Academic Trips & Language Classes
If you want to get fluent and have fun doing it, take a language course in Belgium or Holland. There are countless language schools; you can explore your options at www.language-directory.com, www.languageschoolsguide.com, or find an online partner to practice your new skills with at www.mylanguageexchange.com.
About half of Belgians are native French speakers, even if there might be a few differences between Belgian French and that of la belle France -- for instance, septante and nonante instead of soixante-dix and quatre-vingts-dix, for "seventy" and "ninety," respectively -- so no big deal. A good if pricey school where you can learn French, Dutch, German, and other languages, is CERAN (tel. 087/79-11-22; www.ceran.com). You lodge at a château outside Spa in the Belgian Ardennes. They do courses for adults and for children ages 10 to 18.
The terrain in Belgium doesn't lend itself greatly to adventure -- but it does lend itself wonderfully to bicycling, and for some that will be adventure enough. If you want an active, typically Dutch vacation, VBT Bicycling Vacations, P.O. Box 711, Bristol, VT 05443 (tel. 800/245-3868; www.vbt.com), has a 7-day "Holland: Bike and Barge" tour. You get 3 days on a barge visiting historic towns along the IJsselmeer Lake shore, followed by 4 days of bicycling in the Hoge Veluwe National Park and around nearby Arnhem. Ask about VBT's "Air Package Plus," which includes round-trip airfare to Amsterdam and pre- and post-tour accommodations. The aptly named Tulip Tours (tel. 033/246-0040; www.tulipcycling.com) does a range of great cycling vacations through this bike-crazy country.
In addition to covering Holland, Pure Adventures (tel. 800/960-2221 in the U.S.; www.pure-adventures.com), takes in the Flemish part of Belgium, with the cities of Bruges and Ghent.
Food & Wine Trips
Belgium boasts one of the Continent's great culinary traditions, even if it is a largely unsung one compared with France, Italy, and Spain. Going with Gordon's Guide Culinary Tours (http://culinary-vacations.gordonsguide.com) is a good way to get to the heart of the matter.
Volunteer & Working Trips
Here's a list of companies offering educational and volunteer opportunities in Benelux:
- www.jobsabroad.com: Listings for jobs throughout Europe, as well as links to study and volunteer options.
- www.idealist.org: Resources and tips on volunteering abroad, along with volunteer and paid postings.
- www.volunteerabroad.com: Extensive listings for European volunteer opportunities. This site has extensive information about and links to Concordia (www.concordiafarms.org), a UK-based organization with extensive volunteering opportunities in European countries, among them Belgium and Holland.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.