2022 Paris Belgium & Amsterdam

Normandy Omaha BeachWe started our 12 day journey in Paris where we stayed for four nights. While there, we took in a full day Normandy D-Day tour that began in Paris. The tour included our transportation via motor coach with an early morning departure from Paris. We made stops at four of the five landing beaches that were in Normandy – Utah, Omaha, Golds, and Juno. Each beach offered a unique perspective of this momentous day in history. We were given plenty of time to explore these beaches as well as take in memorials to fallen soldiers from each country. The tour included a local guide and driver that provided a vast amount of history and great narrative throughout the journey. We had some time to stop at the American Cemetery to fallen US soldiers including a variety of memorials, insight and time to reflect on the D-Day attack. I highly recommend this tour to anyone who has an interest in WWII history. While on a lunch break, we enjoyed some fresh fish and cider beer, well known in this part of France.

During the remaining time in Paris, we took in a self-guided tour of the Eiffel Tower, River Seine, Versailles Apartments and Gardens, as well as took in many popular tourist sites like Champs Elysees, Arch de Triumph, Louvre and so much more. Paris has so much to offer than these sites. We could have easily stayed another week, just to discover the refined culture, food and vast history that blankets so much of what is iconic in Paris.

Our next stop in the journey was a two night stay in Bruges, Belgium. Just a short two hour train ride from Paris, this quaint, medieval town known for its fairytale like atmosphere with winding cobblestone sidewalks, stone walls and Venice inspired canals and bridges that connect this city together. The Market Square was bustling with vendors, fabulous restaurants and the occasional horse drawn carriage to take you back in time. Be sure to take in one of the two local breweries that offer tastings, visits and sales of the infamous Belgium beer. While you are walking the cobblestone streets, you must stop at a bakery that sells Belgium waffles drizzled with warm milk chocolate sauce. If you love chocolate, Bruges is a must stop for you! If you time it just right, you will be graced with the sounds of the Belfort, built in 1220 and still stands despite having sustained fires in 1280, 1491 and 1781. If you make your way to the top on a clear day, you can see all the way to the North Sea. Just outside the city, is a sleepy town with homes lining the canals and locks. This magical city evokes a by gone era only seen in movies.

To wrap up our journey, we made a 3.5 hour train ride to Amsterdam. We stayed 4 days here and truly, could have spent even more time to see so much more. This seaside city is bustling with technology, creativity and truly the most inviting, inclusive city I have ever visited. With more bikes per capita than vehicles, you would be remise not to take your turn at a stroll around this city. From the Red light district to a canal boat tour, this city is one of the main gateways to Europe. While in Amsterdam, we sampled our share of food offered as “chef’s choice” while sitting canal side, watching house boats move slowly up and down the canals. The elaborate canal system with narrow, crooked homes is peaceful and colorful. A trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without a visit to see windmills in Zaanse Schans, Edam, Volendam & Marken. Be sure to taste some Gouda and Edam cheeses during your stops. These Dutch countryside villages are just a short drive outside of the city. Here you can experience many different types of working windmills, discover the life and times of these amazing structures while  visiting with locals, who offer their handcrafted works. Be sure to try on a pair of one of the hundreds of clogs or wooden shoes made right on site. See firsthand, wooden shoes carved right before your eyes, trying on a pair or two and reading the unique history of wooden shoes origination to today’s modern designs. While you are in Amsterdam, if time permits, be sure to set aside time for a locally guided, walking tour of the Jewish Quarter and the Anne Frank museum.  Also on your list of must see places in Amsterdam, is the Rijksmuseum and pick up a Van Gogh print from the street artists that dot Vodel Park. We finished our stay in Amsterdam with a canal boat ride.   

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