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The Great Rivers of Europe 2014

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Pre-trip: Bruges, Belgium

Join us on an optional extension to one of Europe's most charming cities: Bruges. Located in the northern part of Belgium, Bruges is said to be one of the most well-preserved cities in Europe—however the city has gone through many renovations in order to keep its medieval architecture intact. As you stroll through the bustling streets, you'll encounter its busy market squares, cozy homes, and circle of canals. During your extension, you'll explore this former capital, as well as enjoy included tours of Ghent, Belgium and Delft, the Netherlands, along with a full-day optional tour of the lovely old city of Brussels.

It's Included:
Accommodations: for 3 nights at the First-Class NH Bruges or similar
3 meals: 3 breakfasts
Included tours: Bruges, Ghent, and Delft
Exclusive services of a resident Grand Circle Program Director
All transfers
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    Depart on your flight to Bruges. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times.

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    You are met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Depending on your arrival time and hotel check-in policy, you may not be able to check into your hotel room immediately upon arrival at your hotel. Your Program Director will advise you of our check-in status and activity schedule for the day when you arrive. Enjoy a brief walk to get acquainted with the area around your hotel. The rest of your day is at leisure to relax after your overseas flight or explore on your own.

    Join your Program Director, who will accompany you throughout both your extension and your main trip, and your fellow travelers for a Welcome Drink before enjoying dinner on your own. Your Program Director will have suggestions as you select a restaurant in the city.

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    • Meals included:
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    After breakfast, you’ll set off on a walking tour of this former capital of Flanders, 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 the 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. Then, you’ll visit a lace shop to see some of the world’s finest lacemakers at work, followed by a delicious tasting of one of Belgium’s well-known treats: Belgium waffles. Your tour continues with a look at Bruges from another vantage point—a tour aboard a canal boat. You’ll then enjoy some free time to have lunch on your own and to explore independently.

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    Continue your discoveries of Bruges on your own today.

    Or, join us for an optional tour of Brussels. Once a sleepy village that grew up around a chapel on an island in the Senne River, Brussels is now a thriving capital city and the headquarters of NATO and the European Union. It is second only to Geneva, Switzerland, in the number of headquarters of international organizations.

    You’ll begin your tour by bus. Everywhere you look, you’ll see beautiful architecture, especially the influence of Victor Horta, the famous Art Nouveau architect. You’ll see the building of the European Union and Atomium, an enormous steel construction representing an iron atom, with nine spheres connected by walkways and escalators. Pass by the impressive Cinquantenaire arch, the Chinese Pavillion, Japanese Pagoda, and the Royal Park.

    Along the way, we’ll stop at a famous local chocolaterie, where custom-made, personalized chocolate confections of the highest quality are a specialty. You’ll see how molds are made, how chocolate is prepared and poured, and how the artistic hand decorates.

    You’ll continue on a walking tour of the city, where you’ll walk through the famed market square and the heart of Brussels. The square is dominated by the magnificent 15th-century Town Hall, with its hundreds of small statues. Admire the square’s 17th-century buildings and guild houses with their golden inlays. You’ll then enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before exploring Brussels on your own during free time.

    You’ll then be transferred back to your hotel in Bruges to enjoy dinner on your own this evening.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, you’ll depart for your transfer to the Netherlands’ capital of Amsterdam. En route, you’ll stop in Ghent, which was originally a settlement set at the confluence of the Scheldt and Lys rivers, and during the Middle Ages, it became one of the largest and wealthiest cities in northern Europe. You’ll enjoy a walking tour of Ghent and free time to explore on your own.

    You’ll then stop for lunch on your own in Delft, followed by a short tour and a visit to a porcelain factory in Delft, known for its distinctive blue Delftware pottery.

    You’ll arrive in Amsterdam in the late afternoon. Members of your group on The Great Rivers of Europe have arrived today, and tonight, you join your fellow travelers, following the activities as described on Day 2 of the main itinerary.