Monday, April 18, 2016

Holland & Belgium - Day 7

Our final day before returning home.....

The ship docked in Antwerp and we started the day with a walking tour of the city.  Many of us went into the Cathedral of Our Lady, which is beautiful and known for its four masterpieces by Peter Paul Rubens.

There was shopping to be done - more chocolates anyone?  Additional sightseeing, although many of the locations were closed on a Monday.  Even more odd, most stores don't open until 10:00 or even noon.  We saw the old meat hall, the "Kasbah", the city hall and its famous statue and the fortress/original city wall.

Many of us then traveled to the city of Brussels.  The capital of Belgium and the European Union.  A city tour by bus gave us the highlights and then we explored the city on our own before returning back to the ship in Antwerp.

Tonight is our farewell 'gala' dinner and we are hoping it is a terrific way to conclude our wonderful trip.  We'd be remiss if we did not thank the VERY hardworking crew of the Expression.  The housekeeping staff, servers and bartender (and entertainer Tito) have always been ready with a smile and a friendly greeting - knowing many passengers by name for days now.

We will have early wake-up calls and then transfer to the airport in Amsterdam for our return flights tomorrow.  Looking forward to seeing everyone at home - and showing you all our photos!



Holland & Belgium - Day 6

We have crossed over from the Netherlands (not Holland) into Belgium and had another great day!

Very busy with breakfast early and an 8:30 bus ride into Ghent for a walking tour.  What a wonderful city!  And, on a Sunday morning, it was a bit sleepy.  For years Ghent vied with Antwerp and Brussels for the lead in Belgium's cloth trade.  Today it is better known for its architecture and historic interest.

In terms of weather, we saw it all - sun, warmth, cold, rain, clouds and even a hail storm.  Overall another good day, weather-wise even still.





We returned to the ship for lunch and then most ventured out on an excursion to Bruges.  (Some actually skippedlunch and took the train to Bruges on their own!).  Bruges is like stepping back in time about 500 years.  A true medieval city with magnificent Renaissance architecture surrounded by quaint canals and small cobblestone lanes.  There was a walking tour, a canal cruise and some free time - for shopping, more sightseeing or sampling a Belgian beer.

Dinner on board the ship featured beer pairings.  As we ate through five courses, the beer expert on board discussed the beers we got to sample and informed us of why he chose them for each pairing.

Another big day coming ahead - Antwerp and an excursion to Brussels for our last day of exploring Belgium.




Saturday, April 16, 2016

Holland & Belgium - Day 5

Good morning from Veere!

Last evening we enjoyed our cocktail reception on board and then sampled 5 beers (with mixed reviews) during the beer tasting on board the ship.  We sailed overnight and are now docked in Veered, Netherlands.

Located in the Zeeland province, Veered is a quaint little Dutch town.  Previously a leading player in the European wool trade and then as a fishing town, it is now a small quiet place generating much of its income from tourism.

Many of us headed out on an excursion to the Delta Works.  This is an impressive engineering marvel working to keep the country safe from flooding.  There was a video and some ventured out (in the wind) to walk on the barrier itself.

Back on board (not before stopping at the town's candy shop) for lunch while we sail to Middleburg, the capital of Zeeland.




Friday, April 15, 2016

Holland & Belgium - Day 4

We have encountered some rain on our trip this morning....  a gloomy and a bit chilly arrival at Kinderdijk.  But still a great visit!  We had a local volunteer guide who talked about the windmills, the millers and water management.  We got to tour one of the mills still in operation - although some steep steps! 

We are back on board the ship and will have a lecture about the Deltaworks.  That will be followed by lunch while we sail for the small town of Willemstad for a walking tour (hopefully without rain).

This evening we have a reception for our group in one of the lounges, followed by a beer tasting/lecture for everyone then dinner and evening entertainment from in-house entertainer, Titi.  Last night after dinner we enjoyed a classical music trio - and they were terrific!




Thursday, April 14, 2016

Holland & Belgium - Day 3

Today can be summed up in one word - FLOWERS!!!!!

We visited the magnificent Kuekenhof Gardens outside of Rotterdam.  And we have photos to prove it...




Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Holland & Belgium - Day 2

Another wonderful day in Amsterdam!

We started with a full breakfast on the ship - which, by the way, is terrific!  Everyone indicates that their rooms are spacious, staff is friendly, food is good and all the common space is up to par.  Check us out - Avalon Expression - at Avalon Waterways.

We then headed out for a canal cruise of the city.  Remarkable!  Our guides were friendly and knowledgeable.  Nearly 500 bridges criss-cross the city over all the canals.

Again, picture perfect weather - although a few showers just started (about 4pm our time).

After lunch we split up - several took an excursion to see the fishing villages of Edam and Volendam.  Others took a ride to Muiderslot - Amsterdam Castle.  Some simply enjoyed the beautiful day in a wonderful city.  A few may have even headed out on a bike tour!

We will have a genever (Dutch gin) and cheese tasting early this evening, followed by our nightly Port Talk and then the Welcome Gala Dinner (can't wait to see what's on the menu!!).




Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Holland & Belgium - Day 1

We have all arrived in Amsterdam!!!!

Actually, six of us have been here for a few days - and they have seen quite a bit of the city.  The rest of us are going to rely on them to point us in the right direction for the best sights, sounds and shopping.

Weather - nothing less than spectacular!  Probably 65 degrees and sunny with a breeze.  So nice - let's keep this up for the whole trip.

We have checked into the Avalon Expression and are awaiting the obligatory safety drill, welcome drink and staff welcome.

Several of us went on an excursion this afternoon to a quaint town outside the city and toured a windmill and saw the wooden shoe making.  Others spent free time in the city - trying to not get run over by..... BIKES!  they are dangerous.

Looking forward to a nice evening tonight and a full day in Amsterdam tomorrow, highlighted by a canal cruise.

Everyone here says hello to their family and friends back home - wish you were here.