Europe – Day 11 – February 4th, 2018: Antwerp, Belgium to Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Adventure, food, Just things, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

The view from our room in Antwerp, Belgium

We got some pretty good rest last night and headed out around 9. When we got to the station it was right on time to catch our first train of the day to go to Amsterdam, and to finish the trip a train change in Rotterdam. We saw a couple of classic windmills yesterday as we went through the countryside.

We were told the Antwerp station is a UNESCO World Heritage Site but I haven’t verified that as of yet. It’s the same as the others we have been in – grand, beautiful and a reminder of the opulence of earlier times that continue today in Europe. The station here is the most incredible one that I’ve ever seen.

Interesting escalator with two pitches in Antwerpen Centraal – Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerpen Centraal – Antwerp, Belgium

There were not any pictures taken in the train. The windows were just too nasty to see anything very clearly. We got into a little weather but we have been prepared for it pretty well.

Once we got to Amsterdam our hotel was a five minute walk, and it turned out better than what we thought it would be. Lots and lots of foods and plenty of vice in the area – “coffeehouses”, sex shops, prostitutes in windows, “smart shops” and the like. Not an area for the weak or prude or kids. Our hotel was in the Redlight District (just for a change of neighborhoods and nothing else other than it was very affordable yet nice). It is a lively area with a lot to see and do.

We got settled in and went out for something to eat. We have eaten the frites min a few places around the city before and they are delicious. They deep-fry the fries until almost done, then take them out and set them aside. When you order them, they pop them back into the fryer to finish cooking and it also gives them that delectable crunch.

We opted instead for a waffle. I had a waffle with Nutella drizzled over it and I also got a strawberry crepe. We did some more strolling around after that to see more sights then went back to the hotel.

I went out for a walk alone when it got dark out. I wanted to get out into the night’s crowds and excitement and check out the area. It is a very exciting area with tons of food to try. I went back to the hotel and Jim was ready to go out again.

Church in Redlight District – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Street in front of our hotel – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Street in front of our hotel – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Nighttime in Amsterdam

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oh…damn…

We got out for a walk and a late-night snack. I got this tasty morsel – a chocolate-covered flaky croissant, split and filled with creme filling, strawberries, walnuts, and topped with Nutella.

This is a fun city, and nighttime is even more exciting. The first place we stayed in on the way over was in a different area than this last one in the Red Light District. Completely different feel but I did like them both.

It’s a great last evening for now!

Europe – Day 10 – February 3rd, 2018: Köln, Germany to Antwerp, Belgium

Adventure, food, Just things, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

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Back to the rails!

After a delicious bakery breakfast (gonna miss the bakeries!), it’s back on the train to our next stop. Our hotel is situated not only on the open plaza between two cathedrals, out the back door is a shopping center (with the previously mentioned bakeries) located in the train station. Of course we had to go there for breakfast.

Apparently the train is another high-speed train, and it seems as though we may be in a First Class car. Plenty of room, comfy and hauling ass. They checked our ticket and passports and didn’t make us move. This train and the one yesterday had a coffee/snack cart just like the airlines do. The seats even have fold-down footrests!

Our original plan was to stay at Brugge (Bruges), Belgium but there were no rooms available when we arrived so we had to move on. Seems as though there was a bier festival happening so it was quite busy. We didn’t have much time to look around the city and we needed to move on to find a place to stay for the night. Looks like we’re headed to Antwerp!

Brugge, Belgium

Doorway – Brugge, Belgium

One of the canals in Brugge, Belgium

One of the canals in Brugge, Belgium

Church in Brugge, Belgium

 

We got to Antwerp and the train station was remarkable. We have seen nice train stations but this one was extraordinary.

Antwerpen Centraal Station – Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerpen Centraal Station – Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerpen Centraal Station – Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerpen Centraal Station – Antwerp, Belgium

 

Antwerpen Centraal Station – Antwerp, Belgium

Our hotel ended up being rather interesting. We ended up staying in. Hassidic neighborhood and our hotel was far from any sights and food except for a local pizza chain. It appeared to be a somewhat rundown area but it wasn’t too bad when we went walking. There was a local Polish grocery market. The pizza was a quatro formaggi, but we are not sure WHICH formaggi. I think it was feta, mozzarella but not sure about the other two. It was different than cheese pizzas I have had before and it was delicious and the best cheese pizza I’ve ever tasted. The walk to get it was actually interesting and fun.

We crashed early and got a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow it’s another place!

Europe – Day 8 – February 1st, 2018: Brussels, Belgium to Luxembourg

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

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Statue near Grand Place – Brussels, Belgium

Our hotel was in a central area near downtown so the train stops were not very far apart for where we wanted to go. The area we were in was very interesting to see in the daylight. Most of the buildings were not what I expected – modern and minimalist. Function over form.

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City Center Near Our Hotel – Brussels, Belgium

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City Center Near Our Hotel – Brussels, Belgium

We cut across a botanical park and it was a very mice park. Even those things it was quite cool and blustery there were roses in bloom and I saw something familiar in Washington…rhododendrons!

The Grand Place, however, was what I expected in Europe and much, much more. Grand centuries-old buildings, ornate beyond belief. It was breath-taking to walk into a square hundreds of years old surrounded by some incredible architecture.

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Side Street Near Grand Place – Brussels, Belgium

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Grand Place – Brussels, Belgium

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Grand Place – Brussels, Belgium

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Side Street Near Grand Place – Brussels, Belgium

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Grand Place – Brussels, Belgium

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Grand Place – Brussels, Belgium

Grand Place has been used as a gathering place for centuries. It is ringed with chocolatier shops and restaurants. It has been used as a public market and is a massive plaza.

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Waffle Stand in Grand Place – Brussels, Belgium

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Waffle Stand in Grand Place – Brussels, Belgium

For breakfast we stopped by this waffle shop and grabbed something to eat. Jim got the white-and-milk chocolate churros (which were nothing like we are used to in the States). I got a waffle with cherries on top and a coffee. It was a great way to start the day in a gorgeous place.

We made our way to the train to head out to our next destination. We finally found the correct train platform but asked a local guy to make sure we were in the right place. He spoke very little English but a girl walked up to get on the train who spoke it and she helped us out.

We climbed aboard and settled in for a three hour train ride. We got to see some beautiful scenery on the journey – small villages, cities, rolling green hills, estates and vineyards.

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On The Train Between Brussels and Luxembourg

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On The Train Between Brussels and Luxembourg

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On The Train Between Brussels and Luxembourg

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On The Train Between Brussels and Luxembourg

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On The Train Between Brussels and Luxembourg

As we pulled into Luxembourg the girl that helped us out earlier came back and talked to us. We talked about our travels and she gave us some ideas. She even showed us to a hotel and helped us get checked in with Reception by speaking French. She also gave us some ideas for food and some things to see.

Unfortunately we did not get her name, but she really helped us out. In the odd chance she may see this at some point we would like to say “merci” from the two Americans you helped out. Best of luck with your law school!

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Luxembourg -Train Ststion in Center

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Train Station – Luxembourg

We went out for food and took a stroll around. Tomorrow we’ll set an alarm to get an early start with sightseeing downtown then it’s back to the station to catch another train!

Europe – Day 7 – January 31st, 2018: London, England and Brussels, Belgium

Adventure, food, Just things, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

Admiralty Arch near Trafalgar Square – London, England

That’s right…back to the Continent today.

We got up and went back to the bakery I went to yesterday and grabbed a fresh croissant with ham and cheese, coffee, and another piece of raspberry torte.

Our train was not until this afternoon so we took in a bus ride and did some more sightseeing before checking out of our hotel. It was a rainy day in London, just a few sprinkles but overcast, grey, and a bit breezy. Much like home for me.

Our morning destination was Trafalgar Square, another famous place we have always heard about.

We got off the bus in front of the National Gallery. It’s an area not too far from the big attractions but we weren’t going to get to see some of them being on a limited time schedule today but that’s okay. I am quite certain that I will be back again. I have to…I have British Pounds left over.

Trafalgar Square – London, England

Trafalgar Square – London, England

Trafalgar Square – London, England

Trafalgar Square – London, England

Admiralty Arch near Trafalgar Square – London, England

One odd and interesting thing we saw was a Harris hawk and it’s handler.

Trafalgar Square pigeon control

They use the hawks as “pigeon control”. It is a huge open square and apparently they had a huge pigeon problem due to tourists feeding them. Perhaps they should use the hawks to take out the tourists instead.

It is a natural way to control pests at least…kinda like getting a cat to keep the mice away in your house.

It has been interesting to see in London there are crews sweeping and keeping the sidewalks clean. Most of what we have seen so far in the places we have been is that things are generally pretty clean. We never saw crews in any of the other cities.

We went back to our hotel and checked out of our room. Time to head back to St. Pancras Station to hop on the Eurostar – the bullet train – to leave London for Brussels. The train goes nearly 200 miles an hour and goes through The Chunnel. Pretty weird hauling ass through a tunnel under the English Channel. It was a fast and smooth ride.

Eurostar high-speed train

Inside the Eurostar high-speed train

We got to Brussels about 6 PM and checked in to our hotel room. We were hungry so I found another Italian restaurant nearby. Off we went into the night through the dark backstreets of Brussels.

We ended up at le Chambord after an interesting journey to get there. We started down the road and turned the corner where we went past some, shall we say, strange people that we kept an eye on…until we walked past windows full of red lights and prostitutes. Just another day in Europe I guess.

Dinner was great. Penne carbonara with bread, a glass of wine and an appetizer of tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, greens, and balsamic. We left there quite full.

We wrapped up the night looking at options for our next destination. We have an idea but we’ll see what happens and where we end up!