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Starting in the Netherlands and then....???

I am planning a 3 week September trip (My retirement fling after 43 years of teaching). We have been to London & Paris in 2002 and then Bavaria & Austria in 2006 (all thanks to Rick). This trip we would like to go to the Netherlands, Belgium, Normandy, Alsace and the Black Forest.
After some research I am thinking of doing the following:

Fly into Amsterdam. I think we would prefer to sleep in Haarlem not Amsterdam. Is there a train from the airport in Amsterdam to Haarlem? Take day trips from Haarlem to Amsterdam, and surrounding areas (4 days)

Take train to Bruges. Stay in Bruges as a home base and take day trips out (Delft, etc. anywhere else you think is a must see? Not interested in big cities like Brussels. (3-4 days)

Take train to Lille , France. Rent a car. Drive to Normandy region and spend 4-5 days. (Bayeaux, Honfleur, etc.)

Drive southeast back to Belgium and do Bastogne area and the Heurtgen Forest where my Uncle, who I am named after, won the Bronze star with the 9th Infantry Division. I promised him before he died that I would bring the Bronze Star back to the Huertgen Forest and either donate it to the museum there or bury it in an area where the 9th infantry fought (2 days)

Drive to the Black Forest and stay in a small village and use that as a base for day trips. My wife's family is from the Black Forest and we are going to try and track down any living relatives. Any ideas about which town to stay in? (3-4 days) to the Alsace region...stay in Colmar(?) and use that as a home base..maybe take a day trip to northern Switzerland.(3-4 days). Return the car in Strassbourg and take the train to Frankfurt to fly home. That way I am returning the car in the same country I rented it so as to avoid the huge surcharge of returning the car to a different country.

What do you folks think. We don't mind driving as as long as there are places to stop along the way to see and do various things.

Thanks for all your help.

Posted by
16861 posts

Looks good. You will definitely need a car to visit many of the spots you want to hit. Take a day trip to Switzerland from Colmar by train, or you may need to buy a Swiss vignette.
Watched a PBS show the other night on the Huertgen Forest Battle. It looks like a lot of the concrete bunkers are still there. Just too massive to destroy. Wouldn't know how to find them, but a bit of research should come up with something.
Edit- And the train from Schipol to Haarlem requires a change at Amsterdam Sloterdijk as far as I can see, but it is still only a half hour trip.

Posted by
670 posts

Congratulations on your retirement! It sounds like a great trip.

I found invaluable when planning day trips from Amsterdam. This site shows that there is also a 0:42 direct bus from Schipol to Haarlem you may want to consider.

Make sure to get your tickets to Bruges 90 days in advance for the cheapest tickets. You can print out your tickets at home.

If you want to see Delft, I would definitely do it as a day trip from Haarlem rather than Bruges. From Haarlem it's an easy 40 minute train ride, whereas from Bruges it's a 2.5 - 3.5 hour ordeal. When we were in Bruges we enjoyed a WWI Flanders Field tour with Quasimodo We also rented bikes and rode the bike path out to Damme (outlined in Rick's book), which was a lot of fun. You'll love Bruges, it's such a magical city (and the beer is amazing!) :)

Posted by
27759 posts

what you wrote looks good, the answers too. You can change at Sloterdijk or at Amsterdam Centraal (more trains to Centraal, but they all work).

Have a look at Gengenbach in the northern Black Forest. If you stay there or in any KONUS town or village you will get free local train travel for the duration of your visit. Ask the hotel or B&B host for the card.

If you said where you are doing family hunting I could provide a more focussed answer.

Posted by
27759 posts

Piling on - absolutely do NOT do Delft as a side trip from Bruges. It is so much easier from Haarlem, just pop on the local train and pop off in Delft, less than half a dozen stops later, or just a few more on a StopTrein.

Posted by
101 posts

Wow..Thanks for all your help. The picture is getting clearer...