Europe encore

Susanne Allswang in southern France
Body: 
We flew to London where we connected to a British Airways flight to Marseilles. Arriving late, we overnighted at the Pullman by the airport. We enjoyed dinner on the outdoor patio, and had a lovely breakfast the next morning, before we drove two hours to our rental house in Languedoc-Roussillon, Southwest France. We spent a week here with our children and grandchildren. We were a family group of ten, and it's always a special treat to be all together.
 
The first few days were extremely hot and we even experienced a thunder and lightning storm. We visited small surrounding towns, and had fun shopping in local supermarkets and outdoor markets, with their huge selection of cheeses, sausages, pastries and even clothes. In the mornings we bought fresh bread, trying out a different bakery each day.
 
After our family time, we flew to Strasbourg in Alsace on Hop Airlines. The plane was rather comfortable for a low-cost carrier.
 
On arrival the airport was deserted and full of military security, due to all the big shots coming for memorial ceremonies honoring the late Chancellor Helmut Kohl, one of the founders of the European Union.
 
Strasbourg is a most charming city, with half timbered houses and the river Ill running through. It is a seat of the European Community. It is also home of the choucroute garnie, sauerkraut with meats or fish, a local dish served in most restaurants, and which I love.
 
We stayed at Regent Petite France, a charming hotel overlooking the river. Service was excellent, and the food very good, too. We also visited Colmar, a center of wine and tourism, which we had visited many years before. 
 
From there we flew to Amsterdam  to go to Scheveningen, a sea resort by the Hague---and the seat of the Dutch Government as well as for several international courts.
 
Scheveningen features wide beaches, a big boardwalk, a ferris wheel and its old but lovely Kuhrhaus, a historic building from late 1800s.  I had wanted to stay here but Trip Advisor had terrible reviews. So we went to the Carlton Beach Hotel, where rooms were tiny, though it had nice sea views.  We did go and look at the Kuhrhaus, and had lunch there on the terasse overlooking the sea. The public areas were beautiful. 
 
We went to the Gemmeente museum to see a retrospective of Mondrian; also many buildings in the city were decorated with his designs.
 
We also visited the Mauritzhuis, a lovely small museum with Vermeer paintings, including  the famous  "Girl with the Pearl Earring".
 
 We ate Indonesian Rijstafel and Pannekoek, the iconic pancake the size of a very large plate, served savory or sweet with the Dutch stroop (syrup) that I like and brought back a bottle of.
 
Our final stop was Bruseels. We went by car. I lived here as a child and still have friends and love returning. They have excellent food and one of my favorite dishes, : waterzooi. Belgium is not appreciated nor well-known by Americans.  It is an interesting bicultural country worthy of a visit.
 
Brussels has the beautiful Grand Place with gorgeous buildings. My husband John's favorite museum is the Magritte Museum, a Belgian surrealist artist whose work showed a fascination with perception and reality.
 
We stayed at the Sofitel Le Louise, (I had stayed here nine years ago). It is a pleasant hotel; beautiful breakfast served in an elegant dining room, which overlooks their courtyard garden. The staff is very helpful. The hotel is in the midst of many stores, including some of the big names you would find on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills--and  the  big twice yearly sales were on. I was in heaven as I love shopping.
 
All too fast our vacation came to an end.  It was good to be back in Europe after a three year absence.