Our European vacation started by picking up our rental car in Barcelona. Once we had our wheels we made our way two hours south to a true Spanish resort town called Peniscola. We stayed at the Hotel Casablanca and Suites (Avenue Papa Luna 113 12598 Peniscola). It was situated across from the ocean and less than a mile from the bustling town center complete with views of its medieval castle. The Casablanca Hotel was fabulous. It had clean modern rooms, a large pool, and excellent breakfast and dinner buffets. The receptionist at the hotel also recommended a great restaurant called La Raspa where you should order their signature tapas called patatas bravas. The staff helped us find some great restaurants like La Raspa. This hotel was the best place we stayed during our entire vacation and we would absolutely recommend it to anyone else who wants a high quality Spanish resort experience.
After exploring Peniscola’s wonderful restaurants and charming castle, it was time for us to make our way to Cote d’Azur. This time we stayed in an aparthotel called the Resideal Antibes (240 Avenue Jules Grec 06600 Antibes). At an aparthotel guests are responsible for providing their own toiletries and sheets. It’s a good solution for families who want to economize or cook some of their meals in the kitchenette. We never cooked in our apartment but it suited us because of its proximity to a market, a bakery as well as all the sites we wanted to explore. We had an excellent pizza at a restaurant near the aparthotel called L’Oiseau Qui Chante. Nice has a beautiful coastline, excellent shopping, and plenty of places to eat. However, the most spectacular thing we did was take the scenic drive from Nice to Monaco. Monte Carlo can only be described as fit for a princess. We recommend splitting an entrée and ordering tiramisu at an Italian restaurant called Pulcinella. People watching outside of Monte Carlo Casino is also a must. We enjoyed it so much we visited twice.
Unfortunately, we had to leave the magnificent Cote d’Azur to drive back to Barcelona for the next part of our trip. We found a great hotel called Hotel Parale lel close to a metro and within walking distance of the famous Las Ramblas street. (Poeta Cabanyes 08004 Barcelona) Our room was modern and clean and we had great customer service. The man at the front desk pointed out where we should go and warned us that even as a local he had been pickpocketed three times. If you ever go to Barcelona heed his words. A high school guy tried to pickpocket me. He was unsuccessful but be vigilant about protecting your valuables. Besides, the “pickpocket episode” we had a great time exploring Barcelona and watching championship soccer at local spots. Our only regret was that we should have stayed longer.
We spent our final week in Amsterdam. My daughter studied abroad for a semester there so I stayed in her apartment rather than a hotel. The real estate market is highly competitive so all the locals were amazed that she lived in the sought after Amsterdam West neighborhood on Plantage Muidergracht. If you’re in that area grab a pizza for about 11 Euro from De Pizzabakkers on Plantage Kerklaan. During the week I stayed with my daughter we took our time exploring the city but everything was easier to access because we were staying within the center ring. Wake up early one day and take a bike ride to Pancakes Amsterdam on Berenstraat 38 for some signature Dutch pancakes. Other places sell them but this place had the best quality. For lunch, we followed the locals’ lead and picked up some sandwich spreads and bread from the local grocery store, Albert Heijn. Our favorite dinner place was Café De Klos on Kerkstraat 41. Ignore the all you can eat spare rib deals and come here for the best spare ribs in town. I split an order with my daughter and it was more than enough for two. If you’re in the mood for a beer stop by Mulligans Irish Music Bar on Amstel 100. You’ll get some great live music and dancing and enjoy a pint. Amsterdam has something for everyone but make sure you don’t leave for home without riding a bike for the true local experience.
Europe has so much to offer it’s impossible to see everything in three weeks. Try not to get too overwhelmed. We enjoyed the Mediterranean coast but we wished we had more time for Barcelona and Amsterdam. It was a great itinerary but we highly recommend more time for the major cities.
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