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

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

Old Oct 16th, 2014, 07:05 PM
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I am following along and enjoyjng your report. Sorry you were sick!
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 04:26 PM
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<b>Some final notes on Amsterdam:</b>

We found Amsterdam to be a vibrant & interesting city. We were fascinated by the unique way the city is built around its canals and we were surprised how easy it was to get around on foot. We never did use the tram system because everywhere we wanted to go was within walking distance! The buildings were attractive, even those that had a curious sideways lean. And the people we encountered were friendly, personable and helpful.

There were so many more places we wanted to see & visit and I had so little energy ... sigh! Perhaps we were optimistic during the planning stage but we also included the following places on our list: Hermitage Amsterdam, Museumplein, Vondelpark, Albert Cuypmarkt and on my list, Tassenmuseum Hendrikje (Museum of Bags & Purses). I even wanted to peek in the Amsterdam Central Library if we had time! It looks like we have enough to fill another trip to Amsterdam and perhaps we can include a day trip outside the city!

Being the northern-most city geographically we have traveled in September, we anticipated cooler weather. It was very pleasant for walking & seeing the sights during the day. Light jackets were all that we needed. For evenings, I took a dressier coat to wear to dinner.

I had read that one doesn't go to Amsterdam for the food. Well, we respectfully have to disagree. We found our meals & the service to be very good. (My cannelloni at Da Italiaan when my taste buds were dulled by my cold doesn't count!)

We have a friend who works in a Vancouver hotel & convention centre. He said that likely the participants in the media conference in Amsterdam would stay on site for work sessions, meals during the day. And we think he was correct. It was our impression that neither the sidewalks nor the museums were teeming with people. However, we took no chances with our restaurant choices for dinner. We made reservations wherever we could. The only time we were impacted was on our departure day (Sunday morning) when taxis were in high demand. Even so, it wasn't a problem because Paula kindly phoned ahead and arranged for a cab to pick us up at the Tulipa.

More to follow ...



<b>Next: From Amsterdam to Bruges</b>
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 11:34 AM
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Very enjoyable. Hope your cold abated.
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 10:11 PM
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I'm enjoying your report so much and looking forward to your time in Bruges, a city high on our list. Love all the details, keep it coming!
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 10:39 AM
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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 14TH

Alarm woke us early. I was feeling better. DH, not so much! (As it would turn out, our colds abated somewhat but were persistent and long-lasting. Overall, our 'enjoyment scale' of the trip was not impacted too much! Enough said!)

The Amsterdam to Antwerp portion of our Thalys train ride to Bruges seemed simple enough. In Central Station, we found our departure platform where there was an electronic schematic of the train. We were able to locate our first-class car. It was a comfortable 1 hour 15 minute ride. We needed to be composed and calm for what lay ahead. We had a tight connection - a mere 5 minutes!

In Antwerp train station, the train information board was written in Flemish, not useful for us. In a desperate search for our platform, we rode up elevators, down escalators and dashed across corridors. At last, we spotted an attendant who directed us to the correct platform and very gently told us that we had missed our train! Well, at least we could relax now. The next regional train was set to depart in one hour. So, this became an opportunity for us to have a snack and to marvel at the impressive interior of the station.

We had an open voucher for this portion and we rode to Bruges in a virtually empty car. In just over an hour, we arrived in Bruges, our home for the next four nights. Now all we had to do was find a taxi to take us to <b>B&B Cote Canal</b>. How hard could THAT be?

At the Cote Canal, Catherine greeted us and led us to the lounge where she gave us an introduction to Bruges: what's happening and a few cautions. Catherine was an advocate for what was authentic & worthwhile seeing and advised us what to avoid. We also went with her restaurant recommendations. She was glad to make two dinner reservations for us in advance of our arrival and the others, she called the same day.

Then, Catherine took us to our beautiful room, Suite Clin d'Oeil. Tastefully decorated, restful colours of cream & beige - a monochromatic scheme made interesting with different textures in the bedding, curtains and accessories. This was a lesson in good design! Our room overlooked the garden and a canal just beyond. We settled in and then set out for dinner at <b>Au Petit Grand</b>.

Our route took us across the canal and along the back of the Cote Canal where we saw Fidel, the resident yellow Labrador laying on his pillow at the window looking out. It was a very similar scene to his cameo appearance in the movie, In Bruges. Can't wait to meet him! With only the name of the restaurant and cursory directions ('Just off Market'), we needed to stop to ask for clearer instructions! We went in a bar and a server kindly looked up the restaurant on the internet. She sent us away with a simple map drawn on the back of a coaster! It was not far away.

Inside, the restaurant was attractive, bordering on pretty. The service & food were very good. We started with an amuse bouche of crab mousse with crostini. DH had cod, side salad of tomato & bocconcini and fries. I had grilled salmon, side green salad and scrumptious scalloped potatoes. Fish was cooked perfectly. We got through our main course and decided we were done for the evening! It had been a long day for us.

It was just a short stroll back to the B&B. It was an early night for DH. I wasn't far behind!
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 08:11 PM
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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 15TH

There was an early morning fog when I looked out the window. It felt a bit like Fall. It is too chilly for breakfast to be served in the garden.

By the time we went down, the breakfast room was awash with sunlight. It is a lovely room, done in gray and white. There are two tables on which breakfast is placed: one with plates of cheese & meat, yoghurt, an assortment of croissants & breads
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 09:24 PM
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Oh my goodness ... I did it again! My fat fingers and my tablet do not always work cooperatively. Sorry!

To continue ...

... and scrambled eggs and the second with sweet pastries, cereals and jams. We were served a carafe of coffee & fresh squeezed orange juice and we helped ourselves to what we wanted. Soft classical music played in the background. It was all very civilized!

Today we planned to spend the day in Bruges and explore the city. Here are the highlights & some observations:

> Bruges is a pretty city with cobblestone streets, picture-perfect scenes of canals, stone bridges, traditional houses & historic buildings. The virginia creeper vines that grew on many of the buildings were beginning to change colour. It was a sign that fall was approaching. There is a photo-op around almost every corner. This place is a photographer's dream!

> The only intrusion to the beauty of Bruges were the tour boats that zipped along the canals carrying loads of tourists. There was the occasional guide who announced various sights using a megaphone. These ones were particularly annoying! However, there are strict regulations regarding hours of operation. So, the boats started at a reasonable time and never went late.

> The climb up the <b>Belfort (Bell Tower)</b> left me breathless but the 366 steps up and then down made for a good count on my pedometer! Just as I got used to climbing the steep & narrow spiral steps clockwise, they would change direction! I just took my time. From the very top, we could see over Bruges in all directions. Back on terra firma, there was a violinist playing in the courtyard - lovely!

> After their life of service, the lay order of Beguines lived in <b>Beginjhof</b>. Today, Benedictine nuns live here. We walked in silence around the convent grounds; went into the simple church and a small museum which is located in a 17th century Beguines's house. It was serene and peaceful.

> In the <b>Church of Our Lady (Onse-Sieve-Vrouwekerk)</b>, there is a magnificent statue of a Madonna & Child by Michelangelo. It sits in a niche in a chapel. This afternoon, there was sunlight streaming in through a side window and it bathed the statue in a warm light, giving it an ethereal quality. It took my breath away!

> We bought 4 pieces of chocolates at <b>Mary's Chocolate Shop</b> to enjoy later. Could it be that the praline one would be my favourite?

> Our walk to <b>Bistro de Schaar</b> took us into a different part of town. Here, we had a lovely dinner. We started with an amuse Boucher of shrimp pate on crackers. DH had medallions of monk fish on a bed of creamed leeks and fries while I enjoyed magret de canard with raspberry sauce, a medley of grilled vegetables and nugget potatoes. For dessert, we shared flambe of figs with ice cream. It was all very good. We were hoping to return on our last night in Bruges to try one of the grilled meat offerings but sadly, de Schaar is closed on Wednesdays (and Thursdays, too). Too bad! But we were certain that we would find another fine restaurant for Wednesday night!
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Old Oct 21st, 2014, 06:14 AM
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Waiting....waiting....waiting for more!
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Old Oct 21st, 2014, 07:17 AM
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Same here!
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Old Oct 21st, 2014, 08:47 AM
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<< <i>We started with an amuse Boucher of shrimp pate ...</i> should read <i>an amuse bouche</i>. >> I have an 'intuitive' tablet that automatically corrects the spelling of words it doesn't recognize. Not helpful when I use foreign words! I try to catch these but obviously I missed this one!

wunderbar2 & TDudette: Thanks for being patient! I will work on the next installment soon. Stay tuned!
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Old Oct 21st, 2014, 12:52 PM
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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16TH

We booked four nights in Bruges intending to take a day trip, possibly to Ghent by train or perhaps rent a car for a day and drive to the coast. Given how we were feeling, we felt a leisurely exploration of Bruges was preferred. There were many interesting places still to see and things to do to fill our days.

Originally, the <b>Hans Memling Museum, formerly Saint John's Hospital (Sint Janhospitaal)</b> was built as a hospital in the Middle Ages. Later in the 19th century, it was expanded to include a monastery and convent. It was a place where Brothers & Sisters mainly tended to the spiritual needs of the sick because most did not have the medical background to treat what ailed the patients. Today, it houses Flemish Primitives by painter Hans Memling, medical artifacts and other works of art. The medical tools were crude and it was a bit frightening to think how & what they were used for! This was a fascinating museum to visit.

As we walked, we came upon other picturesque viewpoints. Are there any other kinds in Bruges? In some spots, we were jockeying for a favourable position with others (mostly groups).

We had lunch at Tom Pouce, one of those pricy tourist restaurants we were warned about. This one was on Burg Square. But we stopped here for a bite to eat, cold beverages and a table in the shade knowing that.

We saw a sign in the window of a chocolate shop: <i>A balanced diet is chocolate in both hands.</i> Yes, we can subscribe to that! Also, we think that beer & chocolate ought to be counted as food groups here!

The <b>Basilica of the Holy Blood</b> is well-known for its relic of the blood of Christ. The interior of this church was particularly beautiful with its decorated walls, ceilings & pillars.

The fish store faced the Fish Market and the restaurant, <b>Den Gouden Karpel</b> was accessed from the street behind (Huidenvettersplein). It was a warm evening so it was a treat to sit outside on the patio for dinner. We both chose Dover sole which came with fries and a salad. Simply put, our fish was delicious - sweet, tender! For dessert, we shared a refreshing medley of sorbet. Food, service & setting - all made for an enjoyable, leisurely dining experience. We made dinner reservations for the following night before leaving.
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Old Oct 21st, 2014, 01:01 PM
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Did you see any lace making?
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Old Oct 21st, 2014, 04:39 PM
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I'm enjoying your report. Never been to Bruges, but now have put it on my to-visit list!
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Old Oct 21st, 2014, 06:07 PM
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I am really enjoying your trip report. I know have some more places on my bucket list.
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Old Oct 21st, 2014, 06:09 PM
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I have one of those auto correct as well. I meant now.
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Old Oct 21st, 2014, 11:13 PM
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<b>TDudette</b>: I saw a number of shops that carried lace. It was fascinating to see all the different intricate patterns. And the Benedictine Nun who was selling tickets at the entrance of the museum in Begijnhof was making small lace items to sell. I sure can appreciate the skill, nimbleness of fingers and good eye sight required to produce fine lace!

<b>powhatangal and Paqngo</b>: While Amsterdam was on DH's list, Bruges was on mine. So, it was wonderful that we could work in both cities on this trip! Thanks for following along. There's one more day in Bruges to come.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 11:56 AM
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There are two types of lace - machine-made lace and handmade and also antique lace - over 100 years old I was told some years ago - not all lace hanging in shop windows is created equal IMU.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 01:22 PM
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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17TH

Quite by chance, we met Fidel this morning! He ran in through the front door ahead of Catherine and then made a sharp right-angle left-hand turn past me into the breakfast room. Oops, I had left the door open - silly me! We went into Fidel's reception room (AKA Catherine's office) where we had a visit. He is an old fellow with a sweet demeanor who occasionally reveals the puppy he once was! He loved to be talked to, patted and rubbed. No translation required. We communicated through actions, ours and his. We all went away feeling good!

Today was <b>Market Day</b> in Bruges. Our first stop was the <b>Fish Market (Vismarkt)</b> with its covered arcade and large stone slabs on which cases of fresh fish were placed. It was interesting to see whole fish of all kinds on display. There was a huge pan of shrimp as well. Folks were in line to buy tonight's dinner. On the other end of the arcade, a few artisans had their handicrafts out. I bought a royal blue hand-woven linen scarf which will go perfectly with my Amsterdam coat!

Next, we walked to the <b>Markt</b> where trucks and stalls were set up on the large main square. The vendors sold local cheeses, sausages, fruits & vegetables and flowers. We saw probably the last of the summer fruit like strawberries and the beginning of fall crops like plums & squash. The flowers were gorgeous in colours of warm oranges & yellows. The rotisserie chickens, pork ribs & small roasts had us salivating ... and it was only 11:00! It ALL looked so appetizing!

Last stop: <b>Dumon Chocolate Shop</b> for our final selection of chocolates to taste: hazelnut (2) + caramels (4) - a snack for later or perhaps our dessert tonight!

We dropped our shopping off at the Cote Canal and we headed back out for a walk away from the centre. We were in search of the windmills alongside the canal that circles Old Bruges. We walked by two out the 4 existing windmills. We weren't sure whether they were working mills but later read that one does open (seasonal hours) and you can buy flour there. Best of all was the path along the canal that we shared with others out for a walk, a run or a bike ride on this sunny day!

We stopped for lunch at Carlito's. We sat in the shady interior courtyard for a lunch of pasta (DH) and pizza (me) and cold drinks.

Back at home, it was time for a rest, to do some writing and begin initial preparations for our departure tomorrow.

It was another pleasant evening to dine outside at <b>Den Gouden Carpell</b>. DH had turbot with spider crab which he described as outstanding. While my choice (catfish) was good, it was nothing special. What was special ... the crème brule which was served in a shallow, wide dish with lots of crunchy burnt sugar topping and a creamy custard!

Over dinner, we talked about our impressions of Bruges. Bruges was not unlike other popular destinations in which we've stayed - Florence, Venice, San Gimignano come to mind - where day trippers descend in the morning and leave in the late afternoon. So, that left the early morning & evening hours for the magic to happen! We were so glad that we stayed in Bruges.

Tomorrow is a travel day. It won't require much exertion but it has the potential to be stressful. It involves another train ride!


<b>Next: Train to Paris</b>
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 01:31 PM
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PalenQ: Thanks for chiming in with info about lace. Not being a lace aficionado, I wouldn't be able to tell whether a piece was hand- or machine-made, or would I upon closer examination? Would it be reflected in the price? Cheaper, machine-made. More expensive, hand-made.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2014, 12:32 PM
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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18TH

Our train ride from Bruges to Paris via Brussels was seamless. Happily, we made our 15-minute connection in Brussels with time to spare! Then, what could be more exciting than to arrive in central Paris and have only a short cab ride to our apartment in the 5th arrondisement.

The Gare du Nord was a noisy, busy station teeming with travelers and commuters. It made us watchful & we held on tightly to our suitcases. We were offered a 45 euro ride to our apartment - uh, no thank you. We took an official Taxi Parisian from the taxi stand at the side of the building and had a pleasant ride through Paris traffic to Rue Galande for under 20 euro.

We entered the building using the code we were given. What a surprise to see that there was a painter working on a scene on the wall of the long, narrow hallway. We squeezed by, being careful not to knock the paint cans nor touch the wall.

Our apartment, Fleur de Lys was located on the 3rd floor. We carried our suitcases up half-a-floor and loaded them, our bags and me into the tiny elevator. While I rode up, DH walked up the narrow, steep steps to meet me. He was standing on the landing outside the elevator when I arrived. We carried our bags half-a-floor up to the apartment door. It probably would have been easier to ride up another floor and carry our bags down. Oh, well! We had another code to open the lock box that held the key.

We were very disappointed to see that the apartment hadn't been cleaned in readiness for our arrival. We called Thierry to let him know. He immediately arranged for the cleaner to come and expressed his sincere apology. We went for lunch; walked to Sorza on Ile Saint Louis to make a dinner reservation for Saturday; and picked up a few groceries at Carrefour.

Back at the Fleur de Lys, everything was clean, tidy & set up for our stay. Much better! We unpacked and settled in.

Thierry arrived about 5pm. We got our compulsory training on how to operate the combination washer/dryer, air conditioner and TV. We had already connected to the internet. We had done this before in 2012 when we stayed in Abelard apartment, one floor below. We remembered how Thierry's explanation made our heads spin! This time, it was more like a review. We were good to go! We settled up our payment and said our good byes. The Fleur de Lys was ours for the next 10 nights!

We went out to pick up some take-away for dinner to heat up later when we were hungry. We were in for the evening - perfect!

A few statistics:

>It was about 29 degrees Celsius in Paris today. We put away all our long sleeve tops & jeans. It was time for the summer clothes of which we brought just a few!

>There are 63 steps from the ground floor to our apartment! We learned to negotiate these steps ... slowly & carefully!
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