Discovering Brussels with Eurostar

The recent readers’ day with Eurostar proved to be a wonderful journey, with GTOs discovering just how easy and comfortable it is to travel with Eurostar to continental destinations! Val Baynton reports back.

Sampling the chocolate at Choco Story.

‘Fifteen GTOs and their guests joined me on the Eurostar Reader’s Day in mid-April, checking in at St Pancras International for the 8.55am Eurostar train for our day trip to Brussels. Airport style ticket checks, security screening and passport control are all in place and while there was a queue it was fast moving so we were all soon in the departure area. Groups using Eurostar for short breaks to Paris and Brussels from London can use Eurostar’s Group luggage service that sees bags safely stowed on board and unloaded at your destination.

Our Eurostar hosts for the day included Michelle Maré and Madeline Asala and, as we had a coach for our sole use, we could all freely move around and chat as we travelled. Once we were underway a continental style breakfast was served with plenty of coffee and tea refills, and we sat back to relax as we sped at around 280km an hour through the English countryside and into the 55 km long  tunnel. Emerging in France we were treated to some excellent entertainment – a 30-minute introductory talk about Belgian Art, and a Fashion Workshop looking at this season’s trends and colours and how to wear them. There are many other exclusive experiences available to groups such as wine and gin tasting.

Arriving at Brussels Midi at midday, we took a local train for one stop to the centre of Brussels and then it was a short walk to the Grand-Place – every Eurostar ticket includes transfer to another Brussels station such as Brussels Central. The Grand-Place is a magnificent UNESCO World Heritage site and a renovation programme has just finished, meaning its grand Guild Halls and ancient buildings are resplendent in gold.  After a brief talk highlighting its history we enjoyed a delicious waffle lunch in the private dining room of the La Chaloupe D’or, which, with its wonderful views from its balcony over the square makes a memorable setting for a group meal.

The afternoon was free to explore Brussels but several of us opted to visit the newly opened Choco Story courtesy of Visit Brussels. Activities other GTOs chose included enjoying the relaxed café culture and historic ambience of the city, visiting the Magritte Museum or taking a hop-on-hop-off bus city tour. Visits were also made to the European Quarter to see the European Parliament building and to a hotel to check facilities for a Christmas Market break.

Entertaining speakers on Eurostar.

The afternoon gave us all a brilliant taste of what Brussels has to offer and we were impressed by the compactness of the city, its relatively flat terrain, the warmth of the welcome and the variety of attractions. There really is something for all interests! Too soon it was time to return to Brussels Midi station and the Eurostar Terminal to check in for our return journey.

Once underway, we enjoyed a light dinner with wine and by 8.00pm we were arriving back at St Pancras International. We all found travelling by Eurostar relaxing and very comfortable, group rates are available for parties of 10 plus people and there are many additional benefits for groups including onboard branding. Thank you to Eurostar and Visit Brussels for giving us such a fantastic day out and opening our eyes. I am sure many of us will be back soon!’

“We were very impressed with the Eurostar trains and the speed they transported us to our destination. The staff were pleasant and good at their job. The food provided on both journeys was very good and much appreciated. This was one of the best outings you have offered to readers of your excellent magazine”
Chris, National Federation of Occupational Pensioners, Guildford

“Both my wife and I had a extremely enjoyable day receiving first class hospitality. La Grand-Place Market Square is possibly the most beautiful I have visited in Europe.”
Alex, Kettering Caledonian Society, Northants.

For further information, visit www.eurostar.com.