Archive for Belgium Tours

Plan Your Perfect Trip to Europe

Friday, December 13th, 2013

With expert help from the seasoned guides of European Focus Private Tours. We work with singles, couples, families and groups of friends who have common interests. Best of all, your tour is led by the designer! No fumbling around, no getting lost, no wondering what hotel to use or where to eat or what to do with your precious vacation time. We take all of the unknowns out of travel and eliminate the thousands of details which go into a fun, stress-free vacation. All you have to do is get onto the airplane and let us take care of the rest. Booking now for 2014 and beyond.

A busy father and his two sons enjoyed a stress-free vacation in Germany and France in July, leaving the planning to us while they carried on busy lives and careers back home in Oklahoma.

A busy father and his two sons enjoyed a stress-free vacation in Germany and France in July, leaving the planning to us while they carried on busy lives and careers back home in Oklahoma.

2014 calendar update

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Updated January 15, 2014

Thinking of a dream trip to Europe?

So are these people. And, they have made their reservations already for travel in 2014. Don’t wait to fulfill your dreams of easy and relaxed travel in Europe.

April 11 to 25: Tour for two, renewal of vows in Italy, first time clients Steve and Debbie with James
April 20 to May 3: Tour for two, second time for our clients Dan and Amanda, who traveled in Germany with us in 2012. This time it is Italy. (Jenean’s tour)
May 1 to 19: Second tour for Peter and Gayle, who toured in Germany with us in 2013. This time it is parts of France and Spain with both James and Jenean leading the way from Paris to Santiago de Compostela

Carol, left and Art, right will join us again this year for a trip, this time, to southern Portugal and southern Spain.

Carol, left and Art, right will join us again this year for a trip, this time, to southern Portugal and southern Spain.


May 22 to June 6: Seventh trip for Art and Carol who toured with us most recently in Spain and Portugal in 2013. This time it will be other areas in Portugal and southern Spain with James and Jenean.
June 17 to 29: Dennis comes back for more family history research, this time in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. His first trip with European Focus was in 2013 and it was concentrated on Germany. Dennis first took our business card in 1998. (James’ tour)
June 18 to 26: Family of four starting in Paris where they will meet Jenean, continuing on to Strasbourg, Lucerne and Munich.
June 28 to July 12: Tour with a family of four starting in London and continuing on to Normandy, Reims and on to Germany where we will retrace some of the steps taken by the parents of two of the members of this group during their time in Germany decades ago. The trip ends in Munich. This will be the first European Focus Private Tour for these Texans. Jenean starts the tour and James meets the group in Normandy.
July 16 to 28: Tour with a family of four from Tucson to Germany and Austria, the Czech Republic. This will be Tim’s third tour with European Focus. James will lead this tour.
August 5-13: A couple come for their first trip with European Focus in Germany, mainly visiting ancestral villages.
August 25 to September 5: John comes on his second tour with us, this time in England on a combination ancestral discovery tour and honeymoon. (James and Jenean)
October 4 to 19: Pat and his wife come from Australia for their first tour with European Focus in Germany. Part of the tour will concentrate on family history and part will be slow travel tourism. Pat will meet with relatives in Berlin, who will travel there from Poland.
(James will lead this tour)
October 20: Mariane C. fulfills a lifelong dream of visiting the village of Appenzell, Switzerland. James will pick her up at her hotel in Lucerne and take her to nearby Appenzell for the day. The timing just works perfectly for this long-awaited journey. She will be ending a river cruise a few days before in Basel.
November 23 to December 3: A family of nine comes over to visit some Christmas Markets (starting on Nov 28) and other places of interest which the patriarch of the family enjoyed during his time in the service in the 1960s. This tour will be led by Jenean and James.

Available dates are in July, August and September plus the last part of October and first part of November for trips led by James or Jenean. For trips in Germany, Austria and Switzerland we can accommodate you through our partners, ask for available dates.

Somber Visit to the Western Front at Ieper, Belgium

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

May 30

We took our guest Dennis Duffy to Ieper and to the portion of the Western Front near Ieper on May 29. Every day is Memorial Day in Ieper, site of intense battles and barbaric destruction of life and property during the “Great War” of 1914-1918.

Names of dead from the British Commonwealth inscribed on the Menen Gate Memorial at Ieper

Ieper was totally destroyed by many months of artillery fire by the Germans. There were only humps of rubble standing where once great churches and the 13th century cloth trading hall had once stood. Winston Churchill wanted to turn the entire mess into a lasting memorial to the more than 85,000 soldiers of the British Commonwealth who had perished around the city. But, the citizens of this proud city had other ideas upon returning from exile after the war. They wanted to build their city again, and they did so, in a style to match what had been there before. Now the gigantic cloth hall hosts a museum dedicated to the terrible history of trench warfare.

The massive Cloth Hall, symbol of the former glory and wealth of Ieper, rebuilt from the rubble of World War I

We spent the day roaming the former battlefields around Ieper. At Tyne Cot British cemetery, the largest war cemetery outside of Great Britain, we marveled at aerial photographs taken before and after the most intense artillery exchange, when 4.5 million shells were fired at German and British and allied positions. The result – a moonscape devoid of any standing building, any tree, any sign that this was once an area of small villages, churches, roads and farms. To look at the scene now, with the many red brick farm houses and barns and groves of trees, it’s hard to imagine the utter devastation of 1919. That is the year when members of the British Graves Commission went to work to find the tens of thousands of bodies on the battlefield for burial here and in the more than 100 other smaller cemeteries scattered around the area.

Graves in the Tyne Cot cemetery, which is maintained by the British War Graves Commission

Anyone who has not learned the lesson that war is the ultimate senseless waste of life and treasure needs to walk these cemeteries and see the bomb craters, the pockmarked pillboxes of the Germans and definitely, to hear the names of the dead being called out at the Tyne Cot cemetery.

Learn more here

Comments (1)
Categories : Belgium Tours

Three Nights in Beautiful Bruges

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

May 30

Freshly arrived from America, Charlotte, Diane and Dennis prepare to enjoy their first lunch in Bruges on May 27

There are few better ways to begin a European Adventure than three nights in one of the prettiest small cities in Europe. Bruges, or Brugge, or Brugges, or however you want to spell it (there are several variations, all correct) is a fairyland of gorgeous squares, little lanes, canals, carriages led by clopping horses, chocolate shops and fine restaurants and more beer than you could consume in a million lifetimes. Well, we might be going overboard on the last one, because we can consume a lot of beer!

The Flemish Style was created in Bruges. This is a style of architecture with stepped gables.


Back in the 15th and 16 centuries Bruges was the biggest and most powerful wool trading town in the world, with an active port full of tall ships carrying its products around the world. Then the river silted up, London and Antwerp got aggressive in luring business to their own expanding ports and Bruges just sort of went to sleep. It’s a common story in these perfectly-preserved old towns. They had to experience centuries when nothing happened in order to be so old and picturesque today. Two hundred years ago, before the camera and certainly before tourism, no one cared about an old town slowly rotting away. Then came the tourists, the postcards, the paintings and the sketch artists and Bruges, as is the case with our own European home base of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany, came alive and is once again wealthy and world-famous.

An artist captures part of the convent, where 19 nuns still practice lacemaking

The massive brick Church of Our Lady holds the bones of St. Bonaface plus a Madonna and Child by Michelangelo, purchased in 1504 by a wealthy businessman who brought it to the church on the condition that it always be visible by the common person. The statue is the only work by Michelangelo north of the Alps.

Comments (1)

The Last Brewery In Bruges, Belgium

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

May 30

We took the interesting tour of the Henri Maes “Halve Mann” brewery in Bruges the other day and found it a fascinating look into how one of the more than 35 breweries that used to exist in this small Flemish town operated. Our guide, Ian, was the highlight of the day as he described with great sense of humor how men “dressed in their nakedness” would work in sweltering conditions to make beer for the consumption of, at first, the locals only.

As refridgeration and enhanced bottling techniques became available, Henri Maes started sending their beer further afield. Today, with several gold medals under his belt, the Xavier Vannestes, the sixth generation of the Henri Maes family, is busy exporting some of the more than 4.5 million liters produced each year to America among other countries. The Straffe Hendrik Quadruple recently won a gold medal in an Australian beer competition.

It was interesting to learn that the brewery nearly folded in the early 1970s when supermarkets came into being in this part of Belgium. Home delivery was no longer needed and this was one of the brewery’s biggest sources of income. A decade later and the 5th generation of the Maes family came up with a couple of very successful brews, saving the company from total ruin.

We did our best while in Bruges to consume as much of the Henri Maes brew as possible.

The young boy at right looks very interested in the beer delivered to your front doorstep concept in Bruges, Belgium


(Photo courtesy Henri Maes Halve Mann Brewery)

Comments (0)

Tour Opportunities for October

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Walk along the Italian coastline in the mild month of October


March 5, 2012

European Focus founder and guide James Derheim is available during the beautiful month of October, a perfect time to explore most of central and southern Europe. October is prime season and is usually booked far in advance. The days are mild and the kids are all back in school with no major holidays, therefore, roads are much less crowded and the major sights (especially Germany after Oktoberfest) Contact European Focus today to get started on the planning for your exclusive holiday led by James Derheim.

Bruges, Brugge or just plain Lovely

Monday, September 26th, 2011


However you choose to spell it, and the Germans and the French and the Belgians all have their own spin on it, Bruges is one of Europe’s loveliest cities. We always enjoy taking our guests here, because it’s one “wow” moment after another in a city seemingly frozen in time.

The historic city centre is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO. Along with a few other canal-based northern cities, such as Amsterdam, it is sometimes referred to as “The Venice of the North.”

One of the special places is the immense, towering “Church of Our Lady,” featuring a lovely pieta by Michelangelo purchased by a wealthy merchant and given to the church and the city on the condition that it be visible to the public and not hidden away for “special eyes only.” The statue has rested in the church, in the open, since 1514.

One of many public buildings erected during the "Glory Days" when Bruges was a powerful trading center


Bruges many narrow lanes, quiet parks and interesting shops plus one of the most gorgeous hotels we use make this a five-star attraction for all.

Bruges is part of our “Experience Europe for 2012″ tour, the details of which are listed above.

Comments (0)
Categories : Belgium Tours
Tags : ,

Private Tour Opportunity for August

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Experience the beauty of Ireland with tour guide James Derheim (in photo at the Old Head of Kinsale) in August


We have an opening on our calendar for a private tour of at least seven days minimum for the month of August, 2011. This month is historically for us the last month to fill, and we’ve taken bookings as late as July for the very next month. Still, if it’s your dream to travel in Europe the fun-filled, relaxed way without all of the hassles of driving, figuring out where to stay and where to eat and what to do, contact us today and we will get right back to you with a proposal. Suggestions for the month of August based on weather and expected crowds from other tourists are:

Germany group tours
Ireland tours
England & or Wales combined
Belgium or the Netherlands or both combined
France (but not the southern part along the sea)

Guiding tours in European for over 20 years