Subject: Re: trips to the low countries
Dear Ruth and Arthur,

I just returned from Belgium and the Netherlands on Wednesday. Didn't see nearly as much as you are planning but here are my impressions.

Netherlands: Almost any place is a day trip from Amsterdam. We stayed at the Amstel Botel which was cheap, safe and convenient to the central station. We enjoyed our day trip to Haarlem on a Saturday which is a market day. We also visited the Grote Kirke (wonderful organ) and the Corrie ten Boom house (they hid Jews during World War II). The tour there is free but you get to sit in the living room on her furniture and see her room where the hiding place was. There is a religious slant to this tour but their religious convictions are what prompted them to provide the hiding place. We enjoyed the restaurant In Der Wag which is a few blocks from the Botel. For an inexpensive self service meal, the restaurant in the former first class waiting room by Track 1 served good food in a nice atmosphere. Also in the train station, C'est Du Pain, has delicious appelflap which is a breakfast pastry and a large coffee. In March it appeared that all of Amsterdam was under construction and a walk along the Damrack to Dam Square could convince you that you are the only two people in Amsterdam over the age of 25.

Belgium: We stayed in both Brussels and Bruges. We found Bruges more interesting of the two. We did most of what we wanted in two days but our pace was fairly hectic. Climb the belfry if you can and be on top at the top of the hour to hear the carrilon. We also enjoyed the Groeninge museum, the Church of Our Lady which has a Michaelangelo Madonna and Child, the Beginhof and the Minnewater. By all means, take a canal boat ride and just walk. There were two restaurants we particularly enjoyed: Brasserie Erasmus (somewhere near the center of town) and Salad (near the Beginhof). Salad is not open for supper. We stayed at Hotel Cavalier which is only a block or so off market square. It is cheap, safe and convenient and does not have an elevator. Breakfast included cheese and meats as well as a boiled egg if you wished. We ate at a restaurant called Tom Pouce which is on the Berg. It was the only restaurant of this trip where bread was extra--everything was extra. Food was okay. There are five or six restaurants on market square also but they weren't recommended in my guide book and I suspect that they were out to get the tourist also.

Brussels: We spent a day and a half in Brussels and it seemed adequate to us. We stayed at Hotel Madelein right near Central Station. Again it meant our criteria of cheap (at least for Brussels), safe and central. It was also just a block or so away from Grand Place. We walked a great deal, took the hop-on, hop-off bus trip and went to the art museums. We ate at La Moule Sacre and T'Kelderke. We enjoyed them both although I am sure there are other more expensive restaurants which are better.

I think doing the trip at a more leisurely pace would add to your enjoyment but even at our quick pace, we wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Barbara in CT.