Bus sightseeing tours: you either love 'em or hate 'em. If I'm in an unfamiliar area and short on time, I'm a huge fan of the bus tours. The biggest con with bus tours is that they really pack in the sights and you don't get very much time to explore at each stop. That said, I really wanted to see Belgium, and I found it a little intimidating to take a public bus or train on my own. The bus tour seemed like a more practical option.
After reading tons of online reviews, I picked Lindbergh Tours, which offered a day trip (11.5 hours) from Amsterdam to Belgium for seventy-nine euros.
The tour started early in the morning and was a twenty-minute walk from our hotel, near the main train station. I picked up my tickets at the Lindbergh Tour office and waited under this sign to be led to the tour bus, which was parked several blocks away.
Here's the double-decker bus. It was about 1/3 full.
The driver and tour guide were fantastic. I met a lot of wonderful people on the bus, mostly other single travelers and couples. Although, I do have a quick rant about one family who took the tour. It was a family of six, four adults and two little girls who were about five years old. Both of the children were very, very sick; coughing and sneezing the entire time. Naturally, I got sick a few days later with the same symptoms. It's bad enough that they brought these sick children on a long day tour in a confined bus, but then they were just rude on top of it.
They were from Spain and requested that the tour guide translate in Spanish. While the tour guide was speaking ( English first and then Spanish), they were loudly talking and being disruptive. It was so bad that the guide got up and tried to have a talk with them about keeping it down and they argued with her. It got so heated, that I thought they might be thrown off of the bus. They were also late returning to the bus at every stop. Frustrating.
If you go on a bus tour, you'd better be well-behaved or risk getting the stink-eye. Everyone gave this family the stink-eye.
Our first stop in Belgium was Antwerp. We had about an hour and a half, but we were warned several times to make sure to eat lunch at this stop. No food on the bus! Guess what? Everyone's favorite family tried to sneak food aboard.
Antwerp, as I would learn, is famous for its jewelry district and diamonds. I think that the bus company had worked out a deal with Diamond Land, one of many diamond retailers in the area. We were led off the bus and straight to Diamond Land for a diamond cutting demonstration. I like the name "Diamond Land", it makes me feel like I'm headed to a super sparkly theme park.
Truthfully, jewelry doesn't interest me too much. I listened to the presentation, glanced at the dazzling jewels, and got out of there to eat and see the city.
I didn't have much time to eat, so I did the "Bad American Tourist" and grabbed McDonald's. I wouldn't have admitted to eating at McDonald's, except check out my receipt.
My "Royal with Cheese". I totally didn't make the Pulp Fiction connection until I was sitting down and eating.
I had just enough time to race around the city square and snap a few pictures. The buildings and statues were amazing and really, just a small taste of what was to come in Brussels.
Next stop...something very, very cool before our big stop in Brussels. Hint: It was constructed for the 1958 World's Fair.