Friday, August 28, 2015

Review of Traveling through the Netherlands and Belgium

Bruges Canal
Traveling through the Netherlands and Belgium was fun and there are a lot more places to stay, things to do and fabulous restaurants. I’m thinking that I may have to make a return trip, soon. For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.

Where we stayed…
Four Carrots
The Hilton Brussels Grand Place (Carrefour de l'Europe 3, Brussels, 1000, Belgium, +32 2 548 42 11) is what is expected from a Hilton hotel. There is a very good restaurant, a nice
Left: Breakfast
Right, T to B: Bedroom, Bath
bar area, and a pretty lounge. The room was very nice with an extremely comfortable bed. The bathroom was large and well appointed. Breakfast (can be included with the room) was excellent. Both hot and cold offerings were included, along with special orders; I thoroughly enjoyed the fresh melon. The internet was included and was blazing fast. This is an expensive place to stay, but worth the price because of the location and the services.

The Park Hotel (Stadhouderskade 25, Oud Zuid, 1071 ZD Amsterdam, The Netherlands,
Top L to R: Coffee service, Bedroom
Bottom: Eggs Benedict
+31 20-6711222) is in a great location to visit the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. It’s also close to other things to do and is in a safe, clean part of Amsterdam. The hotel is nicely appointed with helpful desk clerks and staff. Our room was large, comfortable, and very clean; the bathroom was nicely laid out with a good-sized dressing area. The wait-staff in the restaurant were also very nice. It is much faster to eat at the breakfast buffet (can be included with the room) than ordering off the menu. There are both hot and cold dished on the buffet and you can get an omelet or eggs to order. The internet was included and was very fast. This is an expensive hotel, but worth the price because of the location and the services provided.
Three and one-half Carrots
NH Hotel (Forum, 110 6229GV Maastricht, The Netherlands, +31 43 383 8281) is a nice hotel with both air conditioned and un-air conditioned rooms. The staff, although helpful,
Left: Bathroom
Right T to B: Bedroom, Fan
neglected to tell us about the different rooms. Thankfully there was a fan in our un-air conditioned room. The room was a fair size with an average bathroom. Everything was clean and the internet worked well. Breakfast was good, with both hot and cold offerings; the fresh breads were my favorites. The bus stops right in front of the hotel; however, it is also within walking distance to the old town. We would have gladly paid and extra few euros per night for air conditioning. This is a moderately priced hotel.

What we did…
Four Carrots
Groeninge Museum (Dijver 12, 8000 Brugge, Belgium, +32 50 44 87 11) is the place to go to see Flemish Primitives. In fact, there are representative pieces of art from very early Flemish painters to those who are still working today. The people working the desk are very nice and are happy to answer any questions, making it easy to find what you want most to see efficiently. (See Staying in the B&B: Brussels and Bruges)

Rijksmuseum (Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam, The Netherlands, +31 (0) 20 6747 000) is a huge place and it’s very easy to get lost ending up completely outside the museum. The guards are nice enough to let you back in if you show your ticket and ask for directions to where you thought you were going when you got lost. The big artists to see here are Rembrandt and Vermeer. Of course, since this is a world class museum there are examples of works from all of the big names. There is a place in the museum to eat, but it is pricy. (See Around Amsterdam)

Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (Rue de la Régence / Regentschapsstraat 3, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, +32 (0)2 508 32 11) is an amazing set of museums. It’s got more twists and turns than the Louvre but not as confusing to navigate as the Groeninge. Plan on spending an entire day to see the whole museum; there is a place to eat. My two favorites were the Magritte Museum and the Old Masters. (See Staying in the B&B: Brussels and Bruges)

Van Gogh Museum (Paulus Potterstraat 7, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, +31 20-5705200) is an interesting place because it doesn’t just show Van Gogh’s work, but tells the story of his life. Plan to get there early and do get the audio tour. There are information plaques by many of the pictures, but they don’t go into the depth the audio tour does. Seeing everything will take around four hours and you won’t be bored. (See Around Amsterdam)
Three and one-half Carrots
Blue Boat Tours (Stadhouderskade 30, 1071 Amsterdam, The Netherlands, +31 20 6791370) is directly across from the Park Hotel. The tour takes in the main canals and the information, provided in several languages through ear buds, was interesting. Our captain added more material for those places overlooked in the prerecorded program. While the tour isn’t particularly expensive (about €7 each), they also have coupons available in the tourist magazines and from hotels. (See Around Amsterdam)

Old Saint John's Hospital (Mariastraat 38, 8000 Brugge, Belgium, +32 50 47 61 00) was interesting in that there were a variety of treasures on display. The materials about the hospital were curated next to beautiful triptychs and other religious artifacts. I would have liked more information available about the displays although what was there was in multiple languages. (See Staying in the B&B: Brussels and Bruges)

What we ate…
Four Carrots
L'Epicerie Library Restaurant (Hilton Brussels Grand Place, Carrefour de l'Europe 3,
Top L to R: Mushroom ravioli, Ice cream and fruit
Bottom L to R: Raspberry dessert, Chicken in
mushroom sauce
Brussels, 1000, Belgium, +32 2 548 42 11) with a good chef on staff, there is no lack of good food available here. We almost didn’t go out in search of ‘real’ Belgium food. The breakfast buffet offered a wide selection of breads, cereals, fresh fruits, eggs, meats, cheeses, juices, and coffee. We paid about €20 for each of us plus our drinks; but the food and service were very good. The waitress insisted that we take extra bottled water back to our room.

Seasons (NH Hotel, Forum, 110 6229GV Maastricht, The Netherlands, +31 43 383 8281) has a fixed-price menu as well as a regular menu. The first night we were there, my friend
Lots of good food
and I each ordered from the fixed price menu; I got an appetizer and a main while she got a main and a dessert.  We shared the appetizer and the dessert, and there was plenty to feed both of us. We, along with several of our friends dropped in for other meals and were never disappointed. Breakfast was from the same kitchen and was an excellent buffet with plenty of fresh breads, cereal, fresh fruits, eggs, meats, cheeses, juices, and coffee. The fixed-price meals we ate were about €20 for each of us plus our drinks; this meal was well worth the price.

Three and one-half Carrots
De Vier Pilaren Crêperie (Stadhouderskade 11, 1054ES Amsterdam, The Netherlands,
Left T to B: Bacon pancake, poffertjes
Right: Menu
+31 6-18940340) is a funky little restaurant down on a canal. If you sit outside you can watch the tour boats go by and enjoy the pleasant temperatures. Barb had poffertjes, which are little puffs of pancake dough covered with powdered sugar. In fact there was so much sugar that there was a wafting trail following the waitress. With it came a ginger jam that was a spicy counterpart to the sweet. I had a pancake with strips of bacon embedded in it; savory and yummy. We had a very nice waitress who offered us a second glass of wine; what we didn’t know was that while we were enjoying our wine, they were closing the restaurant. She, and her boss, told us to take our time and they came by to chat with us while they worked. Our dinner cost us about €15 each including our glasses of wine.

Raphael Restaurant (rue du Marcher aux Herbes, 76, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 511 82 91) is an architecturally strange place. The first floor isn’t particularly large, but as you
Top L to R: Calamari, Clams
Bottom L to R: Saint, Mixed grill
climb to stairs to go to the restroom you notice that each level, there are three, has more seating area. It’s decorated with artifacts from a church that had been torn down and named after the owner’s son. If you want air conditioning, ask to sit on the second floor (the level above the entry). We went to this restaurant for ‘traditional Belgium food’ and that’s what we ordered. We started by sharing some fried calamari (I don’t know that these were actually common in Belgium, but they sure were good). Barb had a washtub full of muscles boiled with local spices. This came with fried potatoes that were hot and crunchy. I had a ‘mixed grill’ of chicken, beef and pork. The portions of meat were huge and nicely prepared. We basically had more food than any three people could have eaten. It was all very good. We both paid about €20.00 including our glasses of wine.

Sama Sebo (P.C. Hooftstraat 27, 1071 BL Amsterdam, The Netherlands, +31 020 - 662 81
Nasi Goreng plate lunch
46) is a local restaurant near the Park Hotel that specializes in Indonesian food. We both ordered the Nasi Goreng ‘plate lunch’ that basically had some of everything. The service was a bit slow, but the food was good and certainly filling. We thought this was a bit expensive at €18, each with no drinks.

Three Carrots
Museum Restaurant (Rijksmuseum, Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam, The Netherlands, +31 (0) 20 6747 000) has a nice restaurant with some of the slowest service
Cheese Plate
we experienced. The prices are rather high, but the cheese plate fed two of us. We shared a nice selection of cheeses with a few nuts and some slivers of dried fruit. While the cheese was good, it was expensive at €20 with no drinks.

Restaurant Grandcafe Momus (Vrijthof 8, 6211 LC Maastricht, The Netherlands, +31 43-
Momus tapas
3211937) is a pretty place to eat, and sitting outside is a good option if the temperature is reasonable. On the night we were there it was too hot to be inside. We ordered three plates of tapas: meat, fish and vegetable. The waitress was very nice and fairly efficient. Unfortunately, all of the offerings tasted about the same. There were five of us so we shared the tapas spending about €30 per plate plus our drinks.

One-half Carrot
Matinee Restaurant (5 Rozenhoedkaai, 8000 Bruges, Belgium, +32 50 33 97 82) might have once been a good place to eat, but we were disappointed both in the food and the
Left: Salad
Right T to B: Omelet, Building
service. Not only was service slow, but we never did get the fried potatoes we ordered. My salad had great goat cheese and vegetables, but the bacon was nearly raw. Barb’s omelet was nearly burned and although she ordered it with vegetables and cheese, there was very little of either. When our check came, there was a beer that we hadn’t ordered on it and the fries. I had a substantial argument with the waiter to get the final bill corrected; he wanted to give me credit for two beers because they didn’t cost as much as the one order of fries. I would not go back to this restaurant, again. We spent about €15 each and the experience was not worth this.
Rabbit Sculpture
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