tom911 goes to Mainz, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Brussels and Amsterdam - Dec 2015

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by tom911, Dec 18, 2015.  |  Print Topic

  1. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    Usually I write an e-mail to friends and add my trip report at the same time. This trip I just didn't have the time to do both as I was serving as tour guide, so this is an after-trip report compiling the e-mails I sent out with photos. I've been able to move the photos into separate galleries to go with each city. If you want to start with the photos, they're all currently on the front page of my website: LINK

    December 6, Sunday

    Hello this Sunday night from Mainz, Germany. Spent Friday night at the Hyatt SFO with the Coughlins, and then we flew down to DFW at 8am Saturday morning. Had expected to get a 4:10pm flight to Frankfurt, Germany, but our original aircraft has cargo door issues. AA found us another aircraft, brought in to another gate, and the doors were closed at 6:48pm. Instead of arriving at 8:30am, the new departure time had us arriving at 11am. Can't complain, though, as we had lounge access to kill some of the time, were all upgraded to business class, and I hate arriving in Europe early in the morning. When we booked this flight in July on a very good sale ($800) it was due to arrive at 11:30am. A few months later AA moved it back 3 hours.

    [​IMG]

    Flight to Frankfurt:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I had the beef for dinner and an omelette for breakfast. Slept 4-5 hours of the 9 hour flight.

    After arrival in Frankfurt, we claimed our bags and took a shuttle train to another terminal where the S-Bahn runs from. Paid 4.55 euros each (about $5) for the 20 min train ride and offboarded at a secondary station near the Main River that was just a 10 min walk to our hotel. We checked in at 1:10pm.

    Hyatt lobby:

    [​IMG]

    My room:

    [​IMG]
     
    uggboy likes this.
  2. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    River traffic outside:
    [​IMG]

    Took a nap and was back out at 3:30 to visit the Christmas Market (we're all seriously jet-lagged and turning in early tonight). Streets were packed and hard to maneuver.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Back at the hotel around 6pm for some of the wine that Hyatt provided me. Jim and Zennie had dinner at a restaurant just around the corner from the hotel. Tom popped into the Regency Club for some soup and bread and came back to his room to work on photos.

    Off to Cologne on Monday morning.

    Mainz photos are in this gallery:
    https://tom911.smugmug.com/Travel-Europe/Germany/Dec-2015-Mainz-Germany/
     
    uggboy likes this.
  3. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    December 7, Monday

    Walked down to the hotel lounge for a light breakfast at 8am (granola, a roll, tea and orange juice). Jim and Zennie had breakfast in the hotel lobby restaurant overlooking the Main River. To Jim’s surprise he was charged 7 euros- about $7.50- for two glasses of ice water. Turns out their coffee cost less than the water. All we can think is that it was bottled water, as that is very popular here (had two glass bottles in my room and refrigerated bottles in the lounge). If that’s the worst experience this trip, we’ll be doing pretty well overall.

    Left the hotel at 9:25 for our 9:52 train to Mainz’s main train station (one stop away), and there boarded the scheduled 10:20 service to Cologne, about a 90 min journey. We had a medical emergency on board while en route, so we had to stop at an unscheduled station for about 10 minutes, and arrived late in Cologne due to that (plus the train came into Mainz 7 minutes late). We were in first class for this segment for about $10 extra each. You get a lot more legroom and 3-across seating instead of 4-across. About the only time I'm offered that option is when I travel with others. It never seems to come up when I travel solo.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    On arrival in Cologne we had to leave our bags in an automated locker area. A metal door slides open, you stuff your bag in, and then some type of belt mechanism inside takes your bag below the train station and returns it to you later in the day when you insert your ticket and pay the remaining balance (4 euros to start for 2 hours, then 3 euros extra for up to 24 hours)

    We walked across the rail bridge that was destroyed in WWII, and then walked back and visited the Cathedral (lit a candle for friends that need one this week).

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Walked through the shopping district and had lunch at the Galleria Kaufhof department store on the 3rd floor. I had a vegetable and cheese dish. I took some other photos so you can appreciate why I keep going back to these. The store also had some elaborate Christmas decorations inside.

    [​IMG]

    Back to the train station via the Christmas Market next to the Cathedral, arriving at 4pm to claim our bags. Boarded a packed 4:31pm train to Dusseldorf, and that was only 30 minutes long.
     
    uggboy likes this.
  4. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    We’re at Motel One, just 5 minutes from the train station. This is a chain I use in Germany and Austria, which includes free wi-fi, and my rate is 69 euros a night (about $75). Won’t be confused with the Hyatt, but it works well for me and has been a dependable option.

    [​IMG]


    Headed into the city center and old town (Aldstadt) at 6. We passed Christmas Markets along the way in, including one with a ferris wheel. Dinner was at Space Burger where we enjoyed huge burgers for around 7 euros ($7.50). Were back at the hotel after 9pm for the night.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Photos for Cologne are here:
    https://tom911.smugmug.com/Travel-Europe/Germany/2015-December-Cologne-Germany/

    Photos for Dusseldorf are here:
    https://tom911.smugmug.com/Travel-Europe/Germany/2015-December-Dusseldorf/
     
    uggboy likes this.
  5. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    December 8, Tuesday

    We were in the hotel lobby for breakfast at 9am, and by 10am had set out to the Aldstadt (old town) for some touring. Popped into some stores and a shopping arcade, then headed down to the Rhine River to watch some of the barge traffic.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Walked about a mile down the river to the telecommunications tower (Rheinturm). A very reasonable 6 euro/$6.50 elevator ride up the 174 meter/570 foot tower. There is a restaurant at the very top, so we got off just below that in a viewing area with a cafe serving drinks. Great photos opportunities in all directions, but particularly towards the Aldstadt.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    uggboy likes this.
  6. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    The checkerboard building is a Hyatt:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Old town area:

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    uggboy likes this.
  7. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    Looked at some unique commercial and residential buildings once back on the ground.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Walked back into the old town and toured a Christmas market near the old town hall (Rathaus). Enjoyed some bratwurst for 3 euros/$3.25. On the way back visited another Christmas market for some duck photos.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    uggboy likes this.
  8. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We were back at the hotel after 4pm and stopped in the lobby bar for cold beer.
     
    uggboy likes this.
  9. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    Back out at 6:30pm for dinner. Along the way we stopped at two Christmas markets near the Galleria Kaufhof department store, and from there to dinner at a brewery restaurant in the old town. Tom had venison stew, Jim turkey strips with mushrooms, and Zennie had pork knuckle.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Exited at 9pm to rain, so no window shopping tonight (and we didn’t bring umbrellas out, though we all had coats with hoods). Back to the hotel for the night. Jim took some time to relax in front of the fireplace in the lobby. It was a long day.

    [​IMG]

    Dusseldorf photos are here:
    https://tom911.smugmug.com/Travel-Europe/Germany/2015-December-Dusseldorf/
     
    uggboy likes this.
  10. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    December 9, Wednesday

    Quick 5 minute walk from our hotel, after breakfast, to the Dusseldorf train station. Caught a local train to Cologne at 10:39am (30 mins), and transferred there to the high-speed ICE train, featured below (InterCityExpress), to Brussels North (1hr 45mins). Had a 30 min layover between those first two trains. Once in Brussels, we changed to a regional train and one station later we had arrived at Brussels Central in the heart of Brussels. Arrival was about 1:45pm.

    [​IMG]

    Our hotel was about a 10-15 min walk uphill and is one of the nicest Motel Ones I’ve stayed in with two floors of lobby seating. The lower floor doubles as the breakfast area. The hotel also has a full service bar. My rate here is 79 euros a night (about $87) plus 9.5 euros for continental breakfast ($10.50). There is a local tax which brings my overall rate up to $101 a night, a very good value for Brussels.

    [​IMG]

    Walked downhill past the Cathedral and over to Grand Place which houses the town hall and guild houses with gold ornamentation. There is also a Christmas tree and manger scene in the square. Along the way we had lunch. Two soldiers with machine guns came in and sat across from us. I had some zucchini and potato soup. Not the first time we saw soldiers with machine guns this day,

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    uggboy likes this.
  11. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    Popped into a chocolate shop where Jim and Zennie selected a couple chocolates for immediate consumption. I'll leave the Grand Place photos for later, as we returned after dark, except for one sheep.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We walked just off Grand Place to visit Mannekin Pis.

    [​IMG]

    We did visit the Christmas Market area around the old stock exchange building and it’s clearly nothing like the markets in Germany. Even the hotel clerk told us not to expect much. Took about 15 mins to make the tour and won’t need to go back. The old stock market building was decorated very nicely with white lights, the one redeeming feature. Nearby there were some shop windows which too

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    uggboy likes this.
  12. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Before dinner a final stop at Grand Place which was all lit up:

    [​IMG]

    Dinner tonight was at a small restaurant on a side street near Galleries St Hubert where we ordered from a set menu. Jim and Tom ordered from the 12 euro/$13 menu (beer or wine, mixed salad, lasagna) and Zennie ordered from the 16 euro/$17.50 menu (prawns, bucket of mussels). Chocolate mousse was the included dessert option. Pretty good value and we all enjoyed our meals.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    uggboy likes this.
  13. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    uggboy likes this.
  14. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    December 10, Thursday

    Walked down to the central train station via the Royal Palace. Purchased round trip tickets to Brugges on the 11am service (which was delayed 7 minutes) for 28 euros/$31. Travel time was 53 minutes, slightly shorter than scheduled.

    [​IMG]

    I was last in Brugges during my backpacking days, and thinking it’s been at least 15 years since I’ve come out here. Back then the hostel was a short walk from the train station and I recall making a side trip to Ghent. This trip we only have time for a couple hours.

    On arrival at noon we walked into the city.

    [​IMG]

    Our first stop was St Salvator’s Cathedral which is undergoing renovation. Only the very rear of the Cathedral is accessible with a temporary wall erected to block access to the front section. Took some limited photos of what was available in the back. My guidebook makes reference to the Order of the Golden Fleece meeting here in 1478. Parts of the church date back to the 10th century. It did not become a Cathedral until the 19th century.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2015
    uggboy likes this.
  15. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    Toured the city looking at shop windows and small Christmas markets in two areas.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    uggboy likes this.
  16. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    Got onto Yelp and found a coffee shop with excellent reviews for its hot chocolate. It’s served to you as hot milk with your ingredient on the side to be stirred in. I selected chocolate with hazlenut and had to stir those morsels into my milk. They had a list of about 20 other options just for hot chocolate. Jim went for the pumpkin spice latte. Both were 4 euros/ $4.35.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Back to one of the Christmas markets where Jim and Zennie split a sausage on a roll.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    uggboy likes this.
  17. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    From there we walked over to the town hall, passing a group on Segways, and visited the Basilica of the Holy Blood which is very small inside, dating back to the 12th century. They have one statue that dates back to 1300. The adjoining museum, which we did not visit, is reported to have a vial of Christ’s blood. The Basilica was originally a chapel for the Count of Flanders and was elevated to a minor Basilica in 1923.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Some more shopping after this, visiting linen stores, a store that baked its own cookies in the back, and a pub with hundreds of kinds of beer. I ordered the Christmas brew which was a dark beer on tap for 2.5 euros/$2.75 for a small glass. We sat on their outdoor patio overlooking a canal while we enjoyed these.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    uggboy likes this.
  18. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    uggboy likes this.
  19. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    Our final stop was at the Church of Our Lady which was also undergoing renovation. Parts of it date back to 1220. They had finished the exterior remodel and just started the interior. Only a small portion in the rear was accessible there, too, so took what photos I could.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    High temperature was about 45F during our visit.

    Caught the 4:08pm train back to Brussels. The station monitors only showed one destination, but checking on line the Belgian rail web site showed this train making all the Brussels stops. Talked to an employee just before boarding who verified the Brussels destination. Back in the city at 5:15pm.

    Out for dinner at 7pm and selected Saint Laurent Restaurant near Galleries Saint Hubert. They had a 12 euro menu that wasn’t interesting, but the 18 euro set menu offered enough for all of us. Tom had lamb chops, Zennie paella, and Jim had Flemish stew. Dessert was a waffle with chocolate sauce and cream. All the photos are on my photo site.

    [​IMG]

    Visited Grand Place to see the changing colors on the town hall, and were back at the hotel at9:30pm. Rain started after we were back at the hotel and is expected to continue all day Friday.

    [​IMG]

    Brugges photos are here:
    https://tom911.smugmug.com/Travel-Europe/Belgium/2015-December-Brugges-Belgium/
     
    uggboy likes this.
  20. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    December 12, Saturday

    On Saturday morning we left the Motel One in Brussels for a 20 minute walk over to Brussels North station to catch our 12 euros/$13 bus to Amsterdam with Meinfernbus. Bus was scheduled to depart at 11:30am but for some reason didn’t leave until 11:45. Travel time was 2 hrs 45 mins. We each had an empty seat next to us and it was a comfortable ride. We did pass some windmills towards the end of the trip coming into Amsterdam.

    On arrival at Amsterdam Sloterdijk station we purchased 72 hour Metro cards good on tram and local Metro trains (16.5 euros/$18, so about $6 a day). Took about 35 mins to get to the stop for our hotel, Bijlmer Arena. From there a 10 min walk past the Heineken Music Hall to the Holiday Inn Express. We were upgraded to corner rooms on the 9th and 12th floors.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It was raining on arrival. It rained all day. In the evening it felt like hurricane force winds were buffeting our windows. It was one serious storm. We initially went out with umbrellas for dinner after 6, but they were inside-out in a matter of seconds. Fortunately, we all had winter coats with hoods and survived.

    Headed into the city via Metro, about 15 mins to Amsterdam Central, and grabbed a tram outside in the rain towards the city center. Got off by the flower market, walked down a canal, and changed trams to Leidesplein. We had dinner at the Aran Irish pub (I have actually been to the Aran Islands off Ireland’s west coast near Galway). Way too wet for outside photos. Tom and Jim had cottage pie and Zennie had fish and chips. Back on the tram after dinner to Metro at central station, and from there to our hotel.

    [​IMG]
     
    uggboy likes this.
  21. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    December 13, Sunday

    After breakfast we took the Metro into the city, and from Amsterdam Central station decided to walk across town with thousands of others.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We walked past Dam Square which has a Christmas tree and the Royal Palace.

    [​IMG]

    Along the way we popped into cheese shop. We walked past the flower market, too, and popped into a Mini store.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    uggboy likes this.
  22. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Some of the comforts of home are available at an international products store here:

    [​IMG]
     
    uggboy likes this.
  23. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    Eventually we ended up at the Rijksmuseum, and took the bicycle underpass to the rear side where the I AMSTERDAM sign is, and there was a large ice skating rink. There were also some street entertainers in front of the sign.

    [​IMG]

    A holographic tree in the museum lobby:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Back to the Aran Irish pub which was just 5 minutes away from afternoon beer, and then the walk back through town to Central Station. We grabbed a tram the last half mile or so and then Metro back to the hotel, arriving before 5pm.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    uggboy likes this.
  24. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    uggboy likes this.
  25. tom911
    Original Member

    tom911 Gold Member

    Messages:
    2,005
    Likes Received:
    3,183
    Status Points:
    2,070
    December 14, Monday

    Today is our final full day in Europe. After breakfast we took Metro into the city and walked over to St. Nicholas Basilica. We found it would not open until noon so walked two blocks away where there were canal cruise boats docked and boarded at 11:15 for an 11:30am departure. Only about a dozen passengers on board this early in the day. Later in the day we saw some packed cruise boats pass us.

    [​IMG]

    Pretty scenic hour-long trip through the canals for 10 euros ($11.00). The first few photos I took were with the windows closed (about 45F outside so you can see why), but then I started opening the windows at some locations, on my side of the vessel, and taking much better photos without the window glare.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Back at the dock:

    [​IMG]
     
    uggboy likes this.

Share This Page