PANDEMIC TRAVEL Tom Stinglhamber planned a most thoughtful three-day visit for our family of four to Amsterdam – June 29 – July 2, 2022. Starting from the moment of our arrival at the wretchedly chaotic Schiphol Airport, Tom was helpful and flexible. When our daughter’s plane was delayed by several hours, he immediately arranged a second car to take her to the Pulitzer Hotel, so the rest of us could go ahead. The hotel was lovely, and he’d arranged not only two canal-view junior suites with breakfast but a special food and beverage credit that made eating in the hotel’s excellent dining room practical and cost-efficient on our first, tired night in town. He booked a wonderful private tour on a saloon boat through the canals, and a terrific private guide to take us on tours of the leading museums. He offered other services we did not feel we needed – like a private walking tour of the city center. He uses an excellent digital app – Axus – that allows real-time updates and communication during the trip. He warned us – appropriately – of the long (four hours’) time we’d need at Schiphol for our flight to Copenhagen. When a return flight to Amsterdam from Norway was cancelled unexpectedly at the end of our trip, he immediately was able to guarantee hotel arrangements if we needed to stay in Europe longer. Alas, he was unable to secure a refund for the required last-minute cancellation of a planned overnight at the Amsterdam airport Sheraton – understandable but regrettable. Tom’s services are not cheap, but he is instantly available by phone and email and his careful and thoughtful planning made all the difference in giving our family a fantastic stay in Amsterdam. He arranged experiences and activities we would have been very unlikely ever to find on our own. Flying these days is complete misery, but travel is still uplifting and very fun. Tom made sure we could cope with the former and enjoy the latter to the utmost.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL After finishing a Viking Rhine River cruise we wanted to spend a week in Belgium. We were referred to Thomas Stinglhamber, who is based in Antwerp, by Wendy Perrin’s staff. We first had a phone conversation with Thomas and told him what we wanted to see. Thomas planned everything plus more. We started in The Hague and then were driven to the Botanic Sanctuary in Antwerp. The following day we had a full day with a private guide with highlights including the Diamond District and Rubens House. The next day we toured Ghent and then were driven to Bruges, where we stayed at the Hotel Van Cleff. This is a beautiful hotel right on one of the canals. We had the same guide for all three cities and I think this added to our enjoyment. After two nights we were picked up by a guide who is an expert on World War I. What a sad but informative day touring battlefields and learning the history of this war. This guide then drove us to Brussels, where we stayed three nights at Hotel Amigo. Another great guide who took us all over Brussels. Thomas would periodically call or text to see how we were doing. The last day of our tour we had our original driver and it was like an old friend showed up. An amazing tour with excellent guides and drivers. Thomas delivered plus more. A wonderful experience!
PANDEMIC TRAVEL The trip Thomas had planned for us to Belgium two years ago was worth waiting for. His hotel choice, The Amigo, was the perfect place from which to explore the sights in Brussels and to return to from our day trips. We also enjoyed Thomas’s restaurant recommendations near our hotel which offered everything from local seafood to haute cuisine.
The daily excursions, which were very well planned, gave us an opportunity to see the old in Bruges, the new in Brussels and everything in between. Because I am a retired teacher and museum educator, I expect a guide to be an energetic and engaging person who is well versed in his/her subject matter. Thomas’s relationships with his guides allow him to pick among the best.
Thomas choose Sofie, who spoke excellent English, for our guide for Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp. She was more than perfect. In addition, she was very sensitive to my husband’s mobility problems and included stops for coffee, biscuits and chocolates along the way. The two days we spent with her were interesting and fun.
COVID is hard to avoid in Europe. Venues are crowded and no one wears masks. My husband and I, who tested negative 24 hours before our flight, became ill 48 hours upon our return. We think we were exposed on our last day in Brussels or in the airport before our departure but will never know. One has to accept the risk in order to travel.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Aer Lingus required a mask but restrictions in the Netherlands and Belgium were easing by the time we took the trip. As we had private drivers (and didn’t require public transportation), there were no places that required a mask, including museums and restaurants. The trip was fantastic, and private guides in each of the cities were superb. After a long flight, a canal tour in Amsterdam was a relaxing way to start our adventure. Our private boat captain picked us up in front of our hotel. He provided interesting historical details and answered questions as we sipped cool beverages from the bar and waved at passengers on the larger tour vessels. We were dropped off near the Anne Frank house where we had tickets to tour this remarkable site. The following day was a guided walking tour of Amsterdam that concluded with visits to the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum. The next day was at leisure before we joined a bike tour the following day. Tom was great to work with in coordinating our adventures in the Netherlands and Belgium before and after our bike adventure. The travel app he provided was a great way to keep track of our itinerary and to communicate with him during our travels. On the last day of the bike tour, a private driver picked us up in Bruges and drove us to Ghent for a couple of days. Our last stop was in Brussels. The hotels were great! Private guides in each city took us on amazing tours of historical sights and we enjoyed another boat tour in Ghent. We especially enjoyed visiting boutique chocolate shops and a private chocolate tasting. Tom suggested and helped obtain tickets for Floralien Ghent – Nocturne 6th of May which only occurs every 5 years. It was the most amazing floral exhibit I have ever seen! He also secured reservations at a special restaurant for us to celebrate our anniversary.
Our guide Sophie was excellent. She was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The restaurant outside Ghent that she took us to for lunch was one of the best experiences on the trip.
Thomas Stinglhamber, the travel specialist, organized an excellent trip, among other things, finding a local photographer with great knowledge of the tulip business, with whom we did a full day trip photographing tulip fields and windmills at the height of the season. The local guide Thomas set us up with was informative, and was willing to re-arrange the itinerary based on the expected weather forecast.
During the planning for the trip, Thomas and I exchanged many emails about what we wanted to do as photographers and museum goers, and we were able to accomplish all of our goals.
The two hotels we decided on in Amsterdam, The Pulitzer; and in The Hague, Hotel des Indes, were in the right locations.
Our planner, Thomas Stinglhamber was very good. We hit a stumbling block in regard to our accommodations and Thomas found us another hotel. The Manoir de LesBoiles did not want to stay open for the dates we booked so he and his staff had to find us another. We ended up at the Radisson Blu Balmoral.
It wasn’t as opulent or grand as the first option but it was nice and in a good location for our Battle of the Bulge tour. Thomas arranged a guide for our tour who I would never have found on my own. Jean was on time, extremely knowledgeable and easy to talk to.
Thomas and his office kept in touch and gave us phone numbers in case we needed him. He touched base before, during and after our trip to make sure if we needed him we could get in contact with him and his office.
This was our first time to use Wendy Perrin’s Travel Specialists and we were delighted from the beginning to the end!
We were introduced to Thomas Stinglhamber, through the Wow list of Travel Experts, to guide us through our Amsterdam and Belgium trip planning. Thomas called us from Belgium to learn about us and our trip desires, and after an hour phone chat we received several sample itineraries to review. The whole planning experience was made so easy and fun, and the actual trip from hotels to private boat tours of the canals was dreamy!! We never waited in one single line for museums, nor had to make any reservations for dinner; nor anything else after we left home. We had private historian guides through every city we visited, a private bicycle tour through Amsterdam, and our guide in Belgium invited us to meet her family and to see her 400-year-old Flemish house in Ghent! We met lovely people and experienced so many things we never would have known to seek out.
It was by far the MOST EFFORTLESS AND ENJOYABLE TRIP we have ever taken.
We hopefully will never have to travel any other way again!
Thank you to Wendy Perrin and her terrific team of Travel Specialists!!