On November 23rd, we took the train from Amsterdam, Netherlands into Antwerp, Belgium. It was our first European train ride and it was much fancier than the train I took in Bangkok to Ayutthaya. We rode on Thalys and headed to pick-up our rental car from Europcar. It was super convenient. The pick-up location was right in the Antwerp station.
As we came up the escalators from the station the first thing I noticed were the armed guards carrying assault rifles. It was pretty intimidating. The station, however, was stunning.
Once we had the car, we drove to our Airbnb which was super close to the station. I was hesitant with trying Airbnb while traveling abroad. Our Airbnb host gave very detailed instructions and we were able to find it easily. The unit was amazing. It was affordable, beautiful, and large. We spent some time at the Airbnb resting before heading out for the evening. (If you’re thinking of trying out Airbnb, I’d appreciate if you’d use this link if it’s your first time. You’ll get a $40 credit and I’ll get $20 credit for the referral!)
After some much needed rest, we went to Parrillada Argentina for some Argentinian BBQ. It wasn’t our first choice, but oddly enough, the streets were pretty dead and the businesses seemed to close extremely early for a city. The platter of meat was impressive but the food was rather average.
We ended up going to sleep pretty early because we had plans to wake early and get a lot of exploring done.
On November 24th, we woke up at 4:30 AM to get out the door by 6 AM. We made the trek to go to the Cathedral of Our Lady and Grote Markt. All of the businesses were closed which was perfect because then we were able to miss the traffic and the massive amounts of tourists at all of the touristy stops. Although we initially set out to see the amazing Cathedral of Our Lady. My absolute favorite was the Grote Markt. The architecture was stunning. We sat around just soaking in all of the beautiful views.
We made sure to stop in some of the shopping centers on the way back to the Airbnb and try out some Belgian chocolates. I also HAD to try a Liege waffle. After overloading on the sweets, we hopped into the rental car and made the drive to Bruges. We got in over 22,000 steps and 11 miles of walking (predominantly from the early start).
On November 25th, the day was chilly. Not as bone-chilling cold as the winters in Chicago, but still cold. We were well prepared for the day and bundled up before heading out. We stumbled upon a cute French bakery while waiting for the first day of the Christmas markets to open up. We tried out the eye-catching desserts called, merveilleux. The 18th-century confectionary is a light meringue coated in whipped cream. It’s predominantly found in Northern France and Belgium.
I had dreamt of walking the paths of European Christmas Markets for years and it was just my luck that the first day of the markets would start this day! Once the market opened its’ doors we strolled the paths of the wooden stalls decked out in Christmas décor. There were chocolate and waffles everywhere! I got to try a waffle on a stick, it was made to order! Dipped in chocolate and loaded with sprinkles of choice. I chose the caramel chocolate and speculoos (a Belgian cookie) crumbles.
Another food stall had sausage with onion and curry ketchup on baguette and tartiflette, which is a potato and cheese dish.
Once our adventures at the Bruges Christmas Market were over we packed up and drove into Ghent to check into our Airbnb. We were only at around 12,000 steps for the day and just under 6 miles. It was slower paced but we needed a bit of a break. Our Airbnb looked like a retail front, I kind of felt like we were in a fishbowl and our life was on display for the world. Fortunately, the bedroom was towards the back of the Airbnb and had a door to close. Blinds and curtains were minimal to non-existent. Our host generously offered up that we could use the washer and dryer in the basement. The unfortunate thing, we had no idea how to use the dryer. So our clothes were all wet and we had nowhere to dry it! We woke up every 2 hours in hopes that by continually starting the dryer the clothes would be dry by the time we woke up in the morning. It didn’t happen. So we needed a plan B.
Next up, our laundry adventures in Ghent, crazy streets of Brussels, and more Christmas Markets!