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Itinerary Help Brussels, Paris, London, Amsterdam

Itinerary Help Brussels, Paris, London, Amsterdam

Jul 28th, 2011, 09:33 AM
  #1  
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Itinerary Help Brussels, Paris, London, Amsterdam

Greetings!

My husband and I are traveling to Europe for the first time at the end of August. We only have eight full days, so we want to make the most of our time without feeling rushed. Our travel dates are August 24-Sept 3. We will most likely be traveling out of Buffalo, NY (home to the grandparents/babysitters for our three children while we are away), but could also fly out of NYC (where we live) to Brussels, perhaps open-jaw depending on our destinations.

We have family in Brussels who have graciously offered to house us, but we will probably only take them up on that offer for part of our trip since we want to spend some quality time with each other, as well as travel to other spots. Some additional places we have in mind include: Bruges, Paris, Givenry/Vernon, London, Amsterdam, but obviously cannot (or should not) visit all those places based on our time.

Budget/Interests: Our budget after flights is about $3000 (maybe a little more, but probably not). We'd like to soak up the culture, lifestyle, architecture and history of the places we visit. We definitely want to do some sightseeing, but do not want to spend all of our time chasing famous landmarks, monuments, cathedrals, museums, etc...We love nature so visiting gardens/botanically rich settings, cruising canals, picnicking, and renting bicycles all rank high on our list. We love, love, love good food, wine, and beer so that is high on the list as well. Trappist breweries in Belgium? Vineyard in France? Markets? Festivals? As far as night life goes, we love theater and follow music (indie rock, jazz, hip-hop, soul/r&b) so would not mind seeing a live show or two.

Getting around: We would like to travel from point to point by trains, buses, bicycles. We want to keep our itinerary sort of loose and don't want to adhere to strict timelines for trains so we are hoping to book a flexible train pass or buy tickets at stations. I would assume buying tickets in advance would be more economical. Any advice on that would be greatly appreciated since I'm not having the easiest time navigating the train sites and know nothing about the buses and bicycle rentals.

Accommodations: Hotels or B&B’s don’t need to be luxury but at least clean with polite/friendly staff. Convenient proximity to shopping, restaurants, sightseeing would be nice, on a canal or picturesque setting would also be a bonus. On a side note, we are not fluent in French/Dutch/Flemish but are are brushing up on some basics.

We are open to suggestions. Belgium is a must since we want to see our family. Should we just stay in Belgium or split our time between two countries? As much as I’d love to see London, based on the expense and how spread out it is, maybe it would be better to visit at another time. Would probably choose Paris over Amsterdam but if it seems reasonable would do both. Thank you in advance for your advice, experiences and wisdom.
paleoplant is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 09:48 AM
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Do those 8 days include arrival and departure days? If yes, subtract from "touring days".

Wiht only up to 8 days and with 1 or 2 spent in Belgium, you do not have much time. Does Belgium appeal outside of relatives, or just a place to start?

1 other location, maybe..maybe..2.

Could leave for home from either Paris or Amsterdam. Pi9ck other city as 'main' part of trip, high speed train to departure city for a glimpse.

Personally I would only pick one. Paris would easily fill the time, Amsterdam IMHO less so.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 10:29 AM
  #3  
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Thank you. This is helpful.

Our departure day is Aug. 24th, we arrive the 25th in the morning and then depart on Sept. 3rd, so actually we have nine full days in between but was accounting for jet-leg. I like my sleep

Belgium definitely appeals: the beer, the chocolate, Brugge, canals, architecture and a welcomed slower pace coming from NYC.

We're so close, so that's why I'd like to see Amsterdam, but could do without. Maybe flying into Brussels, spending time with family sightseeing, a brewery, for a 2-3 days then to Brugge for 2, then off to Paris for the rest of the time, flying out from there. Also we could flip it by starting in Paris and leaving from Brussels.

Thanks again!
paleoplant is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 10:31 AM
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Makes sense. I'd land in Belgium, recuperate with relatives and chocolate, then arrive in Paris fresh and ready for pastries.
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Jul 28th, 2011, 11:18 AM
  #5  
yk
 
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I like your new plan. DH & I were in Belgium a few years ago - DH loves beer and I love chocolates. It was a fantastic trip. You can easily visit The Half Moon brewery in Bruges. Here's the link to the Belgium part of my trip report [and I do recommend the B&B we stayed in Bruges]
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...omment-2585608
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Jul 28th, 2011, 11:33 AM
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After 2 nights in Brussels, 2 in Bruges, you would then have 4 1/2 days (5 nights) left. I would spend that entire time in Paris. You can take the train to Giverny one day...now you only have 3 1/2 days for Paris itself!

Think about spending day 4 in Bruges but not spending the night. Catch a late afternoon train from Bruges, arriving in Paris that night. That would give you a full day on your first day in Paris.
JeanneB is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 11:34 AM
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I think it's a great way to start off in Europe. You can spend a day or two in Brussels. I would explore Bruges for a day and then maybe a few days in Paris...it's a quick trip on the train to Paris.I wouldn't do more than 3 places in that time, too much and you are only going to get a feel for Europe with this amount of time. Have a great trip.
gregeva1 is offline  
Jul 28th, 2011, 11:44 AM
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With limited time in Paris, I would think twice about trips outside the city. You will have plenty to see!

But in a pimch you could take train, then cab to Giverny (no direct train), or look at one of the coach tours that combines Giverny with Versailles, for example.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 04:00 AM
  #9  
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Thank you all for you input. Very, very helpful!
paleoplant is offline  
Jul 29th, 2011, 04:57 AM
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When in Bruges, you'll be very close to what has been consistently voted "THE best beer in the world by Michael Jackson and most other beer experts".

It has a "fan page" - http://www.westvleteren12.com/

The website for the Abbey itself: http://www.sintsixtus.be/eng/home.htm - if you want to buy a case or more.

And the cafe just outside the Abbey - eat and drink there plus they allow one six pack per person for purchase (the only place allowed to sell it besides the Abbey itself).
http://www.indevrede.be/languagee/index.htm

The cafe is a fun and tasty place. GREAT cheeses and pates produced by the monks as well as their beers. In the middle of nowhere, basically farm country, it had an amazingly diverse crowd of beer devotees when we went: half were pilgrims from all corners of the globe, the other half came from all corners of Belgium. A very convivial group if you like to talk beer.
bardo1 is offline  
Jul 30th, 2011, 05:34 AM
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@bardo1-
Thanks for reading in between the lines and recognizing that we LOVE Trappist beer! Westvleteren12 is definitely a favorite! We also very much enjoy Rochefort, St. Bernadus, and Westmalle. From what I understand Rochefort is not open to the public, but do you know anything about the others?
paleoplant is offline  
Jul 30th, 2011, 06:06 AM
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Getting around: We would like to travel from point to point by trains, buses, bicycles. We want to keep our itinerary sort of loose and don't want to adhere to strict timelines for trains so we are hoping to book a flexible train pass or buy tickets at stations. I would assume buying tickets in advance would be more economical.>

First of all you could fly open jaw - fly into say Amsterdam, take train down to Brussels - see Bruges and then hop the Eurostar train to London - fly back home from there

or go to Paris and fly home from there - usually not much more if any cost and you need not backtrack to return home.

I do not see any railpass that would be cost effective for you since in 8 days you cannot travel enough to even get close to making it pay off and in Netherlands and Belgium you just buy an ordinary ticket and you can hop on any train anytime - except the Thalys trains which you do not have to take - Thalys trains have a Byzantine fare structure and if you just show up you pay an exorbitant fee so between Amsterdam and Brussels eschew the Thalys and just hop the slightly slower IC trains with a flat fare structure - no discount for buying in advance nor on any Belgian and Dutch train I believe except the Thalys - if going to Paris from Brussels Thalys is about the only option and then you should scour www.thalys.com site for deep discounted advance fares but those are non-changeble non-refundable.

but if you go to Bruges you can then go to Paris via Lille and not have to fool around with Thalys trains at all and have again a fairly flat fare structure where you could just buy your tickets in Brussels or Bruges.

If taking Eurostar from Brussels to London then again it is a Thalys-like fare structure where early bird gets the worm and if you just show up you pay tons more - www.eurostar.com has some deep discount tickets if you buy far in advance - you can also check www.raileurope.com for Eurostar fares.

for lots on trains in these countries I always spotlight these fantastic IMO sites - www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 31st, 2011, 06:00 AM
  #13  
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@PalenQ
This is great information. I like the idea of the IC trains, avoiding Thalys. We will fly into Brussels, move on to Bruges and then to Paris, and fly out of there. Thanks!
paleoplant is offline  
Aug 1st, 2011, 07:41 AM
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IC trains in Benelux will not even take reservations if you want them I believe so with a ticket you can just hop on any of the hourly trains Amsterdam to Antwerp/Brussels then switch to regional trains from either to Bruges, Antwerp being the quicker way. Cheers.
PalenQ is offline  
Aug 1st, 2011, 09:07 AM
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...and if you ask for beer mentioned above (Beer Paradise in Bruges is worth a look), it's pronounced "west-VLEE-tren"
bardo1 is offline  
Aug 1st, 2011, 10:51 AM
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A couple years ago my husband and I did a trip to Brussels, Bruges, and Amsterdam - it was really great. We had a few more days than you do, but I think you could do that loop very nicely with the time you have. We used trains, feet, and bikes, which worked out well. We didn't prepurchase any train tickets, just bought them as we went along. Train travel wasn't expensive.

Of course lots of people on this board absolutely love Paris and will recommend it every time - I have not been to Paris, so perhaps I don't know what I am missing - but I think Amsterdam is a lovely city and we enjoyed it quite a bit. I don't think you can go wrong with that choice.

If you like bike tours, we took a bike tour in Bruges with Pink Elephant and one in Amsterdam with Mikes Bikes - both were really good.
november_moon is offline  
Aug 1st, 2011, 05:48 PM
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Belgium = beer, chocolates, frites (home I believe of frenched fries), beer, moules, beer, lace, beer, fiets (bikes)trappist beer, top-fermented beer, open-air formented beer, and beer - in no particular order!
PalenQ is offline  
Aug 6th, 2011, 06:52 AM
  #18  
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"Belgium = beer, chocolates, frites (home I believe of frenched fries), beer, moules, beer, lace, beer, fiets (bikes)trappist beer, top-fermented beer, open-air formented beer, and beer - in no particular order!"

paleoplant is offline  
Aug 6th, 2011, 08:15 AM
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Hi! It's tough to slog through all these responses, but I detect a lot of recommendations to go to Paris, and I want to put in a strong plug for Amsterdam instead. You like beer, great food, canals, and biking, and your budget is limited. Amsterdam would be fantastic! We spent about eight days in Bruges and Amsterdam last year and never ran out of things to do, and taking a train from Brussels to Amsterdam is so easy.

Amsterdam is small and manageable, with wonderful sights and ambiance. And with a rail pass, you can hop a train and in less than 30 minutes be in Delft, the Hague, and several other wonderful towns for a day trip. You can even take day trips by bike. I just think Paris--as a big city that takes some acclimation--would be far more challenging and not afford a lot of the features you're looking for.

If you do visit Bruges, try a few of the dinners at restaurants that offer beer pairings. My B&B host made reservations for us at several fantastic places!
abbydog is offline  
Aug 10th, 2011, 05:06 AM
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Thanks abbydog!
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