We had no trouble getting our train to Amsterdam and high speed rail is such a great way to travel. We just showed up to the station, no check in lines, no security checks, no pre boarding process, just find our car and get on. I then spent the trip going through my Brussels pictures and writing the post (hope you enjoyed). When we arrived and got settled, we walked into the city center and found something to eat (a late lunch is such a bad idea). The pub we ate at had a nice cat that seemed to live in the place, which just made Kim miss our kitties back home. It was raining so we hung out for a while heading back and munching on some stuff we got from a grocery.

Kim wanted to see the Rijksmuseum, which seemed like a good idea since it was overcast and raining again (I never saw the sun once while in Amsterdam). It actually felt like a nicer art museum than the Louvre. The Louvre had a better collection for sure, but it is just so chaotic and maze like that it seems like a bother seeing a lot of it. The Rijksmuseum had some nice Monets and a few Van Goghs (most of his stuff is at the neighboring Van Gogh Museum) along with a lot of great Dutch landscape paintings (I got tired of dead people portraits and battle scenes). As we began to get a bit tired of the art, we headed out and tried to get another picture of the I amsterdam sign/sculpture, thinking it would be less crowded with the light rain so I could try and get a good, clear picture of it (why people insist on ruining a good sculpture by putting themselves in front of it, I don’t understand), which I finally got after a couple were gracious enough to wait for me to get my picture. We then took a tram to go to the Brouerij Tij (which is located next to the de Gooyer windmill) to have some beers. The place was really crowded, so we ended up standing at the bar. They had an IPA that used American hop strains and was really interesting (a European take on an APA basically). We then took a tram back to the museumplein for a meat place I had found recommendations for. The wait ended up being over an hour (a good sign) so we just hung out at a neighboring bar before we got to chow down on the lamb shoulder and the lamb chops (both were excellent).

de Gooyer windmill

The next day we grabbed some breakfast around the corner from the apartment and then walked over the Albert Cuypmarkt, which is a long street market. We were both pretty full from breakfast, so we did not try the street food (should have thought about that before breakfast :). There were a lot of touristy souvenir shops that Kim checked out while I was looking at the cheese and food options. I wish the US had more street markets, they have such a great potential for choices and discoveries. After that street market, we headed to the Bloomenmarkt, which ended up being more of an adventure with the tram we got on going AWOL and heading way east rather than north. When we realized it was going another direction, we got off and tried to figure out a new route there. We eventually found our way after mixing some short tram rides and walking. It was not as interesting as I had expected with most of the shops just selling bulbs or seeds (and some cannabis starter kits). We stopped into a pancake place for an early dinner before heading to the boat tour place we had picked for a night boat tour. The boat tour was nice, a lot of cool information and some cool scenes. I wanted more pictures but some people on the boat were cold so I had to keep the window closed :(. We then wandered home for the night.

For our final day, we went to try another, more highly reviewed, place for Dutch pancakes. We both tried some more interesting (and savory) options which turned out really tasty. We then wondered around the Jordaan neighborhood some, then headed back because Kim was feeling sleepy and wanted a lounging day. We lounged around the apartment the rest of the day, munching on some snacks and relaxing. For dinner, Kim wanted some Indonesian food (common in Amsterdam as it once was a Dutch colony). We had ayam kari and rendang, which were both very good.
We then headed home to get to sleep early, our train to Berlin was early in the morning.


We got to the station early for the train to Brussels and hung out in a cafe before boarding the train. It was a short hour ride to Brussels Midi. Then we got to figure out another train system to get to the apartment. Brussels has an incredible public transit system with stops everywhere and trains coming often. After finding out the European SIM we got stopped working outside of France (not very happy about this) we got lost and eventually found our way to the apartment. After settling down, we ventured out. The apartment was near the Grand Place/Grote Markt (everything in Brussels is bilingual and that is very controversial among the people of Belgium). The square was surrounded by old builds that were lit up really nice when it got dark. We explored the streets, which were stuffed with tourist-centric stores. We chose a place on the square with a good view of the buildings for moules et frites… and beer. I had a dubbel and Kim had a blonde. The moules were very tender and the frites were nice. A sauce with them would have been desirable (I guess that is common at other places, with a wide selection usually available). We then went to a bar for some more Belgian beer. We both ended up drinking a few blondes there before drunkenly heading back to the apartment and crashing.

Grand Place at night

Brussels is a city that reminds me a lot of Chicago. It feels big without feeling important (in the egotistical way that New Yorkers or Parisians seem to view their home). It has a neat mixture of older and newer architecture. It feels cultured and varied while also being welcoming. We were staying in a very touristy area, so I tried to take a lot of what we saw there with a grain of salt. A few places we walked seemed a bit shady and I definitely saw, on two separate occasions, someone shoplift something. Kim read that there were some shady neighborhoods to avoid as well, so it has that going for it in the Chicago comparison. The city felt more like a regular city where Paris felt like a giant exhibit, filled with visitors.

the Manneken Pis

On Wednesday, we got up with a slight hangover (we were very bad about drinking normal fluids the previous day, so the few beers did not sit well overnight). For breakfast, we each had a waffle covered in Nutella, which did wonders for feeling better (and did wonders for our blood sugar levels). We walked over to the Manneken Pis statue, famous for being dressed up by the locals in various outfits. Today it was undressed and surrounded by tourists. We took some pictures and then headed up towards the Palais Royale de Bruxelles. When we got up the hill towards it, it began to rain down, so we ducked into the Musical Instrument Museum. It was a neat museum where you were given a handset and headphones which would start playing music of the instruments you were standing in front of. There was a very neat variety of instruments, many of which I had never heard of (like the Jew’s Harp or Saxhorn) and other variants of instruments that just looked silly (like a precursor to the electric violin with a large megaphone speaker sticking off to the side). We went upstairs to the restaurant and had some small food for lunch and enjoyed the view. Kim wanted to walk to the Espace Léopold, so we walked from the museum to the building. The main entrance had a lot of people standing around it, but not going in (it was badge entry), so we figured they were waiting to see specific people. We had a wait at the Parliamentarium (their visitor center) and got to go through it. We took our time and read up about the formation of the EU, not getting to finish as they had to close the visitor center before we got to the end. A lot of the visitors just glossed through most of it, which was saddening, as there was a lot of good history and information there. We then hunted down a train station and got back to the apartment to rest before dinner. Before dinner, we did some shopping and then went to eat. The place I picked out ahead of time ended up being very crowded, but rightfully so. The beer was delicious and we had country sausage on stoemp (a sort of vegetable mashed potatoes) and Boulettes (big meatballs in a tomato sauce). Kim was not feeling like more drinks, so we went back and hung out before getting some sleep, we had an early train to Amsterdam the next day.


We flew into Paris on an overnight flight, leaving Chicago after work and arriving around lunch in Paris. The first day there was mostly forceful jet lag recovery (we both took a short nap) and then just walking around the fourth arrondissement (where we were staying). We walked along the Seine, it was lined with all sorts of things, small street vendors selling French books, little cafés with people sitting side by side facing out to the street (versus sitting across from each other), flower shops, pet shops, etc., all very nice and quaint (versus mega stores like in the US, like Petsmart or Barnes & Nobles). We saw the Hôtel de Ville, which we didn’t even realize until we were upon it (much of Paris is like this, where you just stumble upon another landmark without knowing it). It was impressive, with a very vibrant look when the sun was on it. Further down, we ended up walking around the Louvre. The old exterior is very dramatic. When we got to the glass Pyramid, it gave an interesting contrast with the old French architecture around it. A lot of people were doing dumb poses with the pyramid (lining up their hand with the top to make it look like they were holding it or something). Kim and I decided to make a series of pictures of these people doing the dumb poses and began taking pictures of ourselves doing similar, but badly, like not lined up or just a meaningless pose. We strolled down through the Tuileries Garden, which were nice with a lot of people just sitting out and enjoying the sun. We opted to turn back before we got to the Champs-Élysées and look for dinner. We found this nice little bistro for drinks and dinner. I had a tartare and Kim had a duck magret, both of which were excellent. French beer leaves a lot to be desired (luckily we are going to two of the better beer countries later). We then ventured back, randomly, to our apartment. We stopped along the way to get a small bottle of cheap champagne, which we then finished back at the apartment before going to bed.

The Louvre

The apartment is this awesome, quaint little Parisian apartment. It is on the 7th floor (or 6th in France, they count the ground floor and first floor separately). There is no elevator, so we got to climb 6 flights of stairs (104 steps) up to the top floor where our apartment was. It was small, but utilitarian in its layout. It had an awesome view out over the Parisian rooftops. The building let out onto the street between two shops, right in the middle of the area. This area of Paris does not have specific residential and business areas, it just seems like they both blend together, with everyone living in apartments above shops.

view from the apartment

On Sunday, we woke up and made our way north to the Gare du Nord, the train station we would be using to go to Brussels. We opted to make it a walk and grab breakfast along the way. I had been really pumped about the pâtisseries, so we stopped by one and each got a croissant. It did not disappoint, I could go to these everyday and not get tired of them. After figuring out the train stations, we took the subway towards the Eiffel Tower. When we got out of the station, a half marathon was just finishing next to the tower and there were loads of runners around. This was quite hectic when you add them to the always thick crowd of tourists. We walked around the tower taking pictures and decided to go find lunch. We ended up having a sea bass fillet with leeks and veal medallions with a mushroom sauce (and some amazing potatoes au gratiné). Kim decided to get a crème brûlée for desert, which was excellent. We then headed to the Notre-Dame via train. The line there was almost as bad as the Eiffel Tower, so we opted to walk around some. We ended up having some drinks and a crepe a la Grand Marnier at a sidewalk café and then took a scenic walk along the Seine back to the apartment. After a short rest, we went for dinner, finding this small bistro where we got a charcuterie and cheese board, duck confit and potatoes (the duck was so awesome, and so bad for me, and the potatoes were seasoned, thick cut slices, deep fried, so great), and pasta carbonara.

le Tour Eiffel

The Parisian attitude is very interesting. People are usually very laid back and try to enjoy life more than getting something done. They enjoy sitting around and talking more than eating and leaving as fast as possible. They give the right of way to walkers rather than laying on their horns to save a minute of driving time. If they mess up, they laugh it off and expect you to as well, because ”C’est la vie”. They don’t worry if you butcher some French, as long as you try. Our time in Paris was relaxing and a nice start to the trip. It was not stressful (except for when we ventured into tourist country) and set a nice tone to the rest of the trip.

On Monday, we wanted to use the tripod to take some pictures of us in front of the Eiffel Tower. It ended up being fairly overcast, so the picture was not as good. We hunted down some lunch, a nice salmon tartare a few blocks away. And then ventured north towards the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées. It cost a bit to climb (no elevator service) to the top of the arc, but there was little crowd (tourists are very lazy) so we got to get up and enjoy the view. The arc is at an intersection of 12 roads and offers a great view of a lot of Paris. I spent some time taking pictures, Kim wanted to head down for our next destination, the Louvre. We had advice to access the museum from the underground, when we arrived, we followed signs, but they took us to the pyramid. We figured the entrance was part of a closed station and ended up standing in line (this was not the case, we later found out). In the museum, we went and saw the Mona Lisa, it was very underwhelming, mostly due to a giant crowd around it and a very odd setting. We then explored some more of the Italian paintings, the Greek antiquities (and the Venus de Milo), the Egyptian department, then over to the Italian sculptures to see the Dying Slave. At this point, we were getting a bit tired so we headed home for a rest. For dinner, we ended up having small plates, one of charcuterie and cheese and another of foie gras. Kim is not a fan of the liver flavor in the foie gras, so I got to eat all of it (no complaints). We then ventured home and packed up for our train ride to Brussels.

love locks on the Pont de l'Archevêchè bridge