We delight in introducing small groups (never more than ten guests) to lesser-known European music festivals, and the Grachten festival is a jewel of a festival that we love to share. In a selection of exceptional venues, from hidden gardens to floating barges, we'll enjoy a variety of performances from classical music of the 17th century to innovative recent compositions.
And for the first time, we're adding three days in Flanders to this trip. We'll visit the romantic lost-in-time town of Bruges, and the stately city of Antwerp, viewing the historic home and work of Peter Paul Rubens, and discover the treasures of Brussels, Europe's capital city. Accommodations for the tour in both cities, Brussels and Amsterdam, are elegant and carefully renovated hotels in the historic centers- a combination of 17th-century atmosphere and 21st century comfort and service.
Amsterdam’s a culinary adventure, and we’ll enjoy it to the fullest, from Indonesian “ricetable”, to Dutch pancakes, to inventive contemporary cuisine, to garden-fresh creations enjoyed right in the greenhouse. We’ll show you where to pick up a wedge of gouda, a packet of stroopwafels, or some mouthwatering Belgian chocolates so you can enjoy tasty memories at home. Brussels is renowned for its fresh-from-the-North- Sea delights, French-inspired cuisine, and of course, Moules- Frites (mussels and "French" fries - which really came from Belgium!) which are prepared in an astounding variety of ways.
Although our tours are designed for music-lovers, we don't spend all our time at concerts, but we also enjoy specially arranged tours of the historic canals, on foot or by canal boat; an introduction to Amsterdam's best-buys, colorful open-air markets, and famed museums for a matchless five day experience in this living museum.
Day 1: Arrival Amsterdam
From 1 to 3 in the afternoon, we'll await you in the lobby of our hotel. Check in and make yourself comfortable before an introductory stroll along Amsterdam's glittering canals and cobbled lanes. We'll enjoy our first Grachtenfestival concert - perhaps a string quartet in a garden, then an Indonesian Feast (included) will introduce us to the wide variety of delicious world cuisine in the city.
Day 2: Amsterdam
Concert - perhaps a piano trio in the historic South Africa House
Lunch in a greenhouse (included) - we'll feast on Chef Ronald Kunis' fresh local cuisine in a gleaming, soaring glass house.
Amsterdam from the water - a Canal Boat Tour of the gabled mansion-lined Golden Century Canals. Time to explore Amsterdam's wonderful shops - we'll direct you to our favorite areas and best buys (chocolates, clothing, tulips, and more). Dinner on your own, then an evening concert - perhaps a piano recital in the Cristofori center.
Day 3: Amsterdam and Zaandijk
Breakfast (included). A day trip to the windmill-filled villages of the Zaandijk, with lunch (included) at a quintessentially Dutch Pancake House
Free time and dinner on your own in Amsterdam. Concert - perhaps chamber music at Anne Frank House
Day 4: Amsterdam
Breakfast (included) and a walk to the museum quarter before another unique concert of the Grachtenfestival - perhaps Chamber Music in the exquisite garden of the Prince Bernhard Culture Foundation. Free time for shopping or museums, then we'll complete our appreciative exploration of Amsterdam's cuisine by candlelight (included) at an intimate frescoed canal-side restaurant.
Day 5: Amsterdam - Brussels
Breakfast (included) and pack your luggage to leave at the hotel for our afternoon transfer to Brussels. Two Surprise Location Concerts - perhaps a Mozart trio in an antique shop, or a trumpet solo in a garden - don't you love surprises?! After lunch we'll train to the capital of Belgium, multi-cultural Brussels, and check in to our elegant hotel in the historic center. Dinner (included) at a cozy brasserie, then an evening stroll through the historic center.
Breakfast (included) before a wander through the elegant Sablon neighborhood, where we can check out the weekend antique market at the Place du Grand Sablon, as well as the surrounding intriguing galleries and mouthwatering chocolate boutiques. After lunch we'll visit the Art Nouveau Musical Instrument Museum, a treasure house of amazing instruments from the centuries. Dinner (included) featuring Belgium's signature Moules-Frites and beer (choose from over 400 kinds produced in the country!)
Day 7: Bruges
Breakfast (included), then all aboard the train for a day trip to canal-laced Bruges. We'll step back in time to the heyday of this glorious medieval relic when thriving wool merchants built towering churches and elaborate homes. Exquisite lace and glowing tapestries fill the shops here - wonderful memories to take home! In addition to lunch (included) and a walking tour, we'll enjoy a leisurely float along the canals, viewing the gracious buildings from the water. Take time to shop or visit museums on your own before we meet to return to Brussels, where before dinner (included) we'll take a peek at the Grand Place, which Victor Hugo praised as the most beautiful in the world! Surrounding the square are guildhouses in all their Flemish Renaissance gilded glory, along with one fabulous chocolate boutique after another.
Day 8: Antwerp
Breakfast (included) and we'll again board the train for a day-trip, this time to Ruben's city, Antwerp, one of Europe's oldest and richest ports.
In the center of town is Antwerp's main landmark, the soaring Gothic Cathedral of our Lady, home of Ruben's triptychs Descent from the Cross and Assumption of the Virgin. We'll stop for lunch at an intimate brasserie tucked up against the cathedral before visiting Ruben's home, where he painted more than 2,500 pictures and also designed the baroque portico. After returning to Brussels, we'll enjoy a farewell dinner (included) of innovative French-inspired Belgian
cuisine and fresh-from-the-North-Sea seafood.
Day 9: Departure
Breakfast (included)then goodbyes to new-found friends before departing Brussels for home.
Note: Schedule subject to program to be finalized in July.
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