Posted in Travel Adventures

Belgium and the Netherlands

July 2019

Chocolate, waffles, fries and beer are what first came to mind when I heard that a career professional development opportunity would be taking me to Hassalt, Belgium this summer. A quick glance at the globe led to tacking on a few side trips to Amsterdam, Bruges and Brussels.

For all our travels, I make extensive itineraries with confirmation numbers, addresses/phone numbers and details referencing page numbers in the guidebooks I have poured over for months leading up to the trip. I find the itinerary making and planning part of the trip really exciting! For this trip and really all our trips to Europe we have relied heavily on Rick Steve’s Guidebooks. Purchase one, you will not be sorry.

Itinerary

  • Day 1-Departure
    • 7:00PM flight with layover in Dublin via Aer Lingus
    • Arrive on Day 2 at about 1:00pm local time in Amsterdam
      • Purchase Metro ticket at baggage claim $5.30 euros pp for Centraal Station.
      • From Centraal Station go outside to find Tram #13 or #17 to Westermarkt.
      • Find how to ride tram on page 45 and tram map on page 48.
  • Day 2-Amsterdam
    • 2 nights Hotel Mr. Jordaan-Bloemgracht 102
    • Drop bags and refresh before enjoying Dutch pancakes at Pancake Bakery-page 223
    • Do Amsterdam City Walk Tour-see page 95
      • Centraal Station to Flower Market with detour at Dam Square to see Red Light District
      • Approximately 3 hours
    • Dinner: Cafe van Zuylen-atop a canal bridge with good food and even better views
  • Day 3-Amsterdam
    • Breakfast
    • 9:15am Ann Frank House Tour-tickets are pre-paid and in email
    • Lunch-Brown Cafe; Cafe Hoppe-page 233
    • Canal Boat Tour-page 53
    • 4:00pm Van Gogh Museum-page 173 (1 hour)
      • tickets are pre-paid and in email
    • Drink and slice of pie at Winkel-page 222
  • Day 4- Bruges
    • Train to Bruges, Belgium-1 connection in Brussels Midi
      • 9:15am departure train #9328
      • 12:30pm arrive in Bruges
      • 2 nights at Hotel Bla Bla-Dweerstraat 24
      • Food: Chez Vincent Fries-Best in Bruges
      • Afternoon: Bruges City Walk-page 41
        • Markt Square, Bell Tower, Burg Square, Basilica of the Holy Blood, City Hall, Postcard Canal and Bridge View, Church of Our Lady, Chocolate Row, St. John’s Hospital
      • Dinner: De Hobbit Beer Hall
  • Day 5-Bruges
    • Rent Bikes and ride canal to Damme-Markt to Moat Path-page 27
      • 4 miles each direction; bike rental information page 17
      • Lunch ??-we didn’t have anything planned in advance but found a panini place in Damme.
      • 4:00pm-De Halve Maan Brewery Tour-first crowd source funded beer pipeline; cool!
      • Dinner: Bistro in den Wittenkop
      • Beer Hall: Cambrinus
  • Day 6-Brussels
    • 9:00am Train to Brussels; arrive at 10:09am
    • 1 night at Hotel La Legende-Rue du Lombard 35
    • Do Grand Place Walk-page 150
      • Town Hall to Mannekin Pis
      • Choco Crawl; Mary, Neuhaus, Galler, Leonidas-page 154
    • Mer de Nordzee-try the scampi a la plancha
    • Cremerie de Linkebeek for cheese snack/picnic
    • Waffle Factory
    • Must eats; mussels in Brussels, Belgian style fries and beers as well as waffles and chocolate.
  • Day 7-Departure
    • 10:20am flight with layover in Dublin via AerLingus
    • Arrive home approximately 4:20pm local time

The above is what was planned, but what really happened is slightly different. Here’s a cheat sheet of a few tips for things that really worked for us as well as a few things that left us frustrated:

Tips and Tricks

  • The Jordaan Neighorhood is delightful and so was our hotel. Great location with easy access to trams. Picture perfect canals and dreamy strolls in the early evening. I took pictures of people’s personal property i.e. bikes/flowers/front step like it was a tourist attraction.
  • Dutch pancakes are delicious-EAT THEM.
  • Check out the Red Light District around 4pm/5pm when you can get the gist of the neighborhood without the “pressure.”
  • Amsterdam likes to sleep in. Most places don’t open until 9:00am.
  • Ann Frank House is a must. Read the book before you go. I actually teared up while doing the audio tour. I had just finished reading the book and it felt like I was visiting the memorial of a friend. Very moving.
    • Reserving tickets in advance is a must. You can make a reservation as early as 2 months in advance. Reservations WILL sell out.
  • Same for the Van Gogh Museum. Reserve in advance.
  • We did a Canal Boat tour on a smaller 10 passenger boat and it was amazing. Bring sunscreen. Our tour guide was very informative and funny.
  • We made plans to eat at a couple of specific restaurants, but ended up making a meal out of frites, pie and ice cream and street food on our last night in Amsterdam. The best frites are at Vleminckx. Though the Dutch like piles of mayo on their frites, we are “hold the sauce” sort of people.
  • Use your phone for walking directions from place to place and even what train platform to stand on.
  • We made a train reservation to Bruges and were glad we did, the train was full. We paid more, but were pleased we did.
  • Hotel Bla Bla was great. Stay there.
  • Bruges has the best frites and waffles. Chez Vincent and Chez Albert. We ate there ….daily.
  • De Halve Mann Brewery Tour was interesting. Make a reservation in advance.
  • RENT BIKES. I mean , see pictures above. So. Much. Fun. We chose to do this in Bruges, because the Amsterdam bike scene is intense. Bruges was easy an we didn’t have to worry about traffic and pedestrians as much.
  • Word to the wise: Bistro in den Wittenkop is closed Saturdays. We found this out the hard way. We ended up at Bistro Brugis. The croquettes did not disappoint.
  • Go to Ghent. We had not planned to, but when a train conductor and a Brown Cafe bartender said we should, we went. I guess Ghent was meant to be.
  • Mary is the official chocolatier of the Belgian Royal Family. We got excellent service from a staff member there who explained all the chocolates. We purchased about a dozen bite sized pieces to sample.

There’s not a country that I’ve visited that I haven’t fallen in love with, whether it was for 10 minutes or 10 years.

Vagabondish.com
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