Read more about the article Antwerp – Belgium
Antwerp - Belgium

Antwerp – Belgium

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The Diamond Capital of the World

It’s great to travel back to cities and places when long time elapse in between the visits, and especially if that is to one of the greatest cities in terms of history, architecture and sights. For me, this is the third time here. If the first was the shortest as all I had was few hours interconnecting buses on way from Brussels to Amsterdam with the second time way longer than before; now this is the longest I’ve been hence covering deeply every sight and corner of the city. A great chance as well to now completely revamp this travel guide, rewriting and reviewing most of it.

Antwerp is the second largest city in Belgium after its capital Brussels, and with difference, also the second in elegance and richness. While Ghent and Bruges are incredibly beautiful places, these are first smaller, and secondly, like taken out of a fairy-tale. Antwerp in the other hand is grand and one can feel how powerful it once was.

Its port remains second in Europe, and one of the biggest in the world. It is merely 25 kilometers to the North Sea along the Westerschelde estuary of the River Scheldt that cross the city. One of the most important trading cities in the 16th century especially during the Spanish rule when it was the sugar capital of Europe after such commodity was coming from the colonies; cinnamon and pepper from Portugal and plenty others, translating in rivers of wealth and countless merchants coming to the city, and earning the Spanish crown seven times more revenues than the Americas.


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Read more about the article Four Lifts of the Canal du Centre – Belgium
Four Lifts of the Canal du Centre - Belgium

Four Lifts of the Canal du Centre – Belgium

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The last 4 hydraulic lifts from the 20th century in operation in the world

Canal du Centre, Belgium, July 2016

The Four Lifts of the Canal du Centre is the continuation of the previous travel guide on the Major Mining Sites of Wallonia. Both of which the UNESCO World Heritage Sites that we visited at the same time along the same route we planned for today. Since all these places are scattered through the same region, our starting point for this tour was the farthest to the east from our base, Brussels, to then continue in the easiest and simplest route to reach all the other sites along towards the last one, the farthest to the west before heading back to our base.

While the 4 mining sites are all within a trench of 150 kilometres from the Blegny Mine at the east and the Le Grand Hornu in the west, the 4 hydraulic lifts of the Canal du Centre are all located in La Louviere, spamming less than 8 kilometres apart. In this short distance the difference in the level of water between the river basins of the Meuse and the Scheldt is 66 meters. The solution to this was the set of 4 boat lifts we still see today, with the Houdeng-Goegnies built the first in 1888, and the remaining 3 in 1917.

Nowadays, their operation is reduced to only recreational use since the construction of the Strépy-Thieu boat lift that bypasses the older structures in a single lift rising boats 73 meters. Right until January 2016 it was the highest in the world, nowadays eclipsed by the Three Gorges Lift in China. (more…)

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Read more about the article Major Mining Sites of Wallonia – Belgium
Major Mining Sites of Wallonia - Belgium

Major Mining Sites of Wallonia – Belgium

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Industrial Valley of Belgium

Belgium, a small country but so much to offer to any visitor. I cannot count any longer how many times I’ve come to everywhere, especially Bruges, Ghent and Brussels, yet never getting tired for returning to Brussels. One of my favourite European cities with difference and because of its pretty much central location in the country, easy for making it the base and visiting other places around. If this is your first time travelling to the country and planning a visit to Brussels, then it’s best you check the separate travel guide for it, just simply click here. Right now, I will be splitting into 2 different guides all the places that we planned for this weekend.

In order for me to plan where else to go within a country and what is there worth to visit and keep returning to that country, sometimes often, I usually check the UNESCO website in search of UNESCO sites. This is already a very solid base that has never failed to us, not to mention we are strongly UNESCO sites seekers. So in this occasion, I could work out and prepare another great trip full or surprises: The Four Lifts of the Canal du Centre and the Major Mining Sites of Wallonia, all of which scattered along some 100 kilometers between the farthest ones, all the others in between more or less near each other, and south of Brussels. From near Liege at the east to Saint-Ghislain in the west, you will see it makes perfect sense to follow an east-west or west-east order since once site comes after next.

Either if this is your first time at 19th/20th century coal mines or if you’ve visited elsewhere some other mines, it is guaranteed you will love it! Not only the incredible underground tour at the Blegny Mine, but also the beautiful pieces of industrial architecture that was raised above, some of which influenced in the art-nouveau style. (more…)

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Read more about the article Leuven – Belgium
Leuven - Belgium

Leuven – Belgium

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The Brewery City

Here we are returning back to Brussels once more this year merely after 3 months since the last time, but in order to reach the beautiful city of Leuven; and after a very, very last minute booking found yet again under the flight+hotel deals offered by British Airways that you can find and use their great holiday finder tool in their website. Sometimes I am really wondering how this is possible at such incredible good low prices! This same weekend, if booked separately would have set us up in triple the fare we paid. And what is best, flying with British Airways. Getting Avios miles, more tire points, and able to use the Business Lounge for free since we are Silver Members on their frequent flyer program, BA Executive Club.

This time we did also not booked this merely to be again in Brussels that we know as our second home, but to have a rather relaxing weekend and enjoying to the maximum the hotel facilities as their large pool but still sparing some time to visit a city we have never been before in Belgium that lies only 25 kilometers to the east, Leuven.

It is really few places left in Brussels that we’ve not been. It is actually one of the countries we have heavily visited the most and repeated countless times in going to Brussels, Ghent and Brugge. Unfortunately it is up to this date that I have not created the travel guides for both Brugge and Ghent, and only because it is quite a long time since the last time we were in them over 5 years ago. Back then we used to go at least 5 times a year if no more. I will wait with those for when I return and have a fresher memory and more up to date info. (more…)

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Read more about the article Brussels – Belgium
Brussels - Belgium

Brussels – Belgium

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The Capital of Europe

One more time planning a weekend in this vibrant and beautiful city full of surprises. Big and very cosmopolitan, yet small enough to enjoy almost in full in two days. Brussels is perhaps the destination I’ve been the most times other than Madrid and Barcelona of course. I might count easily 15 times if not more, but it’s the kind of city you do not get tired nor bored. Once a year is already a great aim why not.

It’s always so nice to be there, walk around the narrow streets in the old town, admiring the impressive architecture specially at the Grand Place or watch the life passing by from any of the hundreds of outdoor terraces enjoying some of the best beers in the world. And even if it’s not beer, then a waffle, crepe or the world famous Belgian chocolates. Only for those, the trip is already well worth it at any time.

Any season is good to come here; either if it is spring when the trees are in bloom, summer with the many shows and activities everywhere in the city, autumn when the colors are turning brown and yellow or winter with the famous and huge Christmas Market being the highlight. Beautiful!


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Read more about the article Liege – Belgium
Liege - Belgium

Liege – Belgium

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Another weekend and another new destination. Although this was a similar case in which I flew into Dusseldorf to visit my friends and made the base there. The fact is that driving to France, the Netherlands or Belgium is very easy and quick, and these cities in the area are not big at all hence perfect for a day trip, or staying overnight to include more cities on the route. After all, there are so many places anyone could go, it does not really matter.

The city has not much to see or do and will not take you longer than half a day to visit, giving you enough time if you have a car to include and plan the visit of another city, either on the way into Liege or way back to wherever you are staying or coming from. In our case, we included this time the small village of Monschau in Germany, 66km away from Liege. Both places made it a perfect summer day out.

Because of my background studies (technical architecture) and my ongoing passion for architecture, I keep searching wherever I travel for great landmarks, and Liege is a good example. It’s home to one of the spectacular creations by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava; the train station. To myself, the highlight of this trip without hesitation. (more…)

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