Spring break in Europe: 1st of a series

As a teacher, I get quite a few weeks off every year (not as many as you might think, but that’s another discussion). Travel abroad during the summer months and around Christmas is expensive and crowded. So Mrs. D and I have often used my week off in the spring to travel, usually adding a Friday or Monday to make a 10-day trip.

We’ve taken 7 spring break trips to Europe (plus a winter break trip to Spain) beginning with a visit to France with the kids in 1999. People tell me they wouldn’t go for that short amount of time, but it’s actually quite nice if you take it for what it is and don’t plan to do too much. I’ve learned through experience that it can be unnecessarily stressful and tiring if you have an unrealistic itinerary.

We hadn’t gone on any vacation for 3 years. Airfares had been high, the exchange rate not great, and home repairs and improvements were eating up funds. But it was time to go somewhere again. We decided that if a decent airfare popped up, we’d grab it. $900 – $1,000 was too much, and that’s where they hovered for a few weeks. Finally, when a $645 fare from MSP to Amsterdam appeared, we grabbed it.

So we decided on 3 cities we hadn’t been to — Amsterdam, Bruges and Brussels. (Mrs D had been to Amsterdam many years ago)

After arriving at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport at about 8:30 AM on Saturday, we hopped on a train at the convenient airport station and headed for Brussels.

From the train between Amsterdam and Brussels

The first day after an overnight flight is a tired, bleary-eyed affair, so rather than stumble around Amsterdam waiting for our hotel room to be available, we decided to watch the countryside go by for 2 and a half more hours, then start the week in Belgium and work our way back to Amsterdam.

We rode past early-blooming bulb fields.


I’ve rented cars in Europe several times, but the train has a lot of advantages, especially if you’re spending a large amount of time in cities. First and foremost, it’s relaxing. You just float along and look at the scenery. It’s not always beautiful, but it’s usually interesting.

There's a fair amount of this kind of scenery on the train, too. In many areas, Europe is just as ugly as the U.S.

I think this guy was trying to race us.

My first mishap of the trip happened as the train pulled into the station in Brussels. I realized my new jacket (the only one I had brought) was not in the luggage rack with my suitcase. Who knows why. There were multiple opportunities for forgetfulness between Amsterdam and here and anybody who knows me knows that I will take advantage of every opportunity to leave something behind. Oh well . . . or I should say, “C’est La Vie”. I was in Bruxelles and it was going to be fun — jacket or not.

I’ll post soon about our two days in the city of waffles, cartoons, pommes frites, beer, and a certain little boy who urinates all over town. Au revoir!

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9 thoughts on “Spring break in Europe: 1st of a series

  1. A terrific post, terrific pictures, and I’m a worthy competitor in the leaving-things-behind. Like an expensive Burberry raincoat in Italy. We too would rather just hang out in a few places rather than try grand tours. And we love trains. My driving is bad enough in Minneapolis without perfecting my techniques in Europe! Keep ’em coming.

    • Reid – You and Cindy and your trips to France were our original inspirations to start going to Europe. You gave me the best advice when we were hesitating. You said, ”All you have to do is get on a plane”. Thanks.

  2. Great photos, Steve! I spent much time at Cafe DNA in Bruxelles in 1986. Yes, I was there when Chernobyl blew up….

    I could not find a bad beer in Bruxelles! And ate tons of pomme frites! And met a beautiful guy named Phillippe in a museum whom I still think about.

    I loved how one side of the street, people spoke Dutch and the other French…

  3. Steve: The Belgians opened our first business In South Charleston making window glass for homes in the early 1900’s -we have honored them with a Belgian display at the city’s interpretive center next door to the La Belle theater. Several descendants of these early families still live in South Charleston. Check out our facebook page south Charleston Museum. You are so fortunate to be able to travel and visit these interesting places. I love your photos. I authored a book through Arcadia publishing out of South Carolina to raise funds for our museum it is entitled “South Charleston” and has several photos of the city’s early Belgian families. My best to you, Judy

  4. Pingback: Too early to tiptoe through tulips – but still a great bike ride | Trying to pay attention

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