Sunday, April 22, 2012

Friday in Amsterdam--Shopping and Exploring

We got a lazy start to the day today, our last day in Amsterdam.  Mom was feeling much better, and we decided we’d do a bit of shopping.  We called for a cab, and asked him to take us to the Albert Cuypmarkt.  The Albert is a loooong street market that has just about everything from soup to nuts!  Mom and Dad enjoy local street markets as much as David and I do, so it was a great choice.
Our cab dropped us off at one end of the Markt, and we slowly strolled through, stopping at several booths to admire their wares.  
There were flowers:



And Holy Mackeral!

Delicious bread, we bought a loaf of the triangle shaped with all the nuts and seeds.  It was absolutely delicious, and we enjoyed it with dinner.  We wished we’d discovered it sooner!

There were many booths selling clothes.  I hereby confess to buying two more scarves!
Total count for the trip: 6.  I might be in need of a few scarf-a-holic annonymous meetings when I get back to Spudville!
I could have had a wig to match any one of my scarves:

After a block or so of browsing, Dad spotted a Stroopwaffle sign.  He thought we should have a snack.  I’d bought a small bag at the grocers a couple of days ago, and Dad really like them.  

Here he is:

That evening after our dinner, Dad thought he’d like to have another package of those stroopwaffles for a snack on the plane--just in case he got hungry.  He walked down to the nearby grocery store, and here’s what he came home with, 4 packages!!

Of course there were several cheese vendors:

Did I buy some?  Oh, yes!  Hmmm, who could they be for???

We were ready for a warm up and a rest, and Mom and Dad spotted a McDonalds right across the street.  Confession #2 today:  I broke my rule of NEVER eating at McDonald’s when traveling.  Maybe I didn’t exactly break my rule--because I only had coffee.
Here’s Mom and Dad, right in front of McD’s:

And what goes with coffee?  A restroom stop, of course!  I walked towards the back of McDonalds, and there was a short line in front of the restrooms.  As I got closer to the front, I noticed this sign:

Really?? 50 cents to use the restroom in a McDONALD’S????  I snapped a picture of the sign, and the young bathroom attendent shouted at me “ No photos allowed”!  Good grief--what do they think this place is, the Van Gogh Museum?  The Louvre?   He told me I must delete the offending photo, or talk to the management.   I told him no problem, I’d delete the photo, and I carefully pushed some buttons on my camera, making sure the photo of that precious bathroom sign was deleted---NOT!!
As I thought about this some more, I realized that the two ladies ahead of me had not paid the attendant, and that the sign was in English ONLY.  I think I just paid a “tourist tax”!
I will admit that it was a pretty darn good cup of coffee, an espresso actually.  We enjoyed our coffee and warmed up, and then continued on down the market street.  I was still shaking my head about the bathroom sign!
Mom and I bought a few souvenirs--can’t go home without some wooden shoe fridge magnets!  Mom found a cute pillow with a kissing Dutch boy and girl, it reminded me of Mom and Dad.
Of course, I had to find just the perfect souvenir for my favorite son.  Here’s a new one to add to your ever-growing collection, Matt!  You didn’t think I’d forget, did you?

And if I'd had room in my suitcase, I'd have brought home this cute gnome for you:

Here's another cute gnome:

As we explored a small side street off the market, we found another one of those teeny-tiny cars.  Mom and Dad kind of like them, I think!

By now Mom was getting cold, and we were feeling a few sprinkles.  She and Dad caught a cab back to the apartment, and I stayed for the afternoon, wandering and exploring the area around the market. ( or Markt, as the Dutch say!)
I browsed a few more market stalls, not buying a thing, but just enjoying the fun atmosphere.  I turned down several side streets--just wandering, really.  There were some  great clothing and shoe shops, a few nice home acessory stores, and even a couple of antique shops.   Again, lots of fun looking, but no room left in my suitcase!
Along the way I passed a pretty park:

And a small flower shop with pretty potted bulbs:

Soon it started to rain--cats and dogs!  Within minutes I was soaked and cold.  Since it had actually been fairly nice when we left the apartment, I’d left my umbrella home.    Nothing to do but stop in to a nice warm cafe to wait out the rain.  As I opened the door, the nice young man behind the coffee counter said  “Oh, come in out of the rain, sit down, sit down!”.  We had a nice conversation about the weather, he was delightful.  I ordered a cafe au lait, and then decided a Zelfgemaakte Appeltaart met Slagroom was just what I needed to help warm me up!  (Loosely translated:  Warm apple tart with whipped cream)  It was delicious, the apples were not too sweet, and the black currents were a nice touch.  

After about 45 minutes and two coffees, the rain eased up a bit.  I left that nice, warm cafe and explored a few more streets, enjoying the pretty buildings:

This interesting sign was on a store across the street.  I wonder what it means?  I couldn't begin to pronounce it:

I decided I’d keep my eye out for a taxi as I walked along.  I strolled along, window shopping, thinking I’d find a taxi stand.  I walked across a pretty canal:

And then walked a couple more blocks, still no taxi stand.  As I came up to one street corner, I realized it looked familiar.  I was just about 4 blocks from our apartment, right near the Tram stop Dad and I had used!   A nice winding walk through a park:

 Just a couple of right turns, and I was “home”!  
I had a cup of hot tea to warm up, and then started the “apartment tidying up routine”.  That didn’t take long at all, but packing my suitcase was a bit more of a challenge.  But everything is crammed in, and we are all ready to go.
Our taxi to the airport will be here at 6:30--it will be a looong traveling day for these Travelin’ Tuttles!
What a wonderful trip it has been.  Cold.....but wonderful!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

An Update On Our Visit To The WW II Liberation Museum....

This morning I received the nicest email from Maarten Dekkers!  He again expressed his great pleasure in guiding us through the museum and taking us on a battle tour, and that he hopes we enjoyed it.  He mentioned that he has given our information on Roy Tuttle to the museum staff, and they will use it in their guided tours.

He remembered that we were going to Keukenhoff Gardens the next day, and said that he hoped we had enjoyable day with "favorable conditions".  And he also wondered if we have yet visited the red light area with the "horizontal working ladies"!  He has a wonderful sense of humor that we certainly enjoyed during our time with him.

What a lovely gesture from a truly extraordinary man.  Mr. Dekkers, the pleasure and privilege were ours!

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Flowers, Flowers Everywhere! Over 7 Million, To Be Exact.......

Thursday was a colorful day!  We had tickets to go to The Keukenhoff Gardens, a huge park a few miles from Amsterdam.

It was quite an adventure to get there!  First we had a taxi ride to the train station, then a train to Schiphol Airport.  From Schiphol, we had bus tickets to Keukenhoff.  And that is where the fun began.........

Before leaving Spudville, I had carefully printed out our route, including directions as to where we should wait for the bus.   "Bus  #58 to Keukenhoff leaves from Stop #1 or #2, at Schiphol Plaza."  We walked out there just like we knew what we were doing, and waited.  And waited, and waited.  In almost a half an hour, not a single bus #58 had come by.

So I asked a bus driver, and she said we needed to catch the bus down at the other end.  So we walked (in the COLD and wind) down to the other end of the road.  And we waited, and waited.  Not a single bus #58 drove through the bus lanes.

Long story short:  I asked 5 different drivers, and received 5 different answers!  There was no language barrier--they spoke perfect English, and I showed each driver our tickets with the bus number and destination.  Back and forth we walked, from one end to the other.  Mom was cold, and so was I!  Needless to say, we were getting a little frustrated.  Should we just give up, and head back to the apartment?  We were close to doing just that........

I asked one more driver, and a nice flight attendant on the bus came to our rescue, as this driver didn't speak English.  She kindly translated for me, and that driver explained that the bus we needed was not a "regular bus" but a special bus just for Keukenhoff.  We needed to walk all the way (again!) back to the end of the line, and turn right.  Now why did none of the other 5 bus drivers know this?  Aaaarrrrgh!

We walked around that corner, and saw a small sign that said "Keukenhoff Bus" pointing the way.  Big help that was around the corner!  We also saw this funny sign, and it pretty much summed up how we were feeling :

Our Keukenhoff bus was waiting, and we finally hopped on board, and it was warm!  We settled in, along with about 50 other passengers, for a nice 30 minute ride to the gardens.

Soon we started seeing fields and fields of tulips.  Upon sight of the first tulip field, the whole bus started "oohing and aaaahing" in unison!  It was pretty funny.  Bunch of excited tourists--including us!

Here are a few photos just to give you an idea.  Not the best photos, as they were taken out of the moving  bus window:

A windmill!  But not the pretty Dutch old fashioned kind that we expected!

Our nice, warm bus pulled up in from of the gardens, and we piled out of the bus, into the cold and wind.

We already had our tickets, so no waiting in line for us.  We walked into the gardens, and.....WOW!  Flowers, flowers everywhere!  Amazing swaths of bright color around every corner.  It is absolutely breathtakingly BEAUTIFUL!  Every square inch of the almost 80 acre gardens groomed to perfection, not a blade of grass out of place.

A few facts about the gardens:  It was originally a 15 th century hunting estate belonging to a wealthy Dutch family.  It's the largest bulb farm or gardening the world, at 79.3 acres in size.  There are over 7 MILLION bulbs of many different varieties planted by hand!  Of this 7 million approximately 4.5 million are tulip bulbs.  Naaah--I didn't count 'em--this info comes straight from their brochure!

This is the pretty fountain right at the entrance square:

And our first view into the gardens:

Right past the fountain was an old steam driven calliope.  It was very pretty; but oddly, it was playing Lady Gaga's "You and I"!  Strange, indeed.....

The next SEVERAL ( I took almost 300 pictures!) photos need no explanations--just beautiful gardens and flowers  ENJOY!

Mom, frozen--but still smiling!

A little touch of Alaska in Holland, Forget-Me-Nots!

Pretty color combination:

The three of us, in a photo taken by a nice lady from Chicago that sat by us on the bus:

This was one of our favorite beds, the colors were so cheerful!

The trees throughout the garden were also beautiful--and BIG!

Pretty fountain, complete with big swans:

I like this green oddly shaped "hedge"

Mom and Dad on a pretty bridge by the horse statue.  Couldn't talk Dad into another "French Kiss" like in Paris!!

We all thought this beauty might be our very favorite tulip.  But it's almost too hard to choose a favorite, there are over 100 varieties of tulips in the Keukenhoff:

Closeup of this beautiful tulip, it almost glows!

Walking along, holding hands.  Sweet!

This might have been our very favorite combination, but then again it's hard to choose just one.....

And my funny Dad, in some big clogs.  In my eyes, he can fill anyone's big shoes!!

We strolled and strolled, oohed and aaahed, and snapped picture after picture for almost 3 hours.  It was starting to sprinkle a bit, and we were all very cold, especially Mom.   There were parts of the gardens we didn't get to see, such as the beautiful old windmills surrounded by flowers.  And we'd wanted to take a boat right on a canal boat through the tulip fields, but it was just toooooo cold and windy.   It was time to find our bus back, and it was thankfully a much simpler process this time!

After an 1 1/2  hour bus, train and taxi journey, we were back "home" in Amsterdam.  We all had a nice HOT cup of cocoa or tea, and warmed up.  Dinner tonight was a quick and easy one--scrambled eggs and toast.  Just right!

What a day!

Tomorrow in Amsterdam:  Who knows!  But Mom and I are pretty sure it will involve some shopping.   Dad will be thrilled........ 

Stay tuned!