This past weekend I went up to Rick Steves' Travel Center in Edmonds for a trip consult with Lisa, and with her help I was able to firm up my itinerary, and I've finished booking all my accommodations, mostly through Airbnb.
Ghent (3 nights)
I fly into Brussels, and there's a train direct from the airport to Ghent. This will be my base for day trips to Bruges, Brussels, and (if time and weather allow) the seashore.
Antwerp (2 nights)
I could really stay in one place for five nights in Belgium, but Lisa recommended splitting the time between Ghent and Antwerp.
Delft (2 nights)
Delft is, according to Rick Steves, the one places in the Netherlands to stay if you decide not to stay the whole time in Amsterdam. It's Vermeer's home town. It's also next door to The Hague, which has one of the Netherlands' best museums, the Mauritshuis.
Haarlem (5 nights)In Haarlem, I'm staying at the B&B Hotel Malts, which is the top-rated B&B in Haarlem on TripAdvisor. Lisa recommended staying in Haarlem rather than Amsterdam; it's only a 15-minute train ride, and it's a nice place to relax in the evening. I read similar advice from a lot of travelers on various travel forums. In addition to spending time in Amsterdam, I can take any number of day trips or partial day trips. I also got a ticket to a performance by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra for one evening while I'm there. They'll be doing the Beethoven Violin Concerto and the Prokofiev Symphony #6.
Oslo (4 nights)
I found a flight that departs from Amsterdam at 9:30 p.m., and I found hosts in Oslo who are happy with my late arrival, so I won't spend the better part of a day traveling, and I'll have three full days in Oslo, including a night at the Oslo Opera House for a performance of the Verdi Requiem.
Balestrand (2 nights)In Balestrand, I reserved a fjord-view room at the Balestrand Hotel. It's not as famous and historic as the neighboring Kviknes Hotel, but it's got great reviews, and it's much less expensive.
Balestrand is one of those places I never heard of before I started researching this trip. I knew I wanted to go from Oslo to Bergen, and the normal touristy way of doing that is a tour called "Norway in a Nutshell." As I read about that very popular tour, I found that there are a lot of options that involve staying overnight along the way. Balestrand has the advantage of not being directly on the NIN route; you start out on NIN from Oslo to Myrdal to Flåm by train, and then, instead of continuing on the tour, you catch a ferry from Flåm to Balestrand. After two nights there, I can either go back to Flåm to continue NIN, or take a ferry on the Sognefjord directly to Bergen, which is the obvious better option. Balestrand is a great scenic place on the Sognefjord, the longest fjord in the world, and I will have a full day there to enjoy some good hiking in the area, as well as other activities.
|Hills above Balestrand|