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Trip Report TRIP REPORT - 8 Days in the Netherlands and Belgium

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This is an 8-day trip with 2 days in Bruges, 5 in Amsterdam, and 1 in Brussels that my wife and I took May 24-June 2. I am posting it here even though the first two day (below) are Bruges.


DAY 0 – MONDAY EVENING

USAir 751 nonstop from Philadelphia to Brussels took off a little late. Unlike when I was young, I have difficulty sleeping in an airplane seat (back issues), and the plane was 100% full. Probably got a couple of hours of real sleep.


DAY 1 - TUESDAY

We arrived at BRU from Philadelphia pretty much on time (scheduled for 8:00 a.m. arrival). We went through control and customs pretty quickly – did not have to wait for luggage, since we always only take carry-ons. Managed to make the 8:52 train to Nord station and connect to the 9:23 train to Bruges. This was a good start to our trip, since I really thought we would have to take a later train.

[NOTE: All our train tickets except the Haarlem day trip were bought and printed in advance online.]

[MONEY NOTE: Brought with us leftover euros from our last trip, so we didn’t have to go to an ATM right away. We used two cards the entire trip. A 1% surcharge ATM card from my credit union, and a no-surcharge Capital One credit card. All the charges came in between $1.22 and $1.23 per euro. Nice!!

Took the bus to Markt and walked the two blocks to our hotel, Hotel Cordoeanier. Very nice hotel; great location. Though very tired from the lack of substantial sleep on the flight, we immediately went out and took a Rick Steves walk around town. Had lunch at a sandwich shop.

Since the weather was iffy for tomorrow, we took the canal cruise today – nice little rest, too.

Then back to the hotel for a short nap.

We then decided to explore on our own (and save the museums for rainy tomorrow). Walked north along the canal on Potterieri Straat, then to the windmills on the ring.

Along the way we had spotted a restaurant that looked good for dinner (Uilenspiegel‎ at Langstraat 2), and we stopped there after the windmills. Had a great meal at a beautiful canal-side outdoor table. here’s a pic:

http://sanderhome.com/Amsterdam1005/Brugge01/201005_amsterdam_IMG_2370_web.jpg

[Go to www.SanderHome.com for all pix.]

Beef (very nicely done) with pepper sauce, frites, salad, and beer for 20€ each. I highly recommend this place, with the caveat that this was the special of the day and the only dish we tried.

[NOTE: We do not generally spend a lot of money on food. We look for inexpensive places, so we sometimes get a mediocre meal. That’s something we’ve learned to live with when we travel. The above place, IMO, was a real find.]

Then to bed.


DAY 2 – WEDNESDAY

NOTE: While Bruges’ Markt is a lovely square, most of the buildings are 19th c. reconstructions made to look like 15th c. buildings. It’s a little Disney-esque. Walking the streets and canals outside the immediate center is a much nicer experience IMHO.

With rain off and on (but gentle), this was to be our museum day. We had picked up 3-day museum cards (15€ each) and made the most of it. Many of the following that we visited were covered: Stadhuis, Groening, Memling, Gruuthuis, Church of Our Lady and Church of the Holy Blood.

The nice thing about the card is that you are not afraid to go into any of the museums for fear of finding it uninteresting, and you can pop in for short multiple visits to those you really like. I really liked the huge fireplace at the Gruuthuis and the Groening Museum.

During the walk we had lunch at Le Pain Quotidien – I had a smoked salmon sandwich and Linda had lentil soup (we shared) – and beer. Nice place – apparently a chain.


After our nap, we headed out to check out the bus schedule back to the station for tomorrow morning – we had to get an early train (with reserved seats) at 8:31 and did not want to miss it. Then we walked to l’Estaminet Restaurant for dinner. This is a small café – very atmospheric. We both had spaghetti with meat sauce and beer and shared a large salad. The salad and beer were great. Linda did not like the spaghetti – it had some non-Italian cheese in it – but I found it interesting.

We got back to the hotel to get our money belts (with passports and extra cash) out of the safe and pay our hotel bill. There was a problem! The man at the desk did not have authorization for the combination. The manager (with whom we had dealt with yesterday and earlier today) was in Brussels. He would not be back till 7:30 in the morning.

That was cutting it too close for me (with an 8:31 train to catch). They contacted him, and he called me – he agreed to come back that evening (albeit pretty late) and open the safe. A few hours of tension!! They did try to make amends, however, by giving us some sandwiches, juice, and bread & jam to take in the morning (since we would miss breakfast). If you ever go to this hotel, keep this potential problem in mind.

[cont'd]

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