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Romance of the Rhine & Mosel 2014

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Pre-trip: Bruges, Belgium

More than 30% of our travelers take this extension

Join us for a trip extension to Bruges, Belgium, one of Western Europe’s great medieval cities. Originally a ninth-century fortress built to protect the Flemish coast from marauding Vikings, Bruges today retains its reputation as one of the best-preserved Old World cities on the continent. Its museums hold some of the oldest and finest collections you will find anywhere, and its narrow winding streets meander through the city beside a centuries-old canal system. It is often said that the best way to experience the charm and storied history of Bruges is on foot, as almost every street is lined with historic buildings.

It's Included:
Accommodations—for 3 nights at the Grand Hotel Casselbergh Bruges
3 meals—daily breakfast
Sightseeing—Bruges city tour with boat ride, Ghent city tour
Exclusive services of a resident Grand Circle Program Director
All transfers
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    Leave the U.S. today on your flight to Brussels.

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    Arrive this morning or afternoon in Brussels. A Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport and assist with the transfer to your hotel in Bruges.

    The balance of the day is at leisure to relax after your overseas flight. You can also do some exploring on your own, or join an orientation walk to get acquainted with the vicinity around your hotel.

    In the early evening, gather with your traveling companions for a drink welcoming you to Belgium. Your Program Director will give you suggestions on where you might want to dine on your own this evening.

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    After breakfast and a briefing by your Program Director, set off with us on a walking tour of Bruges, capital of Flanders and a city still defined by its canals. Dating from the 13th century, Bruges is a living museum and a treasure trove of fine architecture. From the 13th to the 15th centuries, Bruges was the most important trading center of northern Europe, based largely on its thriving wool and textile industries. You’ll see signs of this mercantile history in the beautiful houses built by wealthy textile merchants.

    Your walking tour takes you to Church of Our Lady and to Market Square, with its distinctive belfry tower and carillon of 47 bells. You also see the Holy Blood Chapel. Your tour continues with a look at Bruges from another vantage point—a tour aboard a canal boat. Then you’ll visit a lace shop to see some of the world’s finest lacemakers at work. You’ll enjoy some free time to have lunch on your own and to explore independently.

    After the tour, return to the hotel and enjoy an afternoon at leisure. If you like, you can remain in town for shopping and independent explorations.

    Or, join us this afternoon and evening for an optional excursion to Flanders Field, a museum commemorating World War I. We travel to the city of Ypres, now known as the “City of Peace,” and visit the interactive Flanders Field Museum. Accompanied by a local guide, we’ll learn about the Great War and then tour the battlefields. After dinner at a local restaurant, we’ll visit the Menin Gate Memorial and listen to the buglers from the local fire brigade who play there every night in remembrance of those lost in the war. The cost of this optional excursion includes dinner.

    Spend your evening at leisure in Bruges. There are many fine restaurants in the area and your Program Director can help you pick a good one.

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    Join an optional half-day tour of Scenic Belgium, featuring an excursion to the Flanders countryside. First, you’ll take an included tour (with audio guide) of the Alantikwall—an unfinished steel and concrete wall constructed by Germans during World War II to block England from invading German-claimed territory and to protect some of Hitler’s weapons. From this landmark, you’ll venture to the North Sea harbor town of De Haan, then drive along the coast to Damme, a former fishing village on the Zwin River. After a walking tour, you’ll return to Bruges via boat. As you cruise, you’ll sample some of the quality beers for which Belgium is known. Or enjoy the day at leisure in Bruges.

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    • Meals included:

    You check out of your Bruges hotel after breakfast this morning. En route to Antwerp, we stop to explore Ghent. Originally the site of two abbeys founded in the seventh century at the confluence of the Schelde and Leie rivers, the city grew slowly into a commercial center especially known for its textiles. It was here in the city's Pacification Hall that the Treaty of Ghent was signed in 1814, ending the War of 1812 between the U.S. and Britain. Historic Ghent boasts many beautiful buildings dating from medieval times.

    During your guided walk in the city, you’ll see the imposing St. Bavo’s Cathedral, where the painting “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” by the Van Eyck brothers, resides. You also see the 800-year-old Castle of the Counts in the town center. From here, the Counts of Flanders ruled over the proud and sometimes rebellious Ghent people.

    Marvel at wonderful old guild houses, and admire the Gothic Town Hall and Belfry Tower.

    Once in Antwerp, you embark on your Romance of the Rhine & Mosel river cruise. The balance of the afternoon and evening proceed as described in Day 2 of the main itinerary.