Europe: Four Countries In Ten Days

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When Chris and I started planning a trip to Europe (what would be the first time out of the country for the both of us) I knew I wanted us to see as much as we could in the little time we had. We narrowed our list down to four cities in four countries: London, Paris, Bruges and Amsterdam…My goal was to get a sample of each, with the plan of going back to our favorites some day!

We went in the beginning of October and for us, the weather was absolutely perfect! I love fall in Virginia, comfortably cool days with crisp nights. Nothing some light layers and a scarf couldn’t handle. Which brings me to packing… we didn’t want to deal with checked luggage, we were going to have two flights, three trains and countless tube and taxi rides…the less baggage, the better (same applies to life, amirite?). We each took one of these awesome carry-on size book bags they were the perfect size and we used packing cubes to save space and stay organized.

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What I packed: 2 pair of jeans, 6 shirts/sweaters, a pair of leggings, a thick open front cardigan, 1 scarf,  a pair of converse, vans slip-ons, a pair of tieks, toiletries bag, makeup bag, camera, phone chargers, pocket guidebooks.

I wouldn’t take my vans next time, as I only wore them once or the Tieks.. I’ve heard all the wonderful stories about how great Tieks are and for work, shopping, etc., they are! However, I wore my chucks and my boots 98% of our trip and actually had to buy inserts in Paris to help the first day I wore my Tieks. So…there’s my two cents on that! On the plane I wore a sweatshirt, leggings, Clark’s chelsea boots, jacket and a scarf (layers for comfort!)  I also had all of our train tickets and any museum/attraction tickets printed ahead of time.

We flew Icelandair which by the way, offers an extended layover from their Reykjavik airport that I would LOVE to do next time!

LONDON:

We stayed at The Nadler Victoria  which was walking distance to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye; it was also a less than 10 minute walk from Victoria Station. I would definitely recommend this hotel!

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Day 1: We arrived late afternoon, so we used what time we had to do some sightseeing!

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The architechture of Westminster Abbey was incredible. We spent a while just walking around and admiring the scenery.

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Day 2: 

We walked no less than 12 miles our second (and only full) day in London. To kick that off we went to the Royal Quarter Cafe for breakfast…

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Chris went right in for the full English breakfast, complete with baked beans, (when in London, right?) I went with the french toast and fresh berries – everything was delicious!

Buckingham Palace

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We went to St. James Tavern for Fish & Chips and a pint (or two!)

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For an amazing view of London, be sure to hop on the London Eye!

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We loved this beautiful city and will absolutely be back one day!

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LONDON – PARIS

Day 3: We caught a late morning train from St. Pancras to Paris – I loved the views from the train, the French countryside is really lovely. We stayed in an AirBnb on Rue St. Dominique… I can’t tell you how happy I am that we did this instead of a hotel, don’t get me wrong, I came across some fabulous hotels but an AirBnb really made the stay so much more authentic. Our host even arranged for a driver to pick us up from Gare du Nord – so glad we did! I love that we could look out of our window and see the Eiffel Tower!

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Our Apartment was just a few blocks from Rue Cler. This street was my favorite – each morning fresh produce is brought in and fresh meat, bread & colorful flowers spill out on to the streets. I could get used to grocery shopping this way…

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We stopped at Le Petit Cler for a quick bite!

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We made our way to the Eiffel Tower, so much bigger than I ever imagined!

{Tip: Avoid the long ticket lines and buy online before you go &
book late afternoon to stay for the sunset!}

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Not much can beat eating gelato while watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle…

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Day 4: 
We started out early and hit a bunch of great sights! Be sure to stop in the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore when on your way to (or from) Notre Dame. Say yes when they offer to stamp your book when you check out and visit the Coffee Shop next door to grab a bite with a view!

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Taking almost two hundred years to build, the architecture of Notre Dame is just unreal… a must see! Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the incredible interior.
(Next time we climb the stairs to the top!)

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Then it was on to Saint Chappelle, another gorgeous gothic style church and up until the French Revolution it was home to the crown of thorns. They say King Louis IX paid more for the crown than he did to build Sainte Chappelle…

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Every turn we made was another perfect photo-op – I am absolutely in love with this city. *insert several heart eyed emojis here*

 

You MUST get a Nutella crepe while in Paris… ridiculously good.

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Day 5: Our last day in Paris was another busy one! We got up early and set out for the Catacombs tour. Little fact about me: I hate small spaces…So the 130 stairs / 65 feet underground was a little hard for me at first but once you’re down there it feels a little more open than you’d expect. I’m really glad we made it here!

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(Halt! Here lies the empire of death)

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This underground ossuary holds the remains of some six million people from the graves of overflowing cemeteries around Paris in the 1700’s – this place is interesting, peaceful and a little spooky!

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You have to go to the Louvre, of course! Be sure to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa
(which was much smaller than I imagined!)

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If you go with your special someone, please be cheesy and leave a love lock! I swear I will go back and *hopefully* find ours again one day.

 

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Paris – Bruges

Day 6: We had one last croissant and made our way to the train station and we were off to Bruges, Belgium… We stayed at the adorable Hotel Botaniek!

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This place had already won us over with cuteness and friendly owners so this storybook view was the cherry on top!

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Since we only had one day in this city, we wasted no time getting out and about…
As it was my 30th birthday, we set out to find a good meal and a cold beer. At La Civiere D’Or we found exactly that!

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Isn’t Bruges lovely?

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Be sure to grab a rental bike and make your way over to the Windmills!

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I really appreciate a bike-friendly city, you end up in places you didn’t expect…

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Although this city shuts down fairly early (most places were closed by 8:00 p.m.) there’s something really peaceful about the quiet streets and canals…you stumble across some real gems, like Rozenhoedkaai

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Despite the fact that we only had one day in Bruges, we fell absolutely in love with it! Can’t wait to visit Belgium again someday!

Bruges – Amsterdam

Day 7: We woke up early and enjoyed breakfast at the hotel, the owners were so kind and even made sure we had a cab waiting when we were ready to head to the train station and off to Amsterdam! We stayed at The Hoxton on Herengracht canal, this hotel was phenomenal… From the hospitality to the quirky decor to the delicious in house restaurant, Lotti’s (which we took advantage of a couple times!) there truly wasn’t a thing we didn’t enjoy.

 

Once we settled in we set out on foot to explore…

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The best way I can describe my first impression of Amsterdam is love at first sight…. I mean guys, I was am absolutely smitten with this city. How could I not be? It’s stunning, it’s quaint, the people are friendly, you ride bikes everywhere… {currently suffering from withdrawals just writing about it} We visited the Amsterdam Tulip Museum and picked up some bulbs and souvenirs… Then we came across a wonderful restaurant, Black & Blue and had the bruschetta and what I would easily say was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had!

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The rest of our evening was spent exploring and enjoying the scenery. We made our way over to De Wallen (Red Light District) which is definitely worth experiencing and not for the bashful!

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Day 8: The next morning we went to Winkel Cafe for breakfast and what is dubbed “The Best Apple Pie in Amsterdam” and for good reason…. its ahhhhmazing. So amazing, we went twice!

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Then we visited the Anne Frank House, we’ve all read the diary (and if you haven’t, you should!) but visiting the house is surreal, if you find yourself in Amsterdam, go…don’t forget your tissues. Afterwards we road our bikes to Museumplein and went to the Van Gogh Museum (my favorite artist!)

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We stopped by Restaurant Stedelijk for a quick bite to eat – I had a pretty great view 😉

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We had ‘The Amsterdam’ sampler and fries; complete with smoked raw sausage, bitterballen and of course, cheese!

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These Nutella covered churros were precisely what I needed in my life after riding bikes all day! {Remember: NO diets on vacation!}

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We spent most of the evening wandering around, admiring the scenery…

 

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Day 9: After a good breakfast (of course) we set out on our bikes for our last day in Amsterdam… This was at Lotti’s – the restaurant right in the hotel!

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If I can offer one bit of advice…make time in any trip to NOT have a plan. I sometimes have a hard time remembering that because I am SUCH a planner and I love squeezing the most I can into every day. But sometimes the hours you spend wandering aimlessly are the best and most memorable hours of your trip… that was how we spent our last day in Amsterdam…

 

 

 

We came across Begijnhof, home to the oldest wooden house in Amsterdam!

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Our last dinner was back at Winkel Cafe. Their menu, that changes daily, was written in Dutch on a chalkboard..thankfully, one of the waitresses was kind enough to translate for  us. We both went with the Beef Stroganoff and it was freaking fantastic! Paired with a glass (or three) of Amstel and you guys, I was living my best life.

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They weren’t lying when they said this Dutch Apple Pie was the best in Amsterdam…we took ours to go and enjoyed it back at the hotel. While we were excited to get home, it was definitely bittersweet preparing to leave this lovely city.

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Day 10: One last latte at the hotel and it was off to the airport!

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If you’ll excuse me now, I’m going to go dream of Europe…

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