Brad and Kelly visit!

Trip Start Apr 15, 2003
Trip End Sep 01, 2011

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Thursday, December 2, 2004

Hi everybody,
At the beginning of December our friends Brad and Kelly visited us from San Francisco, California, USA. We had a great time showing them around Amsterdam. We also took a side trip to Ghent and Brussels, Belgium. Here is their account of their vacation.


What a trip! We're back in San Francisco after spending a wonderful week in Amsterdam, Ghent and Brussels with Chris and Melanie.
We touched down on the Saturday before Thanksgiving to overcast skies and chilly temps, but caught a train into town and were at 28 Singel by early afternoon. After introductions to Ralph and David and a quick round of coffees for the jet-lagged travelers, it was out the door to see the city!
A short walk took us to the Saturday market, which was quite busy for such a cool, damp day. We checked out the vendor stalls and saw the mushroom stand where part of that night's dinner originated. As avid mushroom hunters, it was impressive to see the variety of wild mushrooms available - a much better selection than at our farmers markets. While Chris and David split off to finish shopping for the evening's feast, Mel took the rest of us on a short walking tour through the neighborhood.
We later rejoined Chris and David who had been getting the boat ready for a tour of the canals. A quick tour, with a friendly game of chicken included, and it was time for dinner. What a feast! Best meal of the week hands down. Fresh mussels cooked in Trappist ale and cheese fondue with wild mushrooms served with a couple 1993 Saison's. Not only are Chris and Mel gracious hosts, but they can cook as well :-] All in all, a great first day to the trip.
After a lazy Sunday morning, we took a bike ride around the city to get our bearings. Kelly and I both have commuted by bike to work, but getting used to the traffic flow in Amsterdam took a little adjustment. But I must say, it's really nice being at the top of the vehicular pecking order instead of the bottom. We could get used to that!
Later we tagged along to a Thanksgiving feast hosted by Stephen and Julie. Since we would be missing Thanksgiving in the state's it was really nice to still get all of the holiday fixings. Thanks so much for your hospitality!
We were going to catch the Anne Frank house before it closed, but ultimately decided to visit it on Monday. Good thing. It was a great experience and very moving, but would have really put a damper on the festive spirit. So we made a visit to Gollem for a round of beers. Ralph and David were taking off in the morning, so it seemed like a proper send-off. We also picked up info on the grand opening of Gollem II, which we attended on Tuesday evening.
Monday and Tuesday Kel and I wandered around the city and took in the sights - Anne Frank House, Amsterdam Historical Museum, the Rijks and Van Gogh museums, with the Van Gogh exhibit being a highlight.

On Wednesday, Kel and I browsed around a few of the area shops and wandered through the Jordan district, while Chris finished packing Ebay orders for shipment. Later all three of us rode over to the Ij brewery to sample a couple fresh Belgian-style ales. It's got to be the most unique setting for a brewery that I've ever seen - fully contained in an old Dutch windmill. Really unique and top notch beers.
The following morning, Thanksgiving Day, we noodled a bit before getting on the road to Ghent. At the last minute, we nearly made the longer trek to replenish Chris and Mel's beer stock, but traffic and time worked against us. We were staying at a B&B in central Ghent and had to get there before 6 to pick up the key. The B&B was located above a bakery, which also served us breakfast in the morning. It was a little damp and chilly, but a couple of visits to the incredible chocolate shops kept us fueled for sightseeing. Ghent is really beautiful and reminded Kel and I a lot of Siena in Italy where Chris and Mel are headed.

After breakfast, we dropped the bags at the car to do a little more sightseeing, before picking up a few gifts and heading to Brussels in the afternoon. We didn't have much time to spend in Brussels, but we were able to squeeze in a great meal of mussels and then a couple of beers at La Morte Subite (Sudden Death) Brasserie, which made a strong run at serving up the best beers of the trip. It's tough to judge, however, as there were so many great beers. No wonder Belgium is sometimes referred to as the Disneyland of Beers!
Sadly, the trip had to end, as we were scheduled to fly out the following morning. But we're already thinking about the return trip :-]

So to wrap things up, here are Kelly and Brad's Top 10 highpoints from the lowlands:

Bikes, bikes, everywhere
The Van Gogh Museum
Gollem I and II (does that count as two?)
Riding on the S.S. Hooper
Brownies and Belgium Beer (who would have thought the two would go together so well)
Chocolate and Belgium Beer (again, what a great pairing of flavors)
La Morte Subite brasserie and its beer
Fondue and mussels at 28 Singel Boven, and...
Our great friends and gracious hosts: Chris, Melanie, Venus and Milo

Be sure to check out the photo album including pictures taken by Brad and Kelly.

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