Now we get to the part of the trip where I have never been before, so I'm going to be relying on guidebooks and crowdsourcing.
Everyone tells me that I have to visit Bruges, the Venice of the North. In fact, some have even told me to spend more time there than in Brussels. It's about a 3 hour train ride from Luxembourg City to Brussels, with 7 different trains leaving between between 5:20am and 9:00am. The 7:00, 7:20, or 8:20 trains are more to my sleeping habits (though I'd sleep til the crack of noon if I could!). I think I'm going to stick to the trains in the morning unless it's a long trip in which case I'll take the overnight sleeper. Unless, of course, the long train makes some interesting stops along the way. Planning is hard!
On the way from Luxembourg City to Brussels, the train passes through or stops in Bastogne, site of the WWII Battle of the Bulge. Not sure if I'd have time to make a thorough stop though.
My guide book suggests a base in Brussels with day trips to Bruges and Antwerp of not more than an hour train ride each.
- Brussels: The Grand Place, the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, the Parc de Bruxelles, Cathédrale des Sts-Michel-et-Gudule, Place du Grand Sablon, the Atomium
- Bruges: bike tour of the city, canal cruise, stroll around the Burg and the Markt
- Antwerp: tram to the center of town, Grote Markt, Den Engel pub, Rubens museum, Diamond Quarter
- "Tournai turns out for the colorful thousand-year-old Grande Procession of the Plague the second or third Sunday in September... Commemorates a religious procession that first took place in 1092 to thank Our Lady for warding off the plague." If it's the 2nd Sunday, that's Sept. 11th. I will likely be in London or Paris then, but if it's the 18th and I'm here, I'm tempted to go to a thousand-year-old parade. It's more likely that I'll be here to see the leaves changing colors in the Ardennes Forest.
- In Wallonia only, September 27 is French Community Day, recalling liberation from Dutch rule in 1830.
I'm thinking I can probably get by with 2 days in Belgium, one day each in Brussels and Bruges. Probably do one day and the night in Brussels, then take the train and do one day and the night in Bruges. Not sure which order.
So Belgium takes care of Days 11 and 12. Leave the morning of Day 13 for Amsterdam.