After a two night stay in Amsterdam, we had to catch an early morning train to Brussels. Luckily, we had enough time to have breakfast at our hotel at 6:30am (and even left with a to-go box of fresh croissants), walk across the street to Centraal Station, and get to our platform with 15 minutes to spare. Originally, I was looking for tickets from Amsterdam to Paris but the fare was so high that I ended up booking the trip in two parts, which not only lowered the cost of the train but also allowed us to fit in one more destination on our trip. We booked a 2-for-1 promotional rate, which got us to Brussels for €25 per person in Comfort 1 (First Class) on Thalys. Comfort 1 was very comfortable and included complimentary wifi (yay!) and meal service. We were already full from our hotel breakfast so we used the time for nap.
When we arrived at Brussels Midi Station at 9:10am, we were met by Roland, a volunteer with Brussels Greeters. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how much I love “free” tour services. There are generally two types of free tour guides: 1) the type that do group tours and make decent money through tips, and 2) volunteers who are truly free. The former category is very easy to find and includes the Undiscovered London Tour and SANDEMANs New Amsterdam Tour we took on this trip. The latter category includes organizations such as The Global Greeters Network (which Brussels Greeters is a part of), Goodwill Guides in Japan and South Korea, Saigon Hotpot and HanoiKids in Vietnam.
The latter group generally consist of volunteers feel passionate about their homeland and want to share it with visitors. Roland definitely falls into that category. He knew that we were only in Brussels for four short hours and he tried to show us the main attractions in that time. Highlights included Manneken Pis, the beautiful buildings surrounding Grand Place, the pioneering Les Galeries Saint Hubert shopping center, various historical churches and interesting neighborhoods.
Along the way we stopped for crisp Belgian waffles, wonderful fries (the fries-loving Henry has been talking about them ever since we left Brussels), and high quality chocolates. We never stopped walking on our tour and we got more out of our four hours than I had anticipated. By the time we got back to the train station and said goodbye to Roland, our legs were tired and we were so eager to sit down and relax.