Brussels ,Capital of Europe !

I have been here before, many times, mostly on business, and then some personal visits alone, then with family. The trips were short, and this time took the advantage of a vacation period between Christmas and New Years to go for a week with the family and go all over the city ,along Brussels, Bruxelles is magical.

The capital of Europe is unofficial but it could very well be official. You have many nationalities here, and English is well spoken too. The trip started by car from our home, and even here we took some newer routes. I usually would leave from Paris area, or fly in and then rent a car there at Midi. This time went by car from Auray on the N165, N166,N24, A84 N175,A13, and then cut across northern France on the A29, A28, back on A29,A16 briefly, A29 again (E44 European road system), then got on the A1 by TGV Peronne , (E19 European road system), A2 by known family territory of Cambrai, then get into Belgium in the A7,and get on the RO or Ring road of Brussels to exit No 13 or the road N8 at Chaussée de Ninove (where I always get in from France); past by suburbs of Dilbeek, Molenbeek, Anderlecht,  under the tunnel Leopold II to go our hotel past more north west suburbs of Saint Josse ten Noode and then Schaerbeek. All 9 hrs with stops and 818 kms later ,and 117€ gas and tolls.

Parking at the hotel was 10€ per day ,not bad at all. As we came with family , we choose an inexpensive hotel 2 stars , it had some not soo good reviews on travel sites, but I am a contrarian when I read these so took in at the Hotel Bentley, http://www.hotel-bentley.com/ it was a basic accommodation with continental breakfast included about 67€ per night per room; the folks were very friendly, always available,and with great service at breakfast even if a bit limited in choices you had all the typical offerings n a continental style breakfast. My son left his bag full of electronics stuffs in the resto area and it was immediately brought up to his room, nice confidance to stay in places like this. All throughtout the service, and help was very nice and courteous, and see no reason why folks write bad reviews on properties like this, stand alone family business who try to help and make your stay a pleasant one. Maybe its the bad human habits of downplaying immigrant areas as the hotel is in little Turkey, plenty of nice folks even walking at night, and very helpful on bus tram routes. We will be back here.

We went all over so much, do not think writing a book on it will serve the purpose of a blog. We like very much the City 2 shopping center, with FNAC, Armand Thiery, Carrefour market groceries; Australian ice cream parlor ,and a nice refuge from the rain ,all week, but we manage it as been in Brittany you have to, its all mental ::) http://www.city2.be/fr/accueil.html?IDC=9&IDD=21&LANG=fr

We ate at great places some old to come back to a Pizza Hut in Brussels brings a lot of memories from the time way back came as a young man with my late mother, our spot was here Bvd du Jardin Botanique 10, http://restaurant.pizzahut.be/shops/localisation/result/ , we try the Australian ice cream parlor , the steakhouse Brussels Grill across the street, call the Manhattan center, http://www.brussels-grill.be/Restaurants.php, the Casa Nostra pizzeria great at http://pizzeriacasanostra.be/fr, the wonderful all time favorite , real Belgian ,always a stop at Chez Patrick, http://www.chezpatrick.be/fr/bienvenue/ , we had our chocolates at a classic galerie de la reine at St Hubert, Corné Port Royal, the very best Belgian pralines or chocolates as we say but they dont. http://www.corneportroyal.com/en/about-us.htm ; and the black sheep was the L’arbre d’Or at the village in bruparck where atomium and mini europe are, well I guess it was a tourist area and its  shows, the service was very slow, no water nor bread serve ,very aggressive server, and we left without trying the desserts nor the coffees, do not know if it is typical but after many years coming to Brussels this was our first bad taste (there is always a first). http://www.larbredor.be/arbredor/inter2rouge.htm

We walk all over taking the metro line 1,5,and 6. We took the tramways 25 and 92, and the bus 66. WE prefer the trams very nice clean efficient and see it all. The buses were crowded older and less clean, the metro was great but underground. http://www.mivb.be/index.htm?l=en  It is a great idea to do this. Folks sometimes get confused when I tell them to drive instead of public transport. It is better for a family to rent drive a car, and once in the city use the public transport, then go around all over in transport, much more expensive everytime you go past 3 persons. Try it. We purchase the magnetic card for 10 trips at a cost of 13€  ,good value from the usual 2,50 per person individual ticket on the trams.

We visit many stores old and new, and walk by the many wonderful streets and jardin botanique or botanical garden, seeing and reshape many monuments along the way from the great statue to Gen Montgomery of WWII fame by the metro tram stop of same name just pass the Parc du Cinquantanaire where we saw the wonderful Autoworld museum of vintage auto and bikes, a must see even if not into cars; http://www.autoworld.be/, we went over the Royal Armed Forces museum but here we got into a bit of laberinth, the museum close at noon for one hour, so if you are inside, you stay n the aviation hall with a restaurant very nicely place ho ho ho , but we wanted to continue seeing, no way, all aisles were close! so after having seen most (just pavillion 12 was left), we decided not to wait and leave, well no signs for sortie or exit available, we ask ,and it was thru the WC sign tunnel or rest rooms lol!!! weird way to leave a museum lol!!! Other than that, the museum is a marvelous place, not to be missed, of WWI and WWII to the Cold War tanks, planes, weapons,  uniforms the whole works. http://www.klm-mra.be/klm-new/engels/main01.php?id=menu_links/startpagina

We went over to mini Europe, so nice to see the wonders of Europe monuments all in minituare sizes, just glorious, and very nicely done, a must to visit; http://www.minieurope.com/en  ; nearby by is the symbol of Brussels, the Atomium globe , its a great architectural achievement and very nicely done for at least once seen, its 108 meters high with many levels open and some not. The panorama view from 7 is the main point of going up. http://atomium.be/?lang=en You come here and dont drink beer lol!!! wonderful, and do visit the museum of beers at the Grand Place, small but a good introduction to beers belges; http://visitbrussels.be/bitc/BE_fr/museum/2082/musee-des-brasseurs-belges.do  and more on Belgian beers, http://www.beerparadise.be/emc.asp?pageid=05.en

In all another wonderful visit to the  Capital of Europe, and a passing by the European commission of course, and the Royal Palace, and Santa Claus motorcycles, and the Cathedral Ste Catherine, the site of this year Plaisir d’Hiver or a Christmas market place full of hamlets, slaloms, dragon tunnels, and a big wheel we took awesome!!! a Great ambiance. the Church of Benigue, nearby is nice, the Royal theater, parc du Bruxelles, and the wonderful chic Louise neighborhood.  Not to missed the mannequin pis !A must to see when in Europe, one of its great Capital cities, Bruxelles, Brussels, we will be back.

The city tourist office is at http://visitbrussels.be/bitc/front/home/display/lg/fr/section/visiteur.do , and the city of Brussels webpage is at http://www.bruxelles.be/artdet.cfm?id=6055

As promise , I took the old route back, as if we were in Paris, we left out very easy just as to go in, really is easy to drive on, you only need experience driving in cities and it will be fine. We left on the blvd du jardin botanique to blvd Adolphe Max left continuing on blvd Anspach then right on Rue Antoine Dansaert, then left on blvd de Nieuport to Chaussée de Ninove direction Mons to get on the RO ring road direction Mons. There you go on the Belgian A7 or E19 roads towards Paris, once in France you get on the A2 dir Valenciennes, then at the end it takes you into the A1 direction Paris, you go all the way to near CDG Roissy airport you see the panels Cergy Pontoise on the N104 (this is the la Francilienne road that goes on the outer limits of Paris) , continue direction Cergy Pontoise, pass the bridge of the A15 direction Versailles (yes my old town lol!) then go direction St Germain en Laye on the N184 same road, and just pass the Centaure train station at St Germain en Laye turn right on the A13 towards Poissy/Orgeval, at this round about you take the A13 direction Rouen,and up you go towards Caen then Rennes on the A84, N175, N24, N166,and N165 back to  Auray. This route took 880 kms, and 10 hrs with stops, with 91€ gas and tolls. So longer but cheaper on tolls.

Enjoy Brussels!

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