Those who plan to rent a car in Germany in 2012 should really reserve now. Book a compact car (VW Golf or similar, 4 doors, air, manual) for a week for as little as $151, INCLUDING 19% value added tax. Get a guaranteed intermediate to fullsize upgrade (Mercedes C-Class or similar) for a week for just $166, including tax.

The above two deals are for cars picked up prior to April 1, but there are some great rates for rentals between April 1 and December 31.

For example, check these one-week rentals in Germany (all include the 19% VAT):

  • Intermediate (VW Passat or similar): $211
  • Compact Station Wagon (VW Golf Wagon or similar): $210
  • Intermediate Station Wagon (VW Passat Wagon): $259

Rental car prices are more volatile now than at anytime in the 22 years I've been in the car rental business, so lock-in early with a credit card. If your plans change you can cancel and not lose a penny. An early booking carries zero risk.

Get a written quote or phone Andy, our car rental manager, at 800-521-6722 x 1.

Remember, too, that we can book a car for you anywhere in Europe.

Lufthansa has just announced discounted fares on flights to Europe, the Middle East and Africa...but you must act quickly. As usual there are restrictions but these are great prices for those traveling this winter/early spring.

Sample fares include:

  • New York to Frankfurt - $727
  • Chicago to Barcelona - $771
  • Atlanta to Vienna - $869
  • Los Angeles to Prague - $867
  • Seattle to Munich - $927

Many other destinations are included in the sale. You must purchase by Wednesday, January 11 and depart the U.S. between January 23 and March 22. Travel must be complete by April 22. Some blackout dates apply. The above fares are for midweek travel and include taxes. Weekend surcharge and service fee may apply. Seats are limited and may not be available on all days/all flights. Travel can be on Lufthansa, United, Continental and Air Canada.

Call Laura Riedel at 800-521-6722 x 2 for a quote or to check availability. You can also request a written quote.

Just across from the wildly popular Manneken Pis (sculpture of a little boy urinating) have a beer at Poechenellekelder (Eikstraat 5). Grab the first vacant table and wait for a busy server. The Lindemann's Framboise (raspberry-flavored beer, only 2.5% alcohol) is delicious. If berry-flavored beer is not to your taste, there are dozens of other choices.

Brussels' two most popular beers seem to be light lagers, Stella Artois and Maes. I preferred the Stella.

As you might suspect, there's a lot more to Brussels than pickpockets and street fights. Just off the imposing Grand Place is a network of alleys (Ilôt Sacré/Restaurant Lane) lined with gaudy restaurants aggressively recruiting customers carnival barker-style. One relentless, slick-haired dude followed us for a good 50 feet, all the while rattling off menus and their prices. Even in November there is outdoor seating (warmed by overhead heaters). Mussels and oysters are in season and many establishments mount giant seafood displays over huge containers of crushed ice near their entrances. The alleys are narrow and, with the outdoor tables, the food displays, the barkers, the hundreds of wooden a-frame menu signs, and the pedestrians, it's a crush. Though there is some charm, and it's a lively, fun atmosphere, the word is the prices are high and the food ordinary. Keep walking.

On the edge of this district, however, is Restaurant Scheltema, where we scored a table at 8:30pm without a reservation (no barker). Noisy, busy, friendly, with an all-male wait staff, Scheltema serves large portions of good quality food, most of it from the sea. The light Stella Artois beer goes down easily and we were welcomed with a just-out-the-oven, crusty loaf of homemade bread and a generous slab of butter. Liz's fine sole meuniere (27 euro) was the entire fish, sans tail and head. My main dish of plump scampi (tails attached) wrapped in thin strips of sole filets, each of which was nuzzled into a pile of whipped potatoes seasoned with nutmeg, finished second. Potatoes and nutmeg don't work for me and when I asked for pommes frites they were provided instantly and without charge. A giant, shared green salad (16 euros) featured heaps of tiny off-pink crevettes (the menu called them "grey" shrimp).

This all went well with the small glasses of Stella (3.3 euros) and a half-liter of an unknown dry, white wine (10 euros). Dessert? Belgium? Waffles? Yeah. We finished with a light, crunchy one enhanced with vanilla ice cream, chantilly (whipped cream), powered sugar, and a boat of hot melted chocolate. Total: 96 euros. It's fun to watch a really busy, really competent waiter work a room with missing a trick and keeping every customer happy. Our guy did it with good humor, as well.

Restaurant Scheltema des Dominicains, 7 - B-1000 Bruxelles - Tel.: 02 512 20 84 - Fax: 02 512 44 82