My mother-in-law, daughter (11), and I got great last minute tickets to Brussels (8/11 - 8/19), with 7 full days of travel. We usually like to rent an apartment and travel by train, etc., instead of renting a car and moving from place to place (it worked great for us in Paris). In addition to Brussels, we'd like to visit Ghent, Bruges, Ostend, and Antwerp. My dad was born in Flanders, so I'd like to concentrate there. I visited when I was 4 years old and would love to see these places again.
Should we rent an apartment in Brussels and just do day trips to the other locations? I'll rent a car if that would give us more flexibility to get to smaller towns. I haven't quite figured out the train system yet. Taking a day-trip via Thalys to Paris would be great, but without a strict itinerary at this time, I don't know how late I can make a reservation.
Please let me know any must-see suggestions. We're all great walkers and love history, art, etc. Our daughter complains when we don't give her enough time in museums. We'll be there during the Brussels Flower Carpet (will that cause us any headaches?). Also, hopefully there is a place that makes vegan frites. I grew up eating tons of them, and we never used beef fat to fry them. As vegetarians, we'd hate to miss the experience.