Ding!

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Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Ding! My phone announces a text. A quick look tells me It’s from the airline announcing my gate has changed, again. While I was in the air they texted two different gates. Now a third gate, PD6. That confuses me. I am fairly good at deciphering the signs in airports, but this one has me stymied. I check the monitors. Yup, PD6. There is no sign for a PD6, so I stop at the Assistance Center.

“Where would I find gate PD6?” I inquire.

Blank looks return my questioning look. The lady behind the desk looks at me as if I am nuts. I quickly show her the text to prove I’m not crazy.

She looks up the flight number, she tells me A30 is my gate. I just came from A30 which was deserted. She is insisting A30 would be the correct gate.

Ding! Another text from the airline. New gate will be B13. The lady updates her computer and now she agrees B13. I have a feeling this gate 13 is not going to be a lucky one.

No sooner do I get to the gate, ding! You guessed it, another text. What’s this? It’s not a gate change but a time change! A three hour delay from the original departure!

As I am beginning to notify my son that I will be later, ding! What now?! Your flight has been cancelled. You are rebooked but the airport has changed. What!? I have a rental car waiting for me at the original airport.

What a nightmare!

 

 

 

Smart Mart?

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Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

For four years I have been driving to Warsaw, Indiana to be with blogging friends and attend the All Write conference. Every year it is a challenge to get through Indianapolis and find my way to Warsaw in a timely manner. I don’t think I’ve ever been the same route twice. I have used a variety of methods to plot the route: GPS, phone/iPad apps, a paper map. There is no major interstate that will bring one to Warsaw. It is a series of roads that meander through the countryside. I always felt like I was missing something in the directions. Fortunately, I have had a navigator, Kim, beside me to help decipher cryptic signs.

After eating lunch in Indianapolis, I unfolded the map on the table, located Warsaw, and slid my finger over the roads to trace the route. I then listed the numbers of the roads needed to reach Warsaw. Sounds like a great plan, right?

It was working like a charm until there was a detour. We followed the detour, this time. Finally we were back on the right route following our list of numbers made at lunch. Another detour sign appeared, but this time we wondered if it really was meant for us. Time was ticking away. I decided to ask at the Smart Mart about this detour that said a bridge was out.

I walked into the shop, it was deadly quiet. I could not see a single body. I worked my way through the aisles heading to the counter with the cash register. A young man was crouched down, stocking the cigarette shelf.

I began my inquiry, “Hi, I’m trying to get to Warsaw, but I see this detour sign. If I stay on the road will I be able to get to Wabash?” As I am talking, I see confusion passing over this young man’s face. He doesn’t know where Warsaw is, he’s probably having a hard time comprehending my English. “Is there someone else around that I can talk to?”

He goes to the nearest doorway and mumbles something. Another young man, carry an iPad comes out. I launch into my inquiry once again. This time hopeful he will understand me. He does understand, but he has no knowledge of conditions of the road to Wabash.

His solution was to have me travel down the road and go south (Warsaw is north of where I am) to connect to two different roads. He comes from Fort Wayne once a week, so he’s never been to Wabash. His directions don’t make sense to me, because I would be going backwards in my journey. I thank him and leave to report to Kim, that Smart Mart isn’t too smart.

We continued on the road and did discover the closed bridge (only it wasn’t really a bridge, but more like an overpass). With the help of Kim’s phone we navigated that stretch and arrived in Warsaw in time.

Before leaving the conference, I enlisted the help of those who live there to tell me the route to take to get back to Indianapolis. I am happy to report that there were no missteps on the return trip (thank you to Mary Helen and Dianne). Now, all I have to do is find a safe place for those route numbers so I can use them again next year.

Kindness Surprise

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Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

It’s the last day in the car. Five hundred fifty-two miles separated us from home. Our bodies were feeling the too-many-days-of-sitting in the car. At each stop, we stepped gingerly until the limbs remembered their path of movement. Thoughts of the comforts of home swirled through our minds as we ticked the miles away.

Passing through Oklahoma, we have two tolls to pay. I always get the money out miles before the booth is in view. We find the lane with the green light and shortest line. A quick stop to pay before we zoom down the highway.

We pull up to the booth, ready to hand the toll taker the cash. the gate rises, he announced, “The lady in the car ahead just paid your toll. Here’s your receipt. Have a good day.”

“Really?!” my husband exclaimed.

“Have a great day!” the toll taker said.

We pulled away marveling at the random act of kindness a stranger had bestowed on us.

“I should have paid for the car behind us,” my husband mused several miles down the road.

Another hundred miles found us at the last toll booth for this trip. The toll was $4.00, we paid our fee with a ten, but then told the toll attendant to take another four to pay for the person behind us.

“I haven’t had anyone do that in quite a long time,” the attendant exclaimed with a broad smile.

I hope a chain of kindness was created on this final day of our travels. Our bodies were weary of the travel, but our minds were savoring the kindness given to us, then passed along.

The Hague

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Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

At 9 a.m. the bus pulled up to the dock, we identified our luggage to be loaded on the bus,

Our hotel

Our hotel

eight couples boarded the bus to drive us to our next adventure, The Hague. Forty-five minutes later we arrived at our hotel, the Grand Hotel Amrath Kurhaus. We were not in The Hague, but in a seaside resort of Scheveningen. Luggage was unloaded, but rooms were not available, so the luggage was put into storage. We climbed back on the bus and headed into The Hague.

While Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, The Hague is where all government buildings are. After we had driven past a few of the government buildings, we began a walking tour that brought us to the Mauritshuis, an art museum of Dutch Golden Age paintings. We were given one hour to explore the floors and find the gems. Fortunately, we were also given a guide to tell us where to find the Vermeer paintings and other notable artists.

On the left: Vermeer's painting of The Girls with the Pearl Earring From the top: The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius The View of Delft by Vermeer The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt

On the left: Vermeer’s painting of The Girls with the Pearl Earring
From the top:
The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius
The View of Delft by Vermeer
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt

We returned to the hotel as the guide’s duties were about to end. We were given keys to our rooms along with a few suggestions for the following day on our own. At this point, we were starving! First order of business, find lunch! We were told there were many restaurants along the boardwalk behind the hotel. So that’s where we headed.

Translation for the name: Pancake House. These were not your mother's pancakes.

Translation for the name: Pancake House.These were not your mother’s pancakes.

Did I mention, we were STARVING, but it was nearly three o’clock, so we didn’t want to eat too much. We split the pancakes. First up, a savory bacon pancake, followed by a banana and chocolate ice cream pancake. These pancakes were more like a crepe than a breakfast pancake. They were gone in no time, so we were off exploring the boardwalk.

Soon we came upon some curious metal figures. I learned that an American, Tom Otterness created these Fairy Tale Sculptures by the Sea.

Top is the boardwalk. Followed by: The Herring Eater, The Lion and the Mouse, See No Evil, and I am standing by Angry Momma

Top is the boardwalk.
Followed by: The Herring Eater, The Lion and the Mouse, See No Evil, and I am standing by Angry Momma

It was fun to see if we could figure out what fairy tale each one represented. I’m not sure where Angry Momma fits in. 🙂 The guide told us to walk to their shopping street for fun shops. I’m afraid we didn’t find any fun shops to browse in. My feet were killing me so we headed back to the hotel. We’d been walking for several hours, so I was ready to rest up before looking for dinner.

The hotel was a beehive of activity when we arrived. People were swarming everywhere! We found out that the president of Indonesia was about to arrive and there was a dinner set up in the ballroom. I was a little surprised that we weren’t asked for IDs as we made our way to the elevator.

It was great to sit back and relax as we planned our next adventure. Suddenly something moved at the window startling me.

As you can tell, we didn't have much of a view, so the movement behind the curtain was unnerving. There was a pair, one at each window peering in.

As you can tell, we didn’t have much of a view, so the movement behind the curtain was unnerving. There was a pair, one at each window peering in.

Slowly I pulled back the mesh curtains to reveal a pair of peeping Toms, or perhaps they were just begging for a bite.

Now hunger was beginning to set in, so what do you do in a new city? You ask Google for the best restaurants near the hotel. Trip Advisor had ten to choose from. We picked Roccos Pizza Trattoria. My husband wrote the directions down and we set out to find it. After walking the wrong way too long, we finally found this restaurant, but it was after 8:00. Once again we were starving. It was just the kind of place we like to discover. I had a great view into the kitchen. It was interesting to watch the pizzas being assembled.

My husband had a veggie pizza. It had cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, peppers, onions, artichokes, and even green beans. He loved it. I had the prosciutto pizza. The prosciutto slices were added to the pizza after the crust, sauce, and cheese were baked.

My husband had a veggie pizza. It had cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, peppers, onions, artichokes, and even green beans. He loved it.
I had the prosciutto pizza. The prosciutto slices were added to the pizza after the crust, sauce, and cheese were baked.

We each took half a pizza back to the hotel. Fortunately, we had a mini-fridge in the room and I had some ziplock baggies. This would be our dinner the next night too. (We did not feed our friends who were staring at us through the window.)

In the morning we purchased tram tickets that would bring us to The Hague. Our goal was to find the Escher Museum, which we did without getting lost first. It was interesting to explore the work of M. C. Escher.

A few examples of prints by M. C. Escher.

A few examples of prints by M. C. Escher.

Once we left the museum, we got back on the tram and headed to Delft. Unfortunately, we had no guide to explain what we were seeing. We walked and walked, enjoying the sites, snapping a photo here and there.

A few buildings of Delft and a scenic canal.

A few buildings of Delft and a scenic canal.

This bench made me laugh. We need more of them in the world.

This bench made me laugh. We need more of them in the world.

Eventually we found our way back to the tram. One more stop before we were back to our hotel, the Peace Palace. We could only stand at the gate to view the palace, but there is a free visitors center near the gate with video to take you through the history of this building. Andrew Carnegie donated most of the money to build this after World War I.

The Peace Palace was opened in 1913. The eternal flame was installed in 1999. It is surrounded by stones from each of the countries that are part of the Peace Palace.

The Peace Palace was opened in 1913.
The eternal flame was installed in 1999. It is surrounded by stones from 196 countries.

It’s been a long day and we are leaving the hotel at 4:30 a.m. to catch our flight back home, so we were grateful to eat our cold pizza in the room and get a few hours of sleep. We had a wonderful trip, but it was nice to finally land in our own bed.

Thanks for traveling with me these past few weeks. It was fun to relive the days as I put together the collages of pictures.

 

 

Finally, Tulips!

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

A free morning had us up early to explore the town of Arnhem. We had a mission: we needed batteries and I wanted to visit a grocery store to pick up some Dutch cocoa. Armed with a map, we headed out. Unfortunately it was a Monday morning. Shops in the Netherlands have a late start opening on Monday. This gave us plenty of time to peer into windows and wander aimlessly. We did find both items on the shopping list.

The afternoon found us immersed in a World War II battle. Arnhem was part of a military plan called Operation Market Garden. It involved massive air and land troops. Bridges were to be controlled or destroyed. It did not go according to plan.

At the top of an escalator, I had to laugh at the sign for the restrooms. The John Frost bridge in Arnhem and the war cemetery

At the top of an escalator, I had to laugh at the sign for the restrooms.
The John Frost bridge in Arnhem and the war cemetery

We toured a museum with many war artifacts. In the basement you experience the sights and sounds of the battle. This media display gives you the sense of a battle, and it is not something you want to ever experience in real life. After the museum visit, we were taken to the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery. Another very sobering experience, especially when you read the ages of all the men who did not survive this battle. It was a day to step back into history and know that it should never be repeated.

The next two days were filled with color and joy. Why do so many people travel to the Netherlands in the spring? One word: tulips! We had the opportunity to visit a working tulip farm. At the farm we learned that the tulips in the field were for bulb production and those grown in the greenhouse were for fresh cut flowers. Only bulbs grown in sandy soil can be imported to the U.S. This farm is on clay-like soil, therefore no bulbs could be sold to us. They can export to many other countries who don’t have the soil restriction on the bulbs. It was fascinating to learn of all that goes into bulb and flower production.

The bulbs are placed between the nets in the field to make harvesting easier.

The bulbs are placed between the nets in the field to make harvesting easier. The other three pictures show the process of going from bulb to being bundled for fresh flower sales.

Buildings in Hoorn

Buildings in Hoorn

After lunch, we were given a walking tour of Hoorn which ended at a home visit for coffee and treats. At first I wondered if the home visit would be awkward, but the kindness of the host pushed those thoughts away. It was interesting to visit a local home and talk with the owners. About ten of us went to a retired couple’s apartment. We were given a tour of the apartment along with some great snacks. We could ask questions of their life and they were interested in ours too. The apartment wasn’t so different from those in the States. It’s fun to get a peek into other’s lives and realize that we are not so                                                                                                 different.

Finally, it is the last day on the boat, and we are back in Amsterdam ready to tour Keukenhof Gardens. This is the eagerly awaited highlight of the trip. Our timing was perfect and we had the most beautiful day to explore the 70 acres of plants. Tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, crocuses, and many other bulbs were in full bloom. The Gardens are only open for about eight weeks in the spring. They report that 70 million bulbs are planted, and I believe it! I wish you could enjoy the scent of the paths that were lined in hyacinths. Here is a tiny glimpse into the beauty of these gardens.

These tulips were in a pavilion. Every single one is a tulip, but they don't look like tulips.

These tulips were in a pavilion. Every single one is a tulip, but they don’t look like tulips.

IMG_2135

I took over 100 photos at the gardens, so this is just a glimpse of the beauty.

I took over 100 photos at the gardens, so this is just a glimpse of the beauty.

If you love flowers, this is a place that needs to be on your bucket list. Pictures just don’t do it justice. Go see it!

The river portion of our trip is over, but we still have two more days in the Netherlands. We have signed up for the optional tour in The Hague. Next week, I will conclude this travelogue with sights from The Hague.

 

 

 

More Sights from River Cruise

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Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Day 5 had us docked in Ghent, Belguim, but we were not going to see this city. We hopped on the tour bus to travel to Bruges, Belgium. Bruges is considered one of the best preserved medieval cities. A walking tour (on cobblestones, of course – ouch!) took us through the back streets of this old city. The guide pointing out various buildings of importance. It’s a little tricky to navigate because there are many canals that run through the city. We ended in the city center to be released on our own for several hours.

Buildings and canals of Bruges.

Buildings and canals of Bruges.

It was near 11 o’clock, so we were hungry and ready for lunch. Just one problem, restaurants don’t open until noon. We solved the hunger problem by sharing a basket of frites (french fries) from a street vendor. When in Belgium, one eats them the Belgian way, with mayonnaise instead of ketchup. Don’t say “eww:, unless you’ve tried it. I am not a fan of mayo, but this is one time mayo wins out. The other condition I require is that the fries be piping hot. You cannot eat fries with mayo that have been sitting under a heat lamp.

This may look like a collection of rusty tools, but they are actually chocolate. I found this an odd way to present chocolate.

This may look like a collection of rusty tools, but they are actually chocolate. I found this an odd way to present chocolate.

We wandered the streets popping in and out of chocolate shops before we had to meet the guide. On the return to the bus lot, we walked past the Beguinage, where single and widowed woman lived together and prayed, but now is a monastery for Benedictine sisters. The field in front of the building is filled with daffodils and jonquils.

As we continued our journey towards the bus, the guide offered three stories related to the lake and bridge we were to cross. Only one story was true. I will share the “true” story. The lake is called Minnewaterpark or the Lake of Love. It is a tale of a tragic romance of Minna and her warrior love, Stromberg. Minna ran away when her father arranged her marriage to another, she loved Stromberg. Stromberg found her in the forest where she died of exhaustion in his arms. So when you walk over the bridge with your loved one, it will become eternal love.

On the bridge of love, view of Minnewaterpark, and the white buildings are the Beguinage with the field of flowers.

On the bridge of love, view of Minnewaterpark, and the white buildings are the Beguinage with the field of flowers.

It was a long day with lots of walking, but this is a city not to miss, if you should find yourself in Belgium.

During the night we left Belgium and found ourselves back in the Netherlands, the province of Zeeland. Here in 1953, there was a devastating flood which killed 1,836 people. The Delta Water Works was developed to prevent another disaster from ever occurring. It is amazing how this was developed.

The top pictures were from the Delta waterworks museum. The building is actually a caisson that was used to close the dike breeches from the flood. Veere has a lovely little harbor on a canal. I am entranced by church bell towers.

The top pictures were from the Delta waterworks museum. The building is actually a caisson that was used to close the dike breeches from the flood.
Veere has a lovely little harbor on a canal. I am entranced by church bell towers.

 

 

Veere was a small, quaint town where we had time to wander about before returning to our boat so we could sail into Rotterdam. Rotterdam was not a place for touring, but just a stop for dinner with a Shanty Choir of men to board and deliver a fun concert of sailing songs. They sang their hearts out for a glass of beer at the end. Hopefully they received more than that glass of beer. It was an entertaining evening.

Stay tuned for the continuation of this ten day cruise.

Kinderdijk, Antwerp, Brussels

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Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Through the night, the boat glides along. In the morning we are anchored in Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here is the greatest concentration of working windmills in the country. These windmills date back to 1740. Families still live in many of the windmills.

We were able to go into one. I can’t imagine living in it. Ladders, not stairs, brings you up and down. The space is very cramped. No thank you to living in and maintaining a windmill. However, they are awesome to see.

kinderdijk

The water was a perfect canvas for reflections.

Another night of sailing on the river and/or canals brought us into Belgium. It was a rainy morning as we began our walking tour of Antwerp. First stop brought us to Het Steen, Antwerp’s oldest building. It looks like a castle, but it was never used as a castle. Currently it is used as museum for shipping. At the entrance is a statue of a giant, Lange Wapper, who terrorized the citizens of Antwerp. Statues of the Virgin Mary look down at you from various corners. Apparently there was less tax if you included this on your home. The rain quit by the time we had finished our walking tour.

Sights from Antwerp, Belgium.

Sights from Antwerp, Belgium.

After a quick lunch, we were on the bus headed for Brussels. It was an hour to rest up for the next walking tour. Most of the walking is done on uneven cobblestones. It makes one appreciate smooth sidewalks at home.

The first stop was to snap a picture of the Atomium. This strange structure was build in 1958, created for the Expo ’58. Unfortunately, we were not able to go inside to explore. Perhaps one day I will make it back and check out the inside spheres. We then made our way to the Grand Place, a square surrounded by the town hall and guild houses. The guide took us to see Manneken Pis, one of Brussels most famosus sights. Then we were free to wander the streets for over an hour. The waffles were tempting, but we resisted. The chocolate shops were also enticing, but all we did was inhale the fumes of fine Belgian chocolates before we boarded the bus to return to our boat.

Sights from Brussels.

Sights from Brussels.

It had been a long day with miles of walking on cobblestones. Next up Bruges, Belgium.