Brussels, Brugge and Antwerp!
July 20 - 29, 2014 --- 9 Nights
NOTE: All photos shown were actually shot on a previous trip!
DAY 1: Sunday - July 20th - This incredible Belgium Beer Tour starts when you arrive in Brussels (we will meet at the hotel, or if you prefer I can meet you at the airport). After a short nap (for those arriving that morning), we would meet up around noon and take a walk around the Grand Place and the old part of Brussels. I will get you acquainted with the city, how the trains work, where things are, etc. We will stop for a small lunch and perhaps your first beer (of many) in Belgium, and of course we can stop for frites, waffles (both types!) and chocolates (lunch and snacks during the day on your own). After a fun afternoon of getting to know Brussels, we will go to one of the best beer-focused restuarants in the world for an incredible and very memorable meal.
DAY 2: Monday - July 21st - After a hearty and delicious breakfast at the hotel, we will visit one of the most famous Lambic breweries in the world, Cantillon! We will tour the facility, which is considered a working museum, and sample their incredible Lambics. This is a magical moment that you won't ever forget. Between our visit to Cantillon and dinner, you will have a little time for exploring on your own if you wish, or you can just relax. You will be provided with city train passes and guides to some of the famous beer bars, area breweries, tourist attractions, museums, etc. (lunch, if desired, is on your own). For dinner, we will have another incredible meal at another famous beer-focused Brussels restaurant. Then, we can go watch the fireworks and participate in the Belgium Independence Day celebrations!
DAY 3: Tuesday - July 22nd - Monastery Day! After another great breakfast, we get an early start and meet up with our personal shuttle driver, a homebrewer and fellow beer lover, to take us on a tour of the 3 Southern Belgium monasteries. First up, a little over an hour south of Brussels is the Abbey de Scourmont, or as we know it, the legendary Chimay! We will sample the Chimay cheeses and beers, including the elusive low alcohol beer brewed specifically for the monks and only served at the abbey. A short walk through the woods takes us to the abbey itself, where we can walk the grounds, and if we are lucky, perhaps even see and hear the monks chanting during a ceremony.
Upon leaving Chimay, we will travel through rural France, as it is the shortest route, and come back into Belgium to visit Orval. Depending on several factors, we may get to tour the brewery, but either way, this is a great visit and a beautiful monastery. We can walk the ruins of the original monastery destroyed in the French revolution and visit the museum located in the caverns underneath the new abbey. In addition, we will eat an early dinner at the Orval restaurant, where we can sample the famous Brettanomyces tinged Orval beers at their freshest, as well as an aged version and the special small version brewed for the monks.
At last we head back towards Brussels, but we will make a quick stop at Rochefort. This monastery is one of the most private ones in Belgium, lacking even basic signage to find it, but we will. After a quick look around the grounds, we will head into the small town of Rochefort and enjoy these famous darker fruity Belgian beers at their peak of freshness with an end of the day dessert. A great beer and food combination. Again, a day you will never forget!
DAY 4: Wednesday - July 23rd - After a couple incredible beer-focused days, today, our last day in Brussels, is a day to take in the sights. It begins with an organized bike tour, which is a fantastic way to see and learn about the city, and includes a stop for famous frites (Brussels style) and beer (lunch on your own). After the bike tour, you are free to explore more on your own or just take some time to relax. Dont forget to ask me about that special locals pub that serves Westvleteren! Dinner is on your own.
DAY 5: Thursday - July 24th - It is always hard to say goodbye to Brussels, so we will do it slowly. After another great breakfast, checking out of the hotel and leaving our bags with them, you will have a little more time to explore the city on your own. This is a good time to go pick up those last minute gifts, or visit some sights you haven't seen yet (perhaps the Atomium), etc. (lunch, if desired, is on your own). We will meet back up at the hotel in the mid afternoon and head to the train station. We make the short train trip to the beautiful, fairy tale city of Brugge in Northern Belgium. The architecture, culture and feel of this city is like none other on Earth. Throw in the incredible beer of Belgium, and it might be the closest thing to heaven you will experience until you visit that big brewery in the sky. After we check into our bed and breakfast type hotel, we will spend a little time getting acquainted with the city, eat some dinner (on your own), then visit some of the great beer bars. Brugge has some of the best beer bars on the planet! These are places that won't even serve a beer if they don't have the proper glassware for it and every beer has its own special glass. These are incredible experiences!
DAY 6: Friday - July 25th - Today, after a hearty breakfast, we will get a bit more acquainted with Brugge. I'll show you where you can rent bikes, where other famous beer bars are, where some of the key tourist sights are, etc. I'll also show you how to navigate the very confusing street map to keep from getting lost (or at least too lost - getting lost in Brugge is part of the fun). Today we may also take the short train trip to Rodenbach if a tour can be arranged (they only do tours at certain times, if they have enough people and the wind is blowing just right, but I will do all I can to make this happen - with a group and my connections in Brugge we at least have a chance, which doesn't exist to the individual traveler). If it doesn't work out, we will visit and possibly tour the De Halve Maan brewery in Brugge. Lunch, if desired, is on your own. For dinner, we will have an exquisite beer focused dinner at one of the best restaurants in Brugge.
DAY 7: Saturday - July 26th - This is an Open Day in Brugge to explore the city and / or the surrounding area. There is a lot to see and do, including the famous boat tour of the city, climbing the bell tower, seeing the Church of the Holy Blood (where you can touch the vial that contains the dying blood of Jesus), or the only Michelangelo statue in Belgium, etc. In addition, you can rent bikes and ride around the city where you can see real windmills, or you can even ride into Holland if you wish (yes, it is that close). There is also a bike tour that goes to a small neighboring town that has a small brewery. Lastly, you could even rent a car and drive out to the Westvleteren monastery, but it is a long drive (perhaps an hour and a half each way) just because there is no easy way to get there, even though it is relatively close by. In the evening, we can meet back up at one of the great beer bars to tell our tales of the day. Lunch, if desired, and dinner are on your own.
DAY 8: Sunday - July 27th - Today, after breakfast, we take the train to the metropolitan city of Antwerp. We are not in Antwerp very long, so the day's activities are optional. You may want to visit the DeKoninck brewery or one of the cities great beer bars, or you may want to see the sights, including Peter Paul Rubens home and museum. Antwerp is also the diamond capital of the world, and some good deals can be found if you know what you are looking for. I can provide some guidance on this and even refer you to the company that I have personally purchased from. Lunch, if desired, and dinner are on your own.
DAY 9: Monday - July 28th - Our last full day in Belgium and I saved one of the best beers of all for today. We will travel by bus out to the Westmalle monastery for a late lunch / early dinner. We can watch a video presentation about the monastery and brewery at the large restaurant across the street and we can walk the grounds of the monastery. The restuarant is unique in its ability to serve either cold or cellar temp Westmalle beers (Dubbel and Tripel), and they also serve a very unique Half and Half. This is a fun way to close the trip. We will get back to our hotel in Antwerp in time to relax a little and get packed for the trip back home.
DAY 10: Tuesday - July 29th - Today, we leave Antwerp early by train to head back to the Brussels airport or to wherever your travels may take you next. For an added cost, I may be able to extend the trip a couple days and take you into Cologne (Kolsch) and Dusseldorf (Altbier), see notes below, or to other places you may wish to go.
OPTIONAL DAY 10: Tuesday - July 29th - For this trip in the Summer of 2014, some of us may be leaving Antwerp and heading to the beautiful city of Cologne in the Germany. After arriving and checking into our hotel, we will have the afternoon and evening to explore this city with its incredible gothic cathedral and wonderful Kolsch beer. Lunch, if desired, and dinner are on your own.
OPTIONAL DAY 11: Wednesday - July 30th - After a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, we will take a train ride north, following the Rhine river, to the old world city of Dusseldorf, where the incredibly unique Dusseldorf Altbier flows from all the altstadt (old city) brewery taps. There are multiple breweries and pubs to visit in this beautiful old city on the Rhine. After arriving back to Cologne, we will try to make it an early evening, even though it will be hard, so we can have some time to relax a little and get packed for the trip back home. Lunch today, if desired, and dinner is on your own.
OPTIONAL DAY 12: Thursday - July 31st - After a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, we will either take a train or a private bus to either the Frankfurt airport or back to the Brussels airport, to head back home, or you may venture on to wherever your travels may take you next.
FAQs REGARDING THE BELGIUM BEER TOUR
COST: "Tentative" Cost is $2,750 USD per person traveling as a couple / pair, or $3,350 USD for someone traveling alone. Final, exact costs will be determined as the time gets a little closer, exchange rates can be more accurately calculated, the itinerary is more definite, etc. NOTE: The Optional 2 nights in Cologne for the Summer 2014 trip is "tentatively" an additional $500 USD per person traveling as a couple / pair, or $670 USD for someone traveling alone.
WHAT IS INCLUDED: Basically, everything except the meals specified above, your personal purchases and your airfare. It includes all hotels, breakfasts, several meals and beers, train travel, taxis, shuttles, buses, admission fees, base tips, etc.
COULD I SAVE MONEY DOING THIS ON MY OWN: Possibly, but it can require literally hundreds of hours of research and planning to make it happen as smoothly as what you will get on my trips. Also, you may have to drive yourself to experience some of what we do, which puts a damper on being able to drink and enjoy yourself. Lastly, some things are just not options for people traveling alone. Either the group and / or my connections make some of the things we do feasible. So yes, it is possible to save a little money, but I'm not making that much and the added value I offer is well worth it to most people. Lastly, when calculating costs on your own, many things are often overlooked, which add up to extra dollars spent, plus without the proper planning, mistakes can happen and they can add costs quickly.
I DON'T KNOW IF I WOULD LIKE TRAVELING WITH A GROUP: This isn't a cruise ship or a high school field trip where every second of your day is planned. There are lots of opportunities to do things on your own, there's no curfew, and few early mornings. Also, the type of people that do a trip like this, are probably a bit of a beer geek just like you, and have you met many of them you don't like? Lastly, these are small-group trips with only around 12 - 14 people maximum. So just relax and have fun with some like-minded people in a flexible and friendly environment.
PAYMENT TERMS AND CONFIRMATION: I need to confirm the trip 3 months before the departure date at the latest, but a trip can be confirmed as soon as I have enough people signed up. Airline tickets should NOT be purchased until the trip is confirmed. If you are interested in going, please let me know. Send an email to BeerMBA@MarketWiseSolutions.com. If you definitely want to go and want to sign up, also send me an email, but also send a 25% deposit check or provide your credit card information. As soon as I have enough people signed up to confirm the trip, I will cash the checks and charge the cards. At this point, this 25% is no longer refundable, and you will be billed for the remaining 75%. This remaining 75% is due in full at least 1 month before the departure date. After that 1 month prior to departure point, when all money must be received, no money can be refunded. All plans have been made at that point and this is Belgium's peak vacation season, so their cancellation policies are very strict. In the event of a complete cancellation of the trip on my part, all money will be refunded to you. These terms are subject to change at any time, but they represent the general policies.
The hotels are all very nice, safe, approx 3+ star type accomodations, with private baths and all the usual amenities. More details can be provided upon request.
The itinerary and plans may change. With travel plans like this, things out of my control can always occur. If / when that occurs, I will try to plan something else. It will always be a fun and enjoyable trip and I will always give you your money's worth.
If you need a roommate, I can try to pair you up with someone, but it is up to you to make it work.
As with most European travel, these trips require a lot of walking, standing and movement. You should be in resonably good shape in order to participate in everything planned. However, there are certainly ways to take it easier and do less walking, etc. if you wish and don't mind not trying to keep up with the group.
I am only the coordinator of the trip. I charge a fee to assist you and guide you in your travels. I am not responsible for, or liable for, your health, safety, lost or stolen property, etc.
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