We made our first visit to these four beautiful places this fall and came away with some information we hope will be helpful for others.
We flew into Brussels on September 9, then took a train to Bruges. Our first discovery was that on the information boards in the Brussels train station, there were no trains to Bruges. We were told to take a train to Brussels Nord and then a train to Ostende; Bruges is the stop just prior to Ostende. Be aware that if you need to use the bathroom in the Bruges train station, it will cost 50 euro cents. Luckily we had brought some euros with us so didn't need to find an ATM.
Once in Bruges, we took a taxi to our B&B (Gallery Yasmine, highly recommended). The owner was wonderful, very helpful, and baked amazing breads for breakfast every morning. She sent us down the street to the oldest bar in Bruges, Vlissinghe, for lunch .... onion soup and our first Belgian beer.
While in Bruges, we took a tour of Flanders Field with Quasimodo tours (also highly recommended). We enjoyed great food at Cambrinus and the Black House restaurants. We did all the usual tourist stops (museums, De Haalve Man brewery tour, canal boat) and ate chocolates and waffles and those amazing French fries. But our favorite times were when we wandered away from the main streets into the quiet, picturesque neighborhoods, finding little bakeries or cafes with no tourists at all.
From Bruges, we went to Luxembourg to trace my husband's roots. His great-grandfather was born in Diekirch, so it seemed it would be a good base. Diekirch is a nice little town, with the excellent Museum of Military History -- a truly amazing collection of World War II vehicles, uniforms, armament ... much of it abandoned after the war and collected by people in the area, stored in barns until the museum was created. One of the most interesting museums we have ever seen. Absolutely worth a stop if you have any interest in World War II. We had an exceptionally good dinner (mussels and shrimp) in Diekirch, at Restaurant Esplanade, just down the street from the museum.
Unfortunately we had neglected to pack our IDP so we could not rent a car here as planned. But the excellent Luxembourg public transportation system came to our rescue. For 4 euros per person per day, you can travel anywhere in Luxembourg on train or bus. Our hotel manager (Hotel du Parc) helped us with the sometimes-complicated transfers but we were able to visit most places on our list -- some ancestral villages, plus Vianden (for the castle) and Clervaux (for the Family of Man exhibit), both worthwhile.
We found that Luxembourg is a lovely, pristinely-clean country, with green rolling hills and friendly people. We learned that Ettelbruck would be a great base for exploring it, if you are driving or especially if you are not, as it seems to be a transportation hub for trains and buses in Luxembourg. All of our day trips connected through Ettelbruck. It's just about 40 minutes from Luxembourg City, and much more budget-friendly. It's a great little town, with lots of restaurants, a nice plaza (with good gelato!), and a market every Friday morning. We loved this little town.
(to be continued)