We have just booked tickets for another trip to Europe and I’ve realized I never delivered the trip report that I promised for our Belgium adventures. Soon after our return we became overwhelmed with home improvement projects and I never got it done. My computer with our pictures is currently broken so I’ll be writing this report more briefly than normal based off memories and notes.
Our trip was planned as this:
April 13, 14, 15, 16: Bruges
April 17, 18: Dinant
April 19, 20, 21: Brussels
For the first time on any trip, in an interesting turn of events we actually completely broke away from our plans. I will get to that, shortly.
Bruges was a picturesque delight. We daytripped to Ghent, and were I able to do it over again, I would stay in Ghent. We enjoyed the feel and atmosphere of Ghent more than Bruges. It felt more alive and buzzed with a different energy. Bruges was absolutely magical at night though. I would imagine that in full summer swing, it could be a little overwhelming with all the crowds. It wasn’t overly crowded when we were there, but it was still busy.
On another day we daytripped to Ypres. What a cool city. We stopped in a cute shop for chocolate covered waffles and learned from the shopkeeper the story of all the cats we saw in the storefronts around town...what a story! Give yourself two hours at the WWI museum, we cut ourselves slightly short at about 1.5 hours (we ran into road construction work) and feel like 2 would have been perfect. If you’re a real war buff, I’d give yourself even more time. We did a North Salient tour in the afternoon and it was an absolutely great tour. Our guide has had the honor to meet and get to know many WWI soldiers and had very memorable stories to share and great insight. It was interesting to hear stories from other countries besides our own. All in all, a day very well spent. We decided to head back to Bruges instead of staying for the Last Post. We were anxious about driving back through the countryside at night and decided to error on the side of caution.
The next day we made our way down to Dinant, with stops planned along the way. Our first stop was Hallerbos Forest. WOW, WOW, WOW. It was an absolute highlight of the trip. What a magical place. The flowers were in bloom and it was simply stunning and a delight for all the senses. The air was so crisp and clean, laced with the light, lovely scent of the flowers. The flowers themselves dazzled in a carpet as far as the eye could see. Upon arrival we opted for the longer walk spending a few hours in the forest. If you have the opportunity to visit when the flowers are blooming and you love nature, I highly recommend prioritizing this stop in your trip to Belgium.
Our next stop was Kasteel van Beersel which was a fun little moated castle stop. We grabbed a very light lunch at a restaurant adjacent to the castle. Which was perfect. We couldn’t ask for better views or better weather. We then poked and explored around the castle. You really get to explore at your leisure. There was one other group of two people there when we were there so you may end up with it all to yourselves. One person at a time can climb to the top of a single tower for great views of the surrounding area. But, this is not for the faint of heart as the way is a bit rickety, covered in pigeon poo, and very claustrophobic. My husband made the climb and I did not.
We then drove to Villers Abbey. Again, what a cool stop! We should have made a little bit earlier start to the day as we felt like we could have used just a little bit more time here. We enjoyed poking around all the ruins. Some bride and groom were getting an insane amount of pictures taken in the church portion of the ruins while we were visiting. The bride never left the center of the aisle for the entire duration of our visit so I never was able to capture it without her in it, but so it goes. Definely recommend it!