Jeannine and Julia visit (Chris' sister and niece)

Trip Start Apr 15, 2003
Trip End Sep 01, 2011

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Saturday, August 16, 2003

Hi everybody!
Chris' sister Jeannine and her 7 year old daughter, Julia, visited us last week. Julia's birthday had been the week before and Jeannine's was on Monday, so it was sort of a birthday trip for them. Julia's favorite thing was the Cat Boat, which is only block from our house and has a lot of cats - most very friendly - that are waiting to be adopted. Julia went to the cat boat about 4 times in one week! Here's what Julia had to say about it:

"What I like about the Cat Boat

The catboat is a nice place to adopt a cat.
There are nice . friendly cats.
Do you like cats & dogs ? do you have a pet?. Aruther: Julia Dunn age 7"

It was very warm all week, so they went twice to the beach, once bringing along a friend of ours, Julie. The beaches here are much cleaner and larger than in America. They had fun jumping waves and collecting shells. Julia collected close to 200 shells! -- Most in perfect condition. She also found shells in the streets and sidewalks of Amsterdam. We had never noticed them before, but it must be because of the sand that is used as a base for setting in the bricks on the streets and sidewalks.

Jeannine, Julia and Chris were also a little surprised that a large number of women at the beach were not wearing swimsuit tops.

Julia and Jeannine also got to meet some "real Dutch people". On Saturday, when they arrived, a colleague of Melanie's had a party at his house in a medieval village about 1 hour from Amsterdam, called Buren. We rode into the countryside where they got to see lots of horses, cows, sheep, geese, polders and windmills. The family has a dog that is probably still recovering from Julia playing with it. They got to eat real Dutch herring, cheese, salads and lots of fruit. The Dutch do not have big desserts and, in fact, Julia asked why there was NO dessert this time. Dessert, in typical Dutch style, was chocolate, fruit, and cheese. As Jeannine noticed, the food was much healthier than at a typical American party. There were no chips and people drank in moderation.

On Sunday we met a Dutch friend and his family and walked to and thru the Vondel Park then took a bus to a local carnival called Parade. It had a spinning ride and other things to see and do. It was a lot of walking for an American 7 year old (and the adults too!) - probably about 3 miles. She did really well though and by the end of the week was used to walking everywhere.

Other activities included going to the zoo, where Julia bought postcards for friends, visiting the Anne Frank house, going to the flower market where they bought sunflowers for Melanie (who was working), taking a canal boat tour and a trip to Edam where they make the famous Edam cheese. In a very old church in Edam they saw the world's biggest church made out of cheese - it's in the Guinness Book of World Records and was built to create an attraction to get money to repair the church's bell. On the Edam trip we also stopped at an island called Marken where the houses are still up on stilts and the people wear tradional Dutch clothing.

Jeannine also got to go running in the park with Chris several times and they spent some time at the Waterlooplein flea market where Jeannine was able to find KLM houses. For those not familiar, KLM, the Dutch Royal Airline, gives its business class passengers a blue delft house filled with Dutch gin. The airline has been doing it for years so the houses are somewhat common here and make a nice collection.

There was also a lot of eating. We had Dutch pancakes, stroopwaffles, chocolate, ice cream, shoarma, and frites. While eating Frites (fries), we noticed that people seem to ignore signs saying not to eat frites on the steps.

Jeannine and Julia both commented that Amsterdam is a very animal friendly city. There are cats and dogs everywhere! Julia counted dogs and saw 17 in one day - being walked, in houses, at restaurants and even riding on bikes!

Other observations from Julia:
" Amsterdam is a combination of old things and new things"
"I really like Amsterdam. It reminds me of Baltimore. Do you think if we moved here we could get a cat from the cat boat?" (Yep, she really liked that cat boat!)
"I think my mom and Uncle Chris are having fun together. They don't get to see each other very much."
"Why do people speak English? I thought they had their own language." And then later, when the TV commercials in Dutch came on: "I don't understand any of this. What are they saying?"

Both Jeannine and Julia commented repeatedly about how nice the people are here. Very helpful and friendly and not as rushed as in America. This is not just a tourist's perception - we both agree. Julia also has a new favorite TV show (since we couldn't find Scooby Doo) - National Geographic's Mummy Road Show.

Tomorrow, hopefully, Melanie's mom will arrive for a week long visit. She was supposed to arrive today but the East Coast power outages created a 24 hour delay. More about that next time.


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