The Hague

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

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.

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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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

Celebrate Now

celebrate newLast summer, my husband and I seized the opportunity to take a river cruise through the Netherlands and Belgium with my father-in-law and his girlfriend. Visions of windmills, tulips, and other spring blossoms danced in our minds for eight long months. Finally the day arrived and we were off on an adventure.

For the last two weeks, we have been discovering the beauty of the Netherlands and Belgium in the springtime. Our timing was perfect! The tulips in the fields were blooming to create swaths of color. These flowers are only allowed to bloom for four days. Then the heads are cut so the bulb receives all the nutrients.

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This type of adventure is what I dreamed of in my retirement. I celebrate the point in my life where I am able to sample what the world has to offer in all seasons. For thirty-two years my vacations were dictated by the school calendar. Now, I am free to explore new lands in seasons beyond summer. I wonder what’s next.

Travelogue (part 1)

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

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

The last two weeks are now just a distant memory, but as I revisit the photos, I remember.

I remember leaving home in the late afternoon, one flight to Atlanta (only 1.5 hours), but the next flight is 8.5 hours to Amsterdam. Sleep does not come during the night hours. I discover the noise cancelling headphone’s batteries are dead. 😦

Weary bodies exit the plane rolling the luggage along to find our way through immigration, then to locate the person who provides transportation to the riverboat. Soon we load our belonging and bodies into a van and the adventure begins.

Greeted warmly on the dock, we learn that lunch is still being served in the lounge and a walking tour of Amsterdam leaves in thirty minutes. Exhausted as we are, we will not miss either opportunity.

The guide takes us into Amsterdam where we learn about the architecture of the buildings. We see the first coffee shop. (Side note: coffee is not the product people go to the “coffee shop” for.)IMG_2092

We stroll the streets along the canals getting our first glimpse of tulips. Bicycles are everywhere! These bikes are old, rusty and many had flat tires. Many are probably discarded as the owner didn’t bother to return for them.

I remember the body beginning to protest the lack of sleep as we finished the final moments of this walking tour. Gratefully the bus is waiting to take us back to the ship.

I remember how good the shower felt and the call of the bed as we prepared for the first briefing of the schedule and dinner. I looked around the crowded room, wondering who would be new friends by the end of the trip.

After dinner, the body said, “Enough is enough, put me to bed.” So I did. Of course, during the night the body said, “Get up, you’ve been asleep long enough.” I rolled over and said, “Let me sleep.”

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Buildings along the canals, on the canal boat, and tulips

The next morning there was another walking tour plus a canal cruise. This time we visited another part of Amsterdam. We were also given the opportunity to sample herring. I respectfully declined (as did most of the other members of our tour group). Back to the boat for lunch and an afternoon on your own.

We passed by the Anne Frank house, unfortunately we were not able to enter. The line circled the block.

We passed by the Anne Frank house, unfortunately we were not able to enter. The line circled the block.

 

 

 

 

We have been to Amsterdam many times, so this time we opted to rest up during the afternoon. We knew busy days were ahead of us. I remember the relief of sinking back into the bed during the afternoon.

During the night the riverboat glides away from Amsterdam to begin the journey . . . (to be continued next week) 🙂

The Final Days

Our days on board are numbered, soon it will be time to return to reality. Meals prepared, room tidied, plenty of time to visit and be entertained, that’s the life on a ship. It is a nice suspension of the pressures of daily life. However, we still have a few more stops before we debark from this ship . . .

Day 10: Stornoway, Scotland – The wind blows fiercely as we drop anchor out in the harbor. We do not have a berth in the harbor, so we ride the waves and the ship prepares to launch boats to tender the passengers to shore. The crew is having difficulty setting up the platform for the tenders. Captain announces he is turning the ship to block the wind for the tender platform. This bit of movement helps and the tenders are soon ready to take passengers ashore.

We do not have a prearranged tour in this port. There is a castle, but it is under renovation to become a hotel. It is a lovely little town to wander around. The air is crisply clear which brings the sounds of a bagpiper to our ears as we traverse the streets and window shop.

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Day 11: Kirkwall, Scotland – This is a port is part of the Orkney Islands in the northeastern area of Scotland. On a previous visit to this port we visited the Neolithic site of Skara Brae, so this time we opted for something less ancient. Balfour Castle on the island of Shapinsay was our destination. This castle built in 1847, is now a venue for rent. A ferry brings you to the Shapinsay Island. We were met by tour guides who took us through the gardens and the home. At the end of the tour we were treated to a tasty tea. Scones, cookies, quick breads were on platters to share. I can’t imagine living in such a place.

That is an apple tree growing flat against the wall. There were apple trees on all the walls of this garden.

That is an apple tree growing flat against the wall. There were apple trees on all the walls of this garden.

Day 12: Invergordon, Scotland – The final port in our journey of the British Isles. Wendy was to be the guide for our party of six. So many sights to fit into this day! The first problem was getting to our guide. Apparently this dock was not used very often. As we stepped off the ship, we had to dodge the bird droppings that covered the dock. Ugh! It was awful! There was no where to step safely. Fortunately, the bus to take us to the end of the pier was only a few steps away.

Wendy whisked us away and we were headed for Loch Ness. The clouds were hanging low and we wondered if we would be able to see much. Just as we arrived, the clouds were beginning to break up. After a quick stop to one end of the loch, we were on a single track road (that means it was a single lane, with pull over spots every so often) and barreling through the wooded highland to reach the Falls of the Foyers. These falls feed into Loch Ness. A short hike down many steps brought us to the falls. Getting back to the car was a bit slower.

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Next on our itinerary was seeing Scottish Highlands. Clouds still hung low, but we were able to get a few pictures. This trip took us all the way around Loch Ness.

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Cawdor Castle was our next destination. Here we were able to enjoy a bite of lunch before touring the castle and the gardens. No pictures were allowed in the castle 😦 . The most interesting part of the castle was the dungeon, which had a dead tree in the center. The story is the castle was built around this tree because that is where a donkey carrying gold laid down for the night. The gardens were more interesting than the castle.

Isn't that an interesting bike? I don't know the story behind it. What a massive tree!

Isn’t that an interesting bike? I don’t know the story behind it. What a massive tree!

The arbor of trees fascinated me.

The arbor of trees fascinated me. The trees are covered in lichen.

We were supposed to visit Culloden, but our time was running short so we headed back to the ship. Thankfully the ship put out a rubber mat so we did not have to navigate through the seagull droppings to get back on board.

Day 13: Sea day – a day to pack the bags and savor the last moments of a life of luxury.

Day 14: Amsterdam – Time to get off the ship and make our way back to the airport. We had prearranged a taxi to collect us and bring us to the airport. An accident on the highway, resulted in a massive traffic jam therefore causing me some anxiety. Fortunately, we made the flight and began the long flight back home. Once again, we flew to Philadelphia, then to Dallas, finally to Springfield. It was an incredibly long day! Our bed welcomed us home. Unpacking could wait until morning.

A few days later, jet lag was banished and life resumed its normal pace, but the memories live on.

 

Sailing On!

. . . and the travelogue continues . . .

Day 5 & 6: Dublin, Ireland. We will be in Dublin for two days giving us the luxury of time. I have booked a city tour by bike for our first day. The ship provides a shuttle into town, so I show the bus driver my directions to the bike tour’s meeting point. As we are ready to get off the bus, the driver tells us to stay on. He will drop us closer to our meeting point. Hallelujah! We get off and walk about two blocks to our rendezvous point. Eventually the leader comes to collect the six riders for this tour.

Our leader had a late night at a rock concert the night before. I’m not sure he was totally awake, but eventually the coffee kicked in as he guided us around the city on two wheels. We heard many stories and political views from this fellow. All in all, it was a great introduction to points in the city.

Scenes from the bike tour. That would be Oscar Wilde reclining on the rock, but the tour guide thinks he looks more like Hugh Grant. I tend to agree. The Famine Memorial was a somber end of our bike tour of Dublin. The sculptures are haunting.

Scenes from the bike tour. That would be Oscar Wilde reclining on the rock, but the tour guide thinks he looks more like Hugh Grant. I tend to agree.
The Famine Memorial was a somber end of our bike tour of Dublin. The sculptures are haunting.

The Guinness Storehouse was our focus for our second day in Dublin. With map in hand, we traveled the streets for about forty-five minutes, no wrong turns or backtracking needed as we recognized several locations from our tour the previous day. The Guinness story of brewing was quite interesting. There were seven floors to explore. The final floor was the Gravity Bar, a 360 degree vista of the city of Dublin to enjoy while savoring a pint of the brew. Fortunately, the crowds had not gathered during our time there. We were able to sit and enjoy all the sights.

The big picture is of Trinity College as seen from the Gravity Bar.

The big picture is of Trinity College as seen from the Gravity Bar.

Day 7: Greenock, Scotland: I found a tour that would take us into the country to visit Loch Lomond and Inverarary Castle. We were to meet just outside the gates of the port where a car would pick us up. We waited an hour for our tour. Finally, we headed back into the port and a guard offered to call the tour company. The voice on the other end of the line said the tour was cancelled due to illness on the boat. What!? The tour guide felt so bad that we had been waiting, she offered to come and take us on a mini-tour. It wasn’t the tour we expected, but we did see a bit of Scotland countryside. This day was a huge disappointment.

We drove up the Firth of Clyde to Largs, Scotland.

We drove up the Firth of Clyde to Largs, Scotland.

Day 8: Sea day. A day to rest and relax. I took several computer classes on using Windows Photo Gallery. An informative day for me.

Day 9: Killy Begs, Ireland. The day looks to be wet and gray, this does not bode well for our tour of the countryside that will take us up to Slieve League, which are some of the highest cliffs in Ireland. As we traveled up the mountainside the weather continued to deteriorate. A quick stop at a weaving mill was an interesting side bar from the journey. Once we reached the top, the wind was blowing fiercely as it flipped umbrellas inside out. After fighting the elements, we needed a stop at an in for a spot of tea to warm us up. This was the only day we encountered any rain.

They are weaving to create upholstery that will be used on furniture.

They are weaving to create upholstery that will be used on furniture.

Coastline of Donegal County in Ireland. This panoramic was a trick I learned in my class.

Coastline of Donegal County in Ireland. This panoramic was a trick I learned in my class.

Sorry this is not as clear, the weather did not cooperate on Slieve League.

Sorry this is not as clear, the weather did not cooperate on Slieve League.

There are still a few more days to travel, but I will save them for next week.

 

 

The Trip Begins!

Vacation begins! We are back on solid land, it is 8 a.m. on the clocks in Amsterdam, but our bodies try to tell us it is only 2 a.m. We ignore the body clock. A prearranged taxi takes us to our hotel. This time we are staying in Haarlem, since we’ve been to Amsterdam several times. Plus our ship will not be at the Amsterdam port, but at Ijmuiden.

We check in to our hotel, look longingly at the bed, but head out determined to fight the jet lag. The streets are unusually empty and quiet as we work our way to the city center. Apparently Mondays are a late opening day in Haarlem. Stores don’t open until 11 a.m. We wander and wonder, eventually our stomachs tell us to eat lunch. Unfortunately we did not choose wisely. My goal for this day was to find the Corrie ten Boom house (click here for information), so we could return for a tour on Tuesday. We wandered, but were unable to find it. By then our bodies were begging for a rest, so we returned to the hotel for a nap. After the disaster of lunch, we decided to play it safe and eat in the hotel restaurant. It was an early night for us.

Tuesday found us more refreshed and ready to tackle the day. I had spotted a business center with computers, so I printed out directions to the Corrie ten Boom house. We found it but they only take 20 people in for a tour so we would have to return for the later tour. We visited the Cathedral of St. Bavo and ate lunch (better choice) before we returned forty-five minutes before the tour time. We were not the only ones with that idea. Several others who had been excluded earlier were waiting too. What an interesting tour and story! The Hiding Place written by Corrie ten Boom tells the story of how they hid Jews from the Nazis in their home.

On this night, we had a dinner date with another couple who would be on our ship. We “met” via the web site Cruise Critic. Nancy and Bill invited us to join them for a rijsttafel at an Indonesian restaurant. Rijsttafel translates to rice table. The collage below shows the food. I have no idea what each dish is called, but it was all tasty. Then we finished off the evening with a gelato. I love exploring the foods in new places!

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Wednesday we took a taxi to the port of Ijmuiden. Check-in is always a slow process, but eventually we found our way onto the ship and since we had all our luggage with us, we were able to unpack and settle into our home for the next two weeks. We were on thecloset Prinsendam, which is a smaller ship (only 800 passengers). What a surprise to find a walk-in closet!

Day 1: a sea day. Perfect day to relax and get our bearings of where things were on this ship.

Day 2: Portland, England. Many people went to Stonehenge, we did not. We joined two other couples on a Jurassic Safari of the Dorset coastline. Spectacular views of the coastline and countryside were coupled with stories from our guide Gary. Gary had grown up in this area, so he was proud to show it off. He even provided us with morning tea and a Victoria Sponge cake and flapjack cookie bars, both treats made by his wife. YUM! The collage shows a few of the sights of the day.

A steam train chugs through town as we stand high on a hill overlooking Corfe Castle. That is not Stonehenge, but Woodhenge, a joke for someone's birthday.

A steam train chugs through town as we stand high on a hill overlooking Corfe Castle. That is not Stonehenge, but Woodhenge, a joke for someone’s birthday. The stone walls have no mortar, they are called dry stone walls. Incredible to see! This is the Jurassic coastline.

Day 3: St. Peter Port, Guernsey. We booked a bike tour for this island. The guide picked us up (and others who booked through the ship) and took us to the other side of the island. Unfortunately he didn’t stop very often, so I don’t have a lot of pictures. I was surprised to learn that Guernsey is not under British rule. They have their own currency and government. Also, there are only about 200 homes available for non-natives of the island to own. One must marry into a family to be able to purchase a home besides the ones allotted for other people. We did see some remains from the German occupation during World War II.

Victor Hugo lived on Guernsey Island, we found his house but were too early for the museum. The third picture on the left is Fort Grey. They call it the cup and saucer.

Victor Hugo lived on Guernsey Island, we found his house but were too early for the museum. The third picture on the left is Fort Grey. They call it the cup and saucer.

Day 4: Isles of Scilly. Our journey took us to the island of Tresco where there is a sub-tropical 17 acre garden. We were given a tour of the gardens by their head gardener. It was a fascinating garden to explore. Even in September, there were many plants blooming. Enjoy the view of some of the plants.

Here are a few of the beautiful flowers found in the gardens.

Here are a few of the beautiful flowers found in the gardens.

Other sights from the gardens. The bird is a golden pheasant. They are just wandering around hoping someone will feed them.

Other sights from the gardens. The bird is a golden pheasant. They are just wandering around hoping someone will feed them.

So many more days to share, I hope you will return next week for more sights of our vacation.

 

 

Will We Make It?

One of the luxuries of being sort-of-retired is taking a vacation when educators and students have returned to the classroom. This freedom from school year time restraints is savored. For the last three Tuesdays I have been cruising the seas of the British Isles. Today’s slice returns to the very beginning of our trip.

Sunday, August 30, found my husband and I ready to begin our adventure cruising the British Isles. We were not looking forward to the three flights that would bring us to

Because we didn't know if we'd be able to check bags on the return trip, we opted to do carry-on only. This helped out going too.

Because we didn’t know if we’d be able to check bags on the return trip, we opted to do carry-on only. This helped out going too.

Amsterdam, but they would be endured. First flight took us west before we could begin the journey east. It was a short layover, but there were no problems making the flight. Leg one completed.

The second segment took us from Dallas to Philadelphia. Too many planes wanted to leave at the same time. Slowly we moved up the runway. Finally we were in the air (about 30 minutes behind). My worry meter began ticking, we didn’t have much time between the flights. However, the worry dissipated with the smooth flight and landing.

As we pulled up to the gate, I noticed our next gate was very close. Relief flooded through me when I realized that we would not have to change terminals. I commented how lucky we were to my husband. Big mistake! (Don’t count your chickens before hatching would be appropriate here.)

The pilot’s voice came over the speakers, “Settle back into your seats folks. It appears that the bridge to connect us to the airport has malfunctioned. They are looking for someone to reset it.”

I watched out my window, nothing moved. I glanced at my watch, the hands were flying around the face. Back and forth I glanced. My mind began to spin various scenarios if we missed our flight. I was not worried about missing the ship, because we had built in a two day cushion prior to the cruise. But taxis and hotels must be contacted and made aware of our issue. Where would we stay tonight if we are stuck in Philadelphia? Just as I am resigned to the fact that we will not make our flight, the doors opened.

I was grateful we did not check any bags, but have all our luggage with us as we made our way to the nearby gate. Within a few minutes, they began boarding this flight. Relief sent all the pent up stress away. The third and final leg was about to begin.

Eight hours later we land in Amsterdam. The pilot announces there is a problem with the jet way. The airport is bringing a staircase to the middle door. My husband and I just shake our head. What are the chances of this? This time there is no stress, I am at my final destination for the day, there are no more flights today. Thus the trip begins . . .