Welcome to my blog!

This is blog is about me dabbling with a little bit of everything, and not being particularly good at anything. And about the places I've been either on vacation or SAG:ing my husbands bicycle trips.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Here we go, no turning back now. - Day 1 & 2 - Amsterdam July 2 & 3, 2013

So, my plan backfired big time and here we are now, in Amsterdam. Jeff has been asking me to go on a bike trip with him, but I don't do road biking, nor hills or long distances. Which is all what he likes to do. So I said that I'll go, but in my terms, i.e. no hills, it has to be flat and what is more flat than Netherlands, nothing that I can think about. And have to have short days too. I was sure that he would not go for that because it's just not the kind of biking he likes and it is far away, could be expensive and might be boring for him. But as I said my plan backfired and now we are heading out on Saturday for a week long bike and barge trip. It is all organized and guided with an average distance of about 25 miles (about 35 km). We are staying on a barge which travels the rivers and canals while we bicycle from town to town. All the meals are included and we get a private cabin with a private bathroom. They even provide the bikes. Now if you can't/don't want to bike, you could stay on the barge, but would probably miss many of the more interesting places they go to, since the barge does not necessarily go on the same route as the bikes. I'll let you know more about that part of the trip once it starts

We started on July 2nd. First we had to get a rental car to drive to JFK. There is a story of Buzzz Aldrin in here too, but you have to read Jeff's blog to find out all about Buzzz.  As usual the Douglas vacation started out with a traffic jam. Has it ever been anything different? I think not. We made it to JFK with plenty of time to spare just to find out that we had about an hour's wait for the airline to open their check in counter. We flew from JFK to Reykjavik and from there to Amsterdam, only because it was about $600 cheaper than going direct. You can have lots of nice meals with $600. Of course the flight was delayed about 50 minutes due to a big thunderstorm in NYC. Iceland Air is nice, but they do not serve meals or any kind of food unless you pay for it, or fly 1st class. We did make our connection and the rest of the flight went well too. Once we landed we went and got our Holland Passes, prepaid tickets to museums and other sightseeing  tours and discounts for different things. We took the train to Amsterdam Centraal. Which brings me to tell how nice the people here are. We were buying our train tickets from a machine and for some reason the machine didn't accept our credit cards, probably because most American cards don't have a chip on them. A total stranger helped us with our tickets and even offered to pay for them, just like that. He did take some of the payment, we didn't have enough small Euro bills, but even that was like pulling teeth out of him. On the train there was another man who was very helpful by telling people about how to get to wherever they were going and also what to see if you have only little bit of time.

At Keflavik Airport in Reykjavik, Iceland

Looks very barren in Iceland, no trees in sight.

We got to our hotel,  the Grand Hotel Amrath ,and wow is it ever nice. It is an old Shipping House built around 1912-1916. We even have a mini bar which is free and they stock it up daily. The hotel itself is a bit confusing. There are elevators, but not every elevator goes to the floor you need to go. We are on the 4th floor and you could get lost just trying to find our elevator. But it is a very lovely hotel with all kinds of neat features.

Grand Amrath Hotel, Amsterdam

Main Staircase at Grand Amrath

Jeff waiting at the Reception. Strangest looking Reception desk ever.

Free mini bar
Detail from the hotel

View from our room.

After resting some, we went and walked around the area a little bit. We went to the Dam Square, had a light meal at the Neuwmarkt area, and walked close to the red light district. Of course we found a very nice cheese and pastry shops and got some to take to the room and eat later. I do have to say that there are a lot of bicycles in this town. It's the only place where you have to watch not only cars and buses and trams, but bicycles also. I've almost been run over by them several times. Those people go really fast. I would be afraid to bicycle here.

Looks like this house is leaning, but is
probably done on purpose.

One of the many bridges


Funky looking park bench near the Neuwmarkt

Hash Museum . . . and no we didn't go in.

One of the many cheese shops

The cheese shop

Dam Square with the Royal Palace on left

Dam Square

One of the many canals

Jeff at an outdoor restaurant next to the Neuwmarkt area and
ready for dinner

Dinner was tapas, we were not too hungry,
bitterballen, spiced lamb sausages and meatballs

So now we are back at the hotel and absolutely exhausted. Neither of us slept hardly any during either one of our flights. Time to close those electric curtains and go to sleep. Good night.