Seed selling display on a bell gable stand.Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Amsterdam… where to start. Well, let’s just sum it all up and say that this city, as lovely as it is, just didn’t live up to the ‘party’ hype. Don’t get us wrong: we had a great time. But this disjointed town, sitting several meters below sea-level, and named after the dam built on the river Amstel (which was, itself, named after the light version of Heineken), has a bit too much and a bit too little going on. Whatever do we mean? Who knows? We’re suffering from not a small bit of hypoxia on our way to pick up the third member of the crew, that still-missing beast of a ride which would teach normal folk to be happy with what they have, but, of course, has no effect on Top Down Timers.  And the photo you’re looking at?  We included it to show you something VERY common in Amsterdam which you’ll read more about later in the article:  a bell gable!!!  Yes!  It’s what we came to this city to see, for sure.

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In Bruges

Bruges Our Lady Cathedral Belgium European Union FlagSwimming in tourists during the summer months, Bruges is a picturesque, fantastically preserved (often restored) late medieval town brimming with magical charm. Cathedrals and great halls spill their gothic spires across the skyline, competing for attention with colorful Flemish homes lining Bruges’ ancient yet well-kept canals. The preferred mode of transportation in this compact town is by foot or bicycle; getting around in any sort of motorized vehicle is a fool’s errand with winding streets, narrow alleyways, and a layer of cobblestone covering virtually every thoroughfare and sidewalk. The desire for fine dining leads you to numerous venues serving excellent food… excellent pricy food. A glut of museums of great variety vie for your patronage, exhibiting everything from 15th century masterpieces by Van Eyck to the history of fries (yes… potatoes dropped in boiling oil have a museum all their own). While it is positively obligatory to visit some tourist attractions, others are better bypassed. Overall, this tranquil, charming city will easily satiate your epicurean desires while its art and architecture transport you to the most golden of medieval times. Continue reading