Trip Report Part 2 – Just back from… 🇧🇪

Happy Thursday Hidden Gem Travel community – and happy April! It feels great to see the signs of a new season at home after being in Europe most of last month. It’s also a crazy busy season for parents of kids in school (plus sports/other activities), and many are longing for the relatively less packed summer schedule. Hidden Gem Travel clients are looking forward to trips in the US and around the globe.

PSA — now is the time to start thinking about ‘festive week’ if you plan to travel internationally in December through early January. Multi-family or multi-generational trips are very popular over the holiday season, and you don’t want to find yourself in the ‘slim pickings’ position by waiting any longer. Email me now to kick off the process.

If you missed last week’s newsletter, you might go back and read it as this week’s edition is part two of my trip report from March where I explored and sailed the Dutch and Belgian waterways. When in Belgium, I didn’t make it to Brussels this time, but suffice to say it’s well worth a visit and perhaps be a base your stay (I can recommend a fantastic hotel as your home away from home).

Read on for the scoop on my trip report on Belgium…

Bruges

What a charming medieval city with a deep history! Bruges is one of Europe’s best-preserved cities and its city center is a UNESCO world heritage site. You’ll stroll by its impressive cathedral, winding canals filled with white swans, and whitewashed façades. Picture perfect and romantic many say. There with your partner? You’ll be able to sit by the Lake of Love, take a horse drawn carriage ride or canal boat sail through the city.

While my river cruise ship (aka floating boutique hotel) didn’t dock right in Bruges, it was well worth the driving time to spend the day here. I’ll warn you that it’s a very popular place for tourists, but its history and charm make it worth your time. And of course, you’ll find many restaurants, shops and cafes where you can indulge after a tour of the city. If you like a little history with your food, consider a walking food tour – I know an amazing one in Bruges!

Ghent

Did you know that Ghent had a larger population than Paris in the 14th century? Ghent’s wealth came from its cloth trade and as a commercial port after linking the city to the North Sea in 1547. When you stroll around Ghent, you’ll see its many canals reminding you of Amsterdam. Despite being an ancient city, Ghent is now home to many university students who make it a vibrant city to visit. The tourism board says ‘don’t forget to come to Ghent’ to entice more visitors beyond Holland, and it’s more well-known Belgian cities.

One highlight of Ghent is the world-famous masterpiece The Mystic Lamb by the Van Eyck brothers (completed in 1432) which you’ll find in St. Bavo’s Cathedral (must purchase a ticket). It’s a magnificent work of art with 18 panels depicting Bible scenes that are vibrant in colors such that it seems to glow when you’re standing in front of it.

💎Hidden Gem Tip: I had a chuckle in Ghent when my tour guide pointed out that a Marriott hotel was once a house of prostitution with emblems on the front of the building to prove it.

Antwerp

No report on Belgium can ignore the impact of Belgium’s gastronomy, and I spent much of my time in Antwerp eating and drinking in between walking the historic streets. As I prefer to do, I started the day with a fantastic, local tour guide (and we walked right off the ship into the city) who described the history and layout of the city engagingly, and then I was off on my own.

Antwerp is Belgium’s second largest city. The highlights of my exploration included Castle Steen from the 12th century, a narrow, medieval walkway that many tourists overlook, a very interesting modern art installation in front of an ancient cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady with works inside of Peter Paul Rubens – work on the cathedral started in 1352), the gorgeous main train station, diamond district, and the many food and treat shops along the way.

Belgium’s gastronomy is inspired by the French, Flemish, and Germans with local specialties such as moules-frites (mussels and fries), carbonnade flamande (beef stew), and some of the best crispy French fries, Belgian beer, waffles, and chocolate. Come hungry to Belgium!!

💎Hidden Gem Tip: While I’m NOT a fan of mayonnaise with my french fries, many people are converts and swear by the Dutch and Belgian version of mayo. Give it a try when you’re there. You may find yourself on a hunt for a jar that you can bring home. Another odd combination that’s truly Belgian is the a waffle burger!

Inspired? Reach out to me now to get your questions answered and begin the planning process.

Wishing you amazing travel adventures,

Susan

NEW Section: Travel News You Can Use

💎 Hidden Gem Tip:  Culinary Travel 

An evergreen trend in the industry is culinary travel. Many people love to experience the local food and culinary traditions of their destination. While a food tour is a popular experience, there are more options from which to choose. Cooking classes can take place in a local’s home or a professional kitchen. You can visit a local market with a chef and purchase the ingredients prior to the class. On board a river or ocean cruise, there may be ‘chefs table’ dinners.  Alternatively, on land you can find a tasting menu at a top restaurant. In Asia, you can stroll and taste the exotic foods offered at night markets, and you can go truffle hunting in Italy and Croatia. How about a sushi or ramen making class in Japan? The list goes on. An experienced travel advisor like me will help you find the best culinary experiences for your trip!

Follow my Facebook/Instagram pages this week for more travel inspiration: www.facebook.com/hiddengemtravelconsulting or Instagram: www.instagram.com/hidden.gem.travel

Make your own Wanderlist for 2024! As a reminder, Wanderlist is an online portal where you can research, explore, and create shareable lists of destinations and experiences. Share your list with me so I can make it happen for you. Check it out here: https://bit.ly/wanderlisthgtc  

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Hi, I'm Susan Wilson

I’m the founder of Hidden Gem Travel Consulting. As your personal travel advisor, I craft custom worldwide itineraries that astound and inspire you.

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