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Trip Report: 2 Nights in Ghent, 4 Nights in Amsterdam

I recently returned from a six night trip to Belgium and Amsterdam. We (my sister and my niece) stayed in Ghent for two nights and made a day trip to Bruges and Ostend. We then took a train to Amsterdam where we stayed on a houseboat for four nights.

There were several inspirations for this trip including fond memories of a brief business trip to Amsterdam back in 1992, the movie Bruges, and a conversation with a former coworker who spent three weeks in the Low Countries with his fiancee. I had been mentally "planning" such a trip for a long time, and I decided that it would make a nice high school graduation present for my niece. Her mother decided to tag along. I have shared many domestic and international travel adventures with both of them, and we are still on speaking terms.

My preparation for this trip was influenced by many informative posts on this website, and I’m writing this report with the hope that it might contain useful information for someone else who is contemplating a visit to these wonderful places.

Trip Overview:
Our flight reservations were open jaw into Brussels and out of Amsterdam via Icelandair. We were able to get an impressively low fare for the Minneapolis to Brussels leg of the trip that had an additional fee for checking a bag. Icelandair is now prominently displaying their size and weight restrictions for carry-on bags, so this trip was a test of our light packing capabilities. The return fare from Amsterdam included one checked bag for each of us, so I packed a spare bag for souvenirs.

Our travel model is to plan for one site/activity each day, and keep a list of “nice to do” items if we have additional time and energy. I made a list of potential sites and activities and submitted it to my niece and sister for their input. They selected the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum. and generously left everything else up to me.

I struggled with the number of nights to split between Belgium and Amsterdam, and I vacillated about our home base in Belgium (Bruges, Ghent or Antwerp). It was difficult to find a comfortable room for three adults and there were limited options available in Amsterdam with a 10-week lead time. So I ended up reserving a houseboat in Amsterdam (limit 4 nights) and a triple room in Ghent (for the remaining 2 nights). We were very pleased with both locations.

I made timed reservations for the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House (thanks to the RS forum I knew to keep trying when tickets became available), and I filled in the remainder of our itinerary with a day trip in Belgium and a walking tour in Amsterdam.

And then it was time to go.

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Minneapolis to Ghent via Brussels (Arrival Day)

Our trip started with flights from Minneapolis to Brussels with a change of planes in Reykjavik’s Keflavik airport. In Minneapolis, all passengers were required to show the agents their carry on bags and place them in the bag sizers near the check in counters and gates. Many bags didn’t pass the size test, and these were set aside and tagged for checking although the agents weren’t charging for checked bags. We also noticed that Icelandair had two scheduled flights from MSP to KEF that evenings with departure times about 30 minutes apart. Business must be good.

Although our layover time at KEF was only slightly over an hour, I had flown on Icelandair previously and was confident that we would be able to make our connection. Once we landed, we were bussed from our plane to the terminal where we joined the parade of humanity walking to the arrivals area. The immigration officials were efficient and lines moved quickly. Then we were off to study the departure board for our gate assignment, and to determine if we had enough time to use the bathroom (yes), purchase a snack (probably not) and look at souvenirs (definitely no). We queued up in our designated and very congested boarding area where busses took us to our Brussels-bound flight.

Once in Brussels we deplaned, and walked, and walked and walked some more through the recently renovated airport. We found the train station located at the lowest level of the facility, and due to the sweltering heat and humidity, we were dripping with sweat. The nice agent at the ticket window told us the best deal was to purchase a 10-ride pass for 77 euros (an extra fee is added for the airport improvement project) and he took time to explain how to fill out the pass. We had a total of 12 planned rides (4 trips for 3 people) and he suggested we study the fares so that we could use the pass for the most expensive rides and purchase one way tickets for the cheaper fares. We boarded the inter-city train to Ghent. It became more crowded with each successive stop, and by the time we arrived at Ghent’s St. Pieters station we were ready to get off and get some fresh air.

Our Ghent lodging (Hotel Chaminade) was a block from the station. At check-in, the desk clerk told us that she could sell us tram passes for 10 euros each and put them on our room bill. This was a handy amenity and the station for Tram Line 1 was right outside the hotel’s front door. Our triple room had a queen-size bed, a single bed and a nice bathroom with a tub/shower combination. We turned on the air conditioner, got settled and took showers. Feeling refreshed and surprisingly energetic, we headed to the town’s center via tram. Our hotel provided us with a nice tourist booklet with indexed site information and detailed maps which we used to navigate around the central area. We spotted a Belgian Waffle stand and I stated that we HAD to buy one. We shared a chocolate drizzled one and oh my! It was a little bit of heaven. Warm, sweet, doughy with a caramelized crust and topped with decadent chocolate. We made note of the other waffle toppings and agreed that we would stop again before we departed Ghent. We grabbed a quick dinner of sandwiches and salads at Exki and sat at an outdoor table to enjoy the marketplace. And then it was time for bed.

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Belgium - Ghent, Bruges and Ostend (Day Trip)

We only had one full day in Belgium, and I decided that we should get our money’s worth by going to Bruges, and if time permitted travel to Ostend to visit the Atlantic Wall Museum (which I first learned about on this forum.) Breakfast was included with our room, and we enjoyed a nice buffet before heading to the train station.

After the short ride to Bruges, we decided to buy a one day bus pass to take us into the center of town. It was still early and the streets were quiet. We walked along the canals, window shopped and enjoyed the charm. My niece decided it would be fun to visit the Chocolate Story so we walked there and arrived just as it opened. We spent about an hour touring the exhibits and decided it was...just OK.

We did some more wandering and window shopping, always on the lookout for that perfect souvenir. By this time large numbers of tourists were swarming the Markt and adjacent side streets making it difficult to pass on the sidewalks. We talked about visiting more sites in Bruges or heading to Ostend, and due to the crowds we decided to do the latter.

We returned to the Bruges station and boarded the train to Ostend. Upon arrival, we found it to be a real contrast with Bruges. Ostend is amodern (some say gritty) seaport city. Our goal was to visit the Atlantic Wall museum just west of the city. Multiple forums reported that the museum is not easy to find, so I prepared by looking at maps and copiously noting step-by-step directions on a piece of paper. I “assigned” my niece responsibility for monitoring stops as we rode the Coastal Tram, and told her to alert us when we reached the Rayversijde stop - which she did. As we stood on the boardwalk, we didn’t see anything that resembled the wooden steps that would eventually lead us to the museum. I rummaged through my purse and pockets for the detailed directions but I couldn’t find them. None of us had a cell phone with working service, so we decided to set out in the wind and rain to find the museum. As we progressed along the boardwalk, we spotted artillery mounted atop the hillside and knew that we were getting closer. Long story short, we had gotten off the coastal tram one stop too early (there are two stops with Rayversijde in their names), and a local who was playing with his dog on the beach helpfully pointed the way.

It was worth effort to find it. This is a wonderful off-the-beaten-path destination for history lovers, especially those with an interest in military history. The museum’s building has one exhibit that concisely explains the history of the wall along with a few artifacts. The other amenities are limited to bathrooms and a small gift shop. We used the audio guide to tour the museum’s open air section which includes two exhibit areas; WWII side is comprised of trenches, bunkers, artillery, garrisons and even the commanding officer’s quarters complete with a stuffed German Shepherd. The WWI side is currently closed for renovations with a planned opening date has been delayed multiple times (July was the museum guide’s speculation). The museum visit was really a step into history, and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our three hour visit. We took the Coastal Tram (this time from the right tram station) back to central Ostend and enjoyed several sites along the way, including the casino where Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” video was filmed.

We took the train back to Ghent and had dinner at Balls & Glory. We each selected a meatball with stoempf from their menu. It was a hearty and delicious meal, and probably tasted even better after our great day of sightseeing. We decided to visit the gelato shop next door to hotel, but it was already closed. In fact, Ghent was surprisingly quiet for an early summer Friday night. And then it was time for bed.

Our last morning in Ghent is at the end of these posts. I am chronologically challenged.

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Amsterdam (Arrival Afternoon and Evening)

We purchased one way tickets from Ghent to Amsterdam via Antwerp on the inter-city train. Due to track maintenance, we had to change trains in Antwerp and also in Essen. A conductor had only checked our tickets once on our previous inter-city train rides, and we were speculating about people who didn’t fill out their cards unless they saw a conductor. On the first leg of this trip, a young woman sitting across from me did just that. Her card was full of crossed out entries and arrows, and when she presented the card to the conductor, he stated “We cannot accept this.” She had to purchase a ticket directly from him and had the nerve to grumble that it was more expensive than a purchase made at the station. He shrugged with a “what do you expect?” expression.

We arrived at Centraal Station about 17:00 on Saturday, purchased an OV ChipKaart and took the tram two stops and then a short walk to our houseboat accommodations on Dijksgracht. Our hostess had emailed us the combination to the lockbox containing the key, and we somehow managed to get ourselves into the wrong houseboat! After alternating panic, confusion and a couple of frantic text messages, our houseboat owner and his two adorable children appeared and pointed to our boat. They informed us that the live-in hostess was ill and had gone to her parents’ to recuperate, and they departed after giving us a guided tour of our lodging. The boat was shaped like a barge with a wheelhouse and a long, flat base. The wheelhouse had been converted into a fully equipped kitchen with a large banquette. Steep ladder-like steps led to the sleeping quarters below deck. The front of the boat was an efficiency apartment and bath for the hostess. The rear of the boat had three bedrooms, a king, double and single cabin, a “living room” with a mounted flat screen TV, and a full bath. We had an interesting conversation with the owner about regulations which limited the number of guests and amount of space for rentals.

That evening we explored Amsterdam. The city was alive on Saturday night and crowded with tourists and locals along the Damrak and adjacent streets. It was borderline sensory overload with crowds, trams, bicycles, and boats on the canals. We worked our way through the crowded, narrow streets, and found an Indian restaurant. It was busy and most of the tables were occupied by Indian families (always a good sign) so we decided to stay and have dinner. After filling up on samosas, naan and tandoori chicken, we headed back outside where things were still lively. It was still light outside, but our watches told us it was late. And so it was time for bed.

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Amsterdam (Day Two)

The sound of birds calling woke us up before our alarm clocks sounded. We had reservations for an 11:00 am walking tour with Free Dam Tours, so we decided to find the best walking route to the transportation hub (Centraal Station) and to look for a grocery store on the way. The meeting place for the tour was the Oude Kerk in the heart of the Red Light District. The tour covered a lot of territory,both geographically and information-wise. Our guide, Floor, checked in tour participants, and turned away those that showed up without reservations. When the tour started she explained that if the tour group exceeded a pre-defined size, she would be fined a whopping thousand euros. Floor told us stories of tolerance, Amsterdam as a merchant city, rationale for the Red Light district, history of canals, drug policies, and the Jewish quarters. She effortlessly relayed information, moved us along, kept us engaged, made sure no one collided with a bike, and treated us to stroopwafles at the next-to-the-last stop. Free Dam tours require reservations which can be made on their website. The price is “pay what you think it’s worth” and we thought it was worth a lot!

It was a beautiful sunny day, and we made our way back to the houseboat for some sink washing. Along the way, we checked out the container gardens along the canals and we spotted several nests with waterfowl near our houseboat. We had a 20:00 reservation at the Anne Frank House, so we decided to find it first and then get dinner at a nearby restaurant. We grabbed a meal (at the Pancake House - we did it for convenience not for the cuisine) and then got it line at our reserved time. I noticed that people without reservations were being turned away, and there was one woman who had mistakenly made reservations for the wrong day. She too was turned away.

An audio guide is included in the admission price. Many folks rushed through the rooms, but we took our time listening to the narrative and viewing the exhibits. As the bells sounded from Westerkerk, I thought of the passages from Anne’s diary where she wrote about hearing those same bells. It’s sobering to think of her father’s emotions when he was released only to learn that his wife and daughters had perished. I wondered how he felt when he was presented with her diary and, through her writing, relived the months they lived in hiding.

We stopped at the grocery store on our way back to the houseboat and purchased snacks and drinks along with some chocolate cake. We shared the cake as night descended on the deck of the houseboat. And then it was time for bed.

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Amsterdam - Day Three

Once again the sound of birds singing woke us up before our alarm clocks did, and after a quick breakfast we headed to the Van Gogh museum where we had a 9:00am reservation. We started with the “Van Gogh and Japan” exhibit and learned a lot about his style. These galleries were practically empty and we had plenty of space to enjoy the paintings. About 10:15 we headed over to the “main” building where it was extremely crowded. We elbowed our way through as best we could, often stepping away from the throngs and waiting for an “opening” to view the works. Those with audio guides tended to bunch up around the numbered stops in large groups, and this added to the congestion. We slowly worked out way up the museum, one floor at a time. The layout follows Van Gogh’s story and evolving style through his masterworks and those of his contemporaries. As we exited, we concluded that it was a wonderful experience but they should consider revising their crowd control policies.

Our list of “nice to do’s” included the Poezenboot, a houseboat for rescue cats. We decided that it would be a fun place to visit, and after a stop for lunch (the restaurant was on the canal near the Cat Boat and we had omelettes), we spent some time with the cats. On our way out, we made a donation and purchased souvenir T-shirts, and then studied a nest of recently hatched coots next to the Cat Boat. We spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering along the canals and looking for the perfect souvenirs.

We decided to end our day with a stop at Winkel’s 43. We started with selections from the appetizers on the menu (curry cauliflower soup with thick slices of fresh bread, and a salmon sandwich on puff pastry), and finished with their legendary apple pie with whipped cream. Back to the houseboat for some late night conversation with our hostess. And then it was time for bed.

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Amsterdam (Day Four) and Departure

Nothing was scheduled for our last full day in Amsterdam. This gave us an opportunity to find the ultimate souvenir and explore new neighborhoods. My niece was in search of something unique for friends back home, so we decided to visit the Nine Streets area. After a stop at Starbuck’s for coffee and muffins, we took the tram to Jordaan and walked along the streets with occasional stops to check out merchandise in the interesting shops.

We agreed that it would be worthwhile to visit a local flea market, and after a refueling stop (gelato for them, a waffle drizzled with chocolate for me), we made our way to the Waterlooplein market. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed our walk along the canals. We admired the colorful flower boxes and even indulged in a little petunia deadheading.

Across the canal from the market, the carillon at Zuiderkerk chimed “Clocks” by ColdPlay while my niece perused booths filled with interesting trinkets. She had fun bartering for her purchases. We also saw an amazing collection of T-shirts unlike the cheesy dope and sex oriented ones in some of the more touristy shops.

Our last dinner in Amsterdam was a rijstaffel at Puri Mas. We selected the basic offering, and watched with interest as the hostess placed the dishes on the plate warmers in front of us. She told us about the ingredients in each one, and then explained that they were arranged from least to most spicy. We started at the “least spicy” side, and enjoyed the variety of flavors while we ate our way to the “most spicy” side. As we started on the last dish, a waitress appeared to fill up our water glasses. She stayed at our table while we ate the spicy beef, and with an amused expression on her face, continued to refill our water glasses until we were finished. We had a good laugh about that and then watched as she moved to another table with her refilled pitcher. We guessed they were approaching the “most spicy” side.

We took our time heading back to the houseboat, lingering along the canals and in the narrow streets. When we got back, we sorted through our belongings and packed our bags. And then it was time for bed.

Amsterdam (Departure Day)

We decided to walk to Centraal Station, and as we rolled our bags along the canal, we said our good byes to the coots and other water fowl in the canal, to the neighbor’s friendly cat who monitored our comings and goings, and to the throngs of bicyclists whizzing past us.

At Centraal, we purchased three one-way tickets to Schipol and made our way to platforms 14 and 15 where we boarded the next train that stopped at Schipol. The airport’s train station is in the terminal, and it’s a quick walk to the main level where we searched the departures board to find out which which check-in desk was assigned to our Icelandair flight. Our return fare included one checked bag, which we were happy to do. We got our boarding passes and had plenty of time to spend our last Euros on chocolate and snacks for the flight.

Our layover at Keflavik was the usual chaos, but we rapidly moved through Schengen immigration and had time to purchase some snacks for our return flight. Once again we queued in a holding area for busses to take us to our plane. The agents had to continually announce our flight number as there was another Minneapolis-bound flight scheduled for departure within 30 minutes of ours. Our return flight was uneventful and the process to get through customs and retrieve our bags was relatively quick. And once we got home, we unloaded our bags into the washing machine and opened the Belgian chocolates as we reflected on our great trip. And then it was time to get back to reality.

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Random Thoughts and Reflection

•Belgium is highly underrated. Now that I’ve had a little taste, my appetite is whetted for more of this interesting county. I would definitely like to return to Bruges and Ghent, and add Antwerp and Ypres to my wish list. And Amsterdam so unique that it’s hard to find words to describe it. We are already talking about another trip that includes a bike ride and The Hague along with some smaller cities and towns.

•Navigational skills, mass transportation and our feet got us everywhere. On most days, we walked a minimum of 5 miles, and some of our unplanned detours added considerably to the daily total. The biggest challenge was learning the nuances of the various mass transit systems (ticket purchases, day passes, how to check in/out, route maps, etc.) I am partial to old-fashioned hardcopy maps, and I had some useful ones for this trip.

•Almost everyone speaks English, in some cases very good English. Even the houseboat owner’s kids were able to give us a guided tour in a mix of English and Dutch, and his adorable son insisted on showing my niece how to log in to Netflix (totally in Dutch of course).

•For the first time ever, I made a list of places to eat in each city we visited so that we didn’t have to wander around on empty stomachs in search of a restaurant. We used it for about half of our meals. Fortunately, there are plenty of mid-priced and casual restaurants in Ghent and Amsterdam.

•I always read the payment and cancellation policies very closely. The houseboat reservation required a 50% deposit, with the balance due via wire transfer or cash at check-in. I didn’t want to walk around with that much cash, so I decided to do a wire transfer a few days before our trip. Based on someone's helpful post on the RS forum, I used Transferwise which had low fees and fast turnaround times.

•Somehow these trips seem to only get better as time passes. And this one is no exception.

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Belgium - Ghent (Last half day)

I apologize that this post is out of order.

On Saturday morning we packed our bags, ate breakfast, checked out and stored our bags at the hotel while we enjoyed a few more hours in Ghent. We had planned our morning to see the Mystic Lamb, buy souvenirs and make a farewell visit to the waffle stand.

Our first stop was St. Bavo’s cathedral which was interesting and full of sculptures and paintings. We oohed and aahed as we visited the chapels, but we kept our eyes on the ticket booth for the Mystic Lamb. At 9:00am it was still empty, so we headed to the gift shop, which was also locked. About 15 minutes later, the ticket agent appeared. When we paid our admission, he mentioned that his “colleague” would be along shortly. There were only a few of us inside the chapel where the Altarpiece was on display, and we found a printed explanation of the panels. Fortunately, the “colleague” arrived and distributed audio guides which had a more detailed narrative. It took about 40 minutes to listen to the complete guide, and as we were finishing, the chapel was starting to get crowded. We made one last trip past the gift shop but it was still closed. As we left St. Bavo’s, we concluded that it must have been a good night of partying somewhere in Ghent.

What could be a better souvenir than Belgian chocolate? We made a stop at Luc Van Hoorebeke’s chocolaterie which is a few buildings from St. Bavo’s. The woman in the shop was very nice and patiently answered our questions about the beautiful chocolates. I purchased several gift boxes for my friends, and asked her to decide what to put in them. She carefully wrapped each gift box with paper and ribbon, and gave us each a free sample of Vietnamese chocolate.

We finished our last morning in Ghent with a final visit to the waffle stand. The proprietor was setting up when we arrived. He told us the waffle iron wasn’t hot yet, and asked us to come back in 10 minutes. When we returned, the stand was swarmed by a Spanish tour group whose guide had purchased a bag of Cuberdon (fruit flavored candy with a jelly center) for each of them. We were amused by their excitement as we had tried Cuberdons earlier and found them to be...yucky. At long last the waffle iron was heated up and we ordered three waffles; one with whipped cream, one with strawberries and one with chocolate. A little more heaven. We sat on the edge of a canal wall and took turns sampling the toppings while reflecting on our wonderful time in Belgium. And then it was time to go to Amsterdam.

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13735 posts

TC, thanks so much for your nice trip report!

I need to stick up a little for Bruges....

My niece decided it would be fun to visit the Chocolate Story so we
walked there and arrived just as it opened. We spent about an hour
touring the exhibits and decided it was...just OK....We did some more
wandering and window shopping, always on the lookout for that perfect
souvenir. By this time large numbers of tourists were swarming the
Markt and adjacent side streets making it difficult to pass on the
sidewalks. We talked about visiting more sites in Bruges or heading to
Ostend, and due to the crowds we decided to do the latter.

We spent 4 nights (1 day trip to Gent) in Bruges including its busiest day of the year ( UNESCO recognized "Procession of the Holy Blood") and found breathing room in corners the mob does not venture to. Like some other tourist magnets, it's a town which begs to be stayed in versus day tripped as that's when you'll find those golden hours when the day-trippers are not around, Many visitors also don't venture far beyond the area around the Markt and Berg during peak hours so a wander away will turn up some interesting back streets, churches and museums. Some of those will be busy, sure, but are easily balanced with others which are not, and are well worth putting up with more versus fewer bodies for a bit as they're so important to the Bruges story.

So give that one a longer 2nd look if you're ever able to?

Now that I’ve had a little taste, my appetite is whetted for more of
this interesting county. I would definitely like to return to Bruges
and Ghent, and add Antwerp and Ypres to my wish list.

Sounds as if that longer stay is already in the plan! :O)
We liked Antwerp very much too (3 nights).

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12 posts

TC: I think you have a great point about Belgium being highly underrated. We have been there two years in a row now and the country is wonderful! Gorgeous architecture, history and wonderful people! We have been to Mechelen, Gent, Antwerp and Bruges; yet there is still so much we haven't experienced we are heading back soon! Hope you get back as well!

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2225 posts

Thank you for this well written trip report. So, you flew from US for just 6 days in Belgium? Were you not able to go for longer? How much was your R/T ticket on Icelandair?

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2158 posts

TC,
I enjoyed your report, so full of interesting details and information. I recently made a trip to Paris and Amsterdam in April. We actually stayed in Haarlem, a very interesting city established in 1290 a local told me. It was an easy train ride from Amsterdam. And, Haarlem has several good museums and the Corrie ten Boom house.
We had reservations for the Anne Frank House and thought the crowd management was excellent. We also had 9 am tickets for the Van Gogh Museum, we went through the permanent collection first and we were up close and personal with each painting, that was wonderful! Then the Van Gogh and Japan exhibit was a little crowded, not like the RijksMuseum!

Also, loved The Hague and a visit to the Mauritshuis is fabulous, go early as it’s mobbed later in the day. Also, spent a few hours in Delft, worth enduring the crowds.
I didn’t go to Belgium, another time.

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31 posts

Thank you for the trip report. We were in Amsterdam for a short two days last September before a river cruise and I absolutely loved it.

We also went to the Anne Frank house which is wonderfully done-their crowd control is awesome. We went to the Van Gogh Museum in the early evening. I really liked that museum because it shows the transition in his art. We also went to the Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandt and Vermeer. It’s such a huge museum tho that in retrospect a tour may have been better.

Anyway that trip convinced me I would like to go back so we are considering a week long bike ride in Belgium combined with a few days in Amsterdam.

Thanks for reminding me of a wonderful trip! Happy travels!

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681 posts

What a wonderful trip report. Makes me ache to travel to Amsterdam again.

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61 posts

Thank you for your wonderful trip report. We are heading to Amsterdam in early September. We are revisiting our plan to see if we make any improvements. We were thinking of our only day trip being to Delft. Can't wait to go!

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809 posts

Thanks for this great trip report! I leave next Monday for a long trip starting in Amsterdam and Belgium, and I’ll see if we can fit in some of your suggestions.

I had thought about a houseboat- how did that work for you? Did it feel crowded, or damp? Was it an AirBnB?

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34 posts

@kathy - Many folks have posted on this forum about how Bruges is transformed once the day trip visitors leave. We were lucky enough to experience a little of this city's magic early in the morning, and are looking for a chance to return and spend more time there. I already have a list of places I want to visit including the Church of Our Lady. IIRC, in another post you provided the fascinating backstory of Charles the Bold and his daughter, the duchess Mary, who are buried there.

@diveloonie - Yes, we traveled from the Twin Cities to Brussels/Amsterdam for 6 nights. Real world commitments (aka jobs, pets, graduations and a wedding) dictated the length of this trip. I have made multiple trips to Europe for 6 night, 7 days (London, Paris, Rome) and I learned to make the most of my limited time by not biting off more than I can chew. I am looking forward to the day when I can spend more time abroad on each trip. We flew open jaw, so our ticket is priced in two segments. Our Minneapolis to Brussels leg was the super, duper economy fare ($208) and our return from Amsterdam to Minneapolis was ($350).

@Kathleen - The houseboat we rented is listed on multiple sites, including AirBnB. I rented it through www.houseboathotel.nl. When I imagined what it might be like to stay on a houseboat, I thought that it would be small, cramped space that was damp, fishy smelling and rocked back and forth. On the contrary! It was spacious (must more room more than a hotel), not damp or smelly, and it was stable. I especially liked its location; a residential area, but within a 10 minute walk to Centraal Station.

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2554 posts

Did your niece ever find that perfect souvenir? We have been to Amsterdam 2x, last trip for 9 days. We love it. We day tripped to Brugges, Delft, Haarlem, and Edam. I can't rave enough about the Wednesday cheese market in Edam. It is definitely on our return to list. Thank you for the report.

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2057 posts

TC, my husband and I spent 10 days in Bruges and found lots (and lots and lots) to do. We took some day trips and rode bikes everywhere (even across the border-beautiful bike paths) due to the fact that our B&B rate included bikes for both of us. It was so lovely to just live something like a local for those wonderful 10 days and not feel rushed to do/see anything or be anywhere on a schedule. I loved Bruges and would go back in a heartbeat. Thank you for posting your informative and comprehensive trip report. It's full of valuable information and sounds like you had a wonderful time!

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34 posts

@Barbara
We made several noteworthy purchases as personal mementos and as gifts for friends and family. First and foremost was Belgian chocolate. At the flea market in Waterlooplein my niece bought a pocket watch and some jewelry. We found my personal favorite at a bike shop in the Nine Streets area. It was a bicycle bell in the style of Delft china; white with a blue windmill.

Posted by
13735 posts

@kathy -.....I already have a list of places I want to visit including
the Church of Our Lady. IIRC, in another post you provided the
fascinating backstory of Charles the Bold and his daughter, the
duchess Mary, who are buried there.

LOL, TC! Can't believe you unearthed that old post!

Posted by
1000 posts

I enjoyed reading your trip report, thanks for sharing. We spent 2 full days in Amsterdam last year and combined a Bruges and Ghent trip in one day. It was crazy busy but gave us a taste for next time. We were there In the spring and had a great day enjoying the tulips at Keukenhof.