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Is there a Belgium/Holland "expert" out there?

Is there a Belgium/Holland "expert" out there?

May 24th, 2004, 06:48 PM
  #1  
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Is there a Belgium/Holland "expert" out there?

Will have a week's time to tour Belgium and Holland. For whatever reasons, I can't seem to become "interested" in this opportunity. If you were me, what itinerary would you set? I'm a real "generalist" open to all ideas.
Thanks
mkdiebold is offline  
May 24th, 2004, 07:06 PM
  #2  
 
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Gosh, only a week! Do a search on this forum for Amsterdam, Brugge (and other spellings), Haarlem, Antwerp, Brussels, The Hague, etc. It will take you a week just to read it all.
hopscotch is offline  
May 24th, 2004, 07:17 PM
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I have been to Amsterdam and Bruges (Belgium) and both are great. Amsterdam is gorgeous, with lots to do (Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, canal cruise, etc.). Even travelling by tram is fun. The best thing is just strolling around. If you like ethnic food, an Indonesian rijsttafel is great (Indonesian food is very popular in Amsterdam). The Red Light District makes for a very interesting little walk in the early evening (if you have never been, you have never seen anything like it). Bruges is a pristinely preserved medieval city that is a pleasure to walk around and just be in. It is something out of a story book. It also has beautiful canals, but on a much smaller scale than Amsterdam. There are some working windmills on the edge of the city that you can walk to and the old gates to the city are worth seeing. There are some great restaurants and the pralines (chocolates) are fabulous if you know where to go (we found a little store that made the pralines on site -- delicious!). My wife and I found Bruges perfect for 2 nights. We had 3 nights in Amsterdam but would have been happy with 4. You can easily take the train between the two cities. Bottom line -- if I had a week to do Holland and Belgium, I would be pretty happy!
Europewithkids is offline  
May 24th, 2004, 07:26 PM
  #4  
 
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mkdiebold -

If you would like to e-mail me I would be happy to e-mail you back a copy of my 20 page itinerary from touring the BeNeLux region last year. There is a lot of valuable information accumulated including a page of websites that you can peruse for additional information. My e-mail address is [email protected]

Holland and Belgium are both wonderful countries filled with art, history and culture. I'm sure you will have a wonderful time. Happy travels. Peace.

Robyn


artstuff is offline  
May 24th, 2004, 07:35 PM
  #5  
Airlawgirl
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You can take the Thalys train between Am'dam's Centraal Station to Brussels Midi in 3 hours- reservations required. For a first time trip to Am'dam- I would definitely do 3 days in Am'dam, and take a day trip to Delft- this medieval city is lovely-as is Am'dam-rijkstafel is a good idea, because it is considered part of Dutch cuisine (the Dutch colonized Indonesia-and Heineken started the Indonesians brewing their own beer under the label-Bir Bintang). In Brussels, a day to look around the Grand Place, eat some moules and frites (mussels and french fries). A good inexpensive chain restaurant for moules (where all the locals eat, by the way) is Chez Leon's, just off the Grand Place. Then, on to Bruges, but I like Ghent better-there's a medieval castle in the middle of Ghent with a moat, and you can climb to the top of the ramparts and look over the city. St. Bavo's cathedral is lovely-known for its priceless triptych by Jan van Eyk -great beer garden cafes on the canal-and I believe a big summer festival in July or so. These two countries have a lot for the visitor to see and do, and a lot to like-very "classic Europe."
 
May 24th, 2004, 08:54 PM
  #6  
 
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Amsterdam warrants 2 days (at least!), and Bruges (Brugge) 1 day. Plus a day driving between them. For a seaside experience add 1 day to each place, to visit Zandvoort (or maybe Volendam) near Amsterdam, and De Panne a short distance beyond Bruges. That's 6 days. The other day could be in Brussels or seeing more around the vicinity of Amsterdam.
twoflower is offline  
May 25th, 2004, 02:01 AM
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Amsterdam is many things, "gorgeous" it isn't. The red light district is interesting to say the least. My memory of it was following behind a party of pensioners (all 65+) who were with their wives, and waving at the girls in the windows, hardly my kind of town.

As for Brussels, I'm going there this week-end, I'll be posting my discoveries upon my return!
m_kingdom2 is offline  
May 25th, 2004, 02:13 AM
  #8  
ira
 
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Hi mk,

Holland is a very pleasant place to visit. Bruges is a jewel.

Have you read the miniguides at www.fodors.com?
ira is online now  
May 25th, 2004, 02:21 AM
  #9  
 
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Holland is indeed wonderful, Amsterdam blights it, many Dutch friends of mine agree with me on this one, some even shudder at the mention of Amsterdam.
m_kingdom2 is offline  
May 25th, 2004, 03:03 AM
  #10  
 
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If the Jordaan and the Prinsengracht/Kelzersgracht a little south of the Jordaan are not beautiful, I am not sure what is. The Anne Frank House alone is worth the trip. Yes, you can keep the Centraal Station area and the Dam, but so much of the city is truly beautiful. Walking around these areas at night is magical. The Red Light District is very weird but my wife and I thought it was very interesting, especially the comfort with which couples and older people (those who you would NEVER see in the USA equivalent) walk around, sit out at a cafe, etc. There is something surreal about it. As for Amsterdam being seen as a blight on Holland, I have read that many Dutch feel that way. While everyone is certainly entitled to his or her opinion, I would equate that to the way many Americans feel about NYC. Major cities typically contain both the best and the worst of a country. Would you tell a visitor to the USA to avoid NYC? If so, skip Amsterdam. If not, go.
Europewithkids is offline  
May 25th, 2004, 03:04 AM
  #11  
 
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I am Dutch, and I love Amsterdam. You will always find someone who doesn't like a city (and M-kingdom seems do have more dislikes than most of us). If you have never been, go! Can't comment on the red light district since I have never been there, but I love the museums, canals, and the general atmosphere in Amsterdam (and I have never been into a 'coffeeshop' either).
I also recommend Antwerp, my current home town; do a search, lots of info on Antwerp, and it's an easy train ride from Amsterdam.
Tulips is offline  
May 25th, 2004, 04:32 AM
  #12  
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Tulips- I'm with you all the way, both on Am'dam and Antwerpen! I have heard a number of people say they didn't fancy Am'dam-and have never understood why-I think they've not done any real walkabouts through the city-my favorite is the Jordaan area where there is a lovely photo opportunity around every corner! The little streets with the historic brown cafes, being out on a boat cruising around the canals on a summer's night-yes please!
 
May 25th, 2004, 06:45 AM
  #13  
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Thanks so much for your responses! I "know in my head" that the area is beautiful and that I will enjoy myself immensely. I'm pooped out from planning our first two weeks in Ireland. There's just not much energy for planning Belgium and Holland. Every had "planning fatigue"?
mkdiebold is offline  
May 25th, 2004, 08:31 AM
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Last time I was in A'dam, there was a very popular variety of the special Amsterdam product going around named Forced Meditation. Try some and you will be inspired, guaranteed.
dovima is offline  
May 25th, 2004, 09:26 AM
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Take a day trip to Haarlem. I've lived there for about 4 years over the past decades. Haarlem has a beautiful medieval town square (the Grote Markt), museums (Frans Hals, Tylers, Cruquius, etc.), nice cafes with and without music around the Grote Kerk, restaurants (for a good burger try the Grand Cafe Brinkman on Grote Markt), Spaarne River and canals and scenic bridges, bikes for rent and a great city to ride in and out of through the dunes toward the North Sea. Plus it has a little bit of that other stuff that the city down the road, A'dam, is always using to attract attention, red lights and dope joints. If it is a very warm day go on over to Zandvoort by train or bike and take a splash in the North Sea. Zandvoort also has a casino and a motor race track.

Buy a Michelin Green Guide or Fodors guide to The Netherlands. There is a couple of months worth of stuff to see and do in this little country.
hopscotch is offline  
May 25th, 2004, 09:28 AM
  #16  
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Well dovima, I'm a 57 year old female that "passed the joint" in college, but inhaled only once...of course, it was the whole joint. Really didn't like the feeling. Will probably not try again at this stage in my life. Thanks anyway for the suggestion!
mkdiebold is offline  
May 25th, 2004, 10:06 AM
  #17  
 
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I don't know the source of your lack of enthusiasm, but I can get into an idea that these are dull or boring places.

But - I don't think they really are, particularly not Amsterdam. I've spent a lot of time there as I used to visit someone once or twice a year.

It's an appealing and very international city, much smaller than London or NY but with the same degree of sophistication.

It lacks the monuments of Paris or London; instead it offers beautiful 17th century canal houses. I like to take canal boat tours, and recommend you do at least two, on by day and one by night. Tours are never identical either. This is the good way to experience the city.

The trashy/druggy/British-kids-throwing-up-in-the-street sections of A'dam are easily avoided. Familiarity with only these sections is the same as a visit to NY confined to Times Square.

Then - museums - the Rijksmuseum is really wonderful, so is the Van Gogh museum unless you hate his work. Anne Frank House, as noted, is a wonderful and moving experience to have. Then - less visited maybe - the TropenMuseum is also great, museum of sdthings from "tropical" countries with which the Netherlands had truck in its empire days - so - fine are ot India, for one thing, miscellaneous other stuff and a highly creative cafe & movie programs.

Are you at all interested in art history? if so you can generate a great list of things to see in Belgim\um, the treasures of Northern painting are there.

Final suggestion- I have never been to Maastricht, on the Holland/Belgium border, but everything I read about it makes me want to go, especially where food is concerned - check it out - it's supposedly kind of French and nice.

Dutch food - to be avoided. Dutch coffee - super. Apple cake also great. Indonesian, Chinese, food available, affordable, and fine.
Elizabeth is offline  
May 25th, 2004, 11:09 AM
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Spent a day and a half in Maastricht in March of this year. Loved it - I wish I'd allocated more time. Very charming neighborhoods of curving cobblestoned streets, lovely architecture. It feels very different from the northern provinces of Holland - that's why one sees so many Dutch tourists there. There is a very French/Belgian emphasis on good food, good wine and good living that is immediately obvious in Maastricht. I enjoyed walking along the Maas River and along the old battlements of the city. Stayed at Hotel Les Charmes and ate dinner at Cafe Mes Amis (See what I mean about the French-ness?) and would recommend both very highly.
dovima is offline  
May 25th, 2004, 11:23 AM
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We drove to Maastricht for a day after reading positive comments here, looking forward to seeing the place, and we have to say it was the MOST disappointing place we have ever been to in the Netherlands. We walked all around and decided there were dozens of places we liked better. It's crossed off our list for good. I rode back from Nice today with a Dutch gentleman (who doesn't dislike Maastricht, but doesn't particularly like it either), and we both agreed that Middelburg is vastly under-rated and should be seen by more visitors.
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May 25th, 2004, 01:07 PM
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Maastricht has some of my fondest and funniest memories of Europe. I went there during Carneval with a couple of friends. Carneval is the same period as Mardi Gras. When you combine the un-normal Dutch way of life with the bizarre goings-on of Mardi Gras you get Carneval in Maastricht. Better than Queen's Day in Amsterdam. Unique, utterly, unbelievable. Unfortunately it only lasts for 4 days a year. I'm glad I wasn't driving. Book your room early.

I went back years later during the summer. It was certainly more sedate than during Carneval but still a great cafe town.



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