Hitting the rails around Europe can be a blast, and I particularly enjoyed it in the so-called “Benelux” countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg). The scenery in the Netherlands was a bit thin, but the Belgian towns were incredibly cute, and it was fun to watch the Dutch signs yield to French as we approached the Luxembourg border.
And let’s face it: any alternative to air travel is a welcome one.
While the trains were a bit slow, they did offer plenty of space, and the ride was comfortable. The only downside was dining: some had a cart that was pushed around periodically, but that was the best available. In other cases, there was nothing at all.
So, if you’re going to hop the train to places like Amsterdam, Bruges, Brussels and Luxembourg, you’re going to want to pack your own grub. You can always pick something up at the train station, but packaged sandwiches and snacks pale in comparison to what you can accomplish with a little planning.
You can do better!
Below, you’ll find tips for giving yourself a better dining experience when you ride through Benelux:
%Gallery-129425%The Netherlands: let’s focus on Amsterdam; after all, it is the country’s major destination. You might be tempted to pick up a “spacecake” while they’re still available to tourists (the fun, for those who indulge, comes to a close at the end of the year), but that only appeals to one type of audience. Instead, head into town and pick up some of the local cheese – one of the few areas where Amsterdam truly excels in food and dining. You’ll wind up spending $10 to $15, but you’ll walk away with enough cheese to feed a village on a three-hour train ride. To make it a bit better, add some spicy mustard to your order (it complements the cheese nicely).
Plan ahead: the cheese and mustard will stay edible for a while, so spend the extra cash to get enough for several long train rides. You’ll be happy you did.
Belgium: in Bruges, there’s a great farmers market in the main market square. Visit it. While the vegetables look delicious, they do have a fairly short shelf life (unless you happen to travel with a refrigerator strapped to your back). So, you’re better off heading to the sausage stand. Pick up a few sausages, and make it interesting by selecting from a variety of animals. You’ll be able to dine on pig, bull and ass, among others. Bring some variety into your on-train meal, and you’ll have a better experience.
Remember the cheese you picked up in Amsterdam? And the mustard? If you bought enough, you can add some awesome sausages to the experience. The meal builds on itself! Again, plan for future train rides, and buy some extra sausage.
Luxembourg: you have cheese and mustard from Amsterdam. You just picked up sausages in Bruges. And, you’re Benelux trip will likely end with a trek from Luxembourg to Brussels or Amsterdam to catch your flight home. What’s missing from your meal on what could be the longest leg of your Benelux train experience?
Luxembourg’s local white wines are nothing short of delicious. Skip the Alsacian, French and German options in favor of what the locals produce. If the imbibing experience matters to you, spring for a few cheap wine glasses that you’re fine with tossing at the airport (or losing to breakage in your bags). Otherwise, a few plastic cups will do the job just fine. As you ride back to your final stop before leaving Benelux, you’ll wash down your accumulated sausage, cheese and mustard with something crisp, tasty and unlikely to be on the shelves of your local liquor store.