2017 Trip Itinerary

Here is our rough itinerary! Of course, an important thing about travel is that you can’t (shouldn’t?) over plan. Have a soft schedule, note the things you really want to see and have some contingency ideas. But, ultimately, you need to just let the experience happen and enjoy what you discover!


Day Itinerary Notes
4 SEA -> PAR
5 Paris 4p Walking Tour / Eiffel Tower
6 Paris Rick’s Day 2 (Arc, Champs, d’Orsay) Catacombes?
7 Paris Rick’s Day 1 Notre (Dame/Louvre)
8 Paris Versailles
9 Brusells 4p Walking Tour
10 Ghent (DT drm BRS) 1p Walking Tour
11 Bruges 8p Walking Tour
12 Bruges Pay at hotel: €178.48
13 Antwerp Travelocity
14 Delft Pay at hotel: €172.00
15 Leiden/Hague (DT frm Delft) DT to Leiden/Hague/Gouda/Utrecht
16 Amsterdam 2p Walking Tour / Red Light District
17 Amsterdam 9:45a Anne Frank / 2p Rijks / 4p Van Gogh
18 Amsterdam Zaanse Schans?
19 AMS -> SEA

Bon Voyage!

We were awakened to a text from the airline that our flight has been delayed two hours. While certainly things could be worse, I naturally am fretting far too much over the loss of two hours in The City of Light!

A silver lining, I suppose, was an extra two hours to ensure everything was in order. Hurray for positive thinking!

TSA was smooth sailing for the most part, which I always look at as a good omen for things to come. Also, we saw Jamie Moyer at the airport bar where we had lunch. Vacation is off to a good start.

Speaking of airport bars: Here's our cheesy — yet obligatory — pre-flight simultaneous beer photos!

We should be in the air shortly. Catch you in a couple weeks, America!

Day 1 – Paris

Bonjour from the City of Light!

After a 10 hour flight, we were physically exhausted. Yet, we were energized. The adrenaline and excitement of being in a new place to explore and experience always provides a nice kick to keep you going. A half hour, 55€ taxi ride later, we arrived at our hotel. It's a charming little place on the corner of Avenue de La Motte Picquette and Rue Cler. The window — complete with iron balcony flowers living happily — feels very Paris!

After getting unpacked and freshened up, we took the short jaunt over to the Army Museum. Here, we picked up our Paris Museum Passes. We then toured the grounds. This place has a lovely courtyard and of course tons of info in the history of France's military.

On the other side of the complex sits the stunning Dome church which houses Napoleons tomb.

We then made the trip next door to the Rodin Museum, dedicated to French sculptor Auguste Rodin. While there were some interesting pieces in the fairly small exhibit inside, for me the far more interesting but was the grounds and sculptures outside. Well maintained bushes, grass, walkways and a pond at the far end set the tone for a lovely property. Laced between everything are various pieces of Rodin's work. Perhaps the most known of them is The Thinker.

At this point we were pretty beat, having essentially not slept — save for a quick snooze here and here on the plane — for going on 24 hours. So we took a one and a half hour power nap back at the hotel, to build up the energy to head back out and take in the Eiffel Tower up close.

It's grandeur lived up to the hype. The long stretch of grass called the Champs de Mars that lies at the feet of he Tower provides a great place for a picnic as you stare up at this beautiful symbol of Paris.

Finally, we strolled Rue Cler and admired its many shops and restaurants. We had dinner and a much deserved beer at Le Tribeca. Sitting at one of these small, outward facing tables facing the road was high on my list of Parisian experiences. Kari had a burger and I had the beautiful lemon chicken dish below.

I'm literally fighting off sleep as I write this, so we will say bonne nuit for now! Time for a full night's rest so we can tackle even more Paris tomorrow!

Distance Walked: 6.93 Miles

Day 2 – Paris

We woke up very early this morning, 3 AM and had trouble getting back to sleep. The time change is certainly messing with our sleep. 

When we finally got up and out of the room we decided to grab a quick bite on Rue Clere which is a cute little street just around the corner from our hotel. 

Breakfast consisted of a cup of coffee with milk, orange juice and a croissant. 

After that we headed to the Arc de Triomphe. 

We have a Paris pass so we were able skip the line and walk straight up to the top. 

The view from above was incredible. We could see the whole beautiful city. 

There were many stairs to the top, our out of shape legs were feeling the burn. 

After about an hour in the Arc de Triomphe we headed back down to walk the infamous Champs-Élysées. There was a terror attack recently here and we could tell by the numerous amount of police with high powered rifles they weren't going to let that happen again. The street was closed and thousands of people flooded the motorway taking photos of the Arc and shopping in a worry free zone. 

The sun was hot today. The clouds rolled in and out giving some relief from the heat but not enough to spare me a red face and arms. 

Around noon we headed towards the Orangerie Museum and saw many paintings. 

One of my favorite parts of today was the walk through Tuileries Garden where we had our first gelato of the trip. I'm certain that gelato really does taste better in Europe. We found a small stand selling the tasty treat and enjoyed eating and resting our feet for a bit.

Next stop was the d'Orsay Museum where we saw more paintings and statues. 

By this time our feet were really hurting and the only cure for sore feet is… you guessed it, beer!

Lastly but not least was a sunset picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. We tried out some night photography and saw the sparkly light show that occurs every hour on the hour. One thing is for sure, she is a thing of beauty. 

Now off to bed, wake up time is 7:00 AM so we can get to the Louvre early and to see Notre Dame.

Distance Walked: 14.17 miles

Day 3 – Paris

Any imagination of taking it easy after yesterday's marathon turned out to be false as we had another long one today.

We took the train out toward the Louvre to save a few steps. For breakfast, we kept it "light" by having a pastry from Angelina's — a recommendation from our hotel. This was apparently one of Coco Chanel's favorite spots. Oh, and we couldn't help but grab some macarons, too!

We headed into the Louvre. Where do you even start? We all know about the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and some other major pieces here. And they were awesome to see up close! But there were so many other great paintings, statues and artifacts from all over the world. Be it Rome, Egypt, Greece or Asia, this place has it all.

The crowds were crazy, but especially so at the Mona Lisa. We're talking elbow-throwing, jostling-for-position crazy. But, hey! We got to see one of the most famous pieces or art on the planet.

After a couple of hours wandering about here, we made our way over to see Saint-Chapelle. This cathedral has over 1,100 individually stained glass windows, each depicting a different bible scene.

Next was Note Dame. So beautiful up close. The detail on the exterior — gargoyles and all — was stunning. Then, inside, we got to gander at one of the absolute finest Gothic cathedrals you'll want to see. Just imagine actually designing, and constructing something like this. It took nearly 200 years to complete!

We made our way up to the Pantheon next. Another beautifully constructed building. This one was intended to be a church, but revolution changed that. It's now a state mausoleum, containing the remains of important Parisians.

After a little break back at the hotel, we went and found a Geocache! Then went and ate dinner on Champs-Élysée before climbing to the top of the Arc De Triomphe for sunset and the Eiffel Tower light show!

We are absolutely bushed! But, Versailles tomorrow!

Distance Walked: 13.32 miles

Day 4 – Versailles

*Palace by Alex

Our fourth and final day in Paris was spent outside of the city at the Palace of Versailles. To say that this place is massive would be among the biggest understatements uttered during my days. Not just the palace, or Chateau as they call it, but the grounds as well which stretch literally for miles and contain some of the most lavish things you’d ever see at one man’s “residence.”

We spent SEVEN hours here!

For sure, Louis XIV wanted to make sure everyone knew just how rich and powerful he was. From gold plated everything, to statues, to enormous paintings and ceiling frescos, this palace shows the story of a boy who grew up destined to be perhaps the most powerful King in the world.

Palace gates

His reign lasted 72 years, 100 days. A European record (compare to Elizabeth II at 65 years, 179 days as of this writing). Perhaps such a long time on the throne gives a person enough time to convince themselves of how important they are and the ability to build a vast home!

Palace courtyard

We waited in an extremely long line for nearly an hour to enter. Once inside, it felt a little like we were sardines being shoe-horned into a tube, filing through security before finally squiring out into the courtyard.

Despite all that, it was pretty amazing once inside and moving through the palace. From the King’s bedroom, which faced East for the rising sun — he was the sun king after all — to the throne room, and the hall of mirrors, each room presented a new way to help imagine one living with such incredible wealth and power.

The influence of Louis XIV even reached America! You’ll notice in the photo above the many different wigs in various portraits. Yep. Just like George Washington and our founding fathers. Paris has been a fashion center of the world for some time, no?

Palace chapel

Louis needed to project being the Sun King, so after waking up to the rising sun, he’d swing open some doors into the Versailles Chapel where he’d pray to the other Sun God. Or was it to himself?

Shoot. The guy even grew orange trees in a green house under the palace that he’d wheel out to the gardens so he could project to visitors his ability to grow Citrix’s fruits in chilly France. Hey, speaking of gardens…

*Gardens by Kari

There are miles of trails through the gardens of Versailles. The flower beds are perfectly sculpted into beautiful designs. 

We walked around for several hours and did not get to see everything. Unfortunately today the rain found us and we had to duck for cover a few times. 

There are many magnificent water fountains spread throughout the grounds. The fountains were made to turn on as King Louis XIV road past them. He would often give his guest personal tours to show off what he had created. 

He even had a grand canal built as he was inspired by the original in Venice. Venetians came over from Italy to live and work on the grounds and give gondola rides as the King wished.

About a half miles walk from the palace is where Marie Antionette spent her time. A quieter area of the grounds where ducks and fish would splash around in the man made ponds. A gorgeous site to see. 

Versailles is a wonderful place to visit. You can rent bikes, golf carts and boats to travel around but I wouldn’t recommend visiting when it’s raining. We got very wet today but we made the best of it as it was our last full day in France.

Paris was exhausting, our feet are sore and backs are aching. I can’t imagine doing a trip like this after we retire from working. This kind of traveling is meant for the younger kids. 

Distance walked 10.76 miles

Day 5 – Brussels

Since Alex is passed out from exhaustion and also too much delicious Belgium beer I will take the lead in today’s post. 

We started our day in Paris. We finally got the rest we needed to gain our strength back from miles and miles of walking. Paris is a big city. Luckily their subway system is easy to maneuver and that really saved our tootsies a few thousands steps. 

We had our first real Parisian breakfast this morning. Eggs, ham, croissant, green salad, fruit salad, bread, coffee with milk and fresh squeezed orange juice. That is a lot of food!! 

After breakfast we headed for the train station and were off to Brussels. 

Around 2 PM we arrived in Brussels. It was about a 1 mile walk to our hotel. It was hot and our backpacks were heavy but we were happy to be out of the city of light. We prefer smaller towns and Brussels seemed to have just the right amount of character we were looking for. 

Upon entering the town square we were surprised to have arrived on a day where the city was having a summer festival. 

It did not take long for us to find a beer and join in on the fun. 

At 4 PM we met up with a walking tour and spent a couple of hours walking around the city learning some of the history. This city is gorgeous and feels so very old. The town square is absolutely incredible. 

There is a famous statue here of a small boy peeing. ( there’s weird stuff here in Belgium ) our guide said the statue ranks up there with Christ the Reedemer in Brazil and the Statue of Liberty in New York.  I’m not sure if that’s true or not but there was a large crowd around it and everyone was taking photos. 

The statue is called Manneken Pis. It’s about 400 years old, it has been stolen 7 times in its lifetime. The town dresses up the statue for various events and today we saw it wearing an outfit. Later on in the day he was naked. ( again, Belgium has weird stuff )

After the walking tour was over we eagerly waited in line for our first taste of real Belgium frites. After we scarfed those down we quickly had our first waffle. Oh sweet waffles we love you so… 

To cap off night one in Brussels we of course found the first open table and sat down for a flight of beer. 

The flights here are huge!!! Bigger than the small table we were sitting at. 

All of our beers were great, but our favorite was a surprise. Framboise ( Raspberry ) was so sweet and tasty I feel I must have another before we leave. 

There are many languages spoken here so I will end my post with bonne nuit, goede nacht, gute nacht or simply goodnight. 

Distance walked 10.6 miles

Day 6 – Ghent and Brussels

Rain was forecasted for later in the day today, so the plan was to day trip to Ghent. This way, we could explore that town and then come back to Brussels for a rainy evening activity we're well-versed in back home: Drinking!

We busted down to the train station, and hopped aboard the first one heading west. Once in Ghent, we decided to walk to the city center. We typically do this rather than take a taxi or metro as a way to see a town, so we can stop for photos and to catch the vibe. Much of it was bland, but in the latter half we did get to see some cute canals. One thing we noticed: There are far more people riding bikes than walking in this town!

Once in the historical center, there was quite a bit to see. As with other little European towns, there are churches built with local trade money of yesteryear.

St. Michael's — or Sint-Michielskerk in Dutch — is no exception. Typically, the biggest trade in a town would build the biggest church, partly as a way to thump their chest. But unlike other big European cathedrals in small towns, this one wasn't the product of wool or crops. Nope. What industrial built this beauty? Beer! How Belgian.

St. Michael's bridge and church

We had breakfast outside, overlooking the church, old town center and canal. It's hard to get much more European than this. Sure, the breakfast was only so-so. But traveling, for me, is about temporarily immersing yourself as a local and feeling like you're part of where you are. Listen to the conversation of the locals, and soak in the sights they maybe take for granted.

Breakfast on the canal

We be-bopped about the town center for a bit before deciding this would be a great day for a canal ride. Not raining but also not sweat-inducing heat. For only 7€ each, this seemed like a solid deal.

It was a pretty nice ride! With only a short time in this town, we could have done a walking tour but it would have been later in the day. We felt like we got the same city history we'd have got doing that, but saved some steps on our tired feet and, well, who doesn't like a boat ride?!

(Video to come later, sorry bad cell service!)
Boat tour

On the boat tour, the guide spoke of the 12 original streets in the city — now appearing as narrow pathways tucked between everyone else. This is right up our, yeah, alley. I highly recommend weaving through the backstreets of a small, old town to see its charm and for a chance to see how the locals actually live.

Ghent back streets

Our time in Ghent ended here. So we took the tram back to the train station and zipped back to Brussels. We had enough time for a power nap and to freshen up.

We did a Beer Tasting experience, which was awesome! Our guide Maggie — a local — was extremely passionate, both about her country and her beer. She cracked the whip on people for chatting during her talks, which I loved! She explained not only the proper way to pour your Belgian beers, but also how to drink and taste them.

Maggie spitting fire

We had four beers between two bars. We started at Scott's Bar, then moved down the street to Delirium, the Guinness World Record holder for most beers at over 3,000!

We finished the night with waffles at Maison Dandoy, one of the top rated waffle spots in Belgium! Photo at the top of this post. It was delicious!

Anywho! With four beers down and 2,996 to go I better get off the blog and back to sip–hiccup–ping.


Distance Walked Today: 11.18 miles

Day 7 – Bruges / Brugge

We were up at 6 AM this morning, had a quick bite, packed up our things and headed to the train station, bound for Bruges. 

“Bruges has two names and two spellings. Bruges (pronounced broozh) is the English and French spelling and pronunciation. Brugge (pronounced broo-gha) is the Flemish spelling and pronunciation.” – World Wide Web 

Bruges is called the Venice of the north because of its canals and many windy streets and back alleys. Having been to the real Venice in Italy I’m going to say that’s kind of a stretch. This town is beautiful and quirky but there really is no comparison to Venice, Italy. 

We found our hotel which is more like a B&B fairly easily. Hotel Ensor is a family owned business since the 1980’s. The gentleman running this hotel has lived here his whole life, he is very friendly and nice to chat with. 

It was still very early when we arrived so we left our bags in the hotel and headed toward the town center. 

Bruges is a very old city, the houses and shops are made from brick except one or two that are still made of wood. These houses are 500-600 years old and are historic landmarks now. They can only be renovated and not rebuilt. It’s not allowed to build of wood anymore since the fire danger would be too risky. 

The town center is larger than Brussels’ town square. They have a similar feel and the buildings all face each other. 

There is a festival going on this weekend. The town is setting up a dance floor and party lights. Saturday will be an interesting day in Bruges. There are many tourists here. The shopping areas were buzzing today with people. 

We had a bite to eat at a burger joint called Ellis and also decided to have a Stella Artois in honor of its native country. 

After dinner we met up with a walking tour at 8 PM. We were lead on a 90 minute walk around the city and learned of some history and a few ghost stories. A local man was walking by listening to our guide tell his stories and gave a good chuckle. It’s hard to say if the stories are true, it sounds like the town folks have a good time drinking and making stuff up which then become tall tales and folk legends. 

One story was of a priest who fell for a nun that lived across the bridge from him. Apparently the priest confessed his love to her and she stood strong in her faith and would not give in to him. He eventually couldn’t take it anymore and one night he stabbed her to death. The old nunnery has been haunted ever since. The nuns who lived there were terrified of the strange happenings and moved out of the building. It’s been sold a few times and each family has moved because of the ghosts. 

After the tour we headed back to our room. We are a week into our two week trip and have walked about 60 miles since we arrived. We are definitely feeling the burn… 

Distance walked 12.28 miles 

Day 8 – Bruges

They call this place the Venice of the North. While, yeah, there are a bunch of canals and little bridges that go over them, I don’t think this town should have that nickname.

First, there aren’t nearly as many canals or bridges. Second, there’s auto traffic here — there isn’t in Venice. Third, I think Bruges is actually a much better place. Yeah, there. I said it.

There are some some spots that really remind me of Venice, like the photo above. But there are also a ton more areas in the town with really great back alleys and secret passages to poke around through.

Today was expected to be quite packed as the Bruges summer festival was kicking off. But the crowd didn’t show up until around 11, so our wise early start paid off as we got to wander around, take photos and just soak this place in.

We followed the route drawn on a map by our B&B owner, who has lived here his whole life. This meant seeing some spots we saw yesterday when we wandered freely, but we got to see another side of the town we hadn’t yet.

We did a little shopping, photo taking and exploring before grabbing a lunch beer around 11. The presentation you get with some of theses Belgian beers….

Next, we toured a local brewery. It was pretty cool to learn about both their current and historical methods of making beer.

One of the neater things about this place is that as they grew, they wanted to stay in their historic building while also being able to produce more beer than their space would allow. How to fix that? Build a 3km pipeline to the other side of town to send your beer to for aging of course!

After the tour, we walked to the other side of town to check out another brewery. This one, we skipped the tour and just had beer. I think we might have a problem!

A tasty problem anyhow. Here’s the flight we ordered:

We grabbed some lunch at a pizza place in the Grote Markt. Then headed back to the room for a quick break.

We headed back out for some more exploring, eventually having a little bite and then going to the town center where Bruges’ summer festival was kicking off with all sorts of different areas to dance, sir around a fire and play games.

This medieval town was getting pretty wild tonight! Never thought I’d see an outdoor disco in front of a several hundred year old church, but hey!

Another great day in the books. I think we will carry fond memories of Bruges. What a town!

Distance Walked: 10.73 miles

Day 9 – Antwerp

Up and out the door at 9 AM today. 

I will miss Bruges dearly as I feel this is my favorite town by far from this trip. I may be speaking too soon as we have not been to Amsterdam yet. 

I think timing our trip during Benenwerk was a fantastic surprise and I wish I had more time to soak up the environment last night. 

The train to Antwerp was about 90 minutes. Antwerp is a much larger city than Bruges and it is mixed with old and new buildings. There's a shopping strip with most major stores like back home in Seattle but most were closed because it's Sunday. The train station was very impressive. It's probably the neatest train station we've been to on this trip. 

We walked the Rick Steves book walking tour and also happened among the Pride festival here. There were tons of people gathered around a big stage in the middle of town listening to a guy sing cover songs of Michael Jackson and David Bowie. 

We sat and had a beer and listened to music for a bit and then walked some more and found … more beer!! 

Belgium was exactly what we are looking for. Beer. Chocolate. Waffles. Frites. Beer. Beer and more beer. 

I could live here happily for many many years. The beer here is much stronger than the stuff I'm used to drinking. Bud light and Corona, crap like that. One good Belgium beer is like 4 Coronas back home. Drinking and pouring beer is like an art form here. You either know what you're doing or you don't. 

On the beer tour in Brussels we learned that big head on beer is actually a good thing. In the US it's frowned upon. 

This photo above is a great example of a very bad pour. My bad… I got too excited and over poured too fast.

The example below is of a good pour done by a professional bar tender. 

Today was kind of a weird travel day, there's not much to do in Antwerp when everything is closed.

We had some time today and decided to go look for a geocache nearby. It was a quick find and then we ran back to the hotel for some down time before we head out again for dinner. 

We ended up eating burgers at a place called Ellis. Same meals as we had a few nights ago in Bruges. The chocolate shake was so good!!

Distance walked 11.44 miles

Let’s talk about Belgian beer

If you've been following the blog posts for this trip, you have probably noticed a trend: Talk and photos of beer. As we ride out of Belgium and into The Netherlands, now may be a good time to have this conversation.

You're free to assume we are just lushes, but the reality is that there is a unique beer culture in this part of the world that we had to experience. It's not about catching a buzz, it's a deep rooted history that leads to things we may find off back in the states.

First among those, the legal drinking age is 14. Fourteen! The second thing that may seem odd to us is that there's a lack of an open container law. Mix those two together and, yep, we've seen young teenagers drinking in the streets right on front of armed law enforcement. Quite shocking!

My first Belgian beer was had in the streets

Many years ago, the water in this country was actually not drinkable. So to solve this, everyone — from toddlers to grandpas — drank beer. The fermenting process kills bacteria, you see. Also, we're not talking about 10% IPAs here. 1% alcohol is plenty to get the job done.

From there, a culture is born. You of course want to try different methods and use different ingredients. Hundreds of years and technical advancements later, you've got a pretty wild beer scene.

My favorite!

Everything matters to these folks: The pour, the glass and how you drink it. For example, during our first day in Brussels it was suggested to me by our walking tour guide to get a Westmalle Trappist. This was during a quick break on the tour.

Knowing we had to get moving in a few minutes and that I could drink in the streets, I asked for it in a to go cup (lol). The bartender gave me a look, and said: "No. You must have this beer in its proper glass."

Kwak comes in a wild glass, with stand

From there, the pour has to be right. In America, we try to pour our beer with as little head as possible because of the appearance of not having a full beer. Here, it's more of a requirement to have a LOT of head for certain beers.

To make things more interesting, you're actually given the bottle and have to perfect the pour yourself. Unlike, say, Ireland, where bartenders are trained to get that great Guinness pour.

In the previous photo, my pour actually was a bit off. The head should have gone to just below the word Westmalle — roughly two inches. You'll see people press their index and middle fingers against the glass to measure. For the Kwak, I nailed it!

We had a couple nice flights

It may be hard to tell in some of these photos, but their beers are typically coming in smaller bottles and glasses than we have back home. Again — the idea isn't to get smashed, but to enjoy good beer. Yeah, three small 11% beers will still have you stumbling, so don't have three!

"Culture" may sound like a slick way to mask alcoholism, but it's really evident here. From Trappist monks who make beer for the sole purpose to give all proceeds to charity, to being named to UNESCO's cultural heritage list, this beer thing ain't no joke here.


Day 10 – Delft

We left Antwerp this morning. We were ready to be in a smaller older feeling town again. I wouldn’t recommend visiting Antwerp it doesn’t have the same feel as Brussels or Bruges. 

Delft on the other hand does have that Bruges feel. The town square is small and there is a church right in the middle of it. 

The church was built 600 years ago but is called New Church. The bells chime often. It’s a lovely sound. 

The canals here are covered in Algae. It was surprising to see as Bruges canals were much cleaner. We found some swans swimming about and took some photos of them. 

We found a nice place to sit and have lunch at an outdoor cafe. We saw a couple eating this incredible plate of bread and cheeses and we just had to do the same. 

After lunch we walked around a bit and took photos of the town. 

We stopped for a moment to log a quick geocache and went back to our hotel for rest and relaxation. Our room is small but has lots of character. Similar to our room in Paris.

The night came around quickly. We went out for BBQ ribs and pulled pork burgers. Also of course beer. 

The food was good. Tomorrow we head to Leiden and the Haage for a day trip, rain is in the forcast so it will be wet walking around. We’ve hit rain a few times on this trip but it is still warm and muggy here. 

Our trip is winding down we are almost at the end. It’s been a long 10 days so far and just a few more left before we head back to the grind. 

Distance walked 7.8 miles

Day 11 – Leiden and Delft Night Photography

Today, we day tripped to Leiden. It's not that far away, but because the Delft train station is undergoing works right now, we had to first bus to The Hague. Then we hopped on a train for the one stop north to Leiden.

The rain was a bit brutal at times today. While it was on-again, off-again, it's hard to read a guidebook while walking about a town and also holding an umbrella. But this didn't stop us. We followed Rick Steves' Leiden walk, which took us to windmills, churches, fortified hills and a university.

Perhaps the town's most famous son is Rembrandt. The little square above is where he grew up. Now stands a full size replica of him as a young boy, looking at one of his many self portraits.

We were able to poke into the campus of Leiden University, where many well known historical figures either learned or taught at. Albert Einstein was a professor for a period here, while US President John Quincy Adams was a student.

This church holds some US historical significance, as pilgrims fleeing England for America stopped here in Holland before being able to make the journey across the Atlantic. They would attend their church service here and lived in the square around it.

Like other towns we've seen along our journey, there were many small alleyways stocked with charm. It's almost like heading back through a time warp. Especially due to the weather, the tourists and locals alike weren't out in abundance.

I love the canals in these Dutch cities, full of geese, ducks and other birds I don't even know the names of! Watching them plunge their long necks into the algae carpeted water, popping out with a little fish to gobble down is quite enjoyable.

Our last stop before headed back to the train station was to climb up through an old windmill. We went up six flights of narrow, creeky stairs. At each level you could admire the tools that made these things work.

Along the way, there were information boards and even a video on one level to help give an understanding of how the various mills were used to make bread, saw wood or reclaim land from the sea.

Wow, okay then, Leiden! We're out!

Distance Walked: 9.8 Miles


Bonus: We went out for some night photography this evening. Here are a few snaps!

Day 12 – Amsterdam

We made it to Amsterdam. This city was the main reason for coming to Europe this time. It’s been on my bucket list for years. 

I’ve never seen a place like Amsterdam before. There is so much craziness here. The bikes the motor scooters, the cars & pedestrians. Wow!!! You have to be so careful where you walk or you will get nailed. 

We went on a walking tour of the city today. Learned a few things and had some beer. The Red Light district is an interesting place. The girls stand in windows barely dressed. It’s odd because back home we have bikini barista coffee stands which the city wants to fine women $5,000 if they show too much skin and in Amsterdam prostitution is legal and regulated. 

We were told about a bar with 200 beers named Gollem so of course we went in and checked it out. 

We met a couple guys who lived in Holland but it was their first time there too. We probably spent three hours talking with them. Their names were Dennis and Kris. We were surprised that they had “normal” names. They work in real estate and we talked about house sizes and showed pictures of our homes. Most houses here are attached on both sides to the neighbors. They  were surprised at how big our house was. Not many people here have garages and most ride bikes anyways. 

Alex noticed this bar had one of his favorites from back home called Lagunitas and he bought the guys a round. They seemed to like it or else they were just being polite. Then after that beer Dennis and Kris bought us a round… 4 beeers later we were toasted. Luckily we had three days to recover and we needed it. 

After sleeping off the delicious brew we went back out to photograph the IAMSTERDAM sign. I had a feeling there would be less people there at night and was right. We saw the sign during the day with hundreds climbing all over it. 

Distance walked 9.96 miles

Day 13 – Amsterdam

Today was museum day!! 

First stop the Anne Frank house. We were smart and booked our tickets a few months ago so we didn’t have to wait in line. We saw the line yesterday when we went on our walking tour. The line went around the block. 

The museum guides you through the beginning of Anne Franks experience being placed into hiding. We stepped through the hidden annex behind the bookcase that lead to her and her family’s home for two years. 

The stairs behind the bookshelf are very steep and narrow. You walk up them and enter into a haunting world. It’s sad to know what happened to her and her family after being caught by the nazis. Her father Otto Frank was the only survivor and he found a publisher for her journal. Anne wrote that she wanted to become a novelist and even though she wasn’t able to see her dream come true the world will always remember her. A 13 year girl who had to grow up too fast and die too young. 

Our second museum was the Rjyksmuseum where we saw many floors of art from paintings to delftware to books and furniture. Rembrandt works were shown and the crowds were gathered around the paintings. This museum is big but not nearly as big as the Louvre. 

The third museum was the Van Gogh. I enjoyed this museum much more than the Rjkes as Van Goghs art is more my style. My favorite piece is the starry night which is actually displayed in NYC. 

I snuck a few photos but photography is frowned upon there. 

After the museums we walked the town a bit. We checked out the Red Light District and some of the “coffee shops” This city is very lively and when it comes to bikes, cars and motor scooters pedestrians are the bottom of the barrel. You better move if a bike comes around. Even cars don’t stop for you here. I find this strange being from Seattle. It’s very different than back home. Motor scooters drive in bike lanes and nobody yields to each other. I don’t know why anyone would want to actually drive a car here but they do. People park bikes anywhere they want. We saw a van back into bikes that were chained up and not even care. I’m sure the wheels are bent on the bikes. Our tour guide said he’s gone through 6 bikes in 3 years. Sometimes bikes get tossed in the canals if they aren’t tied to a rail. The canals get dragged from time to time to pull out the bikes and so boats don’t get tangled in them. Bikes here aren’t super nice. They are meant to go from point A to B so none are expensive looking. They get knocked over sometimes. We’ve seen piles of bikes on their side and that’s just normal I guess. 

We are now down to one last day in Amsterdam before we fly out Saturday morning. 

It rained quite a bit today. We got soaked after the Anne Frank museum and had to run back to the hotel to change clothes. 

The tough thing about traveling is not being able to wash clothes well and easily. Our socks have holes now and when you run out of underwear you have a big problem. Our room in Amsterdam is barely large enough for a full sized bed. But our celieings are high enough for bunk beds. Very strange. I’m sure this room used to be a closet. 

This is how you wash clothes when traveling. Wash in the AM and let dry for a few days in the shower. Fun!! 

Distance walked 11.96 miles

Day 14 – Zaanse Schans, Zaandijk and Amsterdam

Welp. Here we are. The final day of this particular journey. We woke up with no agenda and would see what adventure we'd find.

After breakfast we headed toward the heart of the city. After considering some day trips, we decided on hopping a train out to Zaanse Schans, which is a working windmill village just northwest of Amsterdam.

This isn't just a tourist trap. Sure, they charge to go into some of the small museums and windmills. But these mills are actually still working. Not just spinning, but working. One cuts logs into lumber. Another is making batter.

We were able to wander through the village, snapping photos and taking video. Watching cows and sheep graze, ducks hopefully waddle toward someone with bread.

Continuing the no agenda theme, toward the end of the row of windmills we spotted a "ferry," which really was just a boat offering €1 rides across the water to the town of Zaandijk. So aboard we hopped and scooter across the channel.

The boat drivers were two old men, complete thick accents and pipes hanging from their lips. They were nice though, asking us where we were from and giving us a little info sheet they made about the town we were cruising to. Oldest building, where the original town hall is, places to eat. Things like this.

We happened upon a small brewery, so naturally we had to check it out. We haven't had enough local beer on this trip, you see.

After sipping these fine brews and gobbling down a couple sandwiches — by the way, the bread we've had here has been amazing! — we headed out and to the train station. Back to Amsterdam we go!

We wandered through the Red Light District and the heart of town once more and back to the hotel. A quick break at the room before heading out to do the Heineken Experience.

While this wasn't quite as cool as the Guinness Storehouse tour in Dublin, this was still pretty fun. You zig zag your way through historical bits, listen to some talks about the brewing process and take part in some fun virtual reality stops.

I was hesitant about this place, but am glad we did it. And not just because you end up with three beers along the way. It was genuinely a fun attraction.

After the rooftop panoramic views, bicycling VR video and strategically placed gift shop, we headed out for dinner.

One thing we've definitely noticed here: The Dutch eat just like us. A wide array of foods, from burger joints to pizza parlors. Mexican food to Chinese. I really don't know that I once saw a place that was traditionally Dutch. Some places had Dutch snacks or dishes, but these seem to take a backseat.

Tonight, I had ribs and Kari had pizza. What a way to wrap up Amsterdam, eh?

My feet are tired. I'm ready for my own bed and a meal that isn't heavy and expensive. Ah, that end of vacation feeling. In a couple of days I'll be mad at myself for thinking these thoughts and will start planning the next adventure!

Distance Walked: 12.31 miles


Favorite city for Photos 

Brugge – Kari

Delft – Alex

Favorite beer

Brugze Zot – Kari

Westmalle Trappist Tripel – Alex
Best hotel room 

Antwerp was nicest and biggest

Hotel with most character

Paris – Alex

Bruges – Kari

Most fun city

Bruges – Kari

Brussels – Alex

Best food

Cheese and bread plate at Van 9 to Seven – Delft – Kari

Ellis Burger – Bruges – Alex

Best Chocolate 


Best Bar

Gollem in Amsterdam 
Favorite cities in order – Kari






Zaanse Schans




Total Distance walked 

161.4 miles

Average of 11.13 miles a day