Trip Report - France, Belgium, Amsterdam

Old Sep 29th, 2000, 07:54 AM
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Trip Report - France, Belgium, Amsterdam

Our trip started in Paris where we stayed at the Grand Hotel Leveque on rue Cler. The room was ok with a clean, tiled bathroom. We payed 420F per night, for that price the hotel was great. We bought a 3 day museum pass at the tourist office in Versailles, this saved us a long wait in line at the palace to get our pass. We saw the major sites and museums Paris and enjoyed walking through Montmarte and the Marais neighborhood. We stopped in the Jewish ditrict for a falafel at Mi-Va-Mi, I'd never had one before but it tasted great. We foungd it best to arrive at the Louvre and Orsay right when they open when they are much less crowded. There is a chain of cafes called La Brioche Doree along the Champs Elysee where we had lunch and pastries at. We enjoyed dinners at Cafe le Bosquet a few blocks from rue Cler, Cafe du Marche on rue Cler, and Leo Le Lion a block from rue Cler.

We picked up our rental car at the Hertz counter at the Air France terminal at Invalides. Driving out of the city wasn't as bad as we thought it would be. We drove to Giverny to Monet's Garden which we really liked. We drove on to Caen and stopped at the WWII museum there, we all agreed that we could have skipped it. We spent the night in Bayeaux at Hotel Mogador. We had a nice room with bath for 260F. We were able to park right in front of the hotel and the owners were very nice.

We saw the Bayeaux tapestry the next morning. If you get the audio tour you can skip through the other rooms since it provides an excellent explanation of the events depicted on the tapestry.

We drove to the coast to see the D-day beaches. At Arromanches we saw the artificial harbor, next we went to the American Cemetery at St. Laurent which sits on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. Our final stop was Point du Hoc where the US rangers gained control of the German bunkers atop the cliffs after fierce fighting.
Old Sep 29th, 2000, 08:22 AM
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We drove on to Mont St Michel. We couldn't take the route we had planned on due to the fuel blockades that were taking place in France. Thank God we had purchased a big Michelin spiral bound map of France before we left home at Barnes and Noble. It showed all roads, so we were able to figure out different routes using secondary and tertiary roads when we came across a blockade. Without the map it would have been hopeless.

We stayed at La Terasses Poulard on the Mont, we arrived without reservations and had no trouble finding a room. Our room was 350F, the optional breakfast was not worth the 50F (stale rolls). We had a good dinner at du Mouton Blanc on the island.

We drove to the Loire Valley from Mt St Michel using mostly secondary roads again due to the blockades. Once we were able to get on the autoroute or tollroad, we found diesel at a Shell station and waited in line to fill up our tank. This was a relief, we had planned on calling Hertz if we couldn't find gas anywhere to find out where we could return the car.

We stopped in Amboise at Clos Luce where Leonardo da Vinci lived his last years. They had models of some of his inventions which were neat. We stayed in Chenonceaux at Hotel la Roseraie which was great. We had a huge triple room with enormous bathroom for 550F, the optional breakfast was good. The Chateau Chenonceau was a short walk from the hotel. The Chateau was very impressive, it was beautiful spanning the Cher River. The dinner we ate at our hotel was excellent.

We drove to the Chateau at Chambord the next morning, it was awesome! Most of the rest of the day was spent driving to Alsace, we spent the night in Riquehir at Hotel Schmidt, decent room for 360F. We drove a little on the Route du Vin, but it was Sunday so most places seemed to be closed. We did get to sample wines at 2 places though. Since most places were closed, we went to Colmar and checked into our hotel, the St. Martin. We had a nice room in their annex for 510F, the optional breakfast was excellent. The location of the hotel was great, it was right by the customs house. We parked our hotel in the lot by the police station for a few dollars a day. We had 2 nice dinners in Colmar, the first was at Hotel Rapp and the second at The Romantik Hotel Marechal. Our favorite winery was Clos St Landelin in Rouffach just off of the highway, the woman who gave us our tasting was so nice. The wines were great, we especially like the Tokay Pinot Gris. We ate lunch in Eguisheim one day, the town square was so cute with its fountains and all of the flowers. We happily returned the car as scheduled in Colmar, fortunately the blockade ended the day before so we were able to fill up the tank before returning the car.
Old Sep 29th, 2000, 08:56 AM
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We took the train to Brussels, we called several hotels from the train station and ended up with the Hotel La Madeleine. The location was excellent, 200m from the Central Station and 200m to La Grand Place. Our room was small, but priced accordingly at 2795BF. The staff was very friendly and the included breakfast was nice. We enjoyed sampling Belgian beers at some of the outdoor cafes. For dinner we ate at t'Kelderke in a cellar on La Grand Place.The atmosphere was nice (kind of like a pub) and the rabbit stew was excellent. La Grand Place is one of the most beautiful squares I have seen in my travels. You also have to be careful which train you get on at the stations, since many trains leave within minutes of one another on the same platform.

We had a short train ride to Brugge, where we stayed at the Hotel Adornes which was really nice. Our large room with canal view was 3700BF. Guests also have free use of the hotels bikes, which we used one morning. The staff was nice and had great restaurant recommendations for us. Both restaurants were around 3000BF for 3 people including drinks, dinner, and dessert (the exchange when we were there was about 47BF1). We all thought this was reasonable for the quality of our dinners and the atmosphere of the restaurants. The first restaurant was t'Zonneke at 5 Genthof, just off of the square with the Van Eyck statue, the lamb chops were excellent. Our other dinner was at another local place called Tom's Diner at West Gistelhof 23, I had excellent pork medallions. We went to the oldest pub in Brugge, called Vlissinghe 1515. It was right around the corner from our hotel which was convenient. The Belgians sure make great beer. We also went to t' Brugs Beertje at Kemelstraat 5, they have a selection of over 300 beers. We found a great internet cafe in Brugge called the Coffeelink, it was near the church with the Michelangelo. We loved Belgium and Brugge, our only bad thing was the $4 glasses of ice water, which probably came from the tap, that our friend got at one of the touristy cafes on the Markt square. Live and learn, I had a bad feeling about the place!

Our last stop was Amsterdam, we stayed at the Owl Hotel which was a short walk from the Leidesplein and near Vondelpark. Our double room was 220 NLG per night with an included breakfast. The room was ok, but a little worn. We had a rice table for dinner one night at De Orient at Van Baerlestraat 21 near the Concertgebouw. The other night we ate at Stoop and Stoop, which was a pub but the food was great and the prices reasonable. It was off of the Leidesplein at Lane Leidsewarsstr 82. The Anne Franke house was one of the highlights of Amsterdam, it was moving to see where they had hidden and to think that only Anne's father ended up surviving. The VanGogh museum was really neat, it holds the largest collection of his works. It gave me a better appreciation for the artist's works to see so many of them in one place. The Rijksmuseum was neat too, but they were having a special exhibit of the Dutch Golden Age so it was really crowded.

Well, that about sums it up. Hope this wasn't too long. All in all it was a great trip!
Old Oct 1st, 2000, 11:05 AM
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Thanks for the great trip report. Your reviews of the hotels including prices and locations are especially helpful. It sounds like you had a great time.
Old Oct 4th, 2000, 12:58 PM
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Sending up for Matt...
Old Oct 5th, 2000, 10:57 AM
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Anna, great trip report! Thanks.
It must've been a bit harrowing driving around France during the strike. Glad you managed OK.
Old Oct 5th, 2000, 05:57 PM
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Anna, I also just got back from Europe where I spent 3 1/2 weeks and visited London, Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels. It sounds like we had simular experiences. In Amsterdam, my friend booked us a hotel in the Red Light District. I'll have to say that it was a very unusual atmosphere!

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