Brussels or bust....

  1. Ok ladies and gents – heading off to Brussels for my summer vacation around July. Got a few questions for any of you in the Belgium/France/Germany/Netherlands area as I know nothing. Granted travel forums are great for these questions but a few of you have offered wonderful info in the past (Annanas – Copenhagen wouldn’t have been the same without you) so I thought I would start here.

    Question #1 - How difficult is it to drive to any (or all) of these places from Brussels?

    1. Lille, France
    2. Cologne, Germany
    3. Luxembourg
    4. Amsterdam, Netherlands

    Looking at maps the cities look like they are all w/in 150 miles (or much closer) from each other. Are the roads easy to navigate? Any mountain passes to be aware of? Are road signs in English? Sorry if this is a hugely stupid question but a girl has to know to make her plans.

    Question #2 - Everyone drives on the RH side of road – correct? Anything I’m missing here?

    Question #3 – Do we even need a car?? Can we do this by train??

    Question #4 - Which city, in your opinion (other than Belgium) gives the best bang for buck? We’ll probably be in the area for about 1.5 weeks. Would not want to spend more than 3 days in each city – what is unique about the above cities?

    Question #5 – What am I missing? Anywhere else we should go that is in driving distance?


    Thanks all and can’t wait to get out of town!

    Christine
     
  2. Hi Christine,

    Driving between these cities is very easy - the highways are very easy to navigate and we do drive on the right-hand side over here (same as US). Brussels is pretty central to the places you've mentioned and I think probably within the 150 mile radius (or not too much further). The only thing I can think of is that there *might* be a toll on the way to Lille (I'm sure someone can clarify) - no mountain passes. Just remember that speed is calculated in kilometres NOT miles but that's pretty obvious.

    Road signs are not in English (try not to giggle when you see the German word for exit: Ausfarht), but there really aren't all that many and they're mostly for destination, distance, exit, etc. I only speak english and we've never had any trouble navigating around these areas. Signs like stop, give way, no standing, etc are very easy to recognise.

    Train travel will by far be the easiest and quickest way to travel around so I would recommend you do it that way if you can.

    Belgium is a great country - I recommend you pop over to Brugge (sort of near the sea), it's a beautiful medievil city - probably about 1 - 1/2 hours from Brussels. Food (and beer) is great! Antwerp is beautiful too, great shopping. Gent is pretty too but if I had to choose one place to go it would be Brugge.

    I live in Holland but there's probably not much I can tell you about Amsterdam that you don't already know :graucho:. It's a beautiful city and the canal tour is fab - lots of info and you can hop on and off. Museums are stunning, food is OK (must say fries with mayonnaise...PURE GENIUS!). Just don't go into a Coffee Shop and expect a cup of coffee - KWIM??? Lol. The dutch are very friendly and their english is Amazing.

    I haven't been to Lille or Cologne (which is Koln in German....I think) but I'm sure someone can chime in on these. I did drive past Cologne on the way to Salzberg but that's not going to help you very much.

    If you're willing to travel a little further Strassbourg is stunning! Such an amazing city. Paris also is only a few hours from Brussels too (although I recommend you catch the train - Thalys).

    Good luck and have a great trip!
     
  3. Agreed about Paris or Strassbourg

    I can give some input about Koeln (cologne) - unique is dome/church and it is one of the bigger German cities (we don't have like one massive capital or anything but rather several middle sized cities). no, no english roadsigns - motorways are great in Belgium but I can't say compared to US so for you they might be poxy :smile:.

    driving on the motorway in germany is an experience you want to brace yourself for. there is absolutely no relaxed driving there - ever. my hubby who is not german and rather wild behind the wheel refuses to drive on the motorway in germany - so you get it.

    not to discourage you but just to prepare you. I don't actually sit in cologne so I can't give you an recommendation for food/shopping etc - for shopping neighbouring duesseldorf is great (upmarket city) - maybe 20 to 30 mins by train. can I be very honest with you? if you don't have hot insider tips about cologne I recommend to forego koeln and maybe even Lille, and rather take the extra time to go Paris (with the superfast train) - we have done that for just a day from farther than brussels so it is possible.

    sorry to any koelner but I am not crazy about it.... maybe bec I am too southern, so if there is anyone who can give better input than me - great!

    I think Luxembourg would be an economic trip - can't say anything about it though. and yes, you could easily travel by car from brussels to luxembourg.
     
  4. i went to paris, brussels and amsterdam in December. you can definitely take a train from brussels to amsterdam. the station in brussels is not walkable from the city center so you'd have to take a taxi to get to your hotel if its in city center. doesn't cost too much mabe 15 euros? then the train station in amsterdam is pretty walkable to the main areas. i know there are trains that go to luxembourg because the european trains all had signs like germany, france and etc. they'll do the announcement in literally 5 languages.i'm pretty sure there's a train that goes to lille france. you can probably take trains to all those places. the train system in europe is very efficient, you just have to make sure where the stations are, how to commute from there to the hotel, and make sure the times are correct (time zones i believe). you should probably travel from france to brussels to germany to amsterdam. hope you have lots of fun there! definitely try to see paris if you havent already =)
     
  5. Not hard at all! All of the major Autobahns are there, so you'll have no problem! No, roadsigns won't always be in English. Since you're coming from the US, I'd take a quick look at the European road signs. The ones that you really have to be aware of is who has the right of way on certain streets!

    Correct!

    In terms of saving money and convenience, yes you'll need a car. Riding the train is expensive in Europe, especially if you don't want to ride regional lines which take forever! ICE is very expensive in Germany and depending on how long you're going you can expect at least a 50 EUR ticket, one way. Within the cities may be a bit more difficult with a car. If you can, try to get a rental with a navigation system. Many of those cities are filled with one way roads that can start to get very confusing. Either bring someone who can read a map very well and very quickly or get a rental with a Navi!

    Hmmmm, IDK. Really depends on what you want to do :smile: Cologne is very expensive and if you will be speaking German, get ready to ask "Wie?!" a lot since the Germans in Cologne speak funny, lol :smile:

    ---------------------------------------

    Be careful driving on the German autobahns. Typically there is no speed limit on there (unless there is a sign that says otherwise) and many people drive very fast. Here are some rules that Americans (including myself!) tend to forget:
    - You can't pass on the right. I was a big fan of this when I lived in the states and I know a lot of Americans who live near me have made this mistake and have gotten tickets from the police.
    - No right turns on reds. VERY VERY important! Even if nobody is coming, you're still not allowed to turn until the special right hand turn light comes on.
    - When driving in cities, there is a special sign that says which road has the "Vorfahrt". You must abide by these signs and if you take somebody's "Vorfahrt" away, be prepared for a very angry German. Sorry, should have explained what vorfahrt is. Basically, it's the road that has priority over the others

    I'm going to go look now for a website with the road signs just so you'll have an idea what they look like :smile:
     
  6. ^ great advice! especially about vorfahrt. hahahaha

    don't be surprised if you are over-taken on the right, people do it but like lamiastella said it is not allowed so you can get fined, never mind have lots of people give you angry looks....
     
  7. Wow! You ladies are far and away better than Froders!!! Lots of great info here, thanks for responding!!:yes:

    Cal - I will be sure to try those fries out but will probably skip the coffee houses due to, erm, testing at my workplace.. lol. Amsterdam sounds like a lovely city!

    Lamiastella - thanks for the sign website and all the great driving info. . I will most likely have the signs memorized by the time we leave. :smile:

    Hey - here is another question that you all may or may not know - hotels - are they hard to get in July? The only reason I ask is that a friend of mine and I went to Spain a few years back and did not book hotel rooms (figured they would be plentiful). Well it was in June and there was NOTHING availabe. Fortunately we lucked into one way far from the city center but it really limited our travels - we had planned to go to Barcelona and Madrid but stayed in Barcelona the entire time. Anyhow - don't want to run into the same thing this go-round.
     
  8. I THINK that all the major cities you want to go to you should be fine. spain is a typical holiday destination for that time of the year.
    how about booking in advance?
     
  9. Yeah booking in advance would probably be the wise thing to do. Just wanted a little bit of flexibility as far as deciding where to go on the fly, kwim? :yes:
     

  10. I meant to say FODORS!!! :p
     
  11. totally - I would do the same - great to travel spontaneously! like I said, I don't think brussels, cologne, luxembourg are very busy in july,

    not sure about strassbourg, paris or amsterdam. they might be....

    your trip sounds great!
     
  12. Christine
    Have a wonderful time... and bring back lots of pic of your LV in special places....:heart:
     
  13. Thanks! Just trying to book the old plane ticket now. Whoohoo! :yahoo:

    Hey didn't you just go to Paris?
     
  14. i dont know if this helps, but i think that in brussels, hotel rates are cheaper on weekends because they have a huge financial district. i stayed at the 5 star marriot i believe can't remember the hotel name. and the rates were really good according to my BF's research.