Three Europan cities close to my heart: Leiden, Brussels & Paris


We flew from Tallinn to Amsterdam on Estonian Airlines, and took a train to Leiden, a 30 minute ride to our friend’s house, with whom we stayed. It was so nice to return, as we had rented this same house 30 years ago (when my husband was a visiting professor at the university, and our family lived there for the year). Holland is a lovely country, with its many canals, windmills and, presently, green fields. In spring the fields are like carpets of flowers in gorgeous colors.

We had fun eating local foods like pannekoek [one large pancake the size of a plate] with the special troop or syrup; rifstafel [Indonesian rice table consisting of several dishes with numerous condiments and sauces], and delicious Dutch cheeses.

We continued on to Brussels, an hour and 10 minutes trip on the express train. We stayed at the beautiful and high tech Sofitel Toison d’Or. Our ultra modern suite overlooked rooftops and a bit of the garden, which must be fabulous on warm days. The area is very elegant and conveniently located. You can walk to museums, the Grand Place with its beautiful guild houses, and many other places. Here too, it was fun to see friends and family and relax. There is a wonderful new Magritte Museum. We did not have enough time to do all the things we wanted to.

Our final leg was to Paris on the Thalys, a fast train like the TGV. In a little over an hour, we were in the romantic city. So easy. We took a taxi to the Left bank this time and to the Lutetia Hotel. It is the grande dame of the sixth arrondissement, with a one star Michelin restaurant and a very popular bar.

I did not want to leave and go home yet. Every trip needs a few days in Paris– just to breathe the city’s air, to gaze at the beautiful buildings, and, for me especially, to shop. Alas, there was hardly any time for that. And the worst part was, because it was the week-end, most stores were closed.

We were extremely lucky with the weather, but it did rain a day or so in each country. The temperatures were most pleasant.