Saturday, June 28, Amsterdam Holland with day trips to Brussels and Antwerp. We were up early again this morning so as to make an 8:59 a.m. train to Brussels. Unlike the train to Brugge yesterday, this one did not require a train change, and we rode straight through. We got to Brussels around noon and found our way to the tourist information center. As it turns out, the tourist office was outside the train station in a large square. It was a 5 minute walk there.
Our initial impression of Brussels is that it is beautiful European city with lots of little streets that wind themselves here and there. Brussels is a large city with more than one million people living there. It is the administrative heart of the European Union. Brussels is considered the "defacto" capital of Belgium. It is also the home of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
After our stop at the tourist information office, we were armed with a map of the city and learned that much of what we wanted to see was nearby. We went deeper into the city, following cute little streets with lots of shops and restaurants. Earlier in the day, it was obvious that it had rained, but now the sky started to clear and the sun began to warm us. We explored for about an hour before taking some time for a quick snack of won-ton soup and some tea.
As we continued our explorations, we happened onto the formation of a parade. We asked what the occasion was, and were told that it was a parade in celebration of "Meyboom". Meyboom is a Belgian holiday celebrating a "feat of arms" in the 14th Century. Meyboom means "tree of joy" and the celebration takes place with the planting of a tree on the 9th of August. The parade is complete with brass bands and giant puppets. Jennifer and I watched the parade, with the giant puppets and all, and were told it was a "pre-planting celebration". We followed the parade back into the heart of the city.
By now it was around 3:30 and we decided to take the train back to Antwerp for a look around there too. We boarded the train and we arrived in Antwerp after an hour journey. There was an orchestra playing some delightful music at the train station, so we stopped and listened until they packed up their instruments and left.
As we left the train station and started walking along one of the main streets, we noticed a cinema and decided to take a look. We enjoyed a showing of "Made of Honor" and then continued exploring the city for the next hour or so. Antwerp is a beautiful city, as well, and has a population of around 470,000 people. We were limited in our time and stayed on the main streets most of the time. Unlike Brussels, Antwerp didn't seem to have the many twisty streets, but we may have missed those sections altogether.
Jennifer and I headed back to the train station so as to make the 7:59 train to Amsterdam and got back into the city around 10:30. It was just getting dark and we were tired, so we made our way back to the hotel for a good nights sleep. Tomorrow we plan to rent some bicycles, visit the Jewish Museum and explore more of the city. We also want to take a boat ride on the canals before we have to leave on Tuesday.
Ciao for now.....