Our first port was Bruges Belgium (we actually docked at a container port in Zeebrugge, about 10 miles away from Bruges). Bruges is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe and the city center has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were allowed only about 4 hours to explore this beautiful little town, which was not nearly enough time, but we accomplished all of our goals in that time (except eating Belgian waffles) even though we were a bit rushed.
We savored the view as we walked through town, sampled chocolates in every shop (or at least it seemed like it), stopped for lunch of mussels and frites and the local brew with friends, and took our required horse and buggy ride through the cobblestone streets.
All too soon we were back on the bus for our return trip to the ship and a 2-day journey to our next port, Bilbao in the Basque Country of Spain.
After a restful night in one of the nicest hotels of our entire trip, we had a nice breakfast and were ready to roam around Amsterdam. We had pre-purchased another hop-on hop-off combo ticket, so we planned to spend much of the day on the bus and the tour boat, not to mention having a few more of those Heinekens and another of those great falafel sandwiches.
Of course Amsterdam’s history and architecture are certainly much less dramatic than what we had seen in Paris, but Amsterdam does have a great deal of charm. Bicycles are much more abundant rather than the streets being clogged with cars. And many of the streets are lined with canals lined with houseboats, something not seen in too many other places.
The canal tour was much more fun than the Seine river cruise in Paris and we were able to cover much more territory than we would ever have covered on foot. After the tour we walked back down to the red light district for drinks and to enjoy the the energy of the crowds. Later we walked back to our hotel, which was located adjacent to the cruise port. We could see a cruise ship docked where we expected our ship would be docked the next morning and we packed it in for the night.