The Easter Trip Part II: Belgium

We left Wageningen on a Thursday afternoon the minute Brian was finished with his conference. Traveling to Bruges by train would have been a long and complicated journey (6-7 hours with something like 6 changes and a ferry!), so we decided to rent a car and drive, cutting our travel time down to 3 hours and our cost in half. The drive was beautiful. Beautiful Highway Driving Unfortunately, this part of our trip was marred by a little accident. We didn’t realize until we dropped the car off in Bruges that Brian had left both his passport and his drivers’ license at the rental place in Arnhem! Quelle horreur! Luckily, the lady at Ace Rent a Car was veeeery nice and helped us contact the guy who rented us the car (and failed to return the documents), who promised to overnight the two document to our next and last hotel in Brussels. So off we went with lighter hearts to discover Bruges. And discover it we did.

Starting with beer in crazy shaped glasses

Starting with beer in crazy shaped glasses

Then we ate *some* chocolate (ahem, ALL the chocolate)

Then we ate *some* chocolate (ahem, ALL the chocolate)

And we basically wondered around among the other tourists and looked at all the cool architecture. Bruges is just as cute and quaint as everyone says it is. I don’t care if it is nothing but tourists, I think it’s definitely worth a visit. Plus, these aren’t like the crazy party tourists in Amsterdam. These are the romantic weekend or family tourists. Much calmer.

So we walked around Bruges for one afternoon/evening and the next morning/early afternoon and took a 3pm train to Brussels, our last stop.

Brussels was….well, let’s just say it wasn’t our favorite stop on the trip. I’m not really sure why that is. We could have been getting tired of traveling and wishing for our own bed. We could have stayed in the wrong part of town. We were right by the main downtown touristy area, right off the pedestrian shopping streets, a short walk from the Grand Place, their big square. And we never really were able to find a cute little neighborhood off the beaten path, which is our secret to happy traveling. So we just rubbed shoulders with THOUSANDS of tourists the whole time we were there. It was hectic. While Brussels does have some good museums and attractions, but overall it just felt like a big, gritty city. We found ourselves missing neat, orderly Denmark.

But we did see some really cool stuff while we were there. I’m a huge Art Nouveau and Alphonse Mucha fan, and Brussels is like the capital of Art Nouveau. So we got to see some cool architecture and even an entire museum exhibit dedicated to one of my favorite eras in painting, the end of the 19th century.

We also went to the Musical Instrument Museum, which is just what it sounds like. But the cool part is they send you in with a little listening device that’s activated by RFID tags in front of some of the instruments, and it lets you listen to a song featuring the instrument you’re standing in front of. How cool is that!

Our favorite part was visiting the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken, the King’s royal greenhouses. These are only open to the public for 2-3 weeks every spring, and we happened to be there at the right time. They’re HUGE art nouveau glass structures filled to bursting with blooms and blossoms of every kind.

And that is our trip. We flew out the day after visiting the greenhouses. That was kind of a nightmare. We didn’t get back home until midnight. But we made it and gladly fell into our own bed. Poor Brian had to get up and go to work the next day, but I slept in and “recovered” from our strenuous traveling 🙂

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The Easter Trip Part I: The Netherlands*

We started off our trip over Easter in Amsterdam. Well actually, we started off at 7:00 in the morning with a 3 hour train ride to Copenhagen where we caught our 1 hour flight to Amsterdam. Something about the time involved there just seems wrong, but it has become apparent to me that Aarhus is not well situated for easy European travel. Even its own airport is a 25 minute bus ride from the city center, and then you have to fly to Copenhagen airport before you can get anywhere else.

Anyway, we arrived in Amsterdam, booked it over to our hotel, checked in, and then immediately ran out to enjoy the evening. We were only there Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday morning (which was all spent traveling), so we had to get on with exploring!

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Amsterdam was lovely, but I felt like it was a city with multiple personality disorder. The main area of downtown, the touristy area around the Red Light District, was chockablock full of British tourists. FULL! I swear, I heard more British English than anything else during our time in the city. Apparently, Amsterdam is like the UK’s Las Vegas, and everyone goes there in huge groups on stag or hen nights.

However, if you could get outside of that little pocket, you can discover the lovely, peaceful, canal-bordering streets that you imagined. And the wonderful thing was, it wasn’t that difficult to get outside of the touristy part.

Lovel Canals

Lovely Canals

As you can tell from my outfit, despite the weather forecasts that I saw before we left – which I swear told us there was going to be warm weather! – it was quite chilly while we were there.

So we spent most of our time in Amsterdam pounding the pavement, enjoying the picturesque houses and canals, though we did stop by the Rijks Museum to see some of the great Dutch masters. And we ate so many french fries!

With mayo, which I am now totally behind, by the way. Though I still like ketchup. As long as it's not remoulade!

With mayo, which I am now totally behind, by the way. Though I still like ketchup. As long as it’s not remoulade!

I will say one last thing about Amsterdam. It is so weird to be walking down the street and smell marijuana everywhere and see half naked women posing in the doorway of their little booths. I don’t know why, but knowing that these things are legal in Amsterdam and then actually seeing them are two different things.

Sunday we hightailed it to a small university town in the south of The Netherlands* called Wageningen so Brian could register for his conference, the whole impetus for this trip in the first place. Over the next few days, Brian attended his conference from 9am until 9pm, leaving me free to wander around Wageningen.

I was a little worried about this part at the start of the trip, but it turned out that this was one of my favorite parts of our whole trip. Probably because – as I’ve recently been discovering – I am more a small town or even country girl than I am a city girl. Small towns are just so much more…manageable. And Wageningen still has a wonderfully cute pedestrian street like all European cities, so it’s not like it’s lacking in shopping or amenities.

The Town

It is a university town after all. But just a short 8 minute walk from the center of town (from anywhere in that town, really) was this:

The Floodlands

Beautiful beautiful fields full of wild grass, flowers, and sun.

Plus this is the walk to get there:

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So I spent most of my time in Wageningen wandering around in the sun, reading in the sun, napping in the sun. I even rented a bike and biked in the sun!

The River The Garden The Bike

Plus I got to see all of these sweet baby sheep!

Cute little puffballs.

Cute little puffballs.

I really could live in a town like Wageningen, I think.

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*Note: Although many people in the US refer to this country as “Holland,” the entire country is correctly called “The Netherlands.” North and South Holland are two provinces within The Netherlands. As much of what is famous about The Netherlands – Tulips, Amsterdam – comes from these provinces, it’s pretty understandable that they would get confused. Watch this really cool and useful video (Thanks Yuka!) if you’re still feeling confused:

Passports Please

Today I stuck my passport in an envelope and sent it off with the postman to be renewed at the US Embassy in Copenhagen. See, with everything that was going on before we left, I forgot to check if my passport was valid for the entire time we’ll be here in Denmark. And of course, it’s not. It expires about a year too early, which means my visa also expires about a year too early. Yikes!

Fortunately, I’ve checked – thoroughly – and it seems pretty easy to renew both documents while abroad, starting with my passport. I still have about a year to go on it, but since I know we won’t be traveling for the next few months I decided to just go ahead and get it done.

It’s a very strange feeling to be outside of my country without my passport. I know that I don’t need it for day to day living, and I’m pretty sure I can travel through Europe without it as long as I have my Danish ID card. But it’s the only thing that will get me back into the US, so not having it on me and trusting it to the whims of the post service is a little strange.

Luckily, the lady at the postoffice reminded me that I should get a tracking number for the package so I can watch it wing its way over to the embassy. And another good thing is that it only takes about 2 weeks to renew your passport while abroad, compared with something like 6 weeks if you’re renewing it inside the US. So hopefully I won’t have to be without it for long.

So lesson learned. And a warning for all you planning on moving abroad: check the expiration date of your passport a good 6-4 months before the actual move!! It will just make your life a lot easier.

What I'll look like when my new passport arrives safely.

What I’ll look like when my new passport arrives safely.