Earlier this year, the organization I work with sent me off to Europe to attend a conference. When I got the news, I wasn’t sure if my boss would allow me to extend my stay in Europe, so I didn’t make any plans. Fortunately, I got the best boss in the entire world. He asked us to extend our Europe trip and take this opportunity to get a break from work. What a very lucky employee here. So I reached out to my friends who are now living in Europe, and plan the ultimate Europe Trip.
We flew to Amsterdam 2 days before the start of the conference. It means we have 2 days off to explore the city of Amsterdam, and discover its wonder. After the 12hr flight from Singapore to Amsterdam, with a movie marathon and controlling bladder in between (because sitting in the middle of the plane is such a struggle), we reached safely to our destination. After buying a local SIM card at the Airport, we headed to our beautiful hotel, the newly opened Hyatt Regency Hotel.
During the Conference Week...
On our first day in Amsterdam, we went for our 1st lunch in Europe---a Mexican Steakhouse, visited a flea market, went to hear some Evening song in Basilica of St. Nicholas, walked around narrow alleys and famous canals of Amsterdam, and visited some famous tourist spots.
The next day, we went to Keukenhof Garden. Lucky we still have time to catch the Tulips that time of the year. Keukenhof Garden is only open during spring. To be honest, I don’t like flowers that much, but I enjoyed my visit there. All kinds of tulips were in that huge garden. The exhibit of different kinds of Tulips makes people flock to that garden every springtime.
The Road Trip
After the conference, I met with my friend Ailleen, who I will be joining with in a road trip for the rest of my stay in Europe. Basically, she and her husband had already planned a road trip through Europe for their wedding anniversary. I really didn’t know about the wedding anniversary until I got home from the trip. They were set to do the road trip a couple of weeks after my conference. They already applied for a leave from the company they work with, and everything is settled. But then I came, and begged them to move the road trip date so I can join them. I’m very thankful to them, for moving the date of the trip to accommodate me. Really! To Ailleen and Jason, if your reading this right now, Thank You so much! I’m so blessed to have such wonderful friends like you.
Day 1 | Brussels, BELGIUM & Paris, FRANCE
From Netherlands, we drove our way to France with a quick stop in Brussels. Spend a few minutes mesmerized by the Atomium, and later tried to go inside Mini Europe. But, bailed out the moment the rain starts to pour. We ran back to our car and head to France.
When we arrived in France, we check in on our hotel and waited for our 2 friends who will be joining us in exploring Paris . Spent almost an entire day exploring Paris. The ideal itinerary for Paris is usually 3-5days, so you will be able to cover those famous tourist spot. But, guess what? We managed to squeeze in all those tourist spot in one day. Eventhough we did manage to visit all those places, we weren’t able to go inside some of the museums. I guess I’ll have to visit Paris again some other time.
Day 2 | Versailles and Rouen, FRANCE
The next day, we continued our journey driving from Paris to Rouen. On our way, we stopped by the most biggest Palace garden in the world, The Versailles. It was amazing! Imagine, you get to walked on the halls and gardens that the Kings and Queens have walk before. Every corner speaks history.
We headed towards Rouen. I never heard about this place before. But when I checked the map, and saw the name, I got curious. I searched it on google and saw some cool photos of the town. Since this town is just along our way, I didn’t want to pass on the chance to visit this lovely place. And it was amazing. I can’t see so much tourist compared to Paris. It was just like a quiet little town. And I love it.
Day 3 | Mont Saint-Michel, Saint-Malo and Dinan, FRANCE
After spending a night in Rouen, we went to Mont Saint-Michel and Saint-Malo, before heading to Dinan. Mont Saint-Michel is an island commune located in Normandy, France. It is listed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. In the past, Mont Saint-Michel can only be reached during low tides. Today, they have built a road to access the island anytime.
Saint-Malo, this is where things got worst. The car broke. Jason accidentally hit a cement block when he tried to park the car. Lucky his car got insurance. In less than an hour someone came to help. I thought our Europe road trip was over. After a couple of hours at the Mechanic shop, we were on our way to Dinan.
Dinan, a fairytale town in Brittany, France. I never thought such place existed in real life. It was as if you were tossed in a Hollywood movie scene. Everything is so pretty and beautiful. You can’t help take pictures each turns you take.
Day 4 | Château du Clos Lucé and Château de Chambord, FRANCE
On our 4th day, we visited the house where Da Vinci stayed during the last 3 yrs of his life, The Château du Clos Lucé in Amboise, Loire Valley. I love Da Vinci and his works. He was quite a genius. And the Chateau we just visited exhibits most of his works.
Then we headed to Château de Chambord at Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France. One of the most stunning castles in France. It felt like Disney World again. A few hours roaming around the castle, then we're off to our camping site in Switzerland.
Day 5 | Rocher's De Naye, Switzerland
We’re halfway on our road trip. We spent the entire day hiking the mountain of the Swiss Alps, overlooking the Geneva Lake. There are 2 ways to reach the summit of Rochers de Naye. You can either ride the train or you can hike. We chose to hike, coz it will save us some money and will give us some good muscle workout.
Day 6 | Aare Gorge and Lucerne, SWITZERLAND
We spent our morning following river trail at Aare Gorge (Aareschlucht) in Meiringen, Switzerland. They built a walking paths along the Gorge, pitch at the side of the cliff. It was an amazing view.
Then we headed towards the city of Lucerne, a beautiful small city in the heart of Switzerland. We went for a quick walk in the old town, and was mesmerized by the history of the place. We spent a few minutes drinking coffee in a cafe overlooking the Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge).
Day 7 | Rhinefalls, SWITZERLAND; Vaduz Castle, LIECHTENSTEIN; and Neuschwanstein Castle, GERMANY
It was quite a long day. We visited 3 countries (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany) in 1 day. First we visited the Rheinfall/Rhine Falls in Switzerland, the biggest waterfall in Europe. It is indeed huge. They have put up some viewing decks at the side of the waterfalls, and from there you can feel the mist from the falls.
Our 2nd stop was the Vaduz Castle in Liechtenstein—the smallest country in Europe. We tried our way in, but the gate keeper told us that it’s private property and that the queen of the country is currently occupying the castle. So we just roamed around outside the castle gate.
Then we went to Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, the most famous castle in Europe. The fairytale look of the castle inspired Walt Disney to create the Magic Kingdom. It is the real life Walt Disney.
Day 8 | Cologne, GERMANY & Nijgemen, NETHERLANDS
Cologne, our last stop in Germany before heading back to Netherlands. I have been fascinated with structures of Cathedrals and churches of Europe ever since I was young. When I learned that we’re passing by Germany, I just couldn’t stop asking my friends if we could stop by the Cologne Cathedral. I love the Gothic architecture of the Cathedral, it breathes history. Since it was open when we arrived, we went inside. I was amazed on how high the ceiling goes. It was overwhelming. After a few hours roaming around inside and outside the cathedral, we decided to head back to Netherlands.
My friends are staying in Nijgemen, Netherlands—the summer capital of Netherlands. On our way home I asked my friend if we could go to a food Truck Festival happening in their town. I saw this event in some random website based in Netherlands. Since we arrived early in Nijgemen, my friends agreed to go there.
It was a huge crowd. Everywhere you look, you could see happy faces eating different kinds of food. I was excited to get mine. But I was confused which one to get. There were a lot of food to choose from. From Western to Asian food. In the end I chose to go with a beef bun and fries. I heard Netherlands have the most delicious fries you can eat. Indeed they have!
Day 9 | Volendam and Zaanse Schans, NETHERLANDS
Our road trip never stopped the moment we were back in Netherlands. Early in the morning we headed to Amsterdam Airport to fetch 2 of my colleagues. We went directly to Volendam, a Dutch town located in North Holland.
Volendam is famous for its colourful wooden houses and a harbour full of old Dutch ship. If you want to experience the ‘Old Holland’, I suggest you go to this place. Here you can find a Cheese factory, as well as a Wooden Shoe Factory with scheduled tour inside these factories.
You can also try out some of the clothes the dutch people wear in the old days. There is a store in town where you can try out those clothes with a fee. And yes, you get a photo of you wearing those clothes. You can even ask them to take photo of you using your own camera, if you’re not satisfied with the photos they got.
TIP: Volendam is the best place to buy some souvenirs for your families and friends. Their products are cheaper compared to Amsterdam.
Now, our Netherlands trip would not be complete without a trip to windmill town. So our kind friends brought us to Zaanse Schans, a neighbourhood of Zaandam, Netherlands. Here you can see a collection of well-preserved windmills and houses. It totally felt like an open-air museum, full of history and beauty.
Day 10 | Giethoorn, NETHERLANDS
Our last day was a mix of disaster, fun and adventure. Our flight was later that night. So we left early from our friend's house to our last destination, Giethoorn. Githoorn is known for its boat-filled waterways, footpaths, bicycle trails and centuries-old thatched-roof houses. It was summer, so all the people flocked to this part of Netherlands to enjoy the perfect weather. All the boats for rent were rented out. We just got lucky we were able to find one. So we spent a couple of hours boating around Giethoorn. And since it was during peak season, we always bumped our boat to either the side of the waterway, or to the other boats. This was the fun and adventure part.
The disaster part happened when we’re on our way to the Airport. To make the story short, we missed our flight. I will talk about the detail of that experience on my future blog post. I wanted to feel awful about it. But I didn’t feel like it. Missed flights and disaster things that you experience along your travel are part of the adventure. So I just laughed it out and moved on. It’s not a loss, but a gain of experience and lesson.
Now if you are still there, and still reading this blog post, CONGRATIONLATIONS! I hope you’re not bored with my stories. I think this is the longest blog post I made. Anyway, I really appreciate you sticking around.
Have you been to these parts of Europe? Or perhaps living in one of these places I visited? Leave me a comment below. I would love to hear your stories.
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