The Fools Go to Europe

The Fools Go to Europe

In fall 2018, Mr. Fool took Ms. Fool on a whirlwind tour of Europe. With only a loose itinerary in mind, and the first week’s travel and accommodations booked, we left LAX for Heathrow. Below are some of our trip highlights. Or click the city name to jump to that specific blog section: London: Part I, Paris, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, Bruges, London: Part II.

London-bound!

We stayed with two of Mr. Fool’s college friends. Though they have their hands full with two energetic little ones, they graciously let us share their flat for our first few days in London.

Walking to breakfast with Mr. Fool’s friends on a drizzly London morning.

While there, we did a lot of walking (the October weather was pleasant, for the most part) and managed to see quite a bit. A few of the places we visited:

  • Westminster
  • St James’s Park
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Palace of Westminster
  • Big Ben
  • The London Eye
  • The Tower of London
  • All Hallows by the Tower Church (We had a fun little discovery here: the crow’s nest from Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship the Quest.)
  • London Bridge
  • Tower Bridge
  • Ten Bells Pub (famous because it’s where Jack the Ripper allegedly scouted some of his victims)
  • Camden Market
  • Borough Market (cider-lovers should stop here)
  • Shakespeare Globe
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • Chinatown
  • Soho

A few of our favorite London photos:

Buckingham Palace
The crow’s nest from Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship The Quest
Chinatown
St. Paul’s Cathedral
The Tower of London

Bonjour, Paris!

From London, we flew to Paris. Our very modest hotel was in Montmartre, right above the 9th district and steps away from a bakery whose chocolate and almond croissants we will forever remember. We started our trip by visiting one of the classic attractions: the Louvre. The next few days were a blur of running from place to place to take in things like:

  • Fontaine Saint-Michel, a statue of St Michel slaying a dragon
  • Latin District
  • Pantheon and Crypt
  • Luxembourg Gardens
  • Notre-Dame Cathedral (where the lines were so long we had to wait a day to go up the tower)
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Eiffel Tower (which is now surrounded by high barriers–a new addition since Mr. Fool’s 2003 visit and an eyesore)
  • Sainte-Chapelle (one of Mr. Fool’s favorite places in the city)
  • Paris Opéra
  • Sacré-Cœur Basilica
  • Moulin Rouge
  • The Catacombs of Paris (which people lined up for well in advance of opening time)
  • Vertical Garden
  • Palace of Versailles (a mad house of tourists with 5-hour long waits to enter. Fortunately, we had advance reservations)
  • Marie-Antoinette’s Estate
  • Petit Trianon
  • Grand Trianon
  • Marie-Antoinette’s Estate

Our sightseeing was peppered with frequent stops at various eateries. There’s nothing original we could say about the glorious Paris food scene. Ms. Fool’s one bit of advice: go to Ellsworth. She had her favorite meal of the trip there.

A few of our favorite Paris photos:

Louvre Palace
Pantheon
Luxembourg Palace
Sainte-Chapelle
Sacré-Cœur Basilica
Moulin Rouge
The Catacombs of Paris
Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles
Notre-Dame

Prague: City of a Thousand Tour Buses

Prague’s architecture was charming. Our visit was not what we hoped, however, because of the throngs of visitors and many tourist-trap amusements. Still, we made the most of our time there, visiting places like:

  • Prague Castle (worth half-day visit)
  • Letna Park
  • Charles Bridge (a mad house, and the fastest way to get pickpocketed)
  • Old Town Bridge Tower
  • Old Royal Palace
  • St. George’s Basilica
  • Petrin Tower
  • St Lawrence Church Prague
  • Petřín Park
  • Hunger Wall
  • Prague Astronomical Clock
  • Church of Our Lady before Týn
  • Jewish Quarter
  • Sex Machines Museum
  • Powder Tower

A few of our favorite Prague photos:

Prague Castle
Old Royal Palace
Petřín Park
Prague Astronomical Clock (left) – Church of Our Lady before Týn (right)
A hillside view of Prague

Swinging By Berlin

Our Prague-to-Berlin bus took us through Dresden, which was leveled by WWII bombings. From the window, we saw some of the rebuilt structures.

Berlin gave us a nice chance to decompress after being trapped between groups of tourists all day every day in Prague. A few of the highlights from our trip:

  • Brandenburg Gate
  • Berlin Wall Memorial
  • Checkpoint Charlie Museum (easily could eat up a half day because of the information-rich exhibits)
  • Gendarmenmarkt Square
  • Hugenottenmuseum
  • The Memorial to May 10, 1933 Nazi Book Burning
  • Berlin Cathedral Church and Crypt
  • Berliner Fernsehturm Television Tower
  • Charlottenburg Palace
  • Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe 
  • Hackescher Markt
  • Berlin City Center

A few of our favorite Berlin photos:

Brandenburg Gate
Berlin Cathedral Church
River Spree
Berliner Fernsehturm Television Tower
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Taking in Amsterdam

We watched the German countryside give way to scenic Holland, with its charming windmills, from a train.

Many of our acquaintances immediately think of the red light district when they think of their visits to Amsterdam. We think of the food and the architecture. We took in a good pancake breakfast in the smallest restaurant in Europe. We ate fried cheese and lots of fries. We had mouth-watering apple pie at Winkel 43. And we spent hours walking the streets so Mr. Fool could marvel at the crooked buildings. He could not stop taking pictures and pointing out how far over the water they leaned. (He later read that the houses had been built using poles pounded into the muddy ground. Some poles did not go deep enough, some were just too weak to support the structure, and some had rotted. All of these things can cause structures to tilt.)

Our visit to Amsterdam was short, and we had just enough time to see

  • Molen De Otter (The Otter Windmill)
  • De Wallen the red-light district.

A few of our favorite Amsterdam photos:

Amsterdam
Pancakehouse Upstairs
Some of the many leaning houses in Amsterdam
Bikes, bikes, bikes
Mysterious sculpture

Living a Fairy Tale in Bruges

A bus took us to our final new city of the trip: Bruges. We stayed in the nearby coastal town Blankenberge, as it was only a 15 min train ride away and a lot cheaper.

We both loved Burges. The crowds were smaller and the centuries-old buildings well-preserved. It was like walking around in a medieval fairy tale city…but one with plenty of artisan chocolate shops, which Ms. Fool loved. Over the course of a few days, we crisscrossed the city  to see everything we wanted. Highlights included:

  • Gruuthusemuseum
  • Church of Our Lady Bruges
  • Bruges Provincial Court
  • The Belfry of Bruges (This is where *spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen In Bruges* Brendan Gleeson jumps to his death)
  • Windmill walk along the Handelskom river to see 4 old windmills in various conditions
  • Basilica of the Holy Blood (They claim to have a vile of Christ’s blood here. For a few Euro, you may view it.)
  • Ten Wijngaerde (Begijnhof Brugge)
  • Begijnhuisje
  • Kasteel Minnewater

A few of our favorite Bruges photos:

Gruuthusemuseum
Chocolates
Another church in Bruges
De Neuwe Papegaai Windmill
Bruges
Homes with a view in Bruges
Color coordinated in Bruges
Ten Wijngaerde (Begijnhof Brugge)

London, part deux

After having near-perfect weather our entire trip, we headed back to London for a final few days.

For our first day back in the city, we booked an early-morning tour to see Stonehenge and Bath. Stonehenge was predictably crowded, but we enjoyed seeing the storied stones in person. Bath was likewise crowded. We had to push and shove our way though The Roman baths, as the museum was not built to handle the high number of people. Regardless, we enjoyed seeing that part of history.

We capped off our final day in London with afternoon tea at The Wolsley. It was fun experience, and it left us with a new appreciation for clotted cream and scones. After our repast, we tried to burn off some of the calories by walking to Abby Road and then Baker Street.

Our final days in London included:

  • The Circus (in Bath)
  • Royal Crescent
  • Pulteney Bridge
  • Hyde Park
  • Kensington Palace
  • Kensington Gardens
  • The Wolseley
  • Abbey Road Zebra Crossing
  • 221b Baker Street

A few more of our favorite London photos:

Stonehenge
Floor supports in the Roman baths

Pulteney Bridge

Abby Road Zebra Crossing

Final Thoughts

We spent a total of 22 days on this trip, walked around 161 miles, and hiked up 325 flights of stairs. We somehow had great weather, never got sick, and never missed a flight, train, bus, ferry or any other form of transportation we took. The only “mishap” was Mr. Fool lost a plug converter.

When we return, we plan to rent a car and skip the big cities in favor of smaller towns.