of Paris – Nord station and we were eating croissants and sipping coffee in Brussels by 8:30. It’s an experience every Geezer should enjoy. The combination of a comfortable seat, an internet connection, and a service bar made it possible for me to work on the blog and sip a cup of coffee as we sped toward Brussels.
I’ll be honest I didn’t get much work done as I became mesmerized by the flow of golden wheat fields, contrasting with the new stalks of dark green corn and the gentle rolling of the train.
The fast train comes into the Brussel’s Zuid train station but we were able to use our Paris to Brussels tickets to ride the local train one stop to the City Center Station that is situated in Downtown Brussels. The Big Red Bus didn’t start running until 10:00 so we had time to walk over to the Hilton and enjoy a leisurely breakfast before we bought our Hop On Hop Odd bus tickets and started our tour of Brussels.
In the past we have driven by and thru Brussels several times on the highway but this was our first exploration of this amazing city.
Because we were just in Brussels for the day our plan was to just ride the big red Hop-On Hop-Off bus all day and see as much of Brussels as possible in the 11 hours we were there.
Belgium is an interesting country. It achieved its independence in 1830 and everything about Belgium reflects the mix of cultures that molded it’s identity. As we rode up from Paris I asked Charlene what language they spoke in Belgium and she thought it was German. I told her that I thought they spoke French. As it turned out they speak Flanders, French and German. Don’t worry though if you only speak English because we found that nearly everyone we met during our day of exploration spoke excellent English.
The French, German, Flanders, and Danish influences are prevalent in the architecture of Brussels. Giving the city a very European look that is uniquely Brussels.
Brussels was a center for the Nouveau Art movement. This unique Art form left it’s mark on may of the buildings, churches and residences in the city. If you have a love for unique architecture you will love the various examples of buildings whose designs are strongly influenced by the Nouveau Art Movement. Before I got to Brussels I couldn’t have spotted Nouveau Architecture but now I cannot only spot Nouveau Art and Architecture but I appreciate its unique beauty. Charlene would say that our day in Brussels gave me a cocktail knowledge of the Nouveau Art Movement. If she is right. I’ll be a hit at the local tavern when I’m slugging down Bud Lite at our local tavern and impressing the boys with my mastery of the Art Nouveau Movement.
A second truly cool thing about Brussels is the Atomium. The Atomium is a huge structure built in the configuration of an atom. You know like matter that is magnified hundreds of thousands of time so all you see is the actual Protons and Electrons. OK, all stop, just look at the picture and trust me it is a giant replica of an Atom. Enough said, except It’s suppose to be the Eiffel Tower of Brussels and you can go to the top of this very cool structure and have a meal. If you’re in Brussels it’s a must see attraction.
One of the great things about the Atomium is from the restaurant you get an amazing 360 degree view of Brussels. Alyssia and I couldn’t resist making a tour of the restaurant and getting a photo from every view. The viewing stations had photos of each area that showed where all the landmarks in Brussels are so it’s a great place to get acclimated to the city and figure out where landmarks like the Royal Palace and the downtown skyscrapers are.
The last thing that all three of us loved and learned in Brussels is that Brussels is the Capitol of the European Union so it is the diplomatic center of Europe, the home of NATO and tens of thousands of diplomats. The Parliament of the European Union is in Brussels and that in many ways make this unique city the arguable center of Europe.
That’s my Big Red Bus knowledge of Brussels and I can say next time I’m driving from the Netherlands to France I won’t drive by Brussels but instead I’ll plan three or four days to explore this amazing city.
Our Train back to Paris left at 7:15 and I’m writing this article as the golden wheat fields of Northern France streak by at neck breaking speeds and the Fast Train rushes us back to Paris where I’ll have time to find a glass of wine and watch the sun set over the Seine.