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Just back from 2 week trip to Holland and Belgium.

Just back from 2 week trip to Holland and Belgium.

May 19th, 2000, 09:03 AM
  #1  
Elizabeth
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Just back from 2 week trip to Holland and Belgium.

My husband and I just returned from a two week trip in the Netherlands and Belgium. We are learning quite a bit about traveling in Belgium, and would be more than happy to answer any questions some of you may have.
 
May 19th, 2000, 02:14 PM
  #2  
Al
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In late Sept. and early Oct., my wife and I will be driving on a route similar to yours--Brussels, Luxembourg, then north along the border between Belgium, Holland, and Germany. Did your trip take you along that route? If so, did any particular place stick out in your memory? We like to take the back roads, poke along, stay in B&Bs and farmhouses.
Nothing fancy. I am retracing some of the WW2 Battle of the Bulge territory and plan to visit several military cemeteries, looking for old friends.
 
May 19th, 2000, 02:24 PM
  #3  
Kristy
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Elizabeth:

Could you share some thoughts on Ghent,
Bruge and possibly the port of Zeebrugge? We will be able to visit this area in late June. How is Belgium car rental as far as ease of driving, expense for vehicle, gas etc.? Did you gain 100's of pounds by over-exposure to fine chocolates? Any response would be welcome.

Thank you,
Kristy
 
May 19th, 2000, 02:39 PM
  #4  
donna
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Hi Elizabeth- My husband and I are going to Netherlands and Antwerp for 10 days this summer.We have been to Amserdam and Northern Netherlands two years ago. We are also staying in Heerlen (Maastricht), Middleburg and Delft.Did you use your ATM in Belgium?
Any info you can give about these cities or specific sites or restaurants you enjoyed would be wonderful. Thanks, dbl
 
May 19th, 2000, 09:08 PM
  #5  
Elizabeth
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Dear Al,
We did drive a similar route on this trip, but we only traveled as far south from Brussels to Dinant. Upon leaving Brussels we went directly to Spontin to the see the Chateau de Spontin a 12th century castle set in a small town. We continued, off the highway through Spontin, towards Dinant and stayed in one of the most wonderful places I have been to. It was called "Moulin de Lisogne". I am from California, and it reminded me of a little Inn set in the Napa Valley. We also were only staying in B&Bs, trying to go inexpensive and blending with the locals,but this place ended up costing only $80/night for a lovely room with balcony over looking the garden and brook running through this hidden retreat. If you find yourself along this path I would strongly recommend this hotel. Its off the beaten path and can be found in Hotels of Wallonia from the tourist offices. After Lisogne we continued down the road into Dinant and followed the road north along the Muese river. It reminds me a lot of the Moselle river. There are chateaus(castles) in both Dinant and Namur. The one in Dinant is recommended as a must see by Frommer's guide. Unfortunately we didn't have time to do everything or see everything.
One of the goals of are trip was for my husband to go beer tasting in the Payottenland, a stretch of territory right outside of Brussels that includes landscape Pieter Bruegel used in a lot of his paintings. This is the only region were they brew a special spontaneously fermenting beer called Lambic, Kriek and Gueze. If you are a beer lover e-mail me directly and I can give you the scoop on some cafes which shouldn't be missed. The rest of the trip was basically made up of traveling to Brugge, Gent and finally with a drop off at Amsterdam Schipol. On our trip last October(3rd-17th) we went into Germany and followed the Moselle river. The hightlight of that trip was the Burg Eltz. Don't forget if you like castles Belgium has some beautiful ones. I believe we visited about 5 through our entire trip. One of the must see castles,in my opionion, is the Gaasbeek Castle in Gaasbeek right outside of Brussels.
Last trip we picked up our rental car in Maastricht, NL. We didn't have much time to visit the city, but I would recommend this as well. Unfortunately we didn't spend any time visiting WWII sites, so I can't say much about that. We hope to go on another trip sometime and visit Leper. I understand there is a lot of historical territory to explored there. I hope your travels are good and you find your friends.

Dear Kristy,
Brugge is the most beautiful city I have ever seen. Its like walking onto a medivel movie set or being in Disneyland. This was the second time we visited this city and we will return again and again, each time discovering something new. As far as sightseeing, I would recommend getting a good tour book ,like Frommers, or just pick up a tourist booklet from the tourist information office, read through and decide what interests you the most. The biggest highlights for me were: renting a bike and riding along the canal into the city of Damme. Its only about 4 miles roundtrip on a flat road. Also, dining in the Kasteel Minnewater and looking out at the peaceful "lake of love" with swans floating by. My husband climbed the 366 steps up the Belfry and claimed the view was fantastic and it really wasn't that difficult. Just walking through the city over and over is wonderful. We spent 1 day in Gent and went into the Belfry, the cathedral (The Mystic Lamb by Jan Van Eyck) and the castle of the counts. We parked outside the city parking area(as recommended by our B&B owner)and walked about 1/8 mile into the center. This way we didn't have to pay anything for parking and didn't have to drive around the city streets. We have not been to Zeebrugge or the coastal area of Belgium.
We reserved a car beforehand through Auto Europe and picked up in Brussels. I would not recommend picking up a car in any large city. The streets are a lot of one-ways and if you don't understand the signage it can be very intimidating and frustrating. This was are second time driving, the last being in October, so we knew what a lot of the signs meant. I would recommend going to a website called: Moto Europa, I don't have the exact website, but it gives you a lot of information about driving in Europe. The cost of the rental was reasonable through AutoEurope, We paid $190 for 9 days and that included a free up from Compact to a midsize, don't do an ecomomy its just too small and don't always expect to get what you reserved through Auto
Europe. The gas prices are high compared to the US. At the current exchange rate we paid about $.70/liter which is about $3/gallon. The car we rented ran on diesel which is less expensive, but fuelwise it can be costly depending on how much territory you cover. Cars are not a good thing to take into large cities. When we stayed in Brugge we rented an apartment and keep the car in a private garage.
When driving I would recommend getting a good map(you can requesting a driving tour map of Belgium from the tourist agency before you depart for your trip), but don't expect it to always follow what the road signs state, be very defensive - people there drive a bit irradically IMO, and always allow time for getting lost. Unfortunately I can guarentee you will get lost at least once. We had driven there before and felt confident that we knew how to follow the signs and take the correct routes, but sure enough we missed a few turnoffs. The signs can be confusing.
We had lovely chocolates and meals, but didn't gain due to all the walking we did. If you want an inexpensive way to bring home chocolates buy some bars at the supermarket. You can get the Belgian made bars for so much cheaper than in the chocolate shops. Happy travels and happy chocolate snacking.

Dear Donna,
We drove through Middleburg on our trip last October and stayed in Vlassingen. We ate at a restaurant by the water, I don't recall the name. Middleburg seemed like a neat place to visit and I hear Vere is nice too. We actually did not have time to visit either one. We picked our car last trip in Maastricht, but did not go through the city and we also drove through Delft and had some pancakes in a little restaurant by the cathedral. We purchased some delft porcelin items from the factory. Apparently, they say, its the only place you get the real thing, they don't distribute any of their goods to retail stores, they only sell directly from their small factory.
We didn't go to Antwerp, but would like to in the future. Holland and Belgium are beautiful areas to drive through.
We did use the ATMs in Belgium, but I found that my ATM card from my credit union would not work even though it had a plus sign and the bank had the plus sign posted. So we withdrew all are cash with our ATM backed by Visa. I assumed you have read the previous posts concerning the banks striking. I had not heard anything about this during our trip. The only thing I heard was that all the banks were changing systems or something of that sort.

I hope I helped all of you somewhat. If you need more specific details, please feel free to e-mail me directly.
 
May 20th, 2000, 06:42 AM
  #6  
donna
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Thanks for your advice!
 
May 20th, 2000, 02:17 PM
  #7  
Al
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Many thanks! This is the kind of posting that Fodors was designed for.
 
May 20th, 2000, 06:58 PM
  #8  
karen Collins
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Any idea how far it is by car from strasburg to Brugge. I am curious about the apartment rental there? Was it arranged far in advance? Any recs on other hotels there. What are prices for lodging in comparison to France. Thanks
karen collins
 
May 20th, 2000, 09:49 PM
  #9  
adina
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Can/Do people walk along the canal between Bruges and Damme or are there only bikers on the path?
 
May 21st, 2000, 06:55 AM
  #10  
Elizabeth
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Dear Karen,
I am not sure how long the drive would be from Strasburg to Brugge, but I think it would probably be a long trip. Not something you would want to try and cover in a day or two, you might even need more. I know it is probably about 1 1/2 - 2 hours to the Germany border from Brugge. The apartment was discovered while doing a search under vacation rentals in Belgium. We reserved in February. We also stayed at the Hotel de Pauw in Brugge during our trip in October. It is a small, clean nicely run hotel, but its not large and luxurious. It was only about $65/night in October, so now it would be in cheaper with the better exchange rate. We did not travel to France, so I do not know how the prices compare.

Dear Adina,
There were definitely people walking along the pathway, along the canal, to Damme. When you get a map of Brugge just look for the port that leads towards Damme. If you are able to bike, it was a wonderful time. They also sell bike maps ($1.25) that list 5 different routes at the tourist office. The bike rental was about $8/day.
 
May 22nd, 2000, 03:32 PM
  #11  
Kristy
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Dear Elizabeth:
Thank you very much for the good advice!
We will certainly benefit from your pearls of travel wisdom!

Kristy
 

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