Monday, September 27, 2010

The Final Days of the Trip

The final days of our trip were spent in Amsterdam. I have to say, I've been to Amsterdam a handful of times but never spent any time actually 'visiting' the city. All I can say is that we were glad we took the day trip to de Haan, Belgium but another day in Amsterdam would have been fabulous! It's beautiful, peaceful, happy and everyone is so pleasant. We completely enjoyed our stay and I know I am looking forward to going back.

We stayed at a great hotel in the museum district. It was old and pretty and perfect for the four of us. We checked in and then went off to explore a little of the area and eat!

The next day we went to the early morning market and watched the set up of the flower, cheese and breads. YUMMO! We got our breakfast there and did some great people watching too.

Amsterdam is considered the bicycle capital of the world and it's pretty obvious why. There are bikes everywhere. There are bikes with seated carts for children, babyseats between the handlebars with wind/bug shields, business women in heels and SHORT skirts - yes, SHORT - and we even glimpsed the occassional texting and biking! It was all pretty fun to watch. This photo is a 3 level bike garage. A local told me that at night the garage is empty. Everyone really does ride their bike to work. Pretty amazing!

We took a canal ride, which made us all wasn't the best idea of the day. The best thing we did was wait in line for the Anne Frank House. THAT was wonderful in a bittersweet sort of way. It made you so sad for the struggle and loss so many jews experienced but joyful at the good that Otto Frank has done with his family's memories. It is a definite stop in Amsterdam!
The rest of the day I was banned from taking photos. Yes...BANNED. We walked the Red Light District, the Coffee Shop District and meandered our way back to the hotel to ready ourselves for our trip home.

Monday, August 2, 2010

De Haan - the best decision of our trip

O-M-G! The best decision we made on our trip was to make this little day trip detour to De Haan, Belgium. It was a quaint little coastal town that was obviously a place for families during the summer holiday. When we arrived in town it became pretty obvious that there were a lot of families and we may have a difficult time finding a place to sleep. We did a modified Chinese firedrill - Tine would stop at the light, the rest of us would jump out and start asking at hotels. You see...we thought we were being smart about starting at the edge of town furthest from the ocean. should have started at the beach. That's where we found two rooms 25 yards from the beach and breakfast included for $40 a person. DEAL!

We walked the beach Wednesday night to see the tide way out. You can see from the photo below how far out the water was.
It was a little cloudy also but that didn't stop us from hanging at the beach and taking a midmorning snooze. Kristi went for a run and the rest of us snuggled in the lounge chairs.
By noon the sky was clearing and it was warming up. We soaked up the sun and watched the families enjoy the beach.

This was the best thing to watch. The children would make things to 'sell' - this family had tissue paper flowers for instance. Other children would 'buy' them using scoops of shells that they carried around in buckets. It was a fun concept and even more fun to watch the kids barter over their goods!
Yup...Tine and I got in the water which was really cold until you got about waste deep and then it was much warmer. We stayed for quite awhile...until my swimsuit top broke! No worries....fixed with a bobbypin.

This dad was a total hoot! His daughters had made a hole in the sand and waited for the tide to come in and sink them. They wore these pirate hats and played for hours.
This was another awesome thing at the beach. A Beach Library. All you had to do was leave your name and you could check out a book to read at the beach. They had tubs and tubs of children's books and lot of different languages.
This is how we all felt after our day at the De Haan beach. We were so relaxed and ready for the last leg of our journey to Netherlands.
I knew immediately that we had entered the Netherlands when we spotted this idea what it says but the people inside matched the painting :).
It was also interesting that the people of the Netherlands speak English and Dutch. Tine told us that there are few films, music etc that are translated to Dutch because it isn't spoken very many places. Therefore, the people have to learn English to be able to see and listen to these things. Most of the signs we saw were a mix of English and Dutch. One word Dutch, one word English. It made us anxious to begin our day in Amsterdam!

Brugge, Belgium

We left Brussels on Wednesday morning and arrived in Brugge, Belgium in a couple hours. We had heard from so many people that we couldn't go to Belgium without a trip to Brugge because it is so beautiful. Everyone was right!
There were people everywhere becaues Brugge is a weekend getaway place for many in the area. The town square had the typical old buildings that we had seen in every town on our trip but it also had stores, and stores, and stores to shop. Tine, my cousin, reminded me that there are so many small villages in the European countries that most of the bigger shopping meccas are located in bigger cities so that's where you'll find the most people.
There were carriage rides, walking tours and boats rides through the canals that connect the city. We did the boat tour and were so glad we did. It was beautiful!

I wish I would have taped the tour guide. I was laughing so hard that I was crying and had a hard time stopping! Now...we had listened to and spoken German and French. Tine was trying to teach us a little bit of the Dutch language but she would laugh and then we would laugh and we would get nowhere. You Belgium they speak French and Dutch depending on where you are in the country. Our guide definitely spoke Dutch but was trying really hard to speak English. It took us all about 5 minutes to realize he was speaking English with his Dutch accent...and then...we realized that he stuttered! It was so hard to understand but we made it through AND learned a lot about the city.
This dog was one of the ahhhhhh moments of the boat tour. He had his pillow and would lay and watch the boats go by. It made me miss my Max.
While we shopped, we had to eat some more Belgium chocolate. This store sold boobs and butts in chocolate. They had them in the window with a sign that said if you buy the set you get a discount!

Like every other city we had been to on our trip, Brugge was no exception when it came to old buildings. This house, seen from the boat tour, was built in 1675, 100 years before the US even had a constitution....pretty amazing when you think about it.

During lunch, we had talked about taking a detour to the ocean and skipping one of our days in Amsterdam. We asked a really nice store clerk for a suggestion and got the best tip of our trip. We traveled about 30 km to De Haan, a small coastal town that was perfect for a day of rest and relaxation.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Goodbye Paris...Hello Brussels!

Although I've arrived back home, I'm going to continue blogging for the days that I didn't get to share while actually on the trip. It's a way for me to log our adventure and be able to share it with whoever wants to join me...

On Wednesday night we arrived in Brussels and made our way to our bed and breakfast. We were not too impressed with Brussels on our drive into the city but we unpacked, readied ourselves and ventured out into the Grand Place.

It was bustling with activity. There were vendors selling flowers, tourists, brasseries, was fun to just watch people again. Tourguide Tine pointed the way and we found out quickly that Brussels is a VERY easy place to navigate and you can walk to entire Grand Place area in less than an hour.
Oh Yes! I forgot to tell you that before we walked we got our fill of Belgium waffles and more Kriek cherry beer! Yummo!You could find these waffles everywhere! We didn't indulge often - we opted for the chocolate shops istead :)!
Ok...maybe you all are better read than I was about the Mannequin Piss??!! NO? Well, let me fill you in. There's this little...and I mean little - like less than 3 feet tall, statue of a child peeing in a fountain. Kristi was telling us about it because her friend Rhonda told her about it. It's a world famous statue and there were tons of people taking photos. The funny thing is...most of the people taking photos were Asian. It was funnier to watch them taking photos and looking embarrassed than it was to actually see it. It was not what I expected but it is a must on a trip to Brussels.
I think this photo is what Brussels is all about. It the home of the European parliment so there are new buildings with big money making businesses everywhere around the old part of the city. It's an interesting contrast.
Yup...that's us eating chocolate...again!
While we were walking and shopping we found this great jeans store. The guy was hillarious! He had brand name jeans for less than $50 that we tried on. He really wanted to make a sale to Tine. He kept telling her that her ass looked great! We laughed a lot but didn't buy anything.
As the day progressed, we saw these small little cafes transform into terrace dinner places. The back alleys were full of them! It smelled SO GOOD! We made our way to the metro stop to meet up with Mark, a friend of Tine's who is interning in Brussels, and then we were off to Leon's for Brussel's best mussel's.
O-M-G! These were the best mussels ever! We drank and ate and enjoying conversation with Mark for a few hours. We pretty much closed up the restaurant.

Thanks, Mark, for being game to our joking and sarcasm. You're a real trooper and I hope you venture to the Midwest when you come to the States in the spring.

On our way to a cab, the City Hall in the Grand Place transformed into a musical light show that was wonderful and beautiful!
Ahhh...Kristi and I read in the fliers that there was a daily flea market in Brussels and we were determined to get up early and go. We did and we weren't disappointed! We both ended up getting some great pieces to take home.
It was like a giant tag sale that included furniture, dishes, art, name was there!
We enjoyed Brussels but were ready to move on after one day. We didn't have the best experience at our B&B and we had seen all we could see in the city. Honestly, we were always a little uneasy outside of the Grand Place area. There's a lot of graffiti and just plain weird people. Mark wouldn't let us take the Metro home after our dinner. He said that even when there are big parties for the European Parliment that people are not allowed to walk's too dangerous. We were glad for his advice and we moved on to probably the prettiest towns on our vacations! More later....

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 trip experience

Friday, July 30, 2010

This is every language we've used on our trip...French, German, Dutch and English.

It's been a busy couple days for us.

We took a detour and went to a little town called de Haan in Belgium. It was a perfect little beach town that we enjoyed immensely!

Last night we arrived in Amsterdam and today we are spending the day walking the city.

We leave tomorrow and head back to the States. I'll try to post more tonight!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Our last day in Paris was filled with a trip to the Eiffel Tower and climbing the Arc de Triomphe.

We had to do the touristy thing and take stupid pictures but we were laughing and ready to move on.

The top of the Arc de Triomphe had a fabulous view of the city. Sandy said she was done walking a bagillion steps so she stayed below and waved from afar!
We ate lunch on the most touristy street in Paris and watched all the tourists go by and decided that french women can be summed up in a few simple sentences...
-very natural looking, no highlights, very little makeup and simple haircuts
-sensible and good looking shoes, not necessarily expensive but comfortable and pretty
-dressed simply and always with a jacket of some sort to finish the outfit
-very little jewelry
-leather, well worn handbags, again, not necessarily expensive but good looking

We decided we all want to look french! Oh yes....THEY ALSO SMELL SO GOOD! Really! It was the first thing we noticed in Paris. You walk by a french women and she smells so good - very floral but sophisticated. We were determined to find that french fragrance and we did. On our fourth day, I walked into Sephora and said 'do you speak english', 'We want to smell like french women, please point us in the direction of the french scent'. They did and we all smell uber fabulous now!
We then ventured to the flea markets! WooHoo! It was awesome and I'll have to do a full blog on this when I get home.

I ended up buying these postcards to frame.
If only there was a way to get this home!We enjoyed crepes on the way home and finished our day with a party on the rooftop terrace!

Thursday, July 29, 2010