TFJ TRAVEL JOURNAL: BRUSSELS / AMSTERDAM / ST. GOAR

Three cities in three days? Totally possible.

Leaving London meant the commencement of our Contiki tour. To recap, I travelled with my friend Maddison and we decided on a Contiki tour because we wanted to see a lot in a short amount of time, whilst having structure and a sense of security to our trip. Anyway, in a matter of three and a half days we saw the best of three countries: Belgium’s capital city of Brussels, Amsterdam, Netherlands (or as we like to call it, AmsterDAMN), and the super low key, peaceful town of St. Goar in Germany’s Rhine Valley.

On first impression, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Brussels. Our hotel was the shabbiest, hospital looking room you can imagine, and we had spent most of the day travelling from London to Dover, then across the Strait of Dover into France, through France and into Belgium. Whilst in London, rain was to be expected, but I wasn’t too happy with being welcomed into Belgium with a shower. I mean that literally; we got off the coach, started unloading our bags and it started raining really hard. By the time we got into the hotel we were soaked and only had half an hour to get ready for dinner. Not ideal when you have to share mirror space and power points. We didn’t even have a proper bathroom, just a basin in the corner of the room. Yeah, it was that bad.

 

Once we left the hotel, hair half straightened and all, we went to dinner at a local city restaurant within the Ilot Sacre district, which also wasn’t the best, but the new company of our Contiki group was fab, and the town square was beautiful, we even got Belgium waffles. After dinner we went to a bar called Délirium Café, which has over 2,000 different beers, with a lot of them on tap! I’m not usually a beer person but I was willing to try. There we really bonded with our tour group; in true Contiki fashion we played drinking games and started to get to know each other. We met some locals too which was “so fucking good” (that’s an inside joke, you had to be there…).

The next day we moved onto Amsterdam(n). There we saw the I Amsterdam letters, which I stupidly didn’t take any photos of, and then moved onto the House of Bols, which was a museum/bar type of thing where you go through a cool exhibition of the scents and ingredients that go into making all of the different flavoured bottles of Bols; you even get a free cocktail at the end.

After that I went for a walk by myself down Pieter Cornelisz Hoofstraat, a designer shopping strip. I highly recommend walking around and exploring the streets of Amsterdam; it’s so tranquil and picturesque, and will definitely give you a sense of the culture and lifestyle.

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We then had dinner in the small town of Volendam before going on a canal cruise, which our tour manager told us “was not a booze cruise” but we had access to unlimited alcohol so…

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We then ventured out into the red light district and went to Theatre Casa Rosso (I’ll let you look into what it is). Later, we walked around along the canals a little whilst on our way to a club close to the city centre. While in Amsterdam we also went to a clog and cheese making factory, just another way to immerse ourselves in Holland’s culture.

From there we journeyed through Germany and into the quiet riverside town of St. Goar in the Rhine Valley. It was probably the first place where we were taken aback by the natural beauty of Europe.

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The simple town was very scenic, and it’s known for being home to the world’s largest cuckoo clock, Birkenstocks, beer steins, and ice wine. Considering St. Goar is in a valley, it was very green and the air was so fresh. Without the hustle of a city it was probably the most tranquil place that we visited.

One thing that stood out to me about St. Goar is the several century old legend of Lorelei, a tale of a woman who jumped to her death after discovering that her true love had been unfaithful. It is believed that upon her demise she became a siren who remained at the sight of her death, and that she would lure mariners to their death in the turbulent waters.

From the beginning we learnt that Contiki can feel very rushed, but with good reason. Understandably you can’t spend too much time in every country, and it’s a fantastic way to see a lot in a short amount of time.

In the future though I definitely would like to spend more time in Amsterdam. There’s so much to do that I feel like I missed out on, like visiting the Anne Frank house, the Banksy exhibition at Moco Museum, the Van Gough museum, and the Verzetsmuseum – which is the museum of WWII Dutch resistance.

Have you been to Brussels, Amsterdam, or the Rhine Valley? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

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