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I will be heading to these places on Monday and staying for two weeks. Does anyone have any advice for traveling or things they think I should see on my trip? I am especially interested in anything finance/economy related.
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Nice trip.

Amsterdam has a bustling tulip market. Fun to see. The Heineken brewery is a blast -- there's foosball. And I recommend the Van Gogh Museum.

Bruxelles has some lovely EU buildings, although from what I hear, they're not very functional. (Just kidding.) Much of Belgium's economy rests on the monks who brew the greatest beer in the world. There's a lovely little bar called "Le Bier Circus" that is owned by an American. The modern art museum is also quite nice, from what I recall. It was a great city to walk around in, but unlike Paris, where you can fill a week with must-sees (Louvre, Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, Versailles, et al), you can take your time in Bruxelles.

Those are my fond recollections.
Fool on,
Tim
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In Brussels, stay away from the best chocolates in the world or you will never eat See's mediocre stuff ever again.
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And I recommend the Van Gogh Museum.

In Amsterdam I would further recommend the Rijksmuseum, which is a block away from the Van Gogh museum. It is packed with Dutch Masters, including some vonderful Vermeers and a stunning collection of Rembrandt's mural-sized (7-8' tall) paintings. Also, there's the Anne Frank Huis (house) where she and her family were hidden from the Nazis. You take a walking tour through the building and view walls that still have the pictures & such she and her family pasted to it for decoration.

The Dutch are polite, but a bit xenophobic- you are there to spend your money and leave. That said, Amsterdam is a fun city to wander around in at night.
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Thanks for the posts so far, everyone. I guess I should have probably added that the art museums are already a given, I was looking for tips in addition to these.

Tim, I like you tulip market suggestion. I was actually planning to buy a tulip bulb in Amsterdam (or perhaps Haarlem) just for my own amusement. My wife won't understand, but that's ok.

I do plan to consume my share of beer and chocolate in Belgium (my apologies to Sees). I don't give a damn about wine but consider myself a chocolate connoisseur, so I am looking forward to my trip. I hope to see the EU parliament as well Brussels as well.

And of course, a decent chunk of my time in Paris will be devoted to cheering on Lance in the TdF. I can't wait to be there for #7.

Anyway, thanks for the advice. I will come back and post pictures if anyone is interested.


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I'd recommend you limit your time in Belgium, not a huge amount going on there but the beer is great. Try the trappist ales; Westveleteren, Chimay, Westmalle, Orval, Achel and Rochefort. The dubble and quadruppel styles are the dark beers and the trippel is lighter and dryer. I've heard nice things about Brugges but Brussels is very underwhelming imho and I didn't come with high expectations. 3 days in amsterdam should be good. Where are you going in France?

-silencer
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Hey silencer,

We're actually staying in Paris for the whole week. The wife is an art history major (pre-law) so she wants to spend ample time in Le Louvre among others. IIRC, we will spend 3 days in Amsterdam, 2 in Belgium and 1 in Brussels and then head back to Paris to fly out.

Might have to take a stroll down the Red Light District just to see what all the fuss is about.
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Might have to take a stroll down the Red Light District just to see what all the fuss is about. WBuffettJr

While in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, a fun, quirky thing to do is to go through the Sex Museum. It is right in the middle of things, is priced reasonably, takes only 20 or 30 minutes to buzz through, is quite tame, and is a clean, modern museum. It is somewhat similar to Ripley's Believe It Or Not, or Guiness museums in some major cities. Bryce 102
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Depending on where you are going in Belgium, I would highly recommend a trip through Brugges (aka Bruges). It is a well preserved, quaint village with narrow alleys, beautiful parks, a great town center, etc. It'll probably be ovverrun with British tourists this time of year but still worth a visit. You can enjoy it for a day or two and move on.

I've twice had universally miserable experiences in Brussles. I found it to be noisy, crowded, expensive, inhospitable, etc. without much to see or do as a tourist. With so many great places in the vicinity, I would skip it.

Amsterdam is my favorite place to go in Europe, I'm very jealous of your trip :-). The typical tourist attractions -- Van Gough Museum, Rijksmuseum, Rembrandthuis, Anne Frank House, etc. really are fantastic, well worth the trip. I read somewhere that the Anne Frank House is the most visited tourist attraction in Europe.

The canal cruises are kind of fun (they sell tickets near the train station). It is kind of touristy and goofy but actually a lot of fun. They have them at night, and they'll drive you around the canals while you have dinner on the boat (free wine IIRC), and you get to see the sights from a unique perspective.

There is also Vondelpark, which is beautiful if you have a day with good weather, and there is a beer garden there that is worth visiting.

If you go to Rembrantsplein (the plaza where Rembrant House is), there is a small building in the middle of a canal that leans slightly to one side, that is a really neat bar and cafe. If you are there you'll see it and know what I mean.

But the best part of the city is just walking around. You can't get too lost, and it is a georgous, quiet city, the traffic is primarily pedestrian and bicycle (watch out for those bicyclists). The red light district is worth walking through, which isn't really dangerous or anything even at night, and you can see all of the women displaying their wares, sex toys, etc.

I disagree with ranshdow about the Dutch, in my experience (having been there 10-12 times and with friends and family there), "Dutch hospitality" is not just a cliche, and everyone I've met has been universally polite and accomodating. Virtually everyone speaks English (or is embarrassed that they can't), which makes it easier for American tourists.

Once you're identified as an American, these days you should probably expect some polite political questions (no nasty interrogations or anything). Most of the Dutch I've talked to are fascinated by our political system even though theirs is quite different and far more liberal by our standards. If you are an outspoken conservative Republican then you might get some friction.

Have fun,

Randy
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Excellent post, Randy. Thank you for taking the time.

I believe we are stopping in Bruges but not for too long, I can't wait to check it out. I have a feeling it will have the quaint small Dutch town feel that I picture when I think of that region.

As far as Brussles, I have heard the same from others which is why I am limiting our visit to one day (basically just to say we were at the EU capitol and visited the parliament building.) I think a few of your concerns will actually not be problems for us due to the timing of our visit. From what I have read, the town empties out in June and July as the parliament does not meet. As a result, very stately hotels (where dignitaries stay) can be had for extremely cheap prices. This is achieved by not scheduling a hotel beforehand and simply showing up at the train station and asking them to find us a room. Apparently this starts a bidding war by otherwise respectable hotels. We're going to gamble a tad and play it this way. If all goes according to plan, this should remove the “crowded” and “expensive” factors, but we shall see. I will let you know if it worked out or became a total disaster.

The Anne Frank House is a must-do for me. I read her diary a number of years ago and have wanted to visit just to see how a family could live under those conditions.

I am also most fascinated by their economic history as the Dutch were prolific traders back in their day. If I understand correctly, they were the first to incorporate as well as the first to have private companies offer stocks and bonds. The suggestion I received in e-mail to visit the life sized replica of a Dutch East India trading ship was wonderful and I think I will really enjoy that. Amsterdam (and Haarlem) of course were also the centers for the now-hilarious tulip bubble.

I am now more libertarian than anything else, so I think I will be ok when the political bantering begins. I actually admire their legalized prostitution and drug policies. Not to get off topic, but to me the question isn't whether these things are morally right or wrong but whether people will do them anyway – and if they will, then can they be taxed and regulated if we legalize them? The answer seems to be yes. Amsterdam does not have overcrowded prisons, nor does it have 3 year olds getting shot in gang fights by drug dealers. This is probably not by coincidence. It's funny, the prostitutes were actually against legalizing prostitution because then they would have to get regular health checkups – and pay taxes.
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Hello WBuffettJr,

In France, I second the suggestion to visit Versailles and if you have time Fontainebleau (I mean the château but IIRC in that area there is also the INSEAD campus; INSEAD is supposed to be among the top tier business-schools worldwide. Can't imagine what a visitor would like to do there but maybe it fits your definition of "finance related")
The French word for Stock Exchange is "La Bourse", it is part of Euronext www.euronext.com and the building in Paris is centrally located IIRC.

"I do plan to consume my share of beer"
You probably know it already, in case you don't, don't forget that many of the "trappistes" are high in alcohol, so adjust the pace of your drinking accordingly, i.e. do not consume them as fast as a Bud.
In case you discover that you don't like them very much and if you do not find them easily at your area (I forget your city), try imho a german "wheat" beer, a Heffeweiß (Paulaner, HB Hofbräu, Erdinger etc) just be careful how you pour it in the glass (turn the glass and avoid fast moves, when about 15% is left in the bottle, stop pouring for a second and shake the bottle before continuing).

"I hope to see the EU parliament as well Brussels"
Beats me why but follow your heart <smile>. You know, the EU parliament has sessions at three different cities, Strasbourg, Brussels, Luxembourg. I suppose the building of Strasbourg is considered the best one, try the following links for more information about visiting those buildings:
http://www.europarl.eu.int/
http://www.europarl.eu.int/abc/visit/visit_en.htm

"If I understand correctly, they were the first to incorporate as well as the first to have private companies offer stocks and bonds"
Perhaps Vienna in "modern" times?
Anyway, have you searched the web about numismatic museums in the various cities you visit, especially Paris since there you will stay longer? Depending on how they are presented, coins/banknotes' collections might give you interesting information about financial evolution.

"I am now more libertarian than anything else, so I think I will be ok when the political bantering begins"
Not advice, just a personal view: people should be ok, no matter if libertarians or whatever. I read every now and then stories (often by Americans but not only) "bragging" about how they assimilate or about how they feel ashamed of their identity and want to cover it by claiming they are Canadians, Australians etc or about how they "taught a lesson" to this or that rude European. Most of what I see is big bull****. If you do not want to get involved in lengthy political conversations, then do not get involved and "cut" them before they start. If you want to discuss politics and find a person who also wants it, then do it in a "normal" way (i.e. same way you would discuss with a person you meet for first time in Texas). If you get involved in any situation that includes political comments, act in the same way you'd expect strangers in your city to act if the roles were inversed and use your common sense without losing an inch of your dignity.
You can tell how much I dislike people who deny their identity, of course when there is no imminent danger involved; it is equally bad manners with people who visit a foreign country and see it as their mission to flaunt their origins without reason.

"I actually admire their... drug policies"
Check it further. I was reading a few months ago that their drug policies are not the success they were believed to be and that the city of Amsterdam tries to reduce the number of those places where smoking stuff was allowed. No clue who is right and who is wrong but if the topic is of interest to you maybe it is a good opportunity to check it further.

Visit also the Best Travel Spots/Tips board at http://boards.fool.com/Messages.asp?mid=22754252&bid=112908
Couple persons might be able to offer you suggestions about France and Belgium.
Use electronic money (your cards) as much as you can instead of cash. Some Americans were saying to make sure your PIN numbers work in European ATMs (four digits PIN or not).
Notify your bank that you will be travelling (dates, countries) and have the phone numbers for the cards handy in case they spot any unusual use of your cards and block your transactions.
Carry photocopies of your passport/other papers in case you lose them.

In the Red Light District, be careful if anyone asks you if you know IllustratedMan or EightTrack2, deny any relation and protest vehemently(guess this goes against my previous stated preference for not denying your country etc but all rules have exceptions, advice also applies in Las Vegas and soon in Florida).

Enjoy your trip & stay out of troubles.

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