Eurotrip 2013: Part 7 – 13 Hours in Brussels

This is the seventh post in a series about my 2013 trip to Ireland, Scotland and Great Britain. Part of the free plane tickets were funded by the 40,000 point sign up bonus of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

While I love having nice leisurely trips where I have plenty of time to see and do everything I want to this isn’t always possible. My Dad and I only had a 13 hour layover in Brussels and we were going to try and see as much as we could in that time! We arrived at 6 AM and headed to put our hand luggage into one of the lockers at the airport.  Our main luggage had been checked all the way through to Dublin which was convenient, but I still didn’t want to lug a backpack around as we would be walking a good deal.  We were able to buy train tickets into the city using a Platinum Business American Express with the smart chip.  We just missed the train departure so we had to wait another 15 minutes to catch the next train.

Brussels Central is actually quite close to the airport and we actually started chatting with some locals and missed our train stop!  We got off a few stops late and took the other train back the other way.  It would have been a fast trip if that wasn’t the case.  Once we got to Brussels Central, we just kind of came out of the train station and started wandering around.  I noticed a statue of King Albert up on a hill which we walked towards. He is kind of a big deal in Brussels 🙂


We stumbled onto the beautiful Mont des Arts.


I loved the architecture here!


At the top of the hill was the Place Royal and Church of Saint-Jacob on the Coudenber


Then around the corner we saw the Royal Palace of Brussels


We then took a stroll through the Royal Brussels Park.


By the time we were done with this, it was near 11 AM and time to hit some of our central tourist goals for our time in Belgium:

  1. Eat a Belgian Waffle
  2. Try some Belgian Chocolate
  3. Drink some Belgian beer!

I decided the best place to accomplish these tasks would be Grote Markt, which was listed as one of the must see areas of Brussels. The Brussels City Hall is the centerpiece of this plaza.


We found outdoor coffee shop right next to it where we were able to have lattes and order our waffles drizzled in chocolate.  Our waiter wasn’t the best, but we were soaking up the ambiance  and met a really interesting local couple next to us who told us more than we ever wanted to know about water.

Two goals out of the way we went to work on the third but were caught in a sudden downpour of rain on our way to see the famous Manneken Pis.


Luckily for us there was a great little pub right across the street that gave us our fix of Belgian beer (and other European goodies).

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Two delicious beers later the rain had stopped and my Dad wanted to head to the aeronautical museum.  We took the scenic route via Cinquantenaire Park. The Cinquantenaire Arch was impressive.  It was planned in 1880 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Belgian Independence.


We finally arrived at the Aeronautical Museum and since my Dad was previously a pilot, it was right up his alley.


We spent several hours checking out the planes and then we both decided to throw in the touring towel and find somewhere to sit and eat.  We had asked the local we met near the Grote Markt for a good place to eat and he recommended the Rue des Bouchers which is a little pedestrian street lined with cafes.


We ended up at Chez Leon which is one of the recommended places on Wikitravel’s Brussels section, which I have always found to be a good reference. Evidently Brussels is known for their mussels and they were on every table around us.  I got the spaghetti with mussels and it was awesome!


After we ate we headed back to the train back to the airport and hung out in the Lufthansa lounge until it was time for us to board our quick flight to Dublin.

Brussels Lounge

Eurotrip 2013: Part 6 – Brussels Airlines JFK-BRU in their new Business Class

The single seats in Brussels Airlines new business class had lots of room on the side for laptops or books.

This is the sixth post in a series about my 2013 trip to Ireland, Scotland and Great Britain.  Part of the free plane tickets were funded by the 40,000 point sign up bonus of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

When I planned this trip, of paramount importance was getting the lie flat seats for the transatlantic portion.  I could have gotten more direct routing on US Airways, but they have the recliner type chairs on the flight that was available.  I have found I just can’t get much sleep when the seats are the recliner type or “angled flat” like some airlines have.  We were flying on an Airbus A330 outfitted with the new business class.  I always use Seatguru to pick my seats and I saw that the seats were arranged 1-2-1 then 2-1-2 in alternating rows.

Brussels Airlines Seat MapIf I was traveling alone I would definitely taken a seat like 3A so I had aisle access and a window, but since we were travelling together, I put us in seats 3D and 3F.  This gave us seats together but we both still had aisle access so when we went to the bathrooms there was no one to climb over.  Plus since we were flying overnight, there wouldn’t be much to see in a window seat anyhow. My Dad and are both pretty tall (6’1″ and 6’2″) but there was plenty of leg room.

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I’ve flown in similar seats before and have no problem sleeping in them, but my Dad had a hard time because the seats are narrower than some with high sides in their bed position.  He said he felt a little claustrophobic.  We will have to see if the Lufthansa flight on the way home is any better for him. Once we got in our seats, a Bloody Mary, some warm nuts and a salmon toast point started things off right!


The amenities kit Brussels Airlines provided was sufficient, but not as nice as some I have seen.  It included the all important ear-plugs and eye mask, socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste and lip balm.

IMG_6179You know I love food so here is the menu for our flight.


I enjoyed the food, everything was prepared correctly.  I had the shrimp starter and the seared salmon.

Marinated Shrimp over Fennel Salad
Seared Arctic Char

IMG_6186I was able to sleep about 3 hours which was good because we only had 13 hours in Brussels to see as much as we could see and I would need the energy!