Day 7: Travel to Paris

We got a bright and early start today. We had train tickets to travel from Brussels to Paris, but we had to get to Brussels first. That meant walking through Bruges 1.7 km (on cobblestone streets) to the train station. We left with plenty of time and ventured across town. This was not my favorite part of our trip and the kids and Jeff can attest to the fact that there was much swearing involved. Little did I know that it would get worse before it got better.The good news is that we made it with plenty of time to catch a train to get us to Brussels. The bad news (and what we did not know) was that one train line was down and our train would arrive 19 minutes late. We had a 20 minute transfer time and arrived just in time to see our Paris bound train pulling out of the station. Fortunately, the train line rebooked our tickets for the next train and upgraded os to a cushy first class cabin. We made it to Paris just after 1pm. Caught a taxi to the hotel and rested up for a bit. I had purchased some museum passes that required that I pick them up in person, so after a while we set out on foot to find the travel office. Google Maps said it was a 15 minute walk. Jeff, Kai and Kiki were not convinced that I had and idea where we were going me and found a bench to sit and wait about 3/4 of the way there. I found the office without a hitch, picked up the passes and reunited with my exhausted family. Along the way we were about to see many sights, including the Louvre courtyard and famous pyramid, Notre Dame Cathedral, Pont Neuf, Pont des Arts, Fontaine Saint-Michel and many Bouquinistes, riverside booksellers that also sell a variety of trinkets and souvenirs. We were all exhausted from a long day, so we returned to the hotel. Jeff wanted to get out and see Paris at night, so he took a stroll through the Saint-Germain area near our hotel. He was able to capture some breathtaking pictures of Notre Dame Cathedral and witness the excitement of a warm summer Paris night along the river Seine. He even brought us delightfully delicious pizza, which we devoured before drifting off to sleep.

Bonsoir!(and Goodness Nacho!)

Day 6 Summer 2018: Bruges, Belgium

If you have a spare week, spend in in Bruges, Belgium.

This well-preserved medieval town is fascinating. There is something new to find around every turn.

Upon first arriving, I took a lengthy walk around. Once I ventured beyond the central tourist core, I only encountered a handful of people during my two hour jaunt. Just when I thought there was nothing more to see, I’d turn a corner or find a hidden alley and a sidewalk cafe, a sculpture, a church or museum would suddenly make self known. I even encountered three windmills AND a public urinal (boys only).

Having had a nice introvert refresh just yesterday, I didn’t feel like I needed to spring up out of bed and marathon our way through town. Instead, we had a nice breakfast at a sidewalk cafe (Belgian waffles!) and then started walking. During our breakfast, we saw a wedding party arrive for their wedding at the nearby basilica. The bride and her beaming father pulled up in a vintage convertible Rolls Royce. The men loitering around the square were taken aback by the car, while the ladies were cheering for the bride.

I had read that Saturday was market day in Bruges, so I suggested we find the vistmarkt (fish market). Of course we were distracted by all of the chocolate shops, stopping to buy little bags of the pieces that looked most intriguing. Kiki especially loved looking (and eating) all of the chocolates. Her new favorite is a strawberry praline, sort of crunchy, filled with strawberry mousse and coated in white chocolate.

We finally found our way to the vistmarket only to find just a few flea market stalls set up. A few was enough for us to find a few treasures before heading back to the hotel to drop them off.

Since the World Cup was happening AND Belgium was playing Tunisia, Jeff wanted to experience fútbol with the locals. He found a pub, while the girls and I visited a couple of kid-friendly museums.

The Frietmuseum is a great place to go to learn all about potatoes and their history throughout civilization. It goes on to explain the introduction of Belgian frites as an innovation that fishermen came up with because they didn’t have fish to fry in the winter, but they always had plenty of potatoes. In fact, we saw field after field of the. On our way through Belgium.

The Choco-Story is a museum that traces the origins of chocolate from the Mayans until modern times. It included exhibits on the prominence of Belgium in the global chocolate scene, a room full of chocolate sculptures, a demonstration on how specialty chocolates are made and, of course, a gift shop.

To round out the day, the girls and I checked out some local clothing shops. Kiki got outfitted in a Belgian National Futbol Team jacket and jersey. Kai got some knick knacks.

I really wanted to climb the centuries old clock tower in the market square, so we left the kids to rest and went to climb the steps without them. Unfortunately, after waiting in the line a short time, the line keeper came out and cut off entry right behind the couple in front of us. Instead, we retrieved the kids and had an enjoyable dinner at an open-air cafe on the market square. There was a 1/4 triathlon culminating in the square so we were able to cheer on the finishers as we sat and stuffed our faces.

All in all, a successful and very enjoyable day in Brugge!

Goodness nacho!

Day 5 Summer 2018: The Hague, Delft and travel to Bruges, Belgium

I had planned a few things to do in The Hague, but after getting there, I changed my mind. We wanted to get on the road to Belgium so we packed up first thing in the morning and hit the road.

Delft, known most recently for its signature blue and white pottery was just a 20 drive from The Hague on our way out of the Netherlands. I wanted to take a quick spin through the town to get a feel for what it’s all about. We quickly found a place to park and wandered to the market square. The market square, or markt, is typically the center of a small town. Larger towns may have several or markets for specific goods. Bruges, for example has the vismarket or “fish market.” Most towns have special market days in which market stalls are set up to sell goods. Sometimes specific days are for specific things, like flowers.We haven’t been able to catch any cities on market day, yet.

We stayed in Delft just under an hour, long enough to circle the market square and buy a few souvenirs. I thought it would be a good place to have some breakfast/lunch, but everyone said that they weren’t hungry.

Immediately upon returning to the car and navigating our way to the highway, everyone was suddenly STARVING. Fortunately, we spotted a Starbucks at the service area at the highway entrance, and were able to prevent death by starvation (this time).

A few hours on the road and we arrived in Bruges (say brooj), one of Europe’s most finely-preserved medieval towns. Bruges is connected to the North Sea by a canal and, like Amsterdam is a town filled with many canals, one almost completely encircling it where the medieval walls once stood. After checking in to the hotel, Jeff set out to return the rental car and the girls and I rested awhile.

When Jeff returned, we set out on foot to explore and find a proper meal. The weather was almost perfect, not too warm and sunny. There were dozens of restaurants to choose from. We settled for “Brugge Link” because of the traditional Flemish menu. (Bruges is the capital of the Belgian province of West Flanders.) It was the best meal that we have had so far this trip. Jeff had rabbit, Kiki had chicken stew, Kai the traditional “waterzooi,” and me the farmer’s plate with a 1/2 meter sausage and mashed potatoes. After dinner the kids had some gelato and went t the pool with Jeff.

I took advantage of the time to go on a self-guided walking tour of the town using the map from the hotel. When all was said and done, I walked about 4 miles weaving in and out of cobbled roadways through the northwest portion of town seeing many “often overlooked” sites (per the map legend) along the way. It was a much needed respite from my family, that gave me a good overall picture helping me to feel like we didn’t need to pack too many sights into our next day.

If I had it to do over, I would have skipped The Hague and stayed a bit longer in Bruges. I loved it very much, despite the Disneyland crowd-levels that I wouldn’t discover until tomorrow.

Goodness nacho!