Two years ago, while stationed in Germany, we took our first trip out of Bavaria and headed to France. I keep putting off writing about it because it was a two-week trip and so much happened that writing about it is going to be a massive effort. However, if I don’t write about it now I may never get around to it so it’s time to buckle down and get to typing!
The problem with writing about something two years after it happens are that things start to get fuzzy. I can’t remember what day of the week we left home – probably Friday or Saturday. I can’t remember if it was before or after my son’s second birthday – he was some age very close to two. I wanted to be really informative and describe how in the heck we fit all of our stuff into our car, but I can’t – we shoved it all in there somehow.
Anyway, sometime about two years ago, when I had a five-year-old and a twoish-year-old and I was not-too-hugely pregnant with our third child, we decided it would be a good time to take a summer vacation to France. We had the brilliant idea to try camping. It was a little bit because we’re adventurous. It was mostly because I’m cheap. Actually, camping was not absolutely horrible. It had its moments, but overall it was a good way to save money and I would do it again with a few tweaks.
We chose to start at the top of France and work our way down. We went through Belgium and stayed the night in Brussels on our way up to Normandy. We stayed in Normandy a few days and then headed down to Euro Disney in Paris. I also wanted to see the city of Paris so we stayed a few more nights in a campsite in Paris before heading down to Canes for a few nights. On our way back we drove up through the French Alps, through part of Italy and stopped for a night in Liechtenstein before finally arriving back home in Bavaria.
After all plans and reservations were made, the day finally came to load up the car and head out. Between the camping gear, suitcases and children our car was filled to max capacity (who really needs to see out the rear-view mirror anyway?) and we were on our way to our first destination: Brussels, Belgium.
We arrived in Brussels late afternoon and checked into our hotel (if I were a better blogger I would have a link to the hotel here. Sorry. I don’t remember the hotel we stayed at, but really it was nothing too fantastic, I promise). Even though we had our tent and everything, we didn’t want to camp since we knew we really were just stopping to sleep and walk around down town a little bit before getting up to drive the rest of the way to Normandy in the morning. I do remember that parking was difficult – remember to search for a hotel or room that has a parking spot included.
After getting settled in, our evening was spent walking past sights like the European Union headquarters, The Royal Palace of Brussels and The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. The streets
were pretty empty and quiet (oh, hey! It must have been a Saturday! Look at me! Memory like a steel trap!) and it was nice to walk around without crowds. After touring the cathedral we got our obligatory Belgian waffles from a street vendor and then headed over to a playground to let the boys get their energy out.
I do remember that Brussels seemed to me much more like an American city than anything we’d seen in Germany. Not only did it seem like many of the buildings were newer buildings, but it was a much more culturally diverse place than the places we’d seen in Germany. In our experiences of small-town Germany almost everybody looked German and spoke German, but in Brussels we saw people that looked like they were from all over the world and heard many different languages.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped at the first restaurant that looked appealing (pretty sure it was an Irish or British pub?) and then made our way back to the hotel for the night.
In the morning we woke up, got ready and started out to France. The rest of the short drive through Belgium was nice from what I remember. Lots of green, quaint villages and a castle here and there, and then we were in France! An evening really is not enough time to fully experience a city, let alone a country. To do it real justice, I’m sure we should have at least spent three or four days in Brussels alone. Instead of just walking past the palace, we could
have taken tours and instead of just settling for the first restaurant we came across we could have tried real local cuisine. If you are only staying in Belgium for a night, it might be nicer to go to a smaller village so you really could see the whole town rather than a big city like Brussels where you can only get a tiny taste before you have to leave. Either way, we had to stop for the night somewhere and we got to see a country we had never seen before in the process. That’s a win in my book.
If you want to know more fun activities to do in Brussels with kids check out this post from Mom Aboard or this post from Travel With 2 of Us. Check back in a few days for the story of the next leg of our trip – Normandy!