“You know what looks really beautiful?” Ahmad yelled across the house.
“What?” I yelled back from the kitchen.
“Amsterdam. I’ve been seeing a lot of pictures and it seems like the kind of place we’d enjoy visiting.”
“You don’t say!” I replied, rolling my eyes, as I made my way to the living room where he was looking at pictures of the Dutch capital on his laptop. They were truly stunning photographs- not that I hadn’t known that already. The whole of the Netherlands has been high on my visit list for the past five years and I had been telling Ahmad of its merits probably since the day we met.
That is of course, because I’d lived in Maastricht, a town so further down it could be in Belgium, for a year and I had been aching to go back- to retrace my steps with a fresh perspective and to see what I hadn’t had a chance to, notably Amsterdam, which I’d done on a quick, ill-researched stopover.
Only problem? I’d had my heart set on going to Paris for our fall/wedding anniversary trip and I was not about to give that up, no matter how fast my heart beat at the thought of being back in NL. This would be my first time in France and I’d already looked up tickets and hotels and began dreaming of visiting all those museums. And the food!
Then, in a split second, it occurred to me- we didn’t need to compromise! This is Europe after all: distances are short and trains can take you anywhere you want to go, provided you get into the Schengen zone.
Instead of spending all the time in Paris, we could easily structure our journey to include more than one place and a quick review of public transport operators and Thalys only confirmed that.
So we found ourselves with a pretty solid mini-Eurotrip of our own doing: we would begin our journey in Amsterdam, spending three days taking in all the sights before heading south to Maastricht for a two day nostalgia trip. From there, we’d take the train that I was all too-familiar with to Brussels. Two days in Belgium would be more than enough for all the chocolate, fries, and waffles and a possibility to see Bruges, before hopping on the Thalys to spend five days in Paris.
I kept comparing this trip to my favorite show, “The Amazing Race,” except I wasn’t just any contestant, I was the one orchestrating everything from behind the scenes.
And even though I wanted to take it easy with my planning tendencies after Greece proved sometimes things just work out on their own, I couldn’t live up to my own promise.
This trip was my wedding anniversary gift to Ahmad, so just too much at stake here and I feared what could go wrong. I spent plenty of time with a pen and paper, guidebooks, and Tripit, trying to make sure we had everything covered-which I later learned was unrealistic of me.
You never go to Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris expecting to do everything- but more on that later.
There would be no self-driving but there would be a lot of moving around, dragging suitcases off trains, confusing directions, the entirety of the Paris metro, and challenges like making it through the Louvre and resisting the urge to devour all the stroopwaffles that the Netherlands has to offer. But none of that could diminish the excitement that kept building over the summer.
It was going to be the trip of a lifetime and I was going to make it happen.