Driving from Heidelberg to Frankfurt was only an hour, but that was part of the plan. After much research, we found a way to get from Germany to London with a short stop in a place we’ve come to love so much, Brussels, Belgium.
We knew that we had a busy day of travel the next day, so planning smartly was much needed. We used Hotels.com (of course eBates.com too for extra savings) and found a Mercure very close by to the Frankfurt main train station. We quickly dropped our bags which had accumulated many bottles of wine, cans of radler (half beer, half lemonade, one of our most favorite drinks!), souvenirs, clothes and so much from our travels across mainland Europe, and journeyed to Hertz to drop our little Opel Corsa off. We made sure to thank it for its 4000km (~2500 miles!) of dedicated service before saying goodbye!
Needless to say, the food choices near the train station were not amazing, so we grabbed some kebabs, a flatbread that was like a kebab/pizza mashup and attacked some of that excess alcohol (which helped make our bags lighter!) and called it a night. If you ask us, kebabs, radlers and Netflix makes for a perfect night in!
We decided to take the train because at this point… we’re really getting sick of planes! Plus, we planned it this way because it would allow for quick stop over in Brussels! Say no more!
We got up early, loaded up with a few pretzels for the way were set to be in Brussels in about 3 hours via high speed train. We even got to see Cologne and Liege (home of the famous waffles!) along the way. The train stopped at Brussels Midi station which was where we would pick up our Eurostar train to London in just 3 short hours. Just enough time to explore! We loved it when we first visited a few years ago and couldn’t wait to relive some of our finest memories…Crispy fries, waffles and beer! (Here is a great hint, if you’re like us, and have lots of bags, many European train stations have storage lockers…aka…No need to lug your stuff around! We rented the extra large locker that fit our large suitcase, 2 carry ons, and 2 book bags for €3. Do yourself a favor when you rent it and remember where it is located!) In addition to the fries, waffles and beer, we wanted to make sure we saw the little peeing manneken – Mannekin Pis – that we’d heard about but never got to see the last time we were here!
It was a brisk walk from the Midi (also known as South) to the Mannekan Pis, the famous, albeit tiny peeing statue that is always dressed in different attire. He is a cute little guy that attracts many tourists, and luckily he was along the way! Was it worth it? Sure, if you have time and want to see an iconic peeing boy that wears a different outfit to coincide with local and international events…. but it wasn’t anything magical.
We walked through the amazing Grand Palace area, which had a farmers market set up and was packed with tourists. We’ve seen it both in summer and winter, and while beautiful in both seasons, it is stunning during the holiday season with a huge decorated tree right in the center.
Next up, fries! A city that has famous foods will of course have plenty of bad spots aimed for tourists, so beware! We had remembered a place from our previous visit and aimlessly searched for it. Realizing out time crunch, we settled on a different spot that looked like it would fit the bill. Don’t get us wrong, the fries were delicious, fried in beef fat makes them extra crispy, topped with mayonnaise and ketchup. It was just not as good as the place we had been searching out. As luck would have it, after we left, we came upon the place we had originally looked for… isn’t that just the way it goes?! We decided we didn’t need more fries and we were on our way for the second thing in our list…waffles topped with sugar and other delicious toppings!
If you’ve never had a “real” Belgian/Leige Waffle, let us explain to you how it’s different than the kind you get at your local breakfast spot. The kind you may be familiar with is that big fluffy waffle with big holes that sop up maple syrup is actually American waffle batter and Belgian/Liege waffle iron, originally called Bel-Gem waffle. The texture and taste is similar to a pancake. The type we were after were the Liege style, the super dense, yeast raised brioche dough with crunchy sugar studded waffle cooked between two hot plates. Doesn’t that sound a little better?! Crusty outside and sweet bready inside with pops of sugar… yum!
The streets are lined with waffle vendors, so again, be careful. A good fresh waffle is best, don’t let them serve up a premade waffle that they simply reheat. You can always lie and say you’re world famous bloggers and you want to document the freshly made waffle to our thousands of followers! But really, if you just ask for a fresh one…they’ll probably accommodate you. The traditional way is with a dusting of powdered sugar, but we opted for Nutella on one and with speculoos butter (you might know it as “cookie butter”) on the other. Just one of the good things about traveling as a couple, you don’t have to choose just one! It was absolutely heaven. The warm waffle melted the Nutella and Speculoos so it all melted and melted in our mouths, and the pop of pearl sugar provided the perfect textural contrast. Once you have a real Liege style waffle in Belgium, you’ll be sad to get that super fluffy monstrosity that is called Belgian Waffle at home. It reminds us of eating “Swiss” cheese, or “Belgian” beer made in the USA, close but not the same.
With time running short we headed back to the train station, almost forgetting to pick up a beer! We quickly stopped in a small shop that turned out to have about 300 different Belgian beers! Taking the easy way out, we quickly grabbed a Stella Artois (hey, Belgian Budweiser is still Belgian!) and walked briskly back to the train station.
Fun fact! When leaving mainland Europe and heading to The United Kingdom or Ireland you go through customs on your way out! Make sure to leave some extra time! We were told we had to to “check in” an hour ahead, but we’re glad we left even more time than that. There was going through security, and finally immigration and border control. When we finally arrived to our first class train car (well worth the extra few dollars!) all worries melted away. First class on the Eurostar isn’t the same as on an airplane, but it is much better than coach on either a plane or a train. Meal service, coffee, tea, spacious bathrooms, USB ports and WiFi. It was saddening to see the Belgian countryside, then the French countryside whiz by as we already missed it so much. Luckily we had our Stella Artois to drown our sorrows, but it still was sad to say goodbye to mainland Europe. The positive, from this point forward we’d be able to understand the language on any TV, people, and road signs!
Next up, our travels throughout London and the last 3 weeks and 3 countries in our trip… we can’t believe how quickly it’s flying by!