The Christmas Spirit Shines Bright in Europe

Jan 19, 2018 Avatar Hilton Smith Hilton Smith

A holiday break for me is always an excuse to leave town and explore far locations in a new light. The festiveness of Christmas in Europe was my draw in 2017. It did not disappoint. Even at a quick pace, the experiences were amazing and rewarding.

Our arrival in Paris was a regal one with a VIP Meet & Greet at the Lufthansa aircraft door at Paris CDG Airport.

The “City of Lights” was even more so in December. The Champs Elysee, Place Vendome, Place de la Concorde and others were bathed in holiday lights. Families were shopping and the shop windows were alive with color, light and sound. How could one not get into the Christmas Spirit?

This was all enhanced at Le Bristol, one of Paris’s most iconic 5-Star hotels. Our temporary assistant ushered us through all formalities, assisted with our luggage and escorted us to the waiting Mercedes which took us to Le Bristol Hotel.

Centrally located and always with flawless service, a beautiful lobby tree welcomed us to a tasteful fantasy of the holidays.

A comfortable room and every convenience just made it better in the best of cities.

The impressive breakfast (included as one of our agency’s amenities) was a beautiful added touch.

Then it was on to Brugge after a bit of a rough start that morning when we missed our Thalys train to Brussels.

We allowed an hour to get to Gare du Nord Station, but that was not enough. Two hours later we were on our way. This set us up for a later arrival in Brugges.

Our home was the very nice Grand Hotel Casselbergh, a very comfortable 4-Star hotel two blocks from the main Market Square.

The hotel was comfortable, 5 Star main public areas with more like 4 Star accommodations.

Brugge is like a small jewel, very well designed to just walk and enjoy the scenery and architecture.

The square was adorned with a small Christmas Market surrounding a ice skating rink and also horse drawn carriages. Many chocolates shops and local restaurants with open fireplaces added to the charming atmosphere.

Of course the legendary canals make the area a “must see”.

We moved on to Brussels and a brief stay there with again a city saluting the Christmas Holidays. We arrived after a hour train ride from Brugges.

Please note that Brussels has multiple train stations and it can be a bit confusing. We arrived at The Central Station, just a few blocks for our 5 Star home, The Amigo Hotel. The Thalys high speed service does not service this station so you must transfer to Midi Station or another one that has that service.

The Amigo was perfect, a classic design with contemporary interior touches. A Rocco Forte Hotel, The Amigo is elegant but at the same time comfortable. It is in the center of town just a couple of blocks form the famous Grand Platz. For the holidays, the hourly sound and light show there was amazing.

We saw it twice. On the square we dined at the very traditional T’Kelderke in an ancient cellar. Belgium food is different and this was a fine reflection of it.

Our next stop was Amsterdam, always exciting and full of surprises.

Again the city was specially lighted for the holidays.

Our home was the 5-Star Hotel Conservatorium right on Museumplein. It is convenient to most of the major museums and a good walk from the center and Dam Square.

We had a wonderful junior suite on a higher floor in this re-imagined building that was once a music school.

Now it is traditional on the outside and contemporary on the inside.

New this trip was a formal 90-minute Red Light District tour with just four of us and a guide. This famous and signature part of Amsterdam was far more complicated than I expected, and the tour turned out to be a good use of our time.

The renewed Rijksmuseum and a canal boat tour rounded out our formal schedule there.

Our flights to Europe and back were on Business Class on Lufthansa and United.

Lufthansa just does a better job with all aspects of seats, service and food.

The new United Polaris service has actually reduced choices with a minimal increase in food quality. The glacial pace of the installation of the new Polaris Business Class seats has not helped.

Hopefully the pace will pick up and these all aisle access seats will become common in the near future.

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Hilton Smith