These travel posts are proving to be terribly dangerous for me (and my wallet, primarily). My vacation bucket list has grown exponentially since they began, and I often find myself daydreaming of far away places and the things I would get up to. Though these wonderful European cities have always been on said list, they have quickly risen to the very top thanks to Lexia Frank and her most recent voyage. And if you’re in agreement, the gallery is where you need to be.
SMP: What brought you to these amazing places?
My family is originally from The Netherlands – my grandmother immigrated when she was a little girl. During her journey to the US, she got very sick and ended up being separated from her parents (my great grandparents) upon arrival to Ellis Island. There is a ton of family history and it has always been a dream of ours (my mother, sister and I) to return to the small little village town where she spent the first few years of her life. While we were there, we thought we’d take advantage and visit some family friends Brussels and Switzerland.
SMP: What was your overall impression of your trip?
Incredible. I was nervous about our time-frame as we planned the entire trip around the blooming tulips (a big part of the traditional Dutch culture). We knew that we were going during the rainy season (though we lucked out with only half our trip being rained on!) but we truly didn’t let it stop us. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember ever being so happy to be IN the rain! There’s something about the old European architecture, and people walking through the wet streets with umbrellas. It feels very romantic.
SMP: Where did you stay?
In Amsterdam, we stayed at Westcord Art Hotel. Although it was a little further outside the city than we would have liked, the bus stopped directly outside the front entrance, and the ten minute ride into the city became the perfect time to glance at the map and plan out what we were going to do that day. The modern hotel boasted great customer service, and an even better breakfast. The spread was incredible and definitely made up for the average room. We would even make little sandwiches from the breakfast spread and take it along for a pre-lunch snack during the day in the city.
After Amsterdam, we headed to Brussels where we splurged on the most luxurious hotel I’ve ever stayed in- the The Steigenberger Grandhotel. Because we only had one day in Belgium we didn’t want to waste any time at all traveling in and out of the city and this centrally located hotel was absolutely perfect.
When we arrived in Switzerland, we stayed at the Tiffany Hotel. Although the location was great, our room was on the top floor and the elevator did not go up that high! Two flights of stairs with luggage was not an easy task after 10 days of travel.
SMP: How did you get around?
We took advantage of public transportation within each city, and the train to get from country to country. In The Netherlands, we rented a car to travel to the small country village where my grandmother was born.
SMP: The most beautiful thing you saw during your travels?
We LOVED Brussels. What we thought would be just a necessary (and somewhat inconvenient) stop on the way from The Netherlands to Switzerland ended up being one of our favorite places. The architecture, the little boutique-y shops, and the local flea market we stumbled upon were just incredible.
SMP: Any not-to-miss restaurants?
Le Roy D’espagne on the Grand Place in Brussels was our favorite eatery. They served traditional Belgium fare, paired with local beer and it was all excellent. We were seated next to an oversized hearth in the center of the restaurant to warm our chilled bones. The Flemish style beef in leffe was quite simply the best thing I have ever eaten in my entire life. I’m not ashamed to admit that I licked the bowl.
SMP: Any notable shops you stumbled upon during your trip?
You mustn’t miss the Grand Place in Brussels as it’s lined with artisan Belgium chocolate shops, and lace shops where you can get your hands on some antiqued Belgium lace (I picked some up for myself!) I should note that you should expect to pay top dollar since they’re incredibly rare in this day and age
SMP: What about sights? Anything off the beaten path? Any secrets you care to divulge?
In Brussels we happened upon a little flea market and it was the best find of the entire trip. I purchased an antique stereoscope, tons of french records (easy to pack!), an adorable vintage apron, vintage french toys and lots of french children’s books for my boys. While you’re there, ask the locals to point you in the direction of the good flea markets, they’re happy to oblige. In Belgium look for lace – I would have just died for a wedding veil of Belgium lace (très cher)! Oh and bring a second suitcase to bring all of your treasures home.