Just back-Belguim-Prague-France-more

Apr 20th, 1999, 10:47 AM
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Just back-Belguim-Prague-France-more

My wife & I just got back yesterday. We landed in Brussels, where we met some French friends & a rental car.

We drove to Amsterdam, which we loved, especially the flower fields near Haarlem. We then drove back to Brugges, truly a marvel.

Back through France to Normandy & the D-Day beaches & a day at Mount St. Michel (beautiful but way too crowded, even in April). We turned in our rental car in Caen & took the train to Paris, where we caught an overnight train to Provence, which we have always loved as well. We stayed in the country near Gourdon.

We separated from our friends there, & took the train to Innsbruck, which was breathtaking this time of year.

On to Munich, which I found somewhat disappointing, but we had lovely day trips to both Neushwanstein & Rothenberg.

Then to the highlight of the trip, Prague. We will definitely return there, 3 days was not emough. Beware of taxi rides tho.

Thr train ride back to Brussels was quite nice. We spent a night in Frankfurt, which is a little industrial for my taste. The train ride between Frankfurt & Koln was especially gorgeous.

We were very lucky with the weather throughout the trip, with only 3 days of rain.We packed very light, but were definitely geared more towards colder weather than what we experienced.I got tired of carrying the extra layers & ended up mailing some home from France.

We saw very little evidence of the Kosovo conflict. We did see a small orderly demonstration in Munich, but overall it seems that CNN & the American papers are much more focused on it then the Europeans.

I would be happy to answer any questions that I can.
Apr 20th, 1999, 11:12 AM
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Dan, is Brussels a good city to fly into out of to see the rest of Europe? I was able to get good prices from Newark. I was hoping to fly into London and leave from Paris (keep chunnel crossing to one way to save dollars)but the price to Brussels was too good to pass up.
Apr 20th, 1999, 11:13 AM
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Dan, is Brussels a good city to fly into out of to see the rest of Europe? I was able to get good prices from Newark. I was hoping to fly into London and leave from Paris (keep chunnel crossing to one way to save dollars)but the price to Brussels was too good to pass up.
Apr 20th, 1999, 12:01 PM
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I found Brussels airport to be excellent, clean, orderly & relatively English-friendly. Customs was considerably faster than I have experienced in London.

There is also a large duty-free shopping mall at the airport for your return trip so you might want to allow a little shopping time on your last day.

Brussels itself is not extremely exciting other than Le Gran Place which is gorgeous. You can pretty much cover all the high points in a long day.

If you can squeeze in a day trip to Brugges, it would definitely be worthwhile.

Although there is a train connection from the airport to the city to catch the chunnel train, we were too brain dead to want to lug our bags onto it, & opted for a taxi into town. A taxi ride to Gare du Midi would be about $25 as the airport is well outside of the city. Brussels is not an inexpensive city. GREAT beer though.

TGV to London is quite plush, & fast, although I have only taken it from Paris.

Have a great trip!
Apr 20th, 1999, 12:41 PM
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Daniel, I'm interested in everything you have to share about Brugge. We arrive there on the 6th of May and will use the city as our homebase. What were the best sights and "must do/see" things you discovered there. Any special must buys? Thanks.
Apr 20th, 1999, 01:21 PM
the turnip
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Thanks for sharing Dan!

Can you expound on your Prague experiences please? I'd love to hear what parts you enjoyed the most, etc. as well as some restaurant suggestions.

Many thanks in advance!
Apr 20th, 1999, 02:10 PM
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Brugge is a great choice.Pretty much everything within the city walls is like a step back in time. With the canals & bridges everywhere, I thoroughly enjoyed taking a canal ride. It was Easter weekend with a major bicycle race when we were there, so it was somewhat crowded. We had a car & we had to drive to the city center, something I would not recommend.

There was a small flea market there on weekends that provided us with some cool old treasures.

Lace & chocolate seemed to be the specialties. Our friends had a cousin that lived there, & he warned us to be careful with buying lace, he said more & more of it is coming from the eastern bloc. We aren't really lace people anyway, although it is beautiful we did not buy any. We ate lots of chocolate though.

He also recommended eating at the restaraunts outside of the town square, although they are defintely worth a beer. Mussels were his recommendation, & they were great.

Try to time your climb of the tower to coincide with the clock bells. Might want to bring ear plugs...hehe. Sure made for some great video from there with the bells ringing.

With such a small, tourist-oriented town, you won't have any problems finding everything worthwhile easily.

We were there for only 2 days, which was enough to cover pretty much everything, but I wish we would have had more time.

Have a great trip!

Apr 21st, 1999, 01:01 PM
Steve Collins
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Just want to 'second' Daniel's feedback on Brussels/Brugges. My wife, two daughters, and I have flown from Atlanta to Brussels twice in the past few years (Sabena & Delta are partners) because of the cheap off-season fares. Brussels airport is small enough to get into and out of easily; rental car pickup is on site, too. The city itself is just OK, unless you've never been to Europe. The Grand Place really is grand at night! We've seen it in November in the cold and rain and still been overwhelmed; you feel like you're in the middle of Europe. Brugges - lace, chocolate, beer, and a chicken soup-like dish my wife read about (although Daniel's advice sounds much more expert than mine). Everyone in Belgium speaks English, it seems. Waterloo is a nice side trip from Brussels. Have never tried the Chunnel; we usually either stay in England or on the continent. -- Steve
Apr 21st, 1999, 03:06 PM
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Ah Prague, where to start...

Prague had a vibrant & alive feel to it that was quite refreshing after
the more jaded cities we had visited. Architecurally it is ancient, beautiful spires & domes everywhere you turn. Paris may have been like this once...

Prague seemed to still embrace Americans, something you don't find a lot in Europe these days. At first glance it was difficult to tell the younger Czech crowd apart from Americans, jeans, T-shirts, baseball caps, sneakers...they seemed to value American goods. Language was no problem & the people were very friendly & eager to help.

Things were relatively inexpensive in Prague, we had a fabulous 4 course
meal with all the trimmings for about $40, Lots of fun pubs, I really liked
Velvet beer on tap & made many choices accordingly.

It helped a lot to have a good hotel to depend on for information & arrangements. There are a lot of scams going in Prague, be careful of changing money with individuals. Taxi cabs from the train station are also a scam. I knew it & still got caught for a few bucks, & I consider myself a fairly seasoned traveler. Turned out the cab had fake signs, a fake meter, & issued me a fake receipt. Depend on your hotel when you can. I was very happy with the assistance that Hotel Julian provided us.

I usually get a tour first thing upon arriving in a new city. Sounds cheesy I know, but bring a map & figure out what is worth seeing in detail & the best way to get back to it; & get some historical background. I was pleased with the small Premiant tour that Hotel Julian recommended, bus was small but so was the group, so it was very informative & much of the tour was done on foot.

There are so many important sites that I won't get into them too much, but the castle is quite large & deserving of half day or so. Charles Bridge, Old town Square, Republic Square, you will find yourself walking through them regularly. I was moved by the Jewish Cemetary & museums.

You will LOVE Prague. Go before it changes.
Apr 21st, 1999, 04:35 PM
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Thanks for the great info on Prague. Where is the Hotel Julian located and approximately how much did the room cost?
Apr 22nd, 1999, 07:11 PM
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Hotel Julian is in Mala Strana, in a relatively quiet section about 10 mins. walk from Charles Bridge. I made all reservations by email, [email protected]. They also offer internet access for guests. There is info available on a couple different web sites, although I don't have the addresses handy, a search should turn them up.

Cost was about $85 a nite, which is not bad for Prague where hotels are still a little high due to lack of supply. It was great to have a trustworthy staff to help with arrangements & choices, hard to put a price tag on that.

Have fun if you go!
Apr 22nd, 1999, 10:38 PM
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Anna: check the AVE website at avetravel.cz They have a good listing of hotels/penzions in all price ranges. We stayed at Penzion Balbin near the Muzeum Metro & Wenceslas Square--very close to just about everything. Be sure to see the Charles Bridge at night & have a great time!!

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