Travel to Paris, Amsterdam, Bruges and Brussels any tips?

toytheatre13August 31, 2013

My husband has a conference. And, yes, we are in the middle of a kitchen remodel! We'll be gone for 3 weeks. Does anybody have any tips for kitchen, food and travel obsessed people like us? Is there a market in Paris where you found unique hardware? is there a food item we shouldn't miss? A museum off the usual radar?

Thanks in advance!

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In Bruges, everyone visits the Beguinage, but not that many people pay to go into the Beguine's house museum (just to the right of the archway when you're in the courtyard facing out), a very interesting place, especially to see the leuvense stoof, the traditional stove for that region, and a nice look at a period kitchen.

If you're interested in fashion, check up on what's on display at the musee du costume et de la dentelle in Brussels. Their permanent exhibit isn't all that great, but when I was there they had a big display of Dior New Look, which was fascinating, to see the same dress drooping on a stand and in a photo on a movie star or fashion model. (Recently they had one of 70s style, which I would definitely have skipped, so find out what's on when you'll be there. Very hit or miss.)

In Paris, the Nissim de Camondo house is very sad in many ways (tragic family story), but there's a superb pre-WWI kitchen and servants' dining room.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 12:51PM
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You can try mussels in Brugges. I think Brugges is also famous for its lacework. Buy chocolates from Belgium (and send them to me please :-)) and you can find a very large variety of beers in Belgium. I'm sorry can't remember any place names.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 1:22PM
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Europe is going all-induction so any of the larger department stores are great places to shop for cookware. The Porte de Vanves flea market in Paris will have some food vendors and all sorts of kitchen knickknacks. There are at least two good farmer's markets in Amsterdam that w/be fun for foodies. The big organic one, I think, is in Noordermarkt on the weekend. They have a flea market there, too, during the week.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 1:35PM
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For sure the Belgian design aesthetic has a distinct look. Make sure you pop your head into some houseware/furniture stores. Here's a peek at some Belgian design:

Dutch design can be seen in many parts of the US. The Dutch Colonial homes here derive from early Dutch settlements in the US. If your house was derived from this design history, you might see some homes that resemble this style. Even if your home is not Dutch Colonial, the fabulous exteriors in Amsterdam will also be beautiful to see. One side note: I thought the Anne Frank house was so interesting. To think that her family lived with such a tiny kitchen and living space!

Lastly, the French market! So much to see in will find amazing little shops everywhere. Here are some fun pics to tempt you by a blogger/designer/builder who I love to follow:

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 3:23PM
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I'm allergic to mussels, which are ubiquitous in Belgium. While DH relished them, i enjoyed the eel, which is also fairly traditional there. You don't see it here much, except smoked eel in sushi, so it's a good chance to try something different if you are so inclined.

Also be sure to get fries with mayonnaise (available in various flavors) from the street stands in Belgium. In America, this would give you heart disease, but calories and fat grams don't count when visiting Europe.

Hope you have a great time!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 3:33PM
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I am excited to try the eel! I remember my mom saying eel was one of her mother's favorite dishes! I had wondered about the opportunity to try it, but from what you say it would be fairly easy to find!

We used to have an authentic Belgium fry place in our area. We had to be careful to get them sparingly! Glad to hear I can try with abandon in Europe :)!

I love the thought of seeing some period kitchens! What a great idea! I am making note of many of the ideas. I hope this gets more posts! Many minds better than one.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 4:51PM
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Make sure you go to every department store/ kitchen store you can! They have some really cool gadgets-- and when you bring them home they will be great souvenirs that you will cherish. I especially love my double peeler (from Germany but certainly every where else in Europe) and great pans. If you spend a bunch, get the tax form so you can get back 18% or whatever it is now!
Great beer in Belgium!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 6:57PM
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Oh--- and little spoons. The Europeans have a special fork or spoon for everything---ice cream, coffee, ice tea, etc. I love my little spoons I bought there.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 6:59PM
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Deleted double post

This post was edited by heidihausfrau on Sat, Aug 31, 13 at 20:20

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 7:00PM
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Hello :)

I live in Paris and places I go to when I am looking for hardware are :

Rue de Rivoli
Metro stop : hotel de ville

BHV is DIY-oriented department store, with nice hardware selection on 3rd or 4th floor IIRC.

Au Progres
11 rue Faidherbe
Metro-stop : Faidherbe-Chaligny

Au Progres is an old-school hardware shop. The shop in intself is very nice :) There are nice affordable non-touristy bistros on the nearby rue Paul Bert. I like Mémère au Piano and Au Petit Panisse.

A la Providence
151 rue du faubourg Saint-Antoine
metro stop : Ledru-Rollin OR Faidherbe-ChalignyâÂÂ

A la Providence is another old-school hardware boutique.

While you are in the area, you might want to tour the covered food market "Marché d'Aligre" on Place d'Aligre. It is a very authentic, popular, non-touristy, food market.

A shop I like for its atmosphere and choice of home accessories is :
8 place de Furstemberg
Metro stop : Saint-germain-des-pres

Flamant is a belgian brand. But their shop in Paris is the nicest in my opinion. The square where it is located (place de Furstemberg) is one of the nicest small squares of Paris and is worth a stroll for itself. Many posh little home-related boutiques in the area too (Rue de l'Abbaye and Rue de l'Universite).

While you are in Saint-Germain-des-Pres, eat macarons at Laduree or Pierre Herme ! Pierre Herme is better than Laduree lately, in my opinion.

Dept store Printemps has a nice selection of cooking ustensils.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 8:27PM
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Oh, if you have not booked your hotel in Bruges, I stayed in Hotel de Tuilerieen several times and enjoyed it. It is a small boutique hotel with great service, an awesome breakfast buffet, perfect location and beautiful decor.

This post was edited by barthelemy on Sat, Aug 31, 13 at 20:43

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 8:38PM
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Double post, sorry :)

This post was edited by barthelemy on Sat, Aug 31, 13 at 20:42

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 8:40PM
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@ginny20, I've never met anyone else who is allergic to mussels! I miss having mussels when in Europe but I'm happy to stick to the frites, and good Belgian chocolates!

I'm curious if you are allergic to any other seafood?
I am not but I've never eaten oysters either so who knows?


    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 9:25PM
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In Belgium, you must have your fill of beer (better than the wine) and chocolate. Of the large brands, my favorite is Leonidas. Brings lots home, but it is so fresh, it will last only two to three weeks. There are probably local artisinal makers as well, and I hope to discover them someday (I lived in Switzerland for a few years and had my share of good hand-crafted chocoalte)

I know it is terribly commericialized and way too popular, but you can't help but like the Marche Aux Puces St Ouen de Clignancourt (the Clignancourt flea market). Yes, it is the largest and most popular, but head for the antique section and you'll see the stuff all the knockoff merchandise in the US stores is based on....

I know its suburban and common everyday thing, but I can't help but go into a large Carrefour and marvel at three large aisles of cheese. And yes, you should still explore a local cheese monger in Paris, but if you have a chance, see the spectacle that is a costco sized palace of fromage.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 1:41AM
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@susiemw - I have two friends, one who spent part of his youth with grandparents in Belgium, who are also allergic to mussels. I can eat all other seafood, including clams and oysters, as can both my friends. It is weird. Can you imagine living in Belgium and not being able to eat the mussels?

Another thing we had in Belgium were these tiny snail things that you ate with a pin. And no one has mentioned the ever-present and delicious waterzooie, which comes in both traditional chicken and alternative seafood forms. My favorite beer was Kriek, cherry lambic. Can you tell I liked the food in Belgium? It was almost 20 years ago, but I remember the meals.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 11:25AM
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modern life interiors


    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 11:53AM
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I was just coming back to mention waterzooi, Ginny20. :)

There are a great many seasonal local specialties, too. I have a lot of dietary restrictions so I've never had beer, a moule, a frite, chocolate, or a waffle in Belgium, but the food was always wonderful despite that. There's excellent ethnic food, too, just as in Paris.

Gooster, it always makes me laugh walking around the parts of Paris with a high density of tourists. I've noticed that if I see a crowd of people staring into a little shop window I can tell what they're selling by the nationality. If they're Americans, it's a patisserie. If they're French, it's a fromagerie.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 12:35PM
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Loved Bruges (was there for my honeymoon in April 2003).

I found the chocolates/truffles from the open farmers' market 1000 times better than those in the stores. They melted in my mouth. I must have consumed chocolates from 10 different stores/markets.

Belgium: you know about the 2 types of waffles, yes?
I love the heavier dense ones w/ the crunchy sugar crystals. I like it alone, w/out any chocolate syrup, etc. It's so good all warm and sweet and sticky.

Amsterdam: sorry but can't remember the name, but we went to a FABULOUS Thai restaurant that had the most amazing papaya salad. Even better than those I had in Thailand; so flavorful and SPICY, just amazing!

I fell in love with European canned tuna in Paris.
We had purchased fresh baguette and some canned tuna and had a fantastic picnic lunch in the gardens of Palace of Versailles. The canned tuna is so flavorful and smoky; mop up the flavored oil with the crunchy fluffy bread.

Or maybe it was the love in my new husband's eyes... :)

Enjoy yourself!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 1:57PM
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Second the suggestion of BHV in Paris. It's a large department store but my recollection is the basement is like a hardware store and then the housewares are on the 3rd or 4th floor. Just be careful that you buy all the fittings if you buy anything as US stuff isn't comparable (metric system). My recollection of Bruges is outstanding food and a chocolate with every cup of coffee you order! Have a wonderful trip.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 5:07PM
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Writersblock... So true about the french and cheese. Cheese at every meal! I miss good raw milk cheese.

I forgot to mention one culinary delight of Amsterdam.... Rijsttaffel is Dutch Indonesian. Basically the Dutch adaptation of Indonesian, based on the colonial days. Translates as rice table and it is an assortment of small and spicy dishes. Sampurna near the flower market is one I've been to....

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 1:20AM
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Berthillon's - ice cream in Paris on Ile Saint Louis. This is the little residential island next to Notre Dame. Enjoy your trip.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 12:56PM
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I second the suggestion for the Dutch rijsttafel, although I had mine in Rotterdam so can't suggest any place in Amsterdam.

Definitely just go to any small market that you may find. I was amazed at the variety of goods for sale in the small town outdoor markets in Noord Brabant (where I was on a cycling vacation)

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 2:03PM
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