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Notes on Amsterdam, Bruges & Paris - Sept 8-28, 2014

Notes on Amsterdam, Bruges & Paris - Sept 8-28, 2014

Old Oct 12th, 2014, 10:09 AM
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Notes on Amsterdam, Bruges & Paris - Sept 8-28, 2014

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 5TH

Our departure date couldn't come sooner. It felt as if we had been planning this trip FOREVER! Well, we had, I suppose. It was last Fall we decided to go to Amsterdam, Bruges and Paris.

With travel dates established and flights booked, I began the task of finding accommodations. I secured an apartment in Paris first - same building where we stayed two years ago on Rue Galande, one floor higher in apartment Fleur de Lys.

www.parisbestlodge.com

The search for a room in Amsterdam was more challenging. Every hotel I checked showed no availability for our dates! We soon learned there is a huge international media convention held annually in the city and in 2013, there were 50,000 participants! Yikes! We considered changing our itinerary but in the end, we decided that the dates we chose and traveling from north to south worked best for us. When DH found availability at the Marriott for 440 euros (yikes, again!), I asked to have one more afternoon to look again. Fortunately, I found a wonderful B&B called Tulipa and it was only 225 euros! It's all relative, I guess!

www.tulipa-amsterdam.com

In Bruges, I booked the lovely Cote Canal for the location and canal views. Not only that, there is a resident yellow Labrador retriever, Fidel. By the time we reach Bruges, DH & I will be missing our 9 year old lab so it will be nice to get our 'dog fix'.

With everything in place for our Fall trip, we could look forward to our busy travel year ahead: NYC in April, Sheridan Lake in B.C.'s Cariboo region in May and my ladies' trip to Calgary in June. Europe was nicely placed in September.

Here's our itinerary:

September 9 - 13: Amsterdam
September 14 - 17: Bruges
September 18 - 28: Paris

But now it is Friday and we are feeling a bit impatient for our departure day to come - only a few more days!

Let the grand adventure begin!
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Old Oct 12th, 2014, 11:01 AM
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Fun planning a trip .. but now the super fun begins.. taking the trip.. bon voyage!
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Old Oct 12th, 2014, 01:39 PM
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Definitely following along as Amsterdam & Bruges are on our travel ist in the future. After many trips to Paris it will be fun to read your take on it.

Let the party begin!!!
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Old Oct 12th, 2014, 04:35 PM
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Looking forward to reading about your trip. Am curious if you liked the Fleur de Lys apt. I'm staying there in August and have read that the Rue Galande can be noisy at night.
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Old Oct 12th, 2014, 05:17 PM
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Looking forward to reading more. I would love to go on a similar trip, just a little shorter, in a couple years.
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Old Oct 12th, 2014, 07:30 PM
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I am also anticipating your report. Have been eyeing Paris Best Lodge for a future trip as well as the other cities you visited.
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Old Oct 12th, 2014, 08:37 PM
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Thanks for your interest! Hope everyone will find this trip report useful in some way and perhaps a bit entertaining, too!

<b>powhatangal</b>: We liked the Fleur de Lys apartment. It was spacious, comfortable and well-situated for the places we wanted to go. There are 2 metro stations nearby. There is a bar across the street with revelers that seem to go on well into the night. But noise was never an issue for us. The bedroom is at the back of the apartment where it is perfectly quiet. At night, we slept with the bedroom window open.

I will write about the apartment in more detail in the Paris segment. Hope it will be helpful!

Also, here is the link to Cote Canal which I forgot to include:

www.bruges-bedandbreakfast.be
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Old Oct 12th, 2014, 09:45 PM
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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 8TH / TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9TH

Our Travel Day

We needed to be at the airport by mid afternoon to check in for our 18:40 flight. The cab driver would have received an extra $5 tip had he not talked so much ... incessantly ... during the entire car ride to the airport!

We are enamored with Lufthansa's good service, German efficiency and mostly palatable food in economy class. I watched a movie before dinner service. After our meal, DH closed his eyes and dozed off. I took a melatonin pill, read a bit and then wished for a little sleep. Our noise-cancelling headphones helped.

In Munich airport, what appeared to be a tight connection turned out to be fine. We made it to our gate in good time. Then, in less than two hours, we were in Amsterdam!

We took a cab to the Tulipa. Our driver was personable but not overly chatty. We liked that. He got a decent tip!

Paula, the owner of the B&B greeted us at the front door. We were taken to a large ... no, huge two bed suite. We were given this suite in the spring when renovations for the room we had booked was moved forward. It had canal and garden views; no balcony but a large bay window with a seat & pretty leaded glass windows; and it was offered at the same rate. We had more sitting areas, drawer space & room than we needed. We anticipated a comfortable stay here!

After settling in, we went to Café George just two minutes away for a quick dinner. Our server came to our table. He smiled. In a bit of an I'm-exhausted-give-me-some-food stupor, I smiled back. There was an awkward pause which I finally broke by saying, "Menu, please." With that two-word request, he knew what our language of preference was. He brought over menus and told us the evening's specials in impeccable English. Our meals were good. The service was good. But now we were really tired.

It had been a long travel day and that bed with the canal view beckoned us!
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Old Oct 13th, 2014, 08:59 AM
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Thank you 2010 for the fleur de Lys apt info! I'm enjoying your report and look forward to more!
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Old Oct 13th, 2014, 11:08 AM
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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10TH

There's an ethereal quality to the soft morning light here. The water was perfectly still and it held the reflection of the trees & townhouses that lined the canal across from us. It was a magical scene to wake up to.

Down the stairs we went, out the front door and to the building adjacent to ours. We rang the door bell and we were invited into the breakfast room. We had a lovely breakfast of fresh fruit, cheese & meat, yoghurt, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and cups of strong coffee. What a fantastic way to start our day!

Later, as we were leaving, we met Dana, the resident 9 year old yellow lab in the front hall. Sweet girl! We got our 'dog fix' early.

Bicycles, vehicles of all sizes, buses and trams all seemed to share the roadway in a somewhat organized fashion. As pedestrians, trying to cross busy streets was challenging and a bit terrifying at first. We asked Paula how to navigate the traffic safely. Here's what she advised:

> Be brave!
> There are some marked crossings though not many. So, you can cross any where you like.
> If you begin to cross and there is a cyclist riding towards you, keep moving forward. Your first inclination will be to retreat back. But the cyclist will likely try to ride behind you. So, if you go back, you will probably will cause a crash.
> Have faith that cyclists will go behind you and cars will stop!

Wow! That's a lot of faith & hope to rely on while crossing the street!

Armed with a city map, we headed out for our first full day in Amsterdam. Mostly, we followed the tram lines and the canals as we tried to get our bearings and not get too lost! It wouldn't take us very long to recognize certain buildings, towers & bridges. We were establishing our own landmarks.

Highlights of our day:

> From Leidseplein, we walked along <b>Leidsestraat</b>, a busy street with trendy & exclusive shops - some of the same stores we have at home.

> <b>Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market)</b> is a long block of stalls dedicated to flowers, bulbs and garden accessories. What a feast of colours & shapes for the eyes! There were some unique varieties of tulip an amaryllis bulbs that I have never seen before. Amazing!

> Our walk continued past the <b>Royal Delft Museum</b> and the <b>Magna Plaza</b>, a shopping mall in a 19th century neo-gothic style building that was formerly the post office. Suddenly, we were in front of <b>Central Station</b>. We were discovering that distances are not great and Amsterdam is a very walkable city. Near the train station, we saw a multi-level garage for bicycles called a 'bike flat'. We were astounded by the size of the structure and the number of bicycles stored here! We decided to take a quick walk through Central Station to orient ourselves with its set up before our train trip to Bruges. We also found tidy WC's at .50 euros p/person.

> On the edge of the Red Light District is the <b>Museum Ons' Lievre Heer op Solder</b>. Behind the façade of a 17th century canal house lies a hidden church. It was built during the reformation when Catholics were forbidden to hold mass publicly. The exterior looked like any other canal house. Inside, the attic spaces of the house and two adjacent buildings were converted into a church. This was Amsterdam's best kept secret. Later, it was nicknamed <i>Our Lord in the Attic</i>. It is a fascinating story and it was worthwhile going through the well-preserved interior.

> We zig-zagged back through the Red Light District towards the Flower Market in search of Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs, a place for lunch. Unfortunately, we couldn't find it! It has happened before that I have the wrong address - probably the case this time! We walked to <b>De Bijenkorf</b> which is a large department store in an elegant building on Dam Square. We had a simple lunch in the store's main floor cafeteria.

After lunch, we headed upstairs. I was looking for a fall jacket. Here, I found a great Sisley car coat in a black & gray herringbone with a stand-up collar, off-centre front button close and 3/4 length sleeves - stylish and perfect for our fall weather in Vancouver!

> We had dinner at <b>Toussaint Café</b>. Cozy atmosphere, nice vibe, good food. We shared a starter platter of duck rillets, cheese with caramelized onions, cornichons & artichokes. I had mussels with spaghetti and DH had tomato ravioli and Dutch beer.

> It was a cool but pleasant evening for our short walk back to the Tulipa.

> My final pedometer count for the day: 20,710 steps!
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Old Oct 13th, 2014, 12:53 PM
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20,710 steps? I hope you finished the day with a well deserved pastry or dessert or dessert of some kind.

Looking forward to more
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Old Oct 13th, 2014, 03:08 PM
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I would love to know if you thought prices in "The Beehive" were a bargain compared to what you would have paid in Vancouver.
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Old Oct 13th, 2014, 06:52 PM
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We did the exact same trip a few years ago, and also had the pleasure of staying at Cote Canal. Looking forward to the rest of your review!
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Old Oct 14th, 2014, 07:26 AM
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<b>TPAYT</b>: No dessert this night but plenty of other opportunities to indulge during the trip!

<b>Dukey1</b>: I suppose shopping would have been more of a bargain at De Bijenkorf (and other places) if the exchange rate was more favorable!

<b>Iwan2go</b>: It was our first all-city itinerary but we enjoyed it! How long were you in Bruges?
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Old Oct 14th, 2014, 09:21 AM
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We were in Bruges for three nights. we loved the city, though we were surprised at the cost of dining out. It was hard to leave Cote Canal! It was so beautiful.
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Old Oct 14th, 2014, 11:57 AM
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marking for late digest of what appears to be captivating reading on my very fanorite city -Amsterdam.
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Old Oct 14th, 2014, 09:02 PM
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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 11TH

I woke up this morning feeling the beginnings of a cold. Oh, no! Granted, we both usually get sick while on holiday but this was way too early for this to happen! Well, at least I was prepared - packed a supply of antihistamines, Advil and tissues in may suitcase. Hopefully, this will be short-lived.

For breakfast, Paula made us Dutch pancakes with sliced bananas. Delicious! This made up for our failure to find Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs yesterday!

The Rijksmuseum reopened last year after an extensive 10-year renovation. With tickets in hand (bought on-line), we proceeded through the quick security check and entrance line into the museum. We were pleased that the crowds had not arrived when we did - about 10:30.

We focused on the paintings of the Dutch masters. We are both charmed by the scenes of every day life, pastoral landscapes and the portraits of merchants & their families. And I noticed the same ethereal light I saw shining our first morning captured in
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Old Oct 14th, 2014, 09:37 PM
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Oops! Hit the 'submit' button by mistake. Sorry!

To continue ...

... many of the landscapes. What an amazing collection!

It must have been a combination of overload and running low on energy but I needed a break! We went for lunch in the museum's café perched on the mezzanine of the light-filled main hall. Even after consuming our tasty sandwiches & cold drinks, I knew that I could only muster up enough energy to check out the gift shop! I bought a 2015 date book and a few postcards of our favourite paintings! I was done. It was time to leave.

Back at the Tulipa, I had a well-needed nap. I woke up later feeling ... well, okay. It was time to get ready for dinner.

We wanted to try Indonesian rijsttafel and so, we took Paula's recommendation to go to <b>Tempo Doeloe</b>. She made a reservation for us.

It was a longer walk than we anticipated but we arrived at Tempo Doeloe in good time. DH & I decided to have the small (10 plate) rijsttafel, medium to hot spiciness. Oh, it was such a wonderful variety of small plates, such beautiful flavours! We savoured every morsel. After a wee break, we ordered a dessert of cinnamon ice cream (wow!) with chocolate sauce and fresh fruit to share. The ice cream was delicious. We should have ordered our own - darn! Truthfully, we had more than enough, including white wine with dinner & coffee at the end of our meal. And we were grateful that it was a longer walk home!
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Old Oct 15th, 2014, 07:29 PM
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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 12TH

I woke up feeling worse than yesterday. After breakfast, I decided to stay at the B&B for the morning and sent DH out on his own for a few hours. I mostly slept and willed myself to be better. Such a wasted morning in a way but I wanted to enjoy our afternoon visit to the Van Gogh Museum. It is such a drag to be sick while away!

When DH returned, he reported back that he did what he enjoys doing the most when left on his own ... he went for a walk! So with no specific destination in mind, he walked towards Jordaan; over to the Center and zig-zagged his way back to the Tulipa. He said he recognized some streets that we had been along and buildings & stores we had passed. He considered going into the Magna Plaza to see the interior of the building but decided that it would be mostly stores and continued on. He did stop to look into shop windows with musical instruments and other interesting things. Most important, DH knew where he was! He was getting a good feel for this part of town!

We went to <b>George's</b> for lunch. Then, we had tickets & a timed-entry for the <b>Van Gogh Museum</b>. Maybe later, we could take a walk through Vondel Park.

There is something fascinating and engaging about seeing familiar places in a piece of art. It was not surprising that were drawn to Van Gogh's work during the time he was in Arles an St. Remy. Having been to Provence, we had our own memories & personal connections to this place and his paintings. We were treated to four floors of the most amazing art this afternoon!

There was a special exhibit by Emmy Andriesse, a Dutch photographer. She followed Van Gogh's footsteps to photograph some of the same landscapes and buildings that inspired the artist in Provence and Auvers-sur-Oise. She created this photo series of images shortly before her death in 1953. Her photos were absolutely captivating.

Tonight's dinner was close by, right across the street from Toussaint Café. It was good to have a reservation at <b>De Italiaan</b>. This place was packed!

We started with a beautiful antipasti platter and a caprese salad. DH enjoyed his ravioli dish. I blame my lack of enthusiasm for my cannelloni on my cold and not the chef. The service was very good. The atmosphere was lively & fun. Unfortunately, I was not!

It was an early night for me!
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Old Oct 16th, 2014, 01:40 PM
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SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 13TH

I slept like a log but still had my cold when I woke up. Okay, this was getting tiresome. Even Paula's lovely breakfast did not appeal to me. I just had some fruit & yogurt. This was our last day in Amsterdam and I was determined that it was going to be a good one!

On our way to the Jordaan, we came upon a Delft store. In the window, we saw pretty Christmas tree ornaments and thought it would be a nice to get one for a souvenir. The ornament was a little pricey but we were assured that it was authentic and not a copy-cat. Our only hope was that it would survive the day packed in my purse, the rest of our journey and the trip home!

We wandered through the Nine Little Streets, an area filled with diverse shops and cafes. Attractive window displays were enticing and drew us into some stores. Who could resist this delightful hand-painted sign in front of GMZ: <i>A leather accessories label made with love and good circumstances designed by two Dutch sisters?</i> It was an interesting shopping area of clothing boutiques, specialty food stores, a florist and stores that carried leather goods, accessories, beauty/health products and more! Did I really see GABS bags in a shop window? It was fun to window shop here!

We continued our walk past Anne Frank's house and the long line-up of people waiting to go in. We couldn't miss seeing the tall tower of Westerberg, a 17th century Dutch Protestant Church. We stopped at Sara's Pancake House for savory Dutch pannenkoeken, a hearty lunch!

Back at the Tulipa, we had a relaxing afternoon. Later, we started packing for our departure tomorrow and got ready for dinner. We had an early dinner at Toussaint Café planned.

It was a bit confusing when we arrived at the restaurant. Tables outside were filled with folks having drinks and snacks. We were hoping for a table inside. Perhaps we were a bit early to be seated for dinner. But a server recognized us from a few nights ago and we were seated immediately. Guess we were close enough to the dinner hour!

We went straight to the main course: DH had steak with fois gras, potatoes & green beans; I had ravioli & salad. We left room for dessert: DH had apple cake; I had pear tarter tatin - yum! DH enjoyed his Dutch beer. This was another fine meal!

It was a blustery yet pleasant evening for our walk home.
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