Europe – a dream destination for all of us (especially its famous cities) and on our first trip we tend to fill our itinerary with as many cities as we can possibly cramp in. After all it’s an expensive destination and who knows when we might be able to save this kind of money again. But over my many trips here and traveling on some with my local friends P and J, I have realized that Europe’s beauty is not in its cities. Don’t get me wrong – the cities are beautiful but Europe’s true beauty is in its small towns, villages and nature parks.
No trip to Europe is complete (for me) without a visit to my friend, P in Vaals (pronounced as Faals). Vaals is a really small European town and not on the typical touristy trail (at least not for Indians) but I visit it on every trip to meet with my friends P and J and now most importantly the adorable little M. But apart from spending time with them, Vaals also has some interesting things to see and do. So here’s a quick guide on 5 things to do in Vaals if you ever find yourself in this beautiful small town in Netherlands.
I have been fascinated with Europe for a while. It all started in 2004 when my BFF, P first moved there and started sending postcards and sharing stories of a gorgeous world full of snow-clad mountains, fairy tale castles, scenic lakes, etc etc. All her stories created an image of a wonderland in my mind and I resolved to visit it as soon as I could collect some money. And as Paulo Coelho said in The Alchemist “if you truly want something, then the entire universe conspires in helping you achieve it” – well, mine sure did. After numerous failed plans, my first international trip was to Spain in 2006. And with this trip, the fascination increased.
Planning that first trip to any new continent is quite challenging. But planning that very first trip to Europe is nothing short of an overwhelming and even traumatic experience, as that first looks at the map of the continent and you are – “hmmm now from where should I start”. Even the lonely planet for this continent is super confusing with various editions like continental europe, central europe, western europe, eastern europe, Scandinavia etc etc. Phew…
This is clearly because there are about 50 countries to choose from and just too many things to see and explore – so much so that you are clearly spoilt for choices. And mind you everything is beautiful and worth an experience / visit. Here each country has its own unique history, culture, art, cuisine, landscape, architecture and in most cases even within each country there are numerous regions and small things to experience.
For Europe, I always believe that along with visiting cities, you should also take some time and visit some of the smaller towns close by to these cities. These smaller towns are the ones that give you an actual flavor of that country, its culture and most importantly, its people. Hence during our Belgium stint, we spent a beautiful day in the picture perfect town of Bruges.
Bruges is a small town in Flanders that is in the northern part of Belgium. This is a small medieval European city, which is full of canals and beautiful old orange and red houses. Though this city is not as big as some other cities in Europe but it definitely has its own charm and many touristy things to do.
Below is my take on this town, through my camera lens.
Whenever there is any discussions on deserts, I am always reminded of Belgium and its famous – waffles and chocolates.
We got a chance to sample the Belgian chocolates in Bruges, where every street, corner and nearly every third shop was selling these mouth-watering deserts. It’s like you control an urge to binge at one window, only to encounter another one in the next 5 seconds. What we found even more fascinating was that apart from the actual taste of these chocolates, there was an added emphasis on its looks / display.
We took a picture of a display window of one such chocolate shop. Please note that every piece on display (except the ribbons and the teddy bear) is made of super yum chocolate. The sheer variety in terms of flavors / colors / shapes / sizes available here is mind-boggling.
For the latter part of our Europe trip, my sister and I flew to Cologne and stayed with our friends and hosts – Priya (P) and Jean (J). Meeting P in Europe was finally a long wished for dream come true, because I had been planning to visit her for the last 7 years, but for some reason or the other, plans just didn’t materialise.
P is now finally settled in Vaals (pronounced as Faals) which is a beautiful small town in Netherlands and on the border of Germany, Netherlands and Belgium. This was also a base for us to explore all the nearby towns and cities.