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IAD-BRU-VIE-AGP-DUB-IAD, Summer 2015 trip

IAD-BRU-VIE-AGP-DUB-IAD, Summer 2015 trip

Old Jun 15, 16, 8:49 pm
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IAD-BRU-VIE-AGP-DUB-IAD, Summer 2015 trip

So this is our fifth big summer trip. Our two daughters go to sleepover camp for seven weeks in the summer. We get to visit for one day, on the third Saturday. Given that our kids are away and it is a slow time for our work, we have used this opportunity to take a nice adult only vacation. The first three summers we cruised on Silverseas and in 2014 we went to Bali, Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong.

After being so far from home and travelling a long way in 2014, this trip was going to be a little closer to our Baltimore home...Europe here we come!

We used our United/Chase points plus some Avios and cash to come up with the following itinerary:
IAD-BRU-VIE-AGP-DUB-IAD

The trip breaks down as follows:

5 nights in Brussels (Hilton points - all free)
5 nights in Vienna (Hotel Bristol - 5th night free using points)
4 nights near Marbella (Finca Cortesin - 4th night free with Citi Prestige)
1 night in Malaga - Arrival Plus
1 night in Dublin (Westin on points)

The flights were on United to Brussels with a stopover and then continuing to Vienna on Austrian Air. We flew Niki from Vienna to Malaga using Avios and we paid for our flight from Malaga to Dublin. We then used our United points to complete the open-jaw/round trip home on Aer Lingus.

All in all, we only paid for three of the four nights at Finca Cortesin plus one night in Malaga (eventually free with Arrival+)

I’m sorry, but this report is being written almost one year after the fact, so I won’t be quite as verbose or detailed.

Off to Dulles we go in our rental car. Being gone for quite a while it is a bit easier and maybe a little cheaper to just rent a car one-way and drive to Dulles from Baltimore. Getting a driver can be quite a bit and I’ve been successful in getting Budget cars for about $65-75 each way.





We had an easy drive to the airport. Our last big summer trip we had a bit of a scare as we drove there due to reports of accidents on the highway. Thankfully, history didn’t repeat itself. There is a nice gas station right between the exit and the rental car return that we used to fill up and hit the restrooms. Returning the car at Budget is easy and we got on the bus with no problems.

Checking in to the United flight was simple. TSA was pretty good I think. We took the moon bus ride that is always so much fun. I was chatting with a guy and he was going to Israel. He was so excited to walk the same places that Jesus walked. Eventually we made our way to the United Club. There is nothing exciting about the lounge except for the fact that they have Brownie Brittle. As a fun side note, my mother in law wrote to the Brownie Brittle company and told them about a little gourmet store here in Baltimore. They started carrying the product and Brownie Brittle sent her a t-shirt.

















Ok, back to more serious stuff. The flight was fine. The seating in biz was 2-4-2 and that really stinks, especially if you’re in the middle part. My wife got the aisle and I was next to her. Some stranger was next to me. The seat isn’t that great or anything, but it did go flat. What a joke of an amenity kit.





Our seats were very near the bathroom. I joked that next time i was going to photoshop up an “Out of Order” sign and tape it to the door. Some of the seats were facing forward and some were facing backwards. We ended up forward.





After seeing the menu, I quickly texted my friend who travels every other minute with UA. He recommended the pork chop, so that was my selection. My wife picked something else. Food was not bad, but the FA didn't like when I asked her to bring my food quickly. She took it as if I was complaining about slow service, but really it was just that I wanted to go to sleep asap, especially on such a short flight across the Atlantic.















I did get to watch a little of a movie. Thankfully, UA had a movie on tap that would be perfect for one of our day trips...




You would think that taking the train from the Brussels airport to the main train station in Brussels would be easy, but I managed to cause a little excitement. More in the next post!
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Old Jun 16, 16, 9:47 pm
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So you would think that getting from the airport via train to downtown Brussels would be easy. It really was, but not without some excitement. We gathered our luggage and went to the train station within the airport.







Dashing to the train, we made it with time to spare. For some reason I got nervous that we weren’t on the correct train and I saw this button labelled “Help”. Thinking that I needed “Help”, I pushed the button. In a moment some worker came running over looking for the emergency. Who would know that when they say “Help”, they really mean “only push if it is an emergency”. When I asked him if this was the right train to go to the Central Station, I think he was about to kill me. Oops!

The train ride to the city was uneventful and I felt so economical and practical taking the train as opposed to a cab or uber.







I was so impressed by the train and the two levels, I took a picture of the steps





We stayed at the Hilton and the location was perfect. It was directly across from the train station. As we had five nights in Brussels, we planned day trips to Bruges, Antwerp and Ghent and the hotel was ideal. I had obtained a bunch of Hilton points using their credit card at the time they gave 6x at drug stores (I think that’s what it was). I upgraded my card so I would be guaranteed gold and then we’d have free breakfast etc. We did enjoy the lounge access to get some snacks and cold sodas on our way back from touring and before we went out for dinner.

The hotel had an upgraded room for us, but just not the first night. That was fine, we didn't make a big mess and transferred after one night. The room was a bit larger, especially in the space between the foot of the bed and whatever was across from that. I'm not sure if I got many pictures of the new room, but you get the idea. I think the new room had something on the bathroom floor that my wife bashed her toe on. I'm sure her toe was broken! Just like she broker her foot in Italy!















Here's a view of the train station from the hotel. If you plan on day tripping from Brussels, I highly recommend this hotel in Brussels due to the location to the train station.



I looked at the Brussels Card and thought that it would be a good value, especially with the HOHO option. During our 2 days in Brussels we either used the HOHO or hoofed it.

The first day we saw the necessities in Brussels:

1) Chocolate
2) Smurfs
3) Waffles
4) Grand Place
5) Manneken Pis

We also hit the Jewish Museum and the Musical Instruments Museum, both of which were excellent. Following are some pictures from the streets of Brussels and the various museums we went to.

















































































The next post will show more of Brussels, including their excellent Auto Museum!

Brussels is a wonderful city and I would recommend anyone visit!!

More soon
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Old Jun 18, 16, 2:19 pm
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I went to Brussels in 1972 and was not impressed except for the Square.

However your pictures are tempting.Very nice.

On the other hand I am somewhat scared to go there.

Looking forward to Vienna as my mother grew up there and I was there in 1992. Want to go back.

Noticed the Jewish Museum where people were shot. Scary place.
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Old Jun 18, 16, 3:47 pm
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Bretteee,

Thanks for reading my trip report. I was getting depressed that no one had commented.

That being said, I believe that the city has probably changed quite a bit in the 40+ years since you've been there.

As to the danger, I'm not certain that it is more dangerous than other spots. Crazy people are everywhere unfortunately.

More work on the report tonight. Right now I'm on vacation in Turks & Caicos
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Old Jun 19, 16, 4:32 am
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Originally Posted by Bretteee View Post
I went to Brussels in 1972 and was not impressed except for the Square.
Grand Place is the most impressive part. Otherwise it has some highlights (museums etc) but it´s not Paris or London.
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Old Jun 19, 16, 2:59 pm
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Don't get depressed, I have subscribed and am enjoying your report.
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Old Jun 19, 16, 8:23 pm
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Clearly it's not London or Paris, but we went to London a few years ago and it is a general failure of mine that we haven't been to Paris together. We've each been separately, but not together. One day!

Another post soon tonight!

Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
Grand Place is the most impressive part. Otherwise it has some highlights (museums etc) but it´s not Paris or London.
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Old Jun 19, 16, 10:07 pm
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I’m interrupting watching Game 7 of the NBA finals to write this up. Sorry I didn’t post earlier, today, but I was busy diving and filming sea turtles. Too bad I didn’t know about the red filter for my GoPro. Here is a picture of how I spent my day.




Day Two in Brussels was very much like Day One, minus the incident on the train. We had a nice enough breakfast in the restaurant and went out to the HOHO to drive a bit and see a few museums. We visited the Auto Museum (AutoWorld) and directly across the way was the Military Museum (Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History in Brussels). We also visited the Brussels Comic Strip Museum. All three were excellent and included in the museum pass.

The drive around the city was nice. The only thing we didn't see was the Atomium. Oh well, can't do everything. If I remember correctly, some of the buildings were governmental and some just caught my eye. Maybe the audio told me it was something special...































Below are some pictures from the car museum. We enjoyed the history of the cars. I had no idea that Belgium had a history of making cars. The one thing that particularly interested me was that Ford made a motorhome in 1924. It never occurred to me that in 1924 people would be interested in RV’ing. Of course, one of the pics that actually shows the motorhome doesn't work for some reason. I have many, many more pictures of the cars, but only elected to post a few. The museum this month was sponsored by Jaguar. I had the feeling that sponsorship changed every so often and with it some of the cars inside as well.






















And how awesome is this! It's a car! It's a boat! Oh, it's both!!








Now on to the Military Museum. The two museums are part of the Cinquantenaire, a large park to celebrate 50 years of Belgium independence.







Ok, let's get the military plane stuff out of the way This is flyertalk after all!








Tanks are important too!






Lots of other military stuff, looking at many centuries of history. I enjoyed the more recent things and here are just a few.








There was some interesting art on the Brussel's street.





On to the Comic Strip Museum. This place is awesome if you love the Smurfs and Tin Tin. I never heard of Tin Tin before the movie came out.














I'll give you one guess as to what this guy is doing behind there. Very interesting to have this in public. It's a new one to me! This guy had only one thing on his mind



Off to some dinner...





And maybe the best picture for last!



The next post will start our day trips outside of Brussels to Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges. Total failure by the concierge at our hotel. More tomorrow!
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Old Jun 20, 16, 6:02 am
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Looking forward to hearing your comments about Antwerp. I used to travel there about 2 or 3 times a year for the past 16 years.
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Old Jun 22, 16, 8:22 am
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Sorry no post last night. Got home at 2am from Turks & Caicos and obviously wasn't working on TR. Will get new post up tonight I hope
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Old Jun 25, 16, 3:02 pm
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Day trip to Antwerp

We really liked Antwerp. By far, the highlight for us was the Red Star Line Museum. This museum is about the Red Star Line and the emigration/travel from Europe to the United States and elsewhere.

This museum is fantastic and should be on everyone’s radar. We were so surprised that the concierge at our hotel in Brussels didn’t know anything about this museum, especially since it opened in 2013. This was a huge failure of the concierge, something that was really inexcusable. I would think that a concierge in Baltimore would know of a first class museum that opens in Washington, DC or Philadelphia. I’m sure it was in the newspapers, magazines etc. With the concierges not knowing of this museum and having multiple concierges recommend the same restaurant (kickback anyone?), we gave our hotel (Hilton Brussels) a downgrade.

We took the train from Brussels to Antwerp. It was very easy to get from our hotel to the train station. We only had to walk out the front door and walk about 30 seconds and there we were! Great planning by moi! We easily walked up to the window and purchase a ticket for our less than one hour trip.. The train station in Antwerp is considered one of the most beautiful ones in the world. I would agree that it indeed was very nice. The first three pics are from Brussels station and the rest of the train station pics are from Antwerp.













Are we below the train or is it above us? A neat perspective either way!














This museum was really great. If you're interested in how your ancestors might have traveled long distances to get to their new home, this is the museum for you. Anyone interested in genealogy would also find this fascinating. The yellow paper shows that people were denied boarding due to lice. The museum shows the shower areas etc that were used. There was no fooling around with regards to hi-gene and health.

If I took pictures of everything that interested me, it would be a picture of the entire museum. I could have photographed the entire museum for over 2 or 3 hours.

Again, I highly recommend this new museum. It is one of my favorite museums I've ever visited.

Next stop was the MAS. (Museum aan de Stroom). This is a pretty funky looking building with great views of the city. We walked through, saw a bride taking pictures, and ran through some of the exhibits. The best part was the view and the architecture. The exhibits didn't wow me like the museum from earlier in the day.





There is always one kid that ruins the pictures


Here are some pics of the view. It's a shame the weather wasn't cooperating.







And yes, I thought this was really cool! Three pictures














I've found our lunch spot! The great view paid off




Following are some street shots from our walk around town












Cathedral of Our Lady




We also visited the Rockox Museum and saw this wonderful painting of proverbs called Netherlandish Proverbs by Bruegel. The younger Bruegel painted many copies of this, with slight variations.



note the man is "banging his head against the wall"


Crying over spilled milk










Our next stop was the Printing Press Museum. Another fine, smallish museum. If you enjoying seeing factory tours, or just have an interest in how they made books etc. way back when, this is a great stop for you. It was on the museum pass, so it fit perfectly in to our day.






It was in a nice building, where the printers honored by the museum worked and lived.






Some fine work by Abraham Oretlius, father of the modern atlas






And tonight's dessert
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Old Jul 2, 16, 7:25 pm
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Day trip to Ghent

Getting to Ghent from Brussels was very similar as getting to Antwerp. We walked across the street and went directly to the track. We purchased our tickets for today’s train the night before upon our return from Antwerp. That way, we’d be able to go directly to the train and not have to worry about lines or anything to buy a ticket in the morning. Here are some pictures of the train station in Ghent as well as some things nearby









While in Ghent, we enjoyed the Design Museum, the Ghent Altarpiece restoration at the Museum of FIne Arts, The Ghent Festival and the Belfry.

We were concerned a bit about the Festival and what kind of crowds it would bring. Would it be drunken hordes? Would it be old people? Young people? But in the end we decided to just give it a whirl. The weather wasn’t that great, so the walking around town wasn’t always as 100% pleasant as we would have liked.

Our first stop was to the Museum of Fine Arts. We got turned around and had a little difficulty walking there, but in the end, we got there ok.




This painting is "Christ Carrying the Cross" by Hieronymus Bosch. But there is some doubt that he was really the artist, even though it might have been created in his workshop. As a side note, everyone should watch Bosch on Amazon Prime. Great show!




Here is the workshop for the restoration of the great piece. Do you remember the movie "Monument Men"? The altarpiece was found in that movie



The security guard was able to tell us quite a bit about the restoration. I'm certain that he is standing there and listening to the guides etc. and just soaking in the knowledge. It wasn't terribly crowded, so he was able to spend a fair amount of time discussing the piece with us. What a nice treat!

The painting "Jupiter and Antiope" by Anthony van Dyck. Don't you just love google image search?


The "Fishmonger's Stall" by Adriaen van Utrecht


Here is some street photography. A bunch of churches that I don't remember the name of...











Note the stalls set up for the festival






I am assuming these are just for the festival


Some festival pictures




This restaurant had some festivities that they took outside!


See the dancing waitresses?




The Ghent Belfry








I believe this plays the music







The views














The Free Masonic Lodge





The Design Museum was pretty good. Following are some pictures. They had a big exhibit on those chairs. I looked online on Tripadvisor and they had an exhibit on bikes, so they must rotate exhibits fairly often.





I believe this shows the layers of the chair










And my favorite seat!






And back to Brussels to a delicious dinner at Kasbah, a nice Moroccan restaurant. I believe someone tried stealing the purse from someone at another table. Oh the excitement! We found this restaurant on Yelp.



We enjoyed our day in Ghent. I would definitely recommend Ghent as a day trip from Brussels.

Next up is a trip to Bruges

Thanks for following along!
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Old Jul 2, 16, 7:38 pm
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Great narrative and photos. ^

I was in Ghent in 2011 and really did enjoy it.
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Old Jul 3, 16, 5:48 am
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Originally Posted by farbster View Post
We enjoyed our day in Ghent.
Always liked Gent, it is a nice city. Did you not visit the Gravensteen?
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Old Jul 3, 16, 7:54 am
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Did not visit Gravensteen. That's the castle right? I had to look it up. Not sure why we didn't visit...not sure I even saw it in my research? It'll be on the list for next visit I think!
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