My husband's sister & her family are living in Brussels for the next three years. my husband and I will escort his parents on a 10-day visit. We plan to see Brussels and Bruges. His mother very much wants to see Versailles, and his father equally wants to see where the Battle of the Bulge was fought. I'm going to be four months pregnant when we go in June, and I feel pretty good but am trying to figure out how to keep all this travel manageable! Any recommendations? I've already insisted that we plan to spend an overnight at Versailles. Is Bruges a day trip from Brussels? And how long do we need to spend in the Ardennes? My hub's parents are both over 70, so I want to make sure we don't exhaust them, either. (My hub is notorious for his "death march" approach to travel.)
You for sure will need to stay overnight for Versailles. In fact, I'd highly suggest two nights, whether in Versailles or in Paris. The amount of walking at Versailles cannot be overestimated. Given the age of your in-laws and your condition, I wouldn't try to overdo it. Expect 4-6 hours to see the chateau, the gardens and the Trianons. More time if you want to go out to the Hamlet or see the gardens in more detail. You might find a need to split it up or take a nice lunch break. If you go on a fountain day, it will be packed but it's worth it to see them actually operate. You can rent bikes, a golf cart or take a tram around some of the gardens (out to the Trianons and Hamlet). But there will still be an immense amount of walking. Bruges should make a nice daytrip.
Brugges is very close to Brussels, you won't break a sweat on that one. Versailles is great,, but please, buy your tickets ONLINE before you go or you could be standing outside for hours, not nice. The palace will be crowded, BUT the grounds are huge and never crowded.. and yes to take the tram( small extra fee when you board) to go visit Marie Antionettes Hamlet and see the pretty gardens behind the Grand Trianons.. it worth it ,, really. The palace is marvelous but hot and crowded so nice to get out in the gardens. Take the whole day to enjoy it, and stop for lunch,, there is a cafe by start of canal. Don't rush about. You will be in the perfect phase of preganacy for your trip, past the worst first trimester exhaustion and for some sickness, and not yet huge and heavy ,, I travelled alot during mid three months with all three of mine. Do not eat unpasturized cheeses( no bries,young goat cheeses etc.. nothing soft basically) no raw fish , shell fish or meat. I also hear they tell the ladies to avoid pates ,, not sure why, ask your doctor. GOOD SHOES for all,, Versailles is alot of pebbly paths on the grounds.
Thanks very much, all! I've already ordered a few pairs of walking shoes and walking sandalsand will definitely look into two nights of accommodations for Versailles. I suspect my mother-in-law will want to really drink it in! I knew about the soft cheese but not patesgood catch there. Thanks also for the tip about buying tickets online in advance. That's the kind of tip that keeps me rollin' with Rick Steves. Any word on Bastogne or WWII sights in the Ardennes? I'm thinking of securing a tour guide, since I know my hubby and father-in-law will have er... CHALLENGES navigating to the spots they want to see, and I'd prefer not to spend all our time in that area arguing over whether we actually are looking at a war spot or just another forest glen!
Brugge is just under an hour from Brussel-Zuid. There are lots of buses from the station to the centre.
The Ardennes is a fabulously beautiful area, in Belgium, France, and Luxembourg. I could spend days there - OK, I have done. A colleague of my wife's regularly goes camping there. Its great. As far as the Battle of the Ardennes, known in the US as the Battle of the Bulge (what a rotten Christmas present) it was over a large area. Do you know what Company he was in, or what specific areas he fought in? There is a highly comprehensive National Museum of Military History in Diekirch in Luxembourg which is where I'd go. Most of the exhibits are told with re-enactments and sound effects from a first person point of view. The museum runs on a shoestring but boy do they do a great job. Happy planning,,,,
It sounds like you have a lot you want to do, and a need to take it slower. What is your itinerary for this 10 day trip? Versailles is a bit out of the way from Brussels and Bruges. You will definitely need time to adjust to the jet lag, and you will need some resting. Bruges is lovely, but it's a walking town with cobblestone sidewalks that are very hard on the feet and back. If you are doing it as a day trip, you will want to see it all, but you won't have a hotel to return to for a mid-day rest if needed. Something to think about. Talk to your OB about what he/she recommends you avoid eating while pregnant. Then try to get it written down and translated so you can make sure you don't eat that. In France, the texture of the cheese has nothing to do wither whether it is made from raw milk (Lait Cru) or not. There are hard cheeses that are made from raw milk, and soft cheese made from pasteurized milk. There's plenty of cheese made from pasteurized milk, so it won't be necessary to avoid all cheese. And perhaps the warning about paté is that some of it is not cooked. You can also get raw foie gras, and other raw meats (carpaccio, jambon cru, etc.) But that's just such a small offering of what's available.
Gretchen,, there are so many websites that now list foods to avoid during pregnancy,, raw cheeses, raw eggs( like in salad dressings) and yes, pates and liver seem to always be on the lists now. The liver/pate one seems to be linked to something about the Vit. A content.. things sure change, when I was pregnant I was anemic and told by doctor to eat liver, lol,, but this was a couple of decades ago,, so things change. I would google and look at lists myself.
Gretchen, I was in Germany last year when I was 5 months pregnant, we went just before my cut of date of flying overseas. I would find out from your OB the foods you can and cannot eat but I agree with everyone about the cheese, liver/pate and fish. You will be doing more walking and will need to rest a little, I usually took a nap in the afternoon or at least laid down a little. I did have translations for some food with me just to make sure I knew what I was getting. I drank plenty of water, ate some fresh fruits, I did endulge in some chocolate but felt comfortable about everything I ate and did. One thing I also did was take the medicine I knew I could take if I caught a cold, we were there in March. I would take any over the counter medicines you think you might need for anything with you, just in case. I also had thermacare patches with me as I was already experiencing some lower back pain, they came in very handy. If you get any motion sickness take the wrist bands with you, I can't think of the brand at the moment. I suffer from it while flying and usually wear a patch behind my ear but tried to avoid it since my doctor said not to wear it long if I had to.
Be sure and carry your doctor's information with you just in case. Have a great time and if your're showing any be sure and take a picture or two of the belly in front of the sights, it will make great stories for the child when they are older.
Thanks again for the word on foods, as well as carrying my preferred OTC remedies. Very smart idea! I've already started preparing cards with translated food questions, too. That will be a big help. I'm going to ask the hub to drop Ardennes from the itinerary. We'll be going to visit his sister and her family in Belgium at least once more during their 3-year stint there, so it's not as if this is the only chance we'll have to do that. It sounds like a great area but rather sprawling and hard to cover quickly. Do I have that wrong? I'd prefer to allot more time to see it with a good guide than try to scramble through and feel like we didn't really get to see anything. My father-in-law didn't serve in the Ardennes and we don't know anyone buried there; he and my hub just enjoy WWII history and are just curious about the area. Thanks again for the very helpful comments!
In that case I'd definitely suggest the museum in Diekirch. Yes, you could wander over the whole area and take ages, or you could go to one beautiful area and see a comprehensive description over, I think, 3 floors. It would probably meet most of the needs of your F-I-L and certainly give him a great overview, either this itinerary or the next.
I would like to re-emphasize the golf cart option for the grounds at Versailles. The trams are excruciatingly slow, and sometimes require a wait. If they are crowded, you might have to wait for the next one, and as I recall, there isn't really any place to sit while you are waiting. If you want a golf cart for your exclusive use--which seems like a great idea with 2 elders and a pregnant mom-beeline for the back of the chateau. The cart stand is to the left at the top of the gardens. There are a limited number of carts and it's first-come, first-served. They are especially sympathic about getting one for people who NEED it, not just lazy tourists.
We were in Paris when I was 3 months pregnant, and overall people were very helpful and understanding. You may find they bring you extra treats for free, or allow you to go to the front of lines! You may find it helps to travel "one star above" your usual method. A wee bit more comfort, A/C, a taxi now and then, etc. can really help make the whole trip easier.
Oooh, thank you, Angela! Now I've got the excuse I've always wanted to force my hub into pricier, I mean NICER, digs! And knowing the specifics about getting a golf cart is very helpful. (What a hoot that would be, too: Versailles a la Johnny Carson!) Any recommendations for where to stay in Versailles?
Also suggest the following two items: 1. Make sure your medical insurance covers all eventualities in case you need to seek care while in Europe. 2. Have your DR write a short note about your current care/testing in case you need to seek care while in Europe. In Germany it's called a Mutterpass and is a little booklet that has all your info in it.
Make sure you stay hydrated, too.
How would anyone know you were three months pregnant,, unless you tell them? I went to Disneyland in La when three months pregnant and went on the rides,, all the rides,, no attendent noticed I was pregnant.. and none of my kids were born with three eyes because of it, lol Lets keep in mind , yes, enjoy some luxe treats Gretchen,, you might as well since that first year after baby is truly exhausting ,, but being pregnant is not being sick,, most people are perfectly capable to living completely normally until very last phase.
Some people seem to treat it like a disability,, its not. Now, I do think the elderly parents deserve to not be dragged on death march holiday though,, and they deserve the treats too!