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Netherlands/Belgium

Hi everyone,

I am brand new to this site and thought I'd ask for some feedback about our upcoming trip plans. Our schedule so far is:

Thursday April 27 - Arrive in Amsterdam; have tickets for Anne Frank House, we realize this is also King's Day - we plan to enjoy the sites in Amsterdam as much as we can, but also just enjoy the crowd and celebration

Friday April 28 - Keukenhof Gardens, hopefully rent bikes and ride through the tulip fields, return to Amsterdam in the afternoon

Saturday April 29 - We'd like to see the windmills in Zaanse Schans and also visit Edam, Marken - we realize this might be too ambitious for one day so we'll see what happens

Sunday April 30 Depart Amsterdam for Antwerp - no solid plans, I have read most stores will be closed but we can walk around, see the city, and have some food/drinks

Monday May 1 - Depart Antwerp for Bruges - again no solid plans - start exploring Bruges

Tuesday May 2 - Day trip from Bruges to Ghent

Wednesday May 3 - Pick up a rental car in Bruges, drive to Dinant and Durbuy for the day

Thursday May 4- Drive to Ijzendijke in the Netherlands (where my family originated from), maybe drive back to Bruges along the coast, return car by 5 pm

Friday May 5 - Return to Amsterdam from Bruges

Saturday May 6 - Depart Amsterdam

Thoughts? Suggestions? Thanks !

Posted by
4701 posts

Not everyone likes museums as much as I do, but many of them are closed on Monday. It also turns out that a few big towns, like Antwerp, have Sunday-only tours of their elaborate town halls (which may or may not interest you.) Lots of people worship Brugge, but I would stay in Gent and visit Brugge for the day - matter of opinion.

I would not drive from Brugge to Dinant, just because the driving (especially on a business day) is no pleasure, and not the kind of visual exposure to a foreign country you can (often, but not always) get from a train. Also, Belgium is notable for cheap and frequent local trains that eliminate (as you have planned in the Antwerp-Brugge area) the need for a car. Now, Dinant is not a one-seat train ride, I think, so the car is not ridiculous. But you should think about WHY you ordered the car. I can see (on Google Maps) that it makes sense to drive to Ijzendijke from Brugge or Gent.

Be aware that Belgian cities have lots of narrow, one-way streets that are no pleasure to negotiate for the first time. You need a GPS with a recent map. Do you understand that Brugge-Amsterdam is not particularly "direct" routing, although it is entirely reasonable for someone who understands that Belgium and The Netherlands are not the same country. Do you understand that Amsterdam is a much larger scale attraction than any of the other cities mentioned in your OP, and could easily take five days without day trips? There are some excellent daytrips like Leiden, Amersfoort, Delft, and so on that you don't have time for on this trip.

Posted by
44 posts

Thanks for your input. I am aware of the things you've mentioned. We're not "museum" people per se, the Anne Frank Museum will probably be the only one we visit due to an interest in the Holocaust and her book. As far as Amsterdam, yes - we realize that we could spend a lot more time there, but we are not really "city people" either, hence the desire to break away and see some of the country side and coast in both the Netherlands and Belgium on the days we have the car. I have read some about the traffic in Belgium being horrible, but I was hoping to maybe find a route not taking main highways. We plan to rely heavily on trains and public transport but I'm hoping that it will be fun to have the car just to explore and see some different things.

Posted by
183 posts

The drive down to Dinant is interesting. That city suffered terribly under the occupation, so might be some historical interest for you as well.
There are lots of interesting castles along that valley. I think it makes perfect sense to have a car for that part of your trip. Poilvache (ruins) is cool as is Freyr (preserved).

Traffic on a weekday down there shouldn't be bad, but it's always a nuisance around Brussels.

I know you said you aren't much into museums, but the shipping museum in Antwerp is pretty interesting. You might check to see if it's open.

Sounds like a great trip--enjoy!

Posted by
4701 posts

The shipping museum in Antwerp, which was in a wonderful little riverside castle, was moved into the MAS collection several years ago, where it occupies an entire floor. I believe the little castle (Het Steen) is not open at this time. But you can walk around it, and find a nice plaque about the liberation of the port and the city.

Posted by
183 posts

The shipping museum in Antwerp, which was in a wonderful little riverside castle, was moved into the MAS collection several years ago, where it occupies an entire floor. I believe the little castle (Het Steen) is not open at this time. But you can walk around it, and find a nice plaque about the liberation of the port and the city.

Thanks for this update--I was there some years back and didn't know they had moved.

It's was a neat collection. Hope they've kept it intact!

Posted by
1464 posts

IJzendijke, where on earth is that :) !?

You don’t say you are going to visit family here, so how long ago did your ancestors moved to the US? Nowadays IJzendijke (Ies’ndieke – local speech) is a small pleasant town with about 2200 inhabitants just a few km from the Belgian border.

Depending how long you want to visit IJzendijke but a car is the best way to explore the countryside here. Also a good opportunity to cross the Westerschelde (toll tunnel / €5) for visiting cute places like Middelburg, Veere and Domburg. I think I am not biased saying that the countryside in the Delta Region is more attractive as that in general in Belgium.

The roads in Belgium or in Flanders (Wallonia is another story) are not that bad, it is more that the Belgians can behave unpredictable like not using their indicator or at random and some are fond of tailgating. Have to say that the roads in the Netherlands are excellent, you will notice as soon as you cross the border. With the clear signposting it is easy to move around here.

Along the coast in Belgium is worth to visit De Haan, lovely seaside resort with turn of the century architecture. To get there take the train to either Oostende or Blankenberge and from there the coastal tram. If you like shopping and budget is no problem Knokke. The countryside north-east along the canal to Damme is lovely too. From there you can drive further to Oostkerke and in the Netherlands Sint Anna ter Muiden and touristy but charming Sluis. Next Retranchement, through the countryside to Groede, maybe the route to follow if you go to IJzendijke. Can give you more detail if this is a bit what you are looking for.

Posted by
12040 posts

Wil mentioned Domburg... let me just say, while driving randomly through Zeeland province, I picked it as a destination purely on a whim, thinking, "hey, it's on the water, it might be nice". The memory of that three hours I spent in Domburg are now thoroughly branded into my memory circuits. It isn't big, and it lacks any of the kind of iconic "sites" that usually draw tourists by the busloads. But my God, is Domburg ever a cute little seaside village! Some day when I move back to Europe (coming soon!), I can imagine myself happily embarking here again for a weekend getaway to escape the late summer heat.

Oh, De Haan is also beautiful as well. If all the rooms are booked in Domburg (by Germans, judging by the license plates on the day I visited), I could just as happily sit by the ocean in De Haan. And this being Belgium, the beer and food would most likely be much better.

Posted by
1464 posts

Tom – have to say it is you who has put Domburg (and a bit De Haan too) on the map on this forum. I know it is a nice place but never saw it as special, maybe that’s the blind spot that locals can have with things like this.

At the end of the 19th century Domburg was a spa for nobility and even royalty and nowadays it is still a gathering place for Old money and guess their conservative input is the reason it is never changed into a tourist hotspot. If I am not wrong it was also in Domburg where artist Piet Mondriaan found the inspiration to make his move from Figurative Art into Abstract Art.

By accident I was yesterday in De Haan and not only the winding road with hotels and restaurants between the tram station and the beach are nice, also the residential area at both sides of the road are lovely. Lots of old fashioned white painted Belgian style villa’s, I really like to stroll around there, good place to spend at least a few hours.
Einstein stayed there in 1933 for a half year prepairing his final (with a stop in the UK) move to Princeton, New Jersey, the villa is still there.

Posted by
106 posts

just as a quick aside nettieplee don't worry about being in Antwerp on a Sunday. There will be enough open to sustain you (plan ahead just a bit if you need anything special). And the city will be delightfully quiet compared to weekdays. My wife and I like this aspect of Sunday so much - calm streets make for easy walking and less-distracted taking in of the sights/architecture, church bells, relaxed attitudes - that we purposely plan Sundays on our trips to coincide with big cities.

Posted by
103 posts

We will be matching you for a couple of those first days in Amsterdam. Always fun to see people going the same time as you.

Posted by
44 posts

Hi everyone! Thank you so much for all of the responses. Sorry for the delay in getting back to the post....it's been a very busy couple of weeks for me.

I was particularly excited to see Wil's response! So cool to "meet" someone from IJzendijke. My great grandparents came to the US in 1914. I believe there are some of my grandmother's cousins (and maybe their children) who are still in the area, but I'm really not certain about that.

Domburg looks lovely - thank you for the tip about that. I think we might just drive up there since we will be so close.

Posted by
1464 posts

Nettie,

Glad you are responding. Was excited too reading you are looking particulary for IJzendijke and not another place here, what a coincidence. I don’t originate from here but a smal village more east, named Sluiskil. I guess it would be fun to meet some family, so hopefully I can help you finding them if you like doing that ofcourse.

Wil

Posted by
44 posts

expatsandbegats - Very cool that our dates overlap. What are your plans for King's Day? I know that public transport will be shut down in the canal ring, but we're not really sure about what to expect in terms of how much we will be able to see or how freely we will be able to move around the city.

Posted by
103 posts

We were just going to play it by ear. We will have a car so we can get around a bit better. We wanted to visit Van Gogh and Ann Frank...but we will be with kids, so we are not making a big deal if we miss it. But if we find that it will be just too much to handle, we may swap days and visit other regions of NL on that day and then Amsterdam the day after.

Posted by
103 posts

We fly in Wed afternoon, so we will probably have a stroll around the canal region the first day so we can avoid that if needed on Kings day.

But I am glad you mentioned tram operation...we were going to drive close and just rely on trams while 'downtown' so I didn't have to deal with parking.

Friday is meant to be Utrecht, Kinderdijt, maybe The Haugue, and Tulips of course.