Netherlands/Belgium suggestions please

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Netherlands/Belgium suggestions please

Postby Charles Weiss » Fri Mar 07, 2014 3:16 pm

My wife and I are going for a vacation in a month. Any wine-related (or unrelated) suggestions?
Any WLDGers there?
Thanks,
Charles
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Re: Netherlands/Belgium suggestions please

Postby Tim York » Sat Mar 08, 2014 4:00 am

I was resident in Belgium for over 40 years until about a month ago. Food standards are very high but latterly I did not eat out in restaurants very much, so don't have useful first hand advice to impart. I know a lot about the rich wine shop scene but guess that does not interest greatly a US resident because of the difficulty of carrying back bottles on a flight. However, the Rob gourmet shop in Brussels is a feast for the eyes (both food and wine) even if you buy nothing. http://www.rob-brussels.be/

There is some wine production in Belgium and the Genoels-Elderen estate in the east of Belgium is making a very decent effort at producing Chardonnay http://www.wijnkasteel.com/index1024.html and is an attractive estate to visit. Prices are high, though. (That website is a nice illustration of the Belgian language problem by the absence of French language facilities; the owner is flying the Flemish flag exclusively. Don’t make the mistake of trying out any French which you may know when in Flemish territory; it could be badly received.)

The real riches of Belgium are in its late mediaeval urban and artistic heritage. The Flemish towns, like Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp and Mechelen are particularly rich in this respect. Brussels also has a fine late mediaeval centre but independence encouraged some superb late 19th century and early 20th century town house architecture and the Beaux Arts Museum (horribly abbreviated to “Bozar”) has a wonderful Magritte collection from the early/mid 20th century.

If you do want to know about wine shops, please let me know. You may be around during the Spring tasting season and be able to muscle in somewhere.
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Re: Netherlands/Belgium suggestions please

Postby Jenise » Sat Mar 08, 2014 5:25 pm

Not food nor wine, but if you're an art buff, then this:

http://www.holland.com/global/tourism/article/the-krollermuller-museum.htm

One of the most beautiful museums in the world. Absolutely worth the drive, and a place to take a picnic lunch to because it's located in a large, beautiful wildlife preserve of a park. Bicycles are provided free for the use of guests, if you like that kind of thing.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Netherlands/Belgium suggestions please

Postby Charles Weiss » Sat Mar 08, 2014 6:24 pm

Thanks for the suggestions Tim. I'll definitely bring an empty shipper if the wine shop situation is promising. We'll be there in mid-April.
We're planning to stay a couple of nights in Bruges and are flying out of Brussels. We havent decided on any other Belgian destinations yet, so recommendtions are most welcome.

Thanks Jenise. It's definitely in our plans.

Charles
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Re: Netherlands/Belgium suggestions please

Postby Bill Hooper » Sat Mar 08, 2014 7:58 pm

I've tasted wine from the Netherlands. And that's all I'm going to say on that.

The Cantillon Brewery in Brussels is a must see. Amazing brews.
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Re: Netherlands/Belgium suggestions please

Postby Bonnie in Holland » Sun Mar 09, 2014 3:14 am

In Belgium, I particularly enjoy Bruges (Brugge) and Antwerp (much prefer over Brussels). Bruges is like a Renaissance Disneyland, and Antwerp is just wonderful for sitting out on the terraces on the squares and drinking Trappist beer....beautiful city. I've never done it, but you can also visit a few monasteries where the Trappist beer is made (such as Westmalle, near Antwerp, or Chimay, in the south of Belglium). Trappist beer is the best! (I am afraid that the wines of Belgium and Holland are getting better and better but nothing to write home about, and also relatively expensive for what you get.)

In Holland, there's a few things, depending on what you like to do (and almost all websites are in English as well as Dutch):
Keukenhof in Lisse (keukenhof.nl): This is a completely fabulous garden, only open in sping, which should be full of tulips as well as other flowers in April. The plantings are amazing, like colorful flower paintings. A must for gardening fans.

Koningsdag, or KIng's Day, on Saturday, April 26. If you are in Holland on this day, you won't be able to avoid Koningsdag. The Dutch go nuts and the city centers are given over to bands playing, the streets lined with folks selling their items (like a street garage sale - this happens because it's the only day you can sell stuff legally and not have to pay value added tax on what you've sold), and massive beer drinking. This year will be the first King's Day so it should be especially interesting. Willen-Alexander took over the throne from his mom Beatrix last year on Queen's Day, so this will be his first King's DAy. He and his Argentinian wife Maxima will visit two towns along with the other royals and it's kind of a country-wide carnaval atmosphere. It's pretty fun/interesting to see the Dutch at their most overt and enthusiastic.

Kroller Muller Museum in Arnhem/Otterlo is super indeed. There are two world-renowned Van Gogh collections - one is in Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum and the other is here. You can get up close to the paintings and really take a look at them at the Kroller Muller Museum - much less busy than the VG Museum. And it is situated in a sculpture park/garden that in itself is very worthwhile. Also in the park, you can tour the house built by the Kroller Muller's.

Also in Arnhem is the Openlucht or Open Air Museum (openairmuseum.nl). It's a lovely park with lots of Dutch history, like old Dutch villages, old farmhouses, and lots of activities. It is always open for just walking in the park, I think, and opens on April 1 for the full experience of Holland in the old days. Arnhem also has a lot of war-related things, due to Operation Market Garden, if that's interesting to you. Like the Airborne Museum in Oosterbeek (en.airbornemuseum.nl). And of course the 'Bridge Too Far' in Arnhem (John Frost Bridge).

There are lots of picturesque villages and towns all over Holland. My favorite cities are Amsterdam and Maastricht.
Enjoy your trip!
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Re: Netherlands/Belgium suggestions please

Postby Charles Weiss » Sun Mar 09, 2014 2:12 pm

Thanks Bill and Bonnie.

Bonnie,we'll miss Koningsdag. Sounds like quite the thing!
Definitely going to the Kroller Muller Museum. it looks like it's less easy to get to for a day trip than a lot of places we're headed, so we'll probably rent a car on our way out of Amsterdam and go tho the museum/park and Arhnem on our way to Belgium.
Does that sound like a good plan? Any suggestions about where to spend the night?
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Re: Netherlands/Belgium suggestions please

Postby Tim York » Sun Mar 09, 2014 3:35 pm

I don't share Bonnie's preference for Antwerp over Brussels in spite of the fact that my wife's brothers and their extended families live in Antwerp. I concede that the town has a lot offer historically and artistically and additionally has an interesting contemporary fashion scene. However, Brussels is much more cosmopolitan and open to different cultures as well as having the attractions which I mentioned in my earlier post. My not being a Dutch speaker plays a part but it also bothers me that Antwerp is now governed by a Flemish nationalist and separatist party, which is a reflection of a culturally inward looking and rather intolerant attitude of a large part of the city's population in face of people from different climes.
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Re: Netherlands/Belgium suggestions please

Postby Fredrik L » Sun Mar 09, 2014 4:19 pm

Ditto what Tim said: Brussels over Anvers any day!

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Re: Netherlands/Belgium suggestions please

Postby Bonnie in Holland » Mon Mar 10, 2014 11:25 am

It is possible to reach the Kroller Muller Museum with public transportation - you'd take the train to Arnhem, then one or two busses to the Museum. The whole trip could easily take two or more hours (Amsterdam to Arnhem on the train is about 75 minutes). With luggage and all that, it makes a lot of sense to me to rent a car to go from Amsterdam to Arnhem/Otterlo, particularly if you are planning on driving down to Belgium. For spending the night, you could stay at the Bilderberg in Oosterbeek or Wolfheze, both of which are close to the Hoge Veluwe and the Museum and both in a very green, peaceful setting. The Hoge Veluwe park has three entrances, one of which is Otterlo. If you choose to leave via Otterlo, there are lots of lodging options there. If you leave via the Schaarsbergen exit, then you're close to both Oosterbeek and Wolfheze. (The Hoenderloo exit is on the eastern side of the park and the least close to Amsterdam and for heading to Belgium.) I've never stayed in any hotels around the Hoge Veluwe, so can't recommend anything out of personal experience, but the Bilderberg is a very good hotel chain. The website for all the Bilderberg hotels is www.bilderberg.nl
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Re: Netherlands/Belgium suggestions please

Postby Bruce K » Tue Mar 11, 2014 1:15 pm

Bill Hooper wrote:The Cantillon Brewery in Brussels is a must see. Amazing brews.


Absolutely yes. Touring the brewery is great, and then tasting the brews is even better. (The only caution is if you're brett-averse, because the naturally-occuring, airborne yeasts that ferment the beers are the local strain of brett -- so local, that if Cantillon ever had to move, it would cease production.)

FWIW, these are the most wine-like beers I've ever had. The uncarbonated lambic reminded me of sherry. The gueze with raspberry reminded me of rose champagne. And speaking of wine, a couple of years ago -- this was in D.C., not Brussels -- I was able to taste a special brew made with pineau d'Aunis grapes.
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Re: Netherlands/Belgium suggestions please

Postby Charles Weiss » Tue Mar 11, 2014 10:13 pm

Thanks for the Hoge Veluwe tips Bonnie.
And Bruce, I'm a fan of Pinot D'Aunis but won't expect to find a brewed one.
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