April 2012-RS Belgium & Netherlands 11 Days- Part 1

This is my first trip report to the helpline. I've learned so much from people on the board and traveling on just 2 RS tours. I leave soon for my 3rd! I wanted to contribute to give back to this community, and to help others who are considering a Rick Steves' tour some more speciifc information and tips. Due to the limited content that can be posted at one time, I'll do several. April 2012- RS Tour Belgium & Netherlands in 11 Days. Weather: Mainly overcast, rain every day sometimes harsh, damp or cold with temperatures ranged from mid 30's to high 40's, maybe low 50's on a couple of days when the sun came through the clouds. If you want April flowers you'll likely get April showers! Sometimes you get better weather. Tour highlights: beer culture with 2 tours offered; Influence of the Protestant Reformation on the arts with 3 guided museum tours; The adaptions of Dutch trade creating a global economy for royalty and their countries; Reclamation projects to secure the Netherlands & Belgium from natural disasters: Natural adaption of horticulture to the local harsh landscapes seen by the 2 Gardens we visited; WWI history of Flanders. Itinerary: 2 Brussels - 3 Bruges - 2 Delft - 3 Amsterdam: Monday April 17- Thursday April 27 Tour is packed with sightseeing and is fast moving. It covers two countries & a diverse range of different topics. Half the group was able to keep up and stay in the front, a quarter group was always in the middle and the other quarter lagged behind mostly to take photos.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

Diane, to make your report easier to follow, it would be better to reply to your own posts, rather than starting new threads with every step. This way, the entire report won't be broken up as people start to reply.

Posted by Diane
Westford, MA, USA
233 posts

Good tip, thanks Tom. I was having difficulty as to how to post it
properly. Is there a way to do it as an attachment?

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

Here's how to do it: Open your first post in one browser window, and open the second post in another. Highlight the tex of the second post, right click and copy. Go back to the first post, hit "reply" and right click "paste" in the text box. You can then go back and delete each thread as you paste it under the original thread. Voila, your report stays in the order you intended and doesn't get scattered around the forum. No need to use an attachment if you just respond to your own thread. I don't even think we can use attachments on this website.

Posted by Diane
Westford, MA, USA
233 posts

Part 2
Day 1 Group gathering, city orientation, evening walk, group dinner. Days 2, 3 & 8 are very full. A lot of ground is covered which requires a lot of walking. You are exposed to a wide range of experiences. Enjoy! Day 4: Bruges has many sights to discover. We followed our guide from 845a-1230pm. Great day full of surprises! Day 5: Even if you're not a military buff I think you'll appreciate the Flanders Fields tour & the excellent local historian guide. Day 6 takes your attention to the Dutch reclaiming and securing their land from natural disasters. In Delft to get to Hotel Plataan the bus parks in a lot. You walk many blocks to get to this funky hotel. Day 7 in Delft is the lightest day. Today offers the most free time. We were guided from 9a - 11/1130a. Good day for a change of pace if you need one. Think long lunch with a bottle of wine on a side canal, enjoying the company of your tour mates, or renting bicycles during the afternoon & stopping to buy yummy chocolates. Pleasant walks are found along the outer canal streets. Day 8 the guide does the RLD (Red Light District) walk after dinner. I went from not wanting to go to the RLD before the tour, to wanting to go after I chatted with the assistant guide, to not going. At 930pm after a long day, my feet and I wanted rest.... Without hesitation half the group returned to the hotel, too. Happy people-Tired feet!

Posted by Diane
Westford, MA, USA
233 posts

Part 3 Guides: All positive remarks too long to write. Regardless of our age or hearing abilities, many of us had difficulty hearing the guides in the noisy city environments. Gardens Visited: We visited two very special and lovely places. (Surprises!) All the other places you visit offer some form of garden(s). Photo taking is challenging. You need to stay with the group which is moving & beware of traffic, especially Fiets! Pedesterians do not have the right of the way unless the street crossing is marked that way! Dining Beverages: Table water tasted stale and smelled like my plumber to me. In Belgium you pay for tap water. Some of the places in Amsterdam the water was free. A glass of House wine tasted below average for me. Ordering from the full wine menu offered a better tasting experience. Solo travelers find someone to share with or go in with another couple on a bottle to enjoy this experience.
The beers were all great. The brewery tours were well received and full of information & beer samplings. Proost! Brussels & Amsterdam surprised me. The sights are grand! Try to stay with the front of the group.
Intriguing places like Bruges and smaller ones like Delft may spoil you as they did me. I am not revealing tour surprises or being specific on any restaurants. The hotels are moderate each having their own uniqueness for you to discover. In the biggest cities the hotels are centrally located. This was a wonderful convenience!

Posted by Diane
Westford, MA, USA
233 posts

Part 4 Bonus Perks for this Tour: This tour ends in Amsterdam. Your transit pass is good until the evening of Day 11, the Farewell Day. Your museum pass is good for one year. Try to add at least one post-night to take advantage of these two factors. Try to add a pre-night to enjoy Brussels and get over jet lag. Both cities are easy to adapt to and navigate. Enough can't be said on the difference of how you feel if you can acclimate one day before a tour begins. I was fortunate to add pre and post nights. Tour Tips: Plan your free time.
Laundry time was best done in Delft. I never got there and my jeans stunk! Brussels Central Station: Use the middle exit out of the station. If you come out and the street appears empty, turn left which brings you to the front side of the station. Look straight ahead and you'll see a walled archway. Walk through the archway and then stay to your right. Hotel Agora is just past the small square named Place Agora. I left for this trip tired & my eyes were burning. I exited the station to the far right. I knew I had to walk down to Pl. Agora. Once there I walked right up to the store front next to the hotel & didn't even see the Hotel Agora sign. I walked around the little square twice. It became funny as many other people with rolling suitcases were doing the same thing. I passed them twice going in the opposite direction with their city maps. What a jet lag chuckle! Day 3 buy food & drink the night before to take on the bus. You can eat on the bus before or after Ghent. This will allow you to go right along to what you want to do in this lovely town. St.Bavo's Cathedral: Allow a full hour to view "The Mystic Adoration of the Lamb". The number of people allowed at one time into this separate gallery is controlled.