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Belgium and Holland - PLEASE help with itinerary

Belgium and Holland - PLEASE help with itinerary

Apr 25th, 2001, 12:33 PM
  #1  
Olga
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Belgium and Holland - PLEASE help with itinerary

Hi, everybody,

We really need your help. I have been reading a lot but can't get a clear idea how to better organize our family trip. Here are the facts: we (including my husband and two teenage daughters) have 11 days. Flying into Brussels mid-May, and leaving from Amsterdam. I am giving a talk in Amsterdam so we need to be there for the last 5 or so days.
Now, I still can't figure out how many days in Brussels, where else in Belgium (Brugge, Antwerp, Ghent, ?) to go, when to get a car and when to get rid of it. Should we have a base anywhere?
While in Holland, should we first drive to little towns and then turn in the car and settle in Amsterdam, or do the day trips from Amsterdam (by train/bus or keep the car?)

Sorry I have so many questions, but the trip just doesn't come together, so any tips/advice will be greatly appreciated!!!

Thanks,

Olga
 
Apr 25th, 2001, 12:43 PM
  #2  
Sjoerd
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If your main objective is seeing cities, don't rent a car. Public transport is excellent in Belgium and the Netherlands, and distances are short.
Brussels, Brugge, Gent and Antwerpen are all very nice cities to spend a day or two. After arrival, you will be tired, so my advice is to stay in Brussels for two nights. You could do a day trip to Gent on the second day (or to Leuven).
Then on day 3, take a train to Brugge or Antwerpen and stay two nights. If you feel you have seen the city on your first day there, you can always do a day trip to the other on the second day. On day 5, take a train to Delft and stay there for one or two nights. The Keukenhof (flowers!) is open until 25/26 May (check: www.keukenhof.nl) and is a must!
No cars in Amsterdam please! You will regret trying to drive in Amsterdam. And you will spent a fortune on parking.
 
Apr 25th, 2001, 01:39 PM
  #3  
lisa
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I also agree that you don't need a car. I have been to Amsterdam and Brussels and both have amazing systems of public transportation. You can get virtually anywhere you'd want to go -- airports, etc. -- on the train, and I think your daughters will enjoy the experience as well. Riding public transportation is a great way to meet other travelers (both locals and tourists) and experience a little more of the culture, rather than being stuck in a car with just the four of you the whole time. Plus, in trains you all get to enjoy the scenery, no one has to worry about reading the map or following directions, etc. It will be much easier -- as long as everyone packs light!

Amsterdam is great! I think you'll have a terrific time there. If your girls have read "The Diary of Anne Frank" in school (or even if they haven't), a visit to the Anne Frank house will be very enlightening. I also loved the Van Gogh museum (even more than the Rijksmuseum, but that's just me). Make sure you take one of the canal boat tours. Sitting outside at the cafes and people watching was an amazing experience -- there were lots of street performers and things.

I was not as enamored of Brussels -- I found a day & night there to be plenty. Haven't been to Bruges, Antwerp, or Ghent yet but will be in Bruges in early June -- it seems like a good place to use as a base for exploring & I've heard so many wonderful things about it, so I would lean toward that if I were you.
Have a great time!
 
Apr 25th, 2001, 04:08 PM
  #4  
Olga
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Thank you Sjoerd and Lisa so much, it helps a lot! I guess we don't need a car (that was just an attempt to save money as we will need four tickets each time we go somewhere).
Thanks for all the suggestions, I will work them in, the trip is starting to take shape. Lisa, of course we are definitely planning to go to Anne Frank's house (we have all read the book).

Thanks again, and please add more advice if you think of something else, including hotels - I haven't started looking as was swamped at work...
 
Apr 25th, 2001, 04:19 PM
  #5  
scurry
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I don't know if the tulips will still be in bloom by mid-May, but if they are -- a half-day trip to Keukenhof Gardens outside of Amsterdam is well worth it.
 
Apr 25th, 2001, 04:51 PM
  #6  
AC
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Hi Olga:
If you have not booked a hotel in Amsterdam you had better do it soon!
I like the Hotel Doelen, but waited too long and it was filled up...Agree with all about the public transport, it is the way to go. Go to the Tourist Office in and by Grand Centraal and get your tram tickets there. Everyone is very helpful and very willing to help you!
5 weeks before I am in Amsterdam and I now counting down the days. Cant' wait!
Have a great trip!
 
Apr 25th, 2001, 11:23 PM
  #7  
Myriam
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Olga,
The Belgian railways sell special tickets for groups, also for a "group" of 4 people only. This is called "multi pass". Actual price is 1550BF (abt. 35US$) for a trip from point A to point B and back for the 4 of you. If your traject is long, this is well worth it. They also have special "daytrip" rates. Take a look at the website (in English): http://www.b-rail.be/E/index.html
I'm sure the Dutch railways have something identical: http://www.ns.nl
Have a nice trip.
 
Apr 25th, 2001, 11:38 PM
  #8  
Dan
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Olga-
I don't have a lot to add, other than Brugge is a must! I've been backpacking to Europe 5 times and Brugge was the most beautiful city....second only to Venice. I second the other's recommendations for train travel. It's quick and efficient. Better yet, you know the exact minute you'll be arriving in each city...no such thing as taking a wrong turn.

Have a great trip!

Cheers,

Dan
 
Apr 26th, 2001, 11:29 AM
  #9  
Olga
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Oh, you guys are so great!

Thnaks so much for your input!

Quick question: if we are in Amsterdam on or about 23d of May, the tulips will be gone, I think, but are the Keukenhof gardens still open and worth the visit?
I can't wait to get to Brugge!
Myriam, thanks a lot for that info - I did not realize the train can be so cheap. Am going to check those websites now...

Again, thank you, thank you!!
 
Apr 26th, 2001, 11:37 AM
  #10  
Myriam
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Keukenhof is open until the 24th of May. There are other flowers than tulips but all of them bloom during spring, so I fear that there will be little to see by then.
 
Apr 26th, 2001, 12:36 PM
  #11  
cathy
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Our family of 5 spent a week in Belgium and a small area of the Netherlands last August. We rented a car which we found convient. I highly recommend Ypres. There is a wonderful museum, nightly ceremony, and visit to trenches and cemetery. It was a highlight for us. We moved around quite a bit (teen & preteen boys) - perhaps not visiting the "typical" tourist sites of museums. We used the tourist centers in each town to book our hotel. It was a wonderful week.
 
Apr 26th, 2001, 02:44 PM
  #12  
Olga
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Cathy,

thanks for mentioning Ypres, I was vaguely thinking about it since my older daughter is a history addict, but I wasn't sure if it's doable and worth it. How long does it take?
Did you really manage to find hotel room(s) for all of you right then and there? How did that work? I was going to book in advance, but it would be so great to move freely...
 
Apr 26th, 2001, 03:12 PM
  #13  
Heather
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Olga, I found a travelogue site (http://www.blarg.net/~brad/eur2000/eur00-1.htm) when looking for information on Brussels.
 
Apr 26th, 2001, 04:08 PM
  #14  
KT
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Olga -- If you do go to Ieper (a/k/a Ypres) and have a history addict with you, I highly recommend going to Tyne Cot cemetery nearby. It is massive (I believe it's the largest Commonwealth war cemetery), sombre, and sobering.
 
Apr 26th, 2001, 11:42 PM
  #15  
Myriam
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Olga, If you want to visit Ieper I think you should do it by car. This part of Belgium (Westhoek) has not the best train connections. From Brugge to Ieper for instance, only 63 km, the trainride takes abt. 2 hrs. due to bad connections (you will have to change in Kortrijk and wait 45 min. for connection). By car you will be able to do this in 40 min. or so. But Ieper is indeed worthwhile.
 
Apr 26th, 2001, 11:45 PM
  #16  
Myriam
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Found some other website for you: http://www.westtoerisme.be (also in English), specifically for Western-Flanders.
Touristic information for Belgium also on the governmental site: http://www.fgov.be (choose "all about Belgium" and "tourism")
 
Apr 27th, 2001, 05:01 AM
  #17  
Cathy
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Re hotels booked at tourist offices - We began our adventure with a tour group and thus had prebooked rooms for Bruge and Amsterdam. We then spent a week on our own driving around the country. I prebooked our last night in Brussels. Other than those nights I used the services in Ypres, Middleburg, Breda, Hasselt, and Namur. We found our own room in Kortrijk due to the office being closed. In each case, we were able to get rooms. Of course if we had prebooked we might have been able to stay at more of the "recommended" spots. But flexibility was more important for us. Being 5, finding a place was sometimes difficult, even being August. While we had few problems due to our only speaking English, it was much easier to explain to one person that we would take any combination of rooms and have that person call around. It was hard on me, the "tour guide", knowing we'd have to stop in time to find the office before it closed. But all in all, a wonderful trip. The people, history, beer, frites, chocolate......
 
Apr 27th, 2001, 05:27 AM
  #18  
frank
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Olga, you should book for Amsterdam right away, it fills up.
You can get hotel advice by searching this site.
 
Apr 27th, 2001, 09:41 AM
  #19  
Judy
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In the Netherlands,Kroller-Miller Museums near Arnhem is a must. The museum is an impressive site in the largest national park, with many famous impressive painters masterpieces, the museum itself is an piece of art too, very airy and bright,with huge windows overlooking the forest. There is outdoor sculpture museum in the garden,many interesting modern pieces among the flowers or standing on the open fields. There are lots free bicycles for people to ride around the forests, I was there last May, saw many kids having great time. Arnhem is about one hour train ride east of Amsterdam. There is one of the largest outdoor folk museums worth visiting. The Cathedral is quite interesting too.
 
Apr 27th, 2001, 03:25 PM
  #20  
Olga
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What a nice surprise!!!

Was swamped at work and did not even think to check how this post was doing - and so much wonderful advice was here!
Thank you, everybody, so much! It is so invaluable and so much better than guide books (I am reading about five of them at the same time and getting overwhelmed).
Thanks for suggestions on Ieper (always have known it as Ypres), we'll definitely go since, after all, it looks like we'll hire a car until Holland to be able to explore the Belgian countryside. And, may be, the south of Holland (Maasticht etc?), and then abandon the car in Amsterdam?
Kroller-Muller museum was on our "must do" list as well - it sounds fantastic for impressionist lovers among us...

Frank, I guess we'll be sleeping in the streets in Amsterdam - another day flew by, and I didn't manage to make reservations, and it is night there now! It would be a shame if we don't get anyhting nice there since the Amsterdam portion of the trip will be covered because of my talk...

Sorry this was long, and one more Q: favorite hotel in Brugge (thought to use it as a base for ~4 days)?

THANK YOU!!!
 

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