Day 1 – Amsterdam, NL & Brussels, Belgium
We took the flight from Houston and were in Amsterdam 8 hours later. Tired and worn out, but not letting that dampen our enthusiasm, we set off straight for the rental car company to get our vehicle to take us places. Rental cars are EXPENSIVE in that part of the world and the service is not even close to the US (they close at 10 PM, no drop-off keys)!! It cost is close to $150/day – if that cost doesn’t kill you, the cost of gas surely will!
We didn’t get a chance to roam around in Amsterdam that morning, as we wanted to spend the maximum time at Keukenhof Gardens (30 minutes south from Amsterdam). But we as we drove towards there, we realized what a beautiful city it was, accentuated by the canals, especially later at night as the area around the canals is up. A canal tour is highly recommended there!
We reached on May 17 – the last day of the official Tulip Season, but it was still the highlight of that area. Even though the Tulip fields were all gone by then, we have an eye full of tulips and lilies there blooming in abundance. The entry price seemed a lot, considering that the flowers are already half-gone (Keukenhof should consider doing discounted prices for the last few weeks)! Also a great place for children where they can enjoy on various obstacle courses meandering through the park and petting zoos with local animals. One of the more interesting things there was a maze that they have created with 20 ft bushes – we took a good 20 minutes to find our way out – very Harry Potter-esque!
The trip to Brussels took us about 3 hours and we headed straight to Atomium and Mini Europe. Luckily parking was not a problem as it was a weekday. Mini-Europe was definitely our favorite of the whole trip. Consisting of miniature replicas of famous landmarks from all EU nations, created with painstaking detail at 1:25 ratio… it is a great place for everyone. Advisable to spend a whole day in that area because there are other activities too, like the water park next door and Atomium (replica of the iron atom enlarged 16 billion times).
The rest of the afternoon/evening was spent strolling around downtown Brussels. It is a great place for walking around, soaking in the culture, the palaces, the architecture. Majority of our time was spent inhaling the mmmmmmmmm…. Dark Belgian chocolates, the awesome Belgian Waffles and Crepes. No need to look for a fancy restaurant… any place along the Grand Palais, over the cobblestone pathways, would give you plenty chances to devour these Belgian specialties.
After a lunch consisting of Waffles/Crepes and a dinner consisting of waffles/crepes/chocolates, we decided to head back to Amsterdam – just in time for checking out the gorgeously lit canals in the downtown area. Too bad we didn’t get time to visit other spots there like the Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum and Canal Ring … but maybe next time!