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Where to go - northern France, or Belgium & Amsterdam??


Jan 23rd, 2007, 06:28 PM
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Where to go - northern France, or Belgium & Amsterdam??

I posted this in the general forum, but it was bumped down really fast!!!

I just wanted to get a few opinions - we are planning our 10 day trip to Europe for September. We are contemplating one of two itineraries. One would be to visit Paris, then rent a car and explore the Normandy region. Second would be to explore Belgium, then finish with a few days in Amsterdam.

As far as interests go - I love a vacation that mixes beautiful, picturesque little towns & villages, with some time in a busy & vibrant city. I love baroque architecture and art. A very active vacation is a must, with lots to see and do. We also love food, wine and beer - a leisurely meal with excellent food, but not too expensive - and no "strange" animal parts!

We went to Germany last year and visited the Bavaria region, and finished in Munich. The mix of places was ideal in my opinion, and it was a fantastic vacation.

Price is also an issue, I like to budget approx. $100 a day for food (for 2), and desire lodging around $100 a night also.


gypsy2_25 is offline  
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Jan 23rd, 2007, 07:29 PM
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Two words - Brugge and Ghent.

Take a look and see if any place you are considering going in Normandy can match those two places.
Aramis is offline  
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Jan 26th, 2007, 12:04 AM
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Lille, absolutely.
kerouac is offline  
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Jan 26th, 2007, 03:00 AM
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In Belgium you can easily get a connection between the major what we call Art cities(Antwerp, Brussels,Ghent,Bruges,Liegeby train.A tour in a rental can always be arranged for a tour of say the Ardennes. In the major cities it's hard and costly to find parking space.Traffic in general is extremely hectic in my country.Paul
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Jan 26th, 2007, 04:51 AM
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Strange body parts are included in Normandy diet but they are not mandatory.

On the otherhand those parts you will like to eat will be better in general in Normandy compared with Belgium/Holland.

Belgium chips can come cooked in horse fat and dumpings of mayo.

In terms of nice little villages Normandy has it again but vibrant city is harder. Leharve is a bit of an industrial blight, but Rouen is ok as is Can (no I know you don't spell it that way). Brugge is probably nicer and Amsterdam or Harlaam are probably a bit more vibrant

My favorite villages are all up in La M anche but also along the coast between Cherbourg and Honfleur
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Jan 26th, 2007, 05:58 AM
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Thank you so much for your responses - I truly base my trips to Europe off of feedback I receive on this site.
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Jan 27th, 2007, 11:56 AM
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My first question is, have you been to Paris before. If not, going to Paris trumps everything.

My wife and I have done Normandy and Paris in the same trip and loved it. Rented a car at CDG, drove to Normandy then back to CDG to drop off the car, then taxi to our hotel in Paris. Normandy is not much for architecture, except for Bayeux it was hit hard by WWII. But the villages and countryside would fit the bill.

In November we visited Belgium, Holland and Cologne. The architecture in Brussells in fantastic, Brugge is like a time warp back 400 years and Amsterdam was fascinating and unique. Belgian Beer is the best, don't tell the Germans.

Both trips are great ideas, but if you have not been to Paris yet, I would have to rank it above Belgium and Amsterdam. After all, Paris is Paris.
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Jan 27th, 2007, 12:19 PM
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My vote goes for either...Plan A: combining Paris with Burgundy (instead of Normandy) or Plan B: combining Amsterdam, Bruges and Ghent.

Plan B -- Visiting Paris is a given, especially if you haven't been there. Spend about 6 or so days there. Then, I'd spend the remaining 4 days in Burgundy, which has picturesque medieval towns, lovely scenery, wonderful history and great wine (of course!).

Plus, it's a breeze to get to from Paris, since the TGV goes right to Dijon, a hip and cultural city that's not too big, but it's filled with stunning architecture, good restaurants and friendly folks. You can rent a car in Dijon.

Plan B:
Stay in Amsterdam 4 or 5 days, then take the train to Bruges and step back into time. Its architecture, canals and quaintness is hard to beat. Stay 2 nights there and then head off to Ghent, a lively city with a vibrant arts/culture scene and some not-too-shabby buildings, either. You can do all of this without a car. And, renting bikes in Bruges is a great way to explore the surrounding countryside and towns.

Whatever you decide, have fun.
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Jan 27th, 2007, 03:44 PM
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Nanbug! Like she said! Either her ChoiceA or B are wonderful!

Nanbug, stick around for when I have questions... Please!

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Jan 27th, 2007, 04:15 PM
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Thanks again for the recommendations! No, we haven't been to Paris yet. I'm a little nervous about my budget, going to Paris. Seems lodging is reasonable, but food is a little on the expensive side.... Nanbug, I hadn't contemplated Burgundy - I'll have to look into that some more!
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Jan 28th, 2007, 07:25 AM
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Gypsy -

You can do Paris relatively inexpensively, just do a search on this board for budget hotels or apartments and cheaper restaurants/bistros/cafes.

We're on a shoe-string budget for our next trip, so we're renting a studio apartment in the Marais this March for approximately 70 Euros a night. They can be found, you just have to do some digging.

And, there are many, many other centrally-located apts for less than 100E a night, as well as some decent hotels (the Jeanne d'Arc is mentioned frequently by Fodorites, I've never been, but it's very reasonably priced and gets good reviews).

As for Paris and food prices, there are ways to do it without breaking the budget. To save a few bucks, we eat a croissant and coffee in a cafe for breakfast; then crepes, sandwiches, falafel or baguettes/cheese/ham from a street market for lunch; then we have a decent evening meal in a cafe/bistro, which may or may not get pricey. You don't have to eat at a 4* restaurant to enjoy the food there, that's for sure.

To keep the food budget under $100 a day for two, maybe an apartment is the best option for you, that way you can get food from the markets during the day and eat a simple dinner in your apt...maybe not every night, but even a night of two of apartment eating sure will help. Then you can wander to a local cafe for a nightcap afterward. Just a suggestion.

Glad you're checking out Burgundy. Don't forget to look up Beaune, a town in Burgundy, too. If you love architecture, its incredible Flemish-style Hospital with colorful tile roof will knock your socks off. You will not be disappointed. Lots of comments and suggestions on this board, do a search and you'll find a gold mine of info.

Bon voyage!
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