Tuesday, September 30, 2008

3 Weeks in the Netherlands

We left for San Francisco for a direct flight to Amsterdam, Holland. Clark and Rosalie surprised Claudia and I with arrangements for a limo to pick us up at their house in Winton. We really got to ride in style. Arrived in Amsterdam the next morning at 9:30 their time. They are 9 hours ahead of us in California. Sandy met us at the airport and we took a van taxi to her house in Haarlem. We just kind of rested up the first day.
The next day, Thursday, Sept. 4, we took the bus into the city of Haarlem and did some sight-seeing and a little tourist shopping. Here's a picture of me, trying on the huge wooden shoes outside my favorite shop. Later, I found a pair of wooden shoes in this shop that actually fit me.
Friday, Sept. 5, my lower back was really hurting, so I stayed home with Sandy to watch the tree trimmers cut down their tall pine tree in the front yard. Rosalie and Claudia went to Haarlem by bus and toured the "Corrie Ten Boom" museum.
Saturday, Sept.6, We went to Amsterdam to the Van Gogh museum. I couldn't walk a lot, so Sandy pushed me around in a wheelchair. So many rooms with lots of great paintings. Nice gift shop also. Had lunch in town and then took the tram to where we could get on a boat and ride up and down the canals. That night we walked from Sandy's house to a fancy Chinese restaurant for dinner. We really had a full day. Sunday, Sandy drove us to IKEA, between Haarlem and Amsterdam. On the way home, I took a couple of pictures of the Gate to the City of Haarlem, built in the 1300s. It's amazing to see such old structures.
Monday, Claudia flew to England for a week. The rest of us went to the beach not far from Haarlem. Saw some wind surfers on the North Sea. I had an appointment with a physical therapist in Haarlem. He helped a lot, but when I got home I still went to a chiropractor.
Tuesday and Wednesday, Sandy took Rosalie and I to Friesland and Gronigan to look for Menno Simons' first church and try to find my oldest Dirks ancestor at the archives. Didn't find him, but got a link to their archives online.
Thursday we were back in Haarlem and did a tour of the old windmill.
Sunday, Dol and Sandy had "open house" so friends and relatives could come see where they now live. (They recently moved from Amsterdam to Haarlem) Claudia came back from England on Sunday, just in time for the party.
Monday, Sandy wanted to show us the "9 Little Streets" a unique shopping area in Amsterdam. We only walked down one, because I had so much pain when I walked. Bummer! It really made me feel bad. Walking back to the train station, I found a wooden birdhouse windmill for my sister who was back home taking care of my cat. I had almost given up on finding a windmill made of wood. Saw lots of very small ceramic ones.
Tuesday we went to the Rijksmuseum and saw part of their collection of Rembrandt's and others' paintings. Part of the museum is being renovated, so we didn't get to see everything. But if you didn't know that, you wouldn't have noticed. We did see the famous "Night Watch" painting. I missed seeing the painting I liked better though, it was like a school class setting, I think. It had children in it. Sandy again pushed me around in a wheelchair. We had lunch close by, then Sandy drove us all over, to the neighborhood where she used to live; showed us where she used to work before her office moved to a larger building. We went to the Rembrandt park and saw the statues made in the image of "The Night Watch." Took pictures of us in front of it, like all the other tourists were doing. Walked around a bit and found the chocolate store that makes the "best chocolates in the world." We each bought some. It was very expensive, as you might guess.
Thursday night we went to dinner and a movie at a place in Amsterdam called "The Movies." The movie we saw was "Brideshead Revisited," very good movie, but also sad. We took a taxi back to the train depot and then decided we could walk from there to the Red Light District. I was feeling better, thank goodness. The Red Light District was larger than I remembered it from 2001, when John and I were in Amsterdam for a few days. It was about 10 p.m. and the streets were full of people, mostly tourists, I suppose. Some of the ladies in the windows were very pretty and others not so much. They were on both sides of the canal and down one side-street.
We couldn't take pictures. One lady opened her glass door and said, "No pictures please," so we didn't dare take any. We walked back to the depot and caught the train back to Haarlem and then the bus to Sandy's neighborhood. Didn't get to bed until almost midnight and then couldn't sleep, I was awake at 1 a.m. and then 2, don't know when I finally slept a little. Next morning we had to get up early to head back to Amsterdam and watch the book sellers set up for the book market. They do this every Friday morning. We had breakfast across the street and watched them. Later had lunch next to the place where we ate breakfast. They can always tell we are Americans, so when I ordered a Coke, she asked if I wanted ice (Europeans don't put ice in their cold drinks.) I thought, oh boy, finally I get some ice. I got two little pieces of ice, hardly noticeable.
The next day when Rosalie, Claudia and I went to Haarlem to the Saturday market in the town square, we ate at McDonald's (at my request) and actually got a decent amount of ice in my Coke. The cheeseburger didn't have any lettuce or tomato, so not as good as in the U.S., but I really enjoyed the coke. If you want ketchup for your fries, you have to pay extra for that. So, there you have the gourmet report from Haarlem.
This was Saturday, with the Market place packed with people. I guess that's why I had to pay to use the bathroom at McDonald's and also at the place where we had a carmel Latte.
The next day, Sunday, was Sandy's Big Day -- The Dam to Dam 10 mile race. She was a bit nervous, getting ready to go. She left the house about 1 p.m. since she was running with the last group. They took off from Amsterdam around 3 p.m. They needed to get to the finish line by 5 p.m. in order to get a metal. Sandy was running with Dol's sister and cousin. They made it with 5 minutes to spare. The sister could have had a much better time, but she stopped and waited for Sandy and the cousin, so they could all cross the finish line together.
Dol and the 3 of us visitors, took the train to Zaandam where the finish line was. It was a lot of walking from the train station and I was very tired by the time it was all over, but I wouldn't have missed it for anything. I was very impressed that my daughter could actually run for 10 miles.
The next morning we had a van taxi take us to the Amsterdam airport and Sandy saw us off. Three weeks is a long time to be away from home, so I was anxious to come back. I hated to leave Sandy there,but she promised to visit me in Merced next year. We had a 10 1/2 hour flight back to SFO. Claudia watched a couple of movies, Rosalie read most of the way and I tried to sleep, but only rested my eyes. We gained the 9 hour difference coming home. Our plane took off at 11:30 a.m. Amsterdam time and we landed in San Francisco that afternoon at 1:00, California time. The limo was there to whisk us off to Winton. It felt so funny driving my car to Merced, I guess it was because I had been up for almost 24 hours and my body was tired. Dropped Claudia off at her house and had my camera ready to take Maggie's (the cat)picture as I drove in the garage. I expected her to be watching me from the cat door. That didn't happen. Was she glad to see me after being gone 3 weeks? NO. She just sat and stared at me with her little beady eyes. When I called her name, she turned her head and wouldn't look at me. She was mad and she let me know it. It wasn't until after I went to bed that she started being a little friendly and licked my arm a little. The next day, she was almost back to her normal self, but she really kept her eye on me, watching my every move. I know she doesn't like to be alone. My sister came to my house every day to take care of her and water the yard. Driving from Atwater to Merced. Well, at least I know my sister was glad to see I was home at last!!
To see pictures of the trip go to flickr. You can click on details or just click on any individual picture to see what is written about it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

We're Here

We have been in the Netherlands since Wednesday, Sept 3. My daughter met us at the airport in Amsterdam and hired a van taxi to take us with all our luggage to her house in Haarlem, about a 30 minute ride.
The next day we took the bus into the town of Haarlem, did a little tourist-type shopping and a lot of looking around. I had a hard time walking because of a pinched nerve in my lower back.
The next day, Friday, the tree trimmers were coming to take out the large pine tree in the front yard. My two friends took the bus to Haarlem again, but I stayed here and took some pictures of what was happening here.
On Saturday, Sandy drove us to Amsterdam and we saw the Van Gogh museum. Sandy pushed me around in a wheelchair. There's no way I could have walked it.
I have uploaded some of the pictures at flickr. See them here. More to follow. Pictured here is Bas, the cat at the top of the stairs on the 2nd floor. Claudia got the bed on the third floor, glad it wasn't me.