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So what can you tell me about The Netherlands & Belgium?

ski diva

Administrator
Staff member
#21
Thanks so much for all this, @Beligiangirl! Great insights!

The bike trip we're doing starts in Haarlem and goes through Leiden, Delft, Schoonhoven, Gouda, and Utrecht. We thought we'd come early and spend a few days in Amsterdam, and then, after the bike trip's complete, take a train to Belgium for a couple days. That'll make it about 2 weeks, which is all we can spare.

We'll only have 3 or 4 days in Belgium. My husband is pretty set on seeing Bruges, so I'm not sure what else we can fit in. What would make sense from there?
 

Belgiangirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#22
That sounds like a lovely trip, @ski diva!
If your trip ends in Utrecht, you might consider staying an extra night over there, more than enough to see/do/eat.

If you have 3-4 days in Belgium, I'd stick with the cities/culture. Coming from Amsterdam, it takes about 1,5hrs to get to Antwerp by train. You can either take a Thalys, which is the faster, more expensive option or a regular train (no reservations). If you wanna go low-budget, check out the Flixbus bus routes, it's dirt cheap and pretty okay. Shouldn't take that much longer than the train outside of rush hours. I'd sleep one night in Antwerp, Ghent and then Brussels. Are you flying back home from Schiphol or Brussels Airport?

I get that your partner really wants to see Bruges, I'd be the same if I didn't live here. Antwerp to Bruges is an hour and a half if you take the direct train, you might want to consider a half-day or full-day trip to Bruges, then spend the night in Ghent. It's less than 30 minutes city to city if you take the train and you'll find a lot more and affordable options for food and lodging in Ghent + it's a lot more lively at night.

Ghent to Brussels takes about 40 minutes so that would be a logical next stop. I'll get back to you with city-specific recommendations!
 

ski diva

Administrator
Staff member
#23
Thanks, @Belgiangirl! We haven't made any plane reservations at all so far. We plan to fly into Amsterdam, but thought we'd fly back from Brussels. I don't know anything about Schiphol. I'd probably go from wherever flies to Boston for less, and I just figured that'd be Brussels.

So we're spending the last night of our bike trip (Wednesday) in Utrecht and then taking the train to Belgium on Thursday. As I said before, we were thinking we'd go to Bruges. Then we figured we'd fly home either Sunday or Monday. So we won't have a lot of time. I appreciate your suggestions on how we should spend it.
 
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Skier31

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#24
@Belgiangirl, thanks for the suggestions. My friends and I want to spend several days in Belgium after our Holland bike ride. Do airports matter? I would appreciate your suggestions.
 

2ski2moro

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#25
Schiphol is a really good option for KLM. (The last few trips I have made were JFK to AMS - under $500 RT non-stop.)
 

Belgiangirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#26
Thanks, @Belgiangirl! We haven't made any plane reservations at all so far. We plan to fly into Amsterdam, but thought we'd fly back from Brussels. I don't know anything about Schiphol. I'd probably go from wherever flies to Boston for less, and I just figured that'd be Brussels.

So we're spending the last night of our bike trip (Wednesday) in Utrecht and then taking the train to Belgium on Thursday. As I said before, we were thinking we'd go to Bruges. Then we figured we'd fly home either Sunday or Monday. So we won't have a lot of time. I appreciate your suggestions on how we should spend it.
If I were you, I'd probably do something like this:
- Go from Utrecht to Antwerp on Thursday, explore the city
- Antwerp to Bruges on Friday, (half-)day in Bruges, then on to Ghent for dinner and hotel
- Depending on when you're leaving you could spend Saturday either in Ghent, in Brussels or do both? It's such an easy and fast connection it's almost like taking a subway.
- Spend Saturday (and maybe Sunday night if you'd leave on Monday) night in Brussels

Are you an art lover? History fan? A foodie? Love architecture? Do you want to go shopping, visit museums, just wander around and explore,... This country lacks nature but has tons of cultural stuff to see/do/visit so you'll have to make some choices!
 

Belgiangirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#27
Schiphol is a really good option for KLM. (The last few trips I have made were JFK to AMS - under $500 RT non-stop.)
It definitely is! Plus they're partners with Delta Airlines so they have good connections.
@ski diva @Skier31 The main difference is the size, Brussels Airport is big but Schiphol is huge. Schiphol has more direct flights, but interestingly enough there are some loopholes in the prices.

I'd strongly suggest you use a search engine like Kayak or Skyscanner before booking flights! KLM/Delta sometimes have cheaper tickets if you leave from either Brussels Airport or Brussels South railway station and connect through Schiphol (yes, cheaper even than booking the direct flight from Schiphol without the connection!).

There's 2 direct train options leaving (every hour?) from Brussels city centre to Schiphol, a Thalys high-speed connection that does the trip in +-1h30 and a normal train that takes about 2h40. Both arrive inside the airport so no more shuttles etc.

I'd definitely let price be the deciding factor, both airports are more than 'good' enough to fly in/out.
If you really want to pinch some pennies (I'm the sleep-on-the-airport-floor type :smile: ), Norwegian has low-cost international flights departing from Schiphol flying to the US, not sure what destinations exactly but definitely JFK. There's also WOW Air, they offer cheap flights to several destinations in the US if you do a layover in Iceland.
 

Belgiangirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#29
It's located southwest of Amsterdam, so in relation to Brussels almost straight to the north. The drive is approximately 135 miles (says Google maps), to give you an idea @ski diva
 

2ski2moro

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#30
If you really want to pinch some pennies (I'm the sleep-on-the-airport-floor type :smile: ), Norwegian has low-cost international flights departing from Schiphol flying to the US, not sure what destinations exactly but definitely JFK. There's also WOW Air, they offer cheap flights to several destinations in the US if you do a layover in Iceland.
I have flown Norwegian several times. All of the aircraft are the Dreamliner, modern and very nice. The "LowFare" flights are no frills - no seat assignment, no food. LowFare+ is the better value. But if you want to upgrade to their Premium Class, that's the best deal. Their Premium is like a Business class. You get huge legroom and wide seats, plus an extra checked bag for about $200 more.

Here's the Norwegian Secret to save money. When you go to the website, it asks you which country is your home country. Select Germany. Although the website is in German, you can pick your way through the booking process. The price is shown in Euros.

To compare pricing, open another Norwegian page and select US as your home country and the price will be displayed in dollars. Even with the exchange rate, the price is always cheaper, sometimes by $200, than if you claim to be in the US. It probably has something to do with taxes, but the same flights, same starting cities, same everything...cheaper if you use the European site than the US site.

Even bikes are cheaper if you book on the European site. $83 ($71 Euros) on the US site vs 65 Euros ($75) to take a bike.

Check if your bank charges a fee to buy in Euros, that might add some to the price, but I have always found the price to be cheaper to buy on the European site.
 
#31
Just got invited to do a Bike-Barge trip from Bruges to Paris next May ... It's considered level 2 ( 15 day trip averaging 25 miles a day). Sounds like mostly flat terrain so totally doable, BUT I'm going to ski in Europe Jan 23-Feb 9 so can't really go again 3 months later ...... It really really sounds fun though.
 

SnowSeeker

Certified Ski Diva
#32
How on earth did I miss this topic?! Currently living in Belgium and have lived in the Netherlands for 4 years, shoot me a message with any specific questions you might have, I'll be very happy to help!

Some tips for The Netherlands:
- As mentioned above, Keukenhof to see the tulips. It's very touristy but still really cute!

- the Wadden Islands. It's a quick ferry ride away from the mainland, the beaches are beautiful and calm and there's lots of nature. If I'm not mistaken most ferries leave from Harlingen.

- Hoge Veluwe NP would be absolutely beautiful for a bike trip.

- Be prepared if you're gonna ride a bike in a major city. If not, mentally prepare yourself for the insane amount of bikes you'll encounter.

- Amsterdam seems to be choice n°1 for tourists and while I won't tell you to skip it, there's nicer, cleaner cities to visit with a more authentic feel to it. Personally I like Utrecht, Zwolle and Maastricht more to name a few. Rotterdam has a bit of a Berlin feeling to me, if that's your scene.

- I'm biased because I lived there, but I like the Southern part of the Netherlands the most. Valkenburg is a really cool small town with beautiful surroundings and Vaals is worth a visit for the maze and because it's the point where the Dutch, Belgian and German border come together.

- If you're heading down to South-Limburg and want to do something unique: go to Snowworld! It's Europe's biggest indoor skiing centre, has a slope length of 520m and a really good funpark. You can rent everything you need on-site.

Belgium:
- If coming from Maastricht/Valkenburg/Vaals, you can head to the Ardennes region via Liege. Liege is probably the most underrated city in the whole of Belgium. Try to get there on Sunday, you'll find the biggest outdoor market of Belgium (called La Batte) on the river banks! Get your calves burning on the Montagne de Bueren and have a drink in the Le Carré district at night.

- The Ardennes region is by far the most beautiful part of Belgium with rivers, hills, forests etc. Some places are more well-known than others. I'm not gonna write all of them down, let me know if you think about visiting that area and I can give you some addresses.

- Kempen NP is similar to Hoge Veluwe NP in the Netherlands, but just across the Belgian border near Maastricht. there's dunes, meadows, some forests,...

- Antwerp: the hipster city of Belgium and fashion capital. Make sure to keep an eye on your budget if you're going shopping, it's soooo easy to spend fortunes there!

- Brussels: rougher around the edges than Antwerp but a must-visit for anyone I think. It's the capital of Europe after all :-)

- Not a popular opinion but I really dislike Bruges. To me it feels like a bunch of old bricks and canals used to lure tourists, feels fake even though the buildings are real. Ghent has the same type of architecture but people also actually live there and it shows.

- Chocolate and beer tasting is a must of course. I like the Hoegaarden brewery the most but there's tons of places to visit, I'd say check for one on your itinerary. My favorite brands of chocolate are Côte d'Or (supermarket), Leonidas (good budget-friendly choice) or Galler (try their spreads, the hazelnut one is delicious!!!). Pierre Marcolini is the current hotshot if you want some designer chocolates.

- Don't buy beer in tourist shops!!! Apart from a few specialty beers, most can be found in bigger supermarkets around town, even the niche beers! Try a decent-sized Delhaize or Carrefour, you'll find plenty of special local beers to try without being ripped off.

- If you like art, you'll hit the jackpot in Belgium. Most of the museums worth visiting are in Antwerp and Brussels. My personal favorite is the Magritte Museum.


I could go on like that for a while but it might be good to know if you already have an itinerary in mind? I can give you some tips for places to eat and drink in Antwerp/Brussels/Leuven if you're visiting either of those. Last but not least: while we don't have real mountains, Belgium isn't as flat as the Netherlands. As a matter of fact, not even the Netherlands is as flat as they make it out to be if you go to the South. I don't know if flatness plays a factor in your wish to do a biking trip in the Netherlands/Belgium, but if it is that's something to keep in mind.
We just moved back to the US from Belgium this summer. We lived just outside Antwerp for three years but spent a lot of time in NL and all over BE. I wish I had known there were other Divas nearby when we lived there!
 

Belgiangirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#33
We just moved back to the US from Belgium this summer. We lived just outside Antwerp for three years but spent a lot of time in NL and all over BE. I wish I had known there were other Divas nearby when we lived there!
Aww, too bad :noidea: I certainly wouldn't mind meeting some Divas over here!
 

ski diva

Administrator
Staff member
#34
Just got invited to do a Bike-Barge trip from Bruges to Paris next May ... It's considered level 2 ( 15 day trip averaging 25 miles a day). Sounds like mostly flat terrain so totally doable, BUT I'm going to ski in Europe Jan 23-Feb 9 so can't really go again 3 months later ...... It really really sounds fun though.
That sounds awesome! We did a bike-barge trip a few years ago from SW Germany to Budapest and back. About the same distance each day, but only a week. Truly a fantastic trip.
 

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