I just got back from Rick’s Belgium and Holland tour and had a terrific time, as usual, lol! This Trip Report will contain a lot of detail so if that bothers you stop reading now.
Overview: I agonized more than I ever had over timing on this trip. I wanted to see Keukenhof at near peak but I also wanted to avoid Easter holiday crowds. I arrived in Paris on March 27 and took the train to Ghent on April 4 for an April 6 tour start. When I planned this last Fall I wasn’t sure if there would be train strikes again this year in France so always give myself a day or two ahead of a tour to get in place. The timing put me at Keukenhof on April 13. It was pretty perfect for me!
Safety: People on this forum who travel a lot realize that safety is not really an issue in Europe. Friends who don’t travel much either to Europe or as a solo traveler are always concerned about safety. While I was gone someone posted a question to me on FB asking if I was OK because they had heard Central Paris was on “lockdown” due to an explosion and fire. Someone posted a link and it was to an apparent apartment fire in the 19th right near the peripherique and had caused no issues in Paris at all. Unfortunately, the news story stated just that – that Paris was on Lockdown so those who don’t travel thought the story was believable. Many are also asking about the impact of the Saturday protests from the Gilets Jaunes. Those protests caused me to spend about 5 minutes on Saturday AM at breakfast looking at the RATP site to check on Metro station closures. None of the closures impacted my plans for the day at all. I planned to go to the Cluny, then work back to Saint-Sulpice, Saint-Germain-des-Pres, managed to duck in to the Delacroix Museum which I hadn’t seen before and finished off at the Rodin because it was a spectacular sunny afternoon and I thought ice cream in the garden there sounded wonderful! (It was!) Walking back to my hotel I walked thru the Esplanade in front of the Army Museum and it was filled with people/families sitting around enjoying the sun, playing volleyball and having a generally wonderful Spring Saturday afternoon.
Pre-tour Paris: I love Paris! It’s such a neat city to visit on my own. There is so much to do and I never get everything done that I’ve planned. I had 8 nights there before I traveled to Belgium. I try to take the non-stop flights from Salt Lake City to/from Paris/London/Amsterdam for my International leg. It’s so much easier for me. The easiest airport to fly out of now only has flights to SLC so it’s a no-brainer. We must have landed at a time when no other International flights were coming in. Altho the plane parked at one of the distant gates on the tarmac and we were bused to the terminal it was pretty efficient. From landing to being in line at Border control was 30 minutes. The line was VERY short at Immigration and I was through in under 10 minutes which might be a record for me. I had missed the bathrooms between the bus exit and the lines to Immigration so good thing it was quick, lol. Very short line for taxis and in to town in short order. From landing to hotel was about 2 hours (including time waiting at baggage claim) which is very short – I usually count on it being 3 hours. My hotel room was ready so didn’t even have to leave off my stuff!
Flowering trees were in nearly full bloom when I was there including cherry, Japanese Magnolia, and others I couldn’t identify. Gorgeous gardens including Jardin des Plantes, the medieval garden behind Hotel de Sens near the Seine plus some smaller gardens dotted here and there.