Brussels to Amsterdam to Paris to Normandy
While parking and navigating in the urban cities is challenging, we found the inter-city road system to be quite good. After only about an hour, we were approaching the border, or should I say, a small sign where the border is. I had expected a border with customs officials - actually looking forward to getting my passport stamped with another country, but it was just like going from Florida to Alabama - except in Belgium and Holland they speak the same language.
The distances between countries is like the distances between states in the northeast US. While the roads are good, getting around is a different experience (but in part, that's why we're visiting Europe). First, when we picked up our rental car, the attendant gave us a map of Belgium. When I asked for a map of Holland (The Netherlands), I was told I would have to get one myself they only had maps of Belgium. (The Netherlands is only 50 miles away.)
Another cultural phenomenon is the fact that the European public transportation system trains and busses is vastly superior to that of the US. Coupled with limited city parking and the high cost of gas ($2.50 per gallon and higher in Britain) many Europeans don't own cars. Hence, our experience was that their ability to give road directions to places more than 30 miles away is limited. One gas station attendant had no idea how to get from Antwerp, Belgium to Amsterdam, The Netherlands only a distance of about 100 miles on an expressway. Another could only give me directions as far as Breda, The Netherlands, which helped, but I had to stop there, get a map of The Netherlands and continue on to Amsterdam.
Lastly, as comedian Steve Martin says, Those French they have a different word for everything. Of course, what that means is that the road signs are in a foreign language (for us anyway). Sortie, nord, ouest, prochaine (exit, north, west see what I mean?) Also, unless I missed something, there are no junction signs such as I-95 2 miles. Instead, you see the name of a town, and you have to know if that town is prochaine - excuse me, nearby your destination.
Oh well it's all part of the European experience. You have to go with the flow and have a little faith that things will work out.
Our trip worked out quite well overall. First, we spent about half a day in Brussels, Belgium. Next, we drove to Amsterdam, The Netherlands. From there, we drove back through Antwerp and Brussels, Belgium and on to Paris, France. We enjoyed a night driving around Paris and touring the next day. On our last day, we drove from Paris to the D-Day Beaches of Normandy, France, concluding that long day driving back across the French countryside to Brussels for our return flight home.