One evening a friend and I went out for dinner and a few drinks.
In the car on the way, he said, "Don't worry, I'm BOB."
I didn't understand what he meant. His name wasn't Bob?
He tried to explain what seemed to be the designated driver idea. I agreed he could be Bob--it was his car and I wasn't going to drive anyway. Later that evening the waiter served our drinks on the coaster pictured here: Then I understood about BOB.
"HERE IS THE PARTY: BOB IS DRIVING. WE ALL HAVE A BOB IN OURSELVES."
I never learned what the penalty was for those drunk drivers who got caught, but my guess is that it's not something to find out while on vacation!
If you fall into trouble here then you must be looking for it.
Any light hearted individual, not out to bother anyone else, can feel comfort in roaming Brussels and greater Belgium.
Never heard a siren. What do I mean? Head out to Chicago, New York, LA, Rio, etc., you'll hear medical or law enforcement sirens screeching in the air. Well, not here in Brussels or Belgium. No when I was there, at least.
Common sense Acommon Travel rules as to where ever you go.
#1. Don't go where you shouldn't go.
#2. Follow the rule of law in the country that you reside.
#3. Adhere to the rule of law from your home country.
#4. Respect and "pre-" read up on the culture(s).
#5. Gain some familiarity with the country's national language prior to your trip.
#6. Practice the local language with the locals.
#7. If concerned with lodging then don't do what isn't familiar to you.
#8. Eat what has been cooked.
#9. Drink bottled water that has a seal. Open it yourself.
#10. Know your coordinates (esp. North & South). Memorize the major cross-roads prior to taking your trip.
#11. Have a copy or two of your Passport in a safe place (either on you personally or in an emergency place).
#12. Go electronic (with back up paperwork) when you can.
#13. Be reluctant to share your full plans with strangers.
#14. Be flexible.
#15. How you handle "it" determines whether it'll be a good event or day or not. Understand that something weird, funny, or bad might occur.
#16. Watch your travel companions as they might just as well cause trouble by accident / unknowingly or on purpose.
#17. International travel is not a time for pranks. (Stay away from pranksters that want to travel with you)
#18. Just try to remember that "nothing" is for "free". (This goes for women too! Crazy partying guys should know this.)
#19. Silently meditate as to rehearse (or re-play) plans.
#20. Always be prepared for a back-up exit plan (... where ever you are (and check for exits)).
#21. Travel with flex travel time on the front end but esp. back end of your visit. This'll reduce your frustrations if there happen to be delays.
#22. Pack light while being wise.
#23. Be nimble. (physically)
#24. If you have good judgment with befriending people (anywhere) then be social with out giving away too much information.
#25. Know your money. Where it is. How much is on you. Denominations in order. Minimize coins if possible (don't need to be heard walking around jiggling).
#26. When driving a rental car ... pay the extra for full coverage. (Take it from a guy that has had 2 separate flat tires and locked up engine all in the same trip. Can you guess where?)
#27. Walk like you know where you are going even when you get lost. The best way to not get lost again is to remember where you were when you were lost.
#28. You are not a "stick" in the mud if you choose to stay away from the "loud" crowd.
#29. Avoid traveling during the host country's elections.
#30. Be aware of political and labor union protest. Don't accidently get caught up.
#31. Never walk away from your open beverages and/or food. Once you've stepped away then pass on further consumption as to be cautious.
#32. Ladies and guys, know that you will meet lots of wonderful people plus some not so. Don't be fooled by "beauty" or a "handsome" face. Danger lurks. If you have a bad judgment of character domestically then it is not going to get any better outside of the country.
#33. If you're not considered "HOT" back home then don't be fooled when you are abroad. Money matters. It isn't really your looks.
#34. The money train gets you access but it can also generate trouble.
#35. Make certain Taxis / Limos drivers happen to be locked into the price and directions prior to departure.
#36. Know the weather conditions prior and during your trip.
#37. Read the local newspapers / journals prior to arrival. (seek to understand cultural, social, economic, etc topics of the day)
I encountered this in Belgium, it's a slightly different rouse from what they do in The Netherlands so it caught me off-guard at first.
Basically, what people do (seems to be men for some reason but maybe women do it to male tourists, I don't know) is they approach someone who they think is a tourist and ask something in English to confirm they are a tourist and then they offer to show you something. In my case, being American, this very old man offered to show me the site of some American history. Considering I was in Gent, I thought I knew what it was but said okay just out of curiosity. On the way, this man showed me a couple of other interesting buildings that I definitely wouldn't have found on my own. When we got to what he wanted to show me (the site of the peace talks that ended the War of 1812), he told me a little about it and then offered to show me something else. I explained that I had a train to catch so he then said okay but also asked for some money.
I chuckled because he was definitely asking the wrong person if he thought I had major cash on me. But I reached into my purse and pulled out a few coins. He informed me he couldn't buy a cup of coffee with what I'd given him and he had shown me all these interesting places. I informed him that I did not have much money and that was literally all the money on me (It was kind of true, it was the change from my breakfast muffin. I didn't have any more coins.) so he shrugged and left.
So basically, they are offering a service but they expect to be paid for it and if you don't want to do that or you don't have much money like me, make up some excuse why you can't go with them to see whatever it is they want to show you.
Be aware that outside skating can be very dangerous on spots of tinny ice, especially when a lot of scating fanatics are in the same area.
During my one day trip to Damme, a mother lost her child for about two hours, So keep an eye on them
Belgium is overcrowded. Actually this area of Europe is one of the most densely populated on Earth. More than 100 million people live within a 300-km radius of Brussels. That translates in generally good facilities, but also in an absolute absence of pristine nature. There are indeed areas of great scenic beauty, but never the untouched landscapes which can still be expected in other regions, even in remote areas of Old Europe.
Belgium does not even have a single national park (there are some small nature reserves but none of them with that status). The human imprint is everywhere, but, fortunately, it does not always jar with the surroundings. Most of us are so unacquainted with true wilderness that we can gaze at wondrous agricultural landscapes and still believe they are wild. There are no primeval forests in this part of Europe, for instance; rather wood farms where trees have laboriously been planted in line, all the same age, with no underbrush at all. They may be beautiful to look at, fairy-tale even, but they sustain very little bio-diversity and are boring for tourists with a serious interest in nature.
This is a wise piece of advice to follow anywhere we go on holidays, especially for those with a delicate stomach, no matter how aseptic our destination is. In Belgium, more than advisable, drinking bottled water is a must.
Of course, our authorities tell us that tap water here is perfectly safe for drinking and conforms to EU standards. I do believe them, in spite of the serious environmental problems that Belgium faces, due to its high population density and inadequate political effort (Several reports suggest Belgian rivers to have the lowest water quality in Europe and beyond). However, tap water is so chalky and unpalatable that you will be better off ordering a bottle of San Pellegrino if you do not want to spoil your meals. Plus, after you see how our faucets and pipelines look like, you will definitely not want that substance to circulate through your kidneys.
Belgium has a coastline of about 65 km of excellent sandy beaches. Before the democratisation of air travel, some of the 15 resorts that sprawl along the coast, including the city of Oostende, knew a period of long-gone glamour. Today, most of the coast looks hideously built up, with mostly blocks of little or no architectural interest. If you add to that the facts that the North Sea does not really invite to bathing and that the weather is usually miserable, it is easy to understand why these resorts are nowadays just crowded with locals and that the vast majority of tourists in Belgium are only interested in its historical cities.
Belgium has one of the worst drivers statistics amongst the 15 "old" EU member states and we used to fall asleep to the screech of car tyres :))) Every other car seems to have dents in its front doors and I don't know how many of my colleagues were involved in crashes or simply did not drive at all. In the 70s, there were no driving tests in the country but people just went to their local council and bought a licence. If I crossed a one-way street, I always looked both ways and I think you should too.
If you are going on the Thalys trains from Paris to either Amsterdam or Cologne, you will of course pass through Belgium so it applies to those of you going there too. Watch out if you sit in the last carriage as it is common for thieves to sneak on board at a station, grab some luggage and then hop off again before the train leaves. This happened to a colleague of mine and then he was in Liège so maybe that's where it is most common. When he alerted the train guard, he was in any case told that this happens every week. The thieves know that there are many tired business travellers on Thalys...
When driving around on the highway in Belgium, you may be heading for Luik and at a certain moment, you will only see signs to Liege. ????
Well, as Belgium is multilingual (French, Flemish and German) major cities have two or three different names depending on where you are. So when you are driving around and you pass one of those language frontiers, the name changes.
Here are the most important cities:
(Flemish - French - German)
Brussel - Bruxelles - Brüssel
Antwerpen - Anvers - Antwerpen
Brugge - Bruges
Gent - Gand
Luik - Liege - Lüttich
Namen - Namur
Bergen - Mons
Kortrijk - Courtrai
Leuven - Louvain
Doornik - Tournai
Rijsel - Lille
Aken - Aix La Chapelle - Aachen
Well we probably ask for it with a fancy camera showing on the table, you can expect someone to try to steal it.......
But we must tell you it was not a belgian who did it..... they are much better than their neighbours, it was a red nailed hand from Breda, Netherlands !
... during those VT meetings in Belgium.
This is a serious warning. Be it for small or giga meetings in Belgium, they are likely to include city walks for Belgian cities being cities to walk in.
So, I warn you. If you are to meet locals, bring walking shoes (no, not the stilletos). In winter, with raincoat very probably. In summer, walking sandals, but then sun lotion on top of your feet to avoid sunburn. Aah! another reason to wear good shoes is the various cobblestoned streets + squares in Belgian cities: you'll walk on them everywhere, in every centers of Belgian cities... All Grand-Places, Grote Markts I've seen so far are cobblestoned areas, for instance.
In any case, back home or to your hotel, hostel, inn, it is always relaxing to have some foot bath with foot massage... And you would be ready for a good night. With a head full of those the memories of citywalks, the laughters, the drinks.
Our TGV meeting in Feb. 2004 was one of the exceptions to the walking-drinking fun meetings.
Be vareful when you are in the train, some thives could rub you and go faster than you could ever reach when the train stops in one station for few seconds!
I saw this before my eyes, when the thife run like crazy beside me with the bag od a lady, I didn't realize and understood that he was runing because he is a thife, it was too late!
otherwise I'd stop him and kicked his ass!
It was the first time for me in Brussles to see such a thing, I'm not saying it is bad, but most of the churches and beautiful Cathedrals are free for enterance in France, in Brussles almost all of them are payable!
Well when I went to visit the hospital where I was suppose to be born: Clinique St.Luc Maternite,
I followed the Metro station: Alma, where the clinique is placed!
be really careful to be lost to get in the Metro there, it is not easy at all, the zone is underconstruction, and you have to make a big circle before getting to the otherside, and you can be easily lost!
best way to avoid is to ask people there!
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