About three weeks ago we decided on a trip to Belgium & The Netherlands. It is close enough that we could drive with the dogs and would check a couple things off our European Bucket List.
Plus everyone in Belgium and The Netherlands speaks English so it was really nice to finally be able to eavesdrop again. 😉
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One thing I was not expecting was how much the German language has already been ingrained in me. The first day or two I was confused- do I speak German? English? Try and speak French or Dutch? (Because Belgium speaks both. The Netherlands- English and Dutch.)
My natural reaction was to speak German, but that felt weird. Except for the fact that it made me happy that German is finally starting to make sense in my brain! 🙂
This was our first European Road Trip. Cody spent the first three months of 2019 traveling for work. Traveling to Czech Republic, the U.S., to Mexico, to China, and to Paderborn. We have been patiently awaiting our chance to travel together and experience Europe!
The most entertaining thing we saw on this vacation- particularly in Belgium, was all the girls posing for their Instagram photos while their Instagram husbands/boyfriends snapped their photos. It was really funny to watch them try and find the most nonchalant pose for the photo.
We left on Friday after my German classes. The drive to Brussels was 7 hours but it took a bit longer than that with a stop at Chipotle in Frankfurt.
I was deeply saddened by the terrible chips. I was so looking forward to the lime salted tortilla chips…Nope, these were pretty much the worse kind of chips you could buy in the grocery store.
Saturday was a slow day and we loved it! It was full, don’t get me wrong, but we took our time and figured it out as we went.
The morning started with Rick Steves walking tour around upper Brussels.
We stopped for a cup of coffee when we finally found a cafe that had outdoor seating in the sun. (We planned for temps in the 60’s but instead got upper 30’s and low 40’s.)
Then we finished our walk and took the dogs back to our Airbnb.
The afternoon consisted of lunch at a highly recommended fish and chips place. Who knew fish and chips was a popular Belgian food? Not us!
Then we started our self guided chocolate tour + Rick Steves Lower Town tour. The self guided chocolate tour came from a great travel blog I found- Earth Trekkers.
Our tour started in the main center of Brussels which I thought was a beautiful city center. I would have loved to stick around more but we were freezing and there were so many people around!
The tour took us to 5 or 6 different chocolatier shops around Brussels. I didn’t know about all the chocolate in Brussels but we had fun trying different kinds and it only cost us around €20 instead of the more expensive paid tours you can go on.
Plus we had fun venturing off on our own, finding little streets like this one, and meandering down them.
We found a little hole in the wall pub and got a couple beers before braving the cold again.
After another hour of walking around, tasting chocolate, and exploring Brussels we found ourselves in a restaurant recommended by Rick Steves. We got a couple more beers, some cheese, and sausage and sat there just relaxing.
Sunday morning we drove to Bruges- about an hour from Brussels.
It was the perfect escape from the busy town of Brussels.
Upon arrival we found ourselves some coffee because Kelly was in hangry mode. Except not hangry because of food but because of lack of coffee!
We then began our waking tour (courtesy of Rick Steves!) around Bruges.
We saw the famous Bell Tower. But chose not to go in it because there was a long line and we weren’t really interested in waiting.
Also, do you see the tower leaning? That is the tower, not my picture!
We walked through the city center which was adorable and typical small European town feel!
One of the spots on the tour was a church that apparently houses some of the blood of Jesus. At first I couldn’t figure out why there was a long line going into the church and why people kept walking up to the altar with a priest and kneeling.
Then I figured out what was going on. Unfortunately I have no pictures of this because photography wasn’t allowed. But once I figured out what was going on I felt kinda icky.
I’m not sure if I really believe that they have some of the blood of Christ. But then on top of it, you could pay *of course* to come and kneel before His blood.
Again, just not sure how I feel about all that.
Back on track with the remainder of our city tour.
Cody’s one request of the trip was a brewery tour. And I delivered- if I do say so myself!!!
We went on a 90 minute tour and tasting through one of the oldest breweries in Bruges- De Haalve Mann Brewery.
Cody was like a kid in a candy store!
The tour took us through the brewery, explained the history of this specific brewery being the oldest brewery in Bruges. The coolest bit of information we got is a few years back the drilled a pipeline from the brewery to 3 km away so the beer flows straight from the brewery, underground, to the bottling facility.
The view from the top of the brewery was beautiful!
We opted for the “extra long” tour that came with 3 HEALTHY tastings at the end!
We ended our day at a local pizza place then headed back to Brussels.
Utrecht, The Netherlands
Monday morning we took a leisurely walk before loading up for the next half of our vacation.
During this walk, after snapping this photo, I ran up to Cody and grabbed his hand. I reminisced about the fact that one of our first few dates was a hike with our dogs in Purgatory Creek. And now we were walking our dogs through Europe. The opportunity and experience we have been given is not lost on me. I am grateful every single day for the gift the Lord has given us to be able to live abroad and experience all of this.
We stopped in a little town, highly recommended by travel bloggers and locals, about 30 minutes outside of Amsterdam.
This town had the small town feel of Regensburg but the big city feel of Amsterdam. We really loved this town but only spent a couple of hours walking around. We got lunch, then tried out a local places for fries, walked by the main city attraction (it’s Europe, so it’s either some kind of clock/bell tower or a church- in this case, a bell tower!)
Then we all loaded up and began our drive to Amsterdam.
Traveling Europe with the Dogs
The first half of the trip with the dogs wasn’t too bad. We were able to involve them on Saturday. But as soon as we dropped them off at the hotel Milo began barking and howling. We were staying in an apartment with terribly thin walls. I almost felt bad except for the fact that the neighbors above us were so loud late into the evening.
They were able to walk with us around Utrecht and we are slowly perfecting our ability to eat outdoors at a restaurant with the dogs.
Our biggest issue this trip was immediately upon arrival in Amsterdam. After fighting through 45 minutes worth of traffic, we made it to our hotel- the non-refundable, “dog friendly” hotel.
On top of the money we already paid for the hotel, we had to pay an additional €30 each night for the dogs + another €35 in “city taxes.”
Oh, and the closest parking garage was €50 a night *insert eye roll.*
Then to top it off, they informed us we couldn’t leave the dogs in the hotel unattended for any reason.
We both kinda freaked out a bit but once we took some time to think through a Plan B, we actually created a much better experience for ourselves!
The hotel did actually try to work with us and told us as long as they were crated they would allow us to leave them, but if they started barking or howling they would call us and we’d have to come back immediately…..
So a Plan B was definitely in order!
Within an hour I found an Airbnb about 25 minutes away from Amsterdam. A perfectly adorable Airbnb with a delightful host and allowed our dogs!
We did stay the first night in Amsterdam with the dogs because it was already 5:00 by the time we made it into town. But I am so glad how Plan B turned out because the hotel room was TINY and there were no green spaces anywhere near for the dogs to go to the bathroom.
After figuring out a plan and walking the dogs, we found an Indonesian restaurant within a 10 minute walk of the hotel- since Indonesian food is really popular here!
We (and especially Cody) were extremely impressed with Indonesian food. He finally was able to find the spice he has been missing here in Germany.
Amsterdam Day 1
Tuesday morning we got ready, us and our two fur children, and headed out for a true family day! The dogs went EVERYWHERE with us.
After the little bit of traveling we have done, we have discovered that Rick Steves’ audio tours and guidebooks are the way to go.
We found a spot for breakfast then headed out on our first self paced walking tour of the day- the Red Light District.
The tour only spent about 10 of the 50 minutes in the actual Red Light District before walking around the rest of the oldest neighborhood in Amsterdam.
After we meandered our way through prostitutes banging on windows and the thick smell of pot by every “cafe,” we found a place for a beer and snack.
The second half of the day was spent on the Amsterdam City Tour with Rick Steves. We walked to many of the main sights all while listening to him and his cohost tell us what we were looking at.
It really is the best way to see a city!
Upon recommendation from my friend Julia who spent a couple years in Amsterdam, and an additional recommendation from my sister, we walked over to the Albert Cuyp Market for some stroopwaffels and poffertjes!
Our evening ended with tapas at a restaurant close by and then we hiked back to the hotel, loaded our car, and drove to our Airbnb. By this point we had walked over 18,000 steps so needless to say we were tired.
The dogs, they were on a whole nother level of exhaustion. I don’t think they’ve ever walked for 8 hours straight.
We made it to our next accommodations, a little bit worried about what we were getting since our first airbnb was…well…not really what was depicted on the website. Then our hotel debacle.
But we walked into this and I knew all was going to be okay!
As someone who pays attention to every little extreme detail, I really appreciated all the ways she went above and beyond. Like sending me at least 10 different walking paths to take the dogs on!
We got settled in and opened a bottle of wine as we sat and enjoyed this view out the windows.
Amsterdam Day 2
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the Anne Frank House because our tickets were for Tuesday and we couldn’t do that with the dogs. We were hoping to snag tickets for Wednesday, but it didn’t work out.
Just means we need to come back!
We hopped a train then a tram into the city (which was WAY better then trying to fight the traffic) and ended up at a local cafe where we began our Eating Europe: Amsterdam Food Tour!
I did one of these with Allison in Prague so I thought it would be fun to do together.
The tour took us around Amsterdam showing us some less touristy sights with stops along the way at various local eateries.
We ate tasty poffertjes and coffee at the first stop. These are small, bite sized, puffy pancakes topped with powdered sugar and butter. Deliciousness. Unfortunately my photo from this stop is uneditable.
Stop 2 I was most nervous about because it included herring- which isn’t raw, but might as well be. Here are some shots of Cody eating the herring.
They also had some fried fish and oysters (gross!) for us to sample. The picture above is our first time trying oysters. Also our last.
The next stop was bitterballs- fried gravy balls.
We got a yummy cookie at a local bakery, stopped at a wine buyer to sample a couple wines, then picked up some sausage and cheese to enjoy on our canal tour.
The ride through the canals was a great way to end the tour. It was peaceful and relaxing, with only 12 people on board! Plus cheese, sausage, and wine- what could be more relaxing than that?
After the food tour we headed to the Dutch Resistance Museum. Let’s just say I’m glad Cody was interested enough to take in all the information. It was actually my idea to go there, but then I remembered how uninterested in history I really am….
We walked up to the top of the NEMO museum to get this shot.
And a shot of us, too!
Then one last walk through the Red Light District (apparently it’s better in the evening than 10 AM on a Tuesday morning… definitely saw a few more men walking into rooms this time around) then traditional Indonesian Rijsttafel for dinner.
First European Vacation
On Thursday we drove the 8 hours back to Regensburg.
But first a quick stop back in Utrecht for the fancy hot dog restaurant.
Then we took a slight detour through Braunfels, Germany! There was even the town “Solms” just a few miles away!
We walked up to the castle (because of course every town has a castle!). Cody was so fascinated- his history heart was beaming with joy!
Our first European road trip was a lot of fun. The dogs provided an extra challenge but I am glad we are getting to experience this with them!
We have also already learned a lot about traveling together, traveling in a foreign country, traveling with children…I mean dogs. (Although it literally felt like with kids- stopping for water breaks, getting them situated at meal time, etc.)
In two weeks we travel to Italy with our friends and we can’t wait to see them plus tour Roma!
Until next time,