Amsterdam-Brussels-Paris journey an awesome style of Europe

Whenever you consider Europe’s nice cities, that are in your checklist?

I used to be fortunate sufficient to go to three of those who have lengthy been on my bucket checklist on a current journey with Pioneer Press readers.

We explored Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris, and although I realized rather a lot and loved myself immensely, I additionally discovered that I’d like extra time in every place.

I used to be charmed by Amsterdam’s combine of recent and historic structure, but in addition its canals and quirky meals; by Brussels’ beer tradition and the medieval fantastic thing about Bruges on a day journey from there; and by, nicely, all the pieces Paris has to supply.


Even by means of the jet lag, I may inform straight away that Amsterdam is a spot wherein I may spend some critical time.

Our resort was alongside one of many metropolis’s copious canals and had an enthralling view of the Nationwide Opera & Ballet theater.

The resort’s again entrance spilled onto Rembrandt Sq., which is filled with eating places and bars, most of which have sidewalk patios the place most patrons had been seated in the course of the stunning spring climate. After arrival, I dropped my baggage and headed out the again door, discovering a seat within the midst of the motion. I sipped a fruity Texels, the Dutch beer that I fell in love with immediately and sought out all through my time there. I additionally scalded the roof of my mouth on bitterballen, little croquettes of molten, silky potatoes, usually studded with little bits of veal.

I relaxed within the plentiful sunshine till it was time to prepare for dinner, which was on the historic Restaurant 1e Klas within the metropolis’s busy practice station.

It was pretty to get to know a few of my fellow vacationers whereas being entertained by Elvis, the restaurant’s show-off of a cockatoo, who pranced and preened and did methods from his perch close to our desk.

The following morning, we had been off brilliant and early to catch a ship, which took us on a tour of Amsterdam through canal. We realized a lot from our native information in regards to the metropolis, which is actually constructed upon the ocean. The canals had been constructed to guard the slim buildings, which largely relaxation upon piles — massive wood stakes pushed into the moist soil. Fashionable foundations within the metropolis are manufactured from concrete, however lots of the historic buildings nonetheless relaxation upon these wood piles, and plenty of of them charmingly tilt this fashion or that. Throughout the tour, we floated previous a gaggle of homes known as the dancing homes, a colourful grouping of row homes recognized for lilting each which means.

The opposite a part of canal dwelling that I hadn’t thought of was the proliferation of houseboats, which line almost each a part of the canals. Individuals dwell full time in these vessels, that are parked completely within the metropolis middle. We handed many {couples} sipping espresso from their decks and marveled on the inventive gardens that a lot of them carry on the decks and rooftops of their boats.

After the boat tour, we obtained a strolling tour of the town, throughout which we tasted many native delicacies, together with all kinds of native gouda. (Seems, the Dutch love their cheese nearly as a lot as individuals do in my house state of Wisconsin. The typical Dutch particular person eats 31.5 kilos of cheese per yr, which is only a bit behind the dairy-loving state to our east, which is sitting at about 38 kilos.)

We additionally tried pickled herring. I nonetheless don’t love the stuff in its pure state, however it seems that when it’s deep-fried, it’s rather more tolerable.

We realized that Suriname, and its delicacies, have turn out to be a giant a part of the Dutch tradition and food plan. The previous colony, a tiny nation on the northern coast of South America, is thought for bara, which is actually deep-fried soaked lentils, served with brilliant chutney. It was crisp, fluffy and pleasant, and even probably the most Minnesotan of our palates didn’t discover the “spicy” chutney too scorching.

When the tour was over, we had been every handed a large stroopwafel — the skinny, caramel-stuffed waffles which might be made to soften over a cup of scorching espresso or tea — and despatched on our means.

A factor I really like in regards to the Collette excursions we take is that we now have loads of free time to discover on our personal. There was one factor that was on the high of my checklist of must-dos in Amsterdam, and it was to see the Anne Frank Home. Like so many teenagers, I learn the e-book once I was about Anne’s age, and it made an indelible mark on me.

Climbing the slim, steep stairs as much as the annex the place the Frank household hid for 2 years was unbelievable, and I couldn’t cease excited about how nicely younger Anne described her dwelling scenario. And that if she had been alive, she’d in all probability be an achieved journalist, novelist or each.

Regardless of the disappointment of her story, it was heartwarming to see the enduring legacy Anne was in a position to go away throughout her brief time on Earth. A hush fell over the exuberant German youngsters whom I entered the exhibit alongside after they entered the annex. I even noticed just a few boys wipe a tear.

That evening, I had dinner reservations with just a few individuals from the tour. We ate at The Seafood Room, recognized for — you guessed it — seafood plucked straight from the ocean. We noshed on oysters, mussels, clams, shrimp and extra and headed house completely satisfied and full.

A sculpture colored by dyed wool at Floriade, the once-in-a-decade horticultural expo in The Netherlands. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)
A sculpture coloured by dyed wool at Floriade, the once-in-a-decade horticultural expo in The Netherlands. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

The following morning, it was time to go to Floriade, the once-in-a-decade horticultural expo simply outdoors of Amsterdam. The grounds of the expo are sprawling, and will probably be changed into a form of sustainable citytopia when the expo wraps up later this yr. Many international locations had pavilions with details about their sustainability efforts, and a large greenhouse served as a showroom for colourful floral reveals.

Actually, although, as cool as Floriade was, it couldn’t maintain a candle to the following day’s journey — the tulip-filled Keukenhof Gardens southwest of the town.

The large gardens embody 7 million flowering tulips, daffodils and different bulb flowers. It’s a deal with for the senses, and I fortunately spent hours wandering and photographing a rainbow of pert, vibrant flowers, all reaching charmingly for the solar.

Instantly after the gardens, we headed south for Brussels.


A number of hours on our snug coach later, we arrived in Brussels. It’s a giant metropolis — and it’s rising — and for those who suppose building season in Minnesota is unhealthy, you must go to for some perspective. Our arrival was delayed by a minimum of an hour, throughout which we in all probability traveled 5 miles.

Our welcome dinner introduced us to the middle of this charming metropolis, to a different historic restaurant, Chez Leon, established in 1867. We noshed on moules frites — mussels with fries — and sampled the home beer, a pleasant, gentle Belgian beer that was deceptively sturdy.

In medieval times, the blood of cows was used to color this building in Bruges, Belgium. Also note the distinctive stair-like rooftop. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)
In medieval instances, the blood of cows was used to paint this constructing in Bruges, Belgium. Additionally be aware the distinctive stair-like rooftop. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

The following day, for many of us, it was off to Bruges, a UNESCO metropolis somewhat over an hour northwest of Brussels.

The coastal metropolis additionally has a collection of canals, and most of us selected a ship tour to be taught extra.

A lot of the medieval structure of the town stays intact. Our captain and information instructed us that the step-like peaks on the roofs had been meant to convey a closeness to the heavens. And the more cash you had, the upper your roof may climb.

A horse and buggy in the foreground of a photo of the belfry of Bruges, Belgium
The belfry of Bruges, Belgium. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

After the boat experience, we cruised into the Chapel of the Holy Blood and take a peek at a big vial with a chunk of material that’s mentioned to have been saturated with Christ’s blood. No photographs or talking is allowed within the chapel, which is ornate and historic, like so many in Europe.

On the way in which out, we stopped at one of many many wonderful chocolate retailers on the town and picked up some truffles and bars for our households at house.

For dinner, just a few friends joined me for a pleasant meal at Les Brigittines, a standard however upscale Belgian restaurant. A tasting menu, which consisted of fats white asparagus, a young, wealthy veal cheek and a pavlova smothered in recent, candy, very in-season strawberries, ran us a really affordable $65 Euros apiece.

The following morning, we hopped on the high-speed practice, conveniently situated adjoining to our resort, and set off for Paris.


The practice was a beautiful technique to journey. We noticed plenty of the beautiful Belgian and French countryside and arrived in Paris in about two and a half hours.

As we waited for our resort rooms to be prepared, our coach dropped us in Montmarte, a bohemian artists’ neighborhood (Van Gogh as soon as lived right here) on a hill overlooking Paris. It was a beautiful introduction to the town, with its cobblestone streets, copious sidewalk cafes and artists portray throughout its most important sq..

We wandered across the streets for some time earlier than selecting a spot for lunch. A contemporary artwork gallery we popped into had a choice of art work devoted to Prince. It appears Minnesota’s most well-known son has made his mark in all places on the earth.

I had actual French onion soup for the primary time, and marveled at its candy/salty steadiness — so many eating places within the states tilt it to far towards the salty facet of issues. And naturally, a glass of champagne, as a result of, France.

Within the night, I selected the optionally available dinner at Paradis Latin, a standard cabaret present. The lengthy and complex roots of this present — its authentic house burned within the late 1800s — return to 1803, when Napoleon Bonaparte created “Theater Latin.”

The present was wildly entertaining, from its flamboyant costumes to the acrobatic dancers to the copious quantity of wine that was served.

Within the morning, we launched into the one bus tour of the journey — each different tour was on foot. It was a good way to cowl plenty of floor rapidly and listen to in regards to the historical past of websites like the large Arc de Triomphe, the fashionable avenue Champs-Elysees, the cathedral of Notre Dame and extra. Although the cathedral tragically caught hearth in 2019, its facade stays largely intact, and it was price getting out of the coach for a better have a look at the ornate church and to see the intensive harm — and work that’s being performed to revive it.

We had been let loose for lunch, and I used to be decided to seek out an awesome baguette sandwich. I adopted some enterprise individuals into somewhat bakery and scored! Ham, cheese, lettuce and hard-boiled egg on a wonderfully crisp-chewy baguette. I discovered a beautiful spot on a bench in The Tuileries Backyard and savored each chunk.

That afternoon was one of many highlights of the journey for me — a go to to the biggest artwork museum on the earth, The Louvre. Each a part of Paris is dripping with historical past, however this particular place, which was initially constructed as a fortress, is stuffed with probably the most stunning historical past — artwork.

Venus de Milo at The Louvre in Paris. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)
Venus de Milo at The Louvre in Paris. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

We noticed the Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa, priceless jewels and crowns, ornate frescoes and a lot extra. A number of hours was undoubtedly not sufficient. I’ll be again, I’m certain greater than as soon as.

It was a protracted day, however it wasn’t over but.

That night, 5 fellow vacationers joined me for what was simply the very best meal I’ve had in my life. It was my first two Michelin star expertise, and it left me questioning what three stars could possibly be like! We ate at Maison Rostang, an enthralling restaurant that was a couple of 20-minute stroll from our resort.

There was a seven-course tasting menu out there, however provided that the entire desk indulged. We opted for the a la carte choice, which meant three most important programs (for me, fats, juicy asparagus, flaky sole paired with tender mussels and earthy morel mushrooms and the restaurant’s signature dessert, a crispy “cigar” full of decadent cream) with just a few amuse bouche programs thrown in and a post-dessert trio of unbelievable mini pies.

Although each morsel I put in my mouth was extra scrumptious than the final, we had been all somewhat delay by the truth that two totally different menus had been distributed. One with costs, for the 2 males on the desk, and one with out costs for the 4 girls. It appeared, frankly, outdated and sexist.

On our final day in Paris, many in our group selected a tour of the Palace of Versailles, which I wish to see in some unspecified time in the future, however I actually wished to get out into the neighborhoods of this vibrant metropolis, so I selected to take a cab to the Saint Germain de Pres neighborhood, in quest of pastries and maybe just a few boutiques.

What I hadn’t counted on was that almost all small retailers in Paris are closed on Sunday. I opted for some crepes at a sidewalk cafe after which a cease at an area pastry store for some implausible kouign-amann and a field of macarons to share with all of the friends.

Our travel group beneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris
Our journey group beneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

That evening, we mentioned farewell to Paris with an enthralling dinner cruise down the Seine. Afterward, our pretty bus driver obtained us shut sufficient to the Eiffel Tower that we may cease, get out and get a gaggle image.

General, it was a beautiful journey with a beautiful group of individuals, and an awesome style of three cities that I undoubtedly need to go to once more.

Journey with Jess

Focused on touring with Jess? Our subsequent tour goes to Spain from Sept. 25-Oct. 6, 2022. There are nonetheless just a few spots left! And in April 2023, she’ll be going to Southern Italy and Sicily.

She’ll write one other story like this one on every of these adventures, so that you can have as a souvenir.

For extra info on Spain, go to For Southern Italy and Sicily, go to In order for you extra info, you’ll be able to all the time e-mail Jess at [email protected].

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