The (self-proclaimed) Merry Widows

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

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hi everybody!
Melanie's Mom and two of her friends, Denise and Cookie, visited with us for 2 weeks in August. We had a great time exploring Amsterdam, Belgium and Germany. The trip this time was much more smooth for Mel's Mom - no delays, no sleeping in airports, none of the mess of the last trip(see August 2003 for details).

Here is what Carol had to say about the trip:

It was cold and rainy when we arrived in Amsterdam - good weather for investigating museums and doing inside things. A Monday AM visit to the flower auction in Aalsmeer left us a bit dizzy from all the acivity. Difficult to describe, the auction is something that has to be experienced. We were fortunate to hear two organ recitals in churches - just at the right place at the right time!

A visit to Kinderdijk let us see lots of windmills.

Mel and Chris took us by car to Belgium for a weekend. The Musical Instrument Museum in Brussels was outstanding. We also enjoyed sampling Belgian chocolates in Ghent and Brugge where we also bought mustard and lace to bring home.

Back in Amsterdam, we heard the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra at the Concertgebouw - a wonderful concert. Carol found a good music store close to the Concertgebeow where she bought lots of chamber music. We also went to the opening of the Grachtenfeest (music festival on the canals) where 9 trombones played. Later we heard 2 string quartet concerts at the Grachtenfeest. At the same time Sail 05 was on - 400 Tall Ships sailing into Amsterdam. A five minute walk from Mel and Chris's gave us a wonderful view of the ships coming into Amsterdam. With all the little boats going around the harbor plus four ferries going back and forth across the harbor and the Tall Ships, it was like dodge 'em cars for boats! What a sight!

For our final weekend, Mel and Chris took us to Germany - to the Rhine and Mosel Valleys. Along the way we saw many many busloads of people on their way to Cologne to see the Pope. We enjoyed the castles and the vineyards along the Rhine and Mosel Rivers.

On the way back to Amsterdam, we stopped in Cologne to see the Cathedral. It took our breath away - it is awesome!! (See previous travelpod for picture of Koln's Cathedral).

My big disappointment was the Autobohn! After hearing about it for so many years, I discovered it is just like an Interstate without a speed limit! My friends were amazed how tall and skinny the Dutch people are. We also found it hard to get used to paying to use the restroom and not having water at restaurants or having to pay for water with your meal. We discovered that asking for tap water is like asking for the moon & it provided some very funny moments for us. Oh, and don't ask where the restroom is (unless you want to rest) - it is the toilet or water closet!!

Melanie adds:

We did lots of walking around Amsterdam: to Dam Square, the Singel Flower Market, through the historical society, around the Jordaan, to museums, markets - just all over. Mom neglected to mention that after getting up at the crack of dawn on Monday and visiting the flower auction we drove almost 2 hours to Palais het Loo, one of the Dutch royal palaces, but discovered that it was closed on Mondays. :-( So, we drove around the countryside, following signs for sand sculptures which we never found, but seeing lots of pretty Dutch countryside, having lunch in a nice brown cafe, and stopping at the Hoge Veluwe National Park,where Cookie, Denise and Melanie took advantage of the free bikes to see some more countryside. The natural history museum at the park is also quite nice.

On the days that Melanie worked, in addition to exploring Amsterdam on their own the MWs (Merry Widows) cleaned house! Clearly there's a reason Melanie works for a living - she's incompetent as a housekeeper. Our cleaning lady has been away and the house wasn't up to standard, so they spent a morning cleaning it! Thanks MWs- wanna come back more often?!

"Now this is Europe", Denise remarked upon entering the Grand Place in Brussels. In Brussels we had lunch at the Musical Instrument Museum, where there's a lovely cafe on the top floor of the 1890s building. As mom mentioned, the museum itself is terrific. They give you headphones and when you stand in front of an old intrument you can hear how it sounds in the headphones. Very cool!

The highlight of the trip was a long weekend in the Rhine and Mosel river valleys. Both rivers are flanked with beautiful vineyards and small towns. The Rhine also has many castles and castle ruins lining it. We stayed at a B&B in a medieval building. It was very European and really quaint, but the MW's room came equipped with a GIANT SPIDER! We got home after dinner one night and there was a 3" spider - that's body only, not including legs - high up on the wall near the ceiling. Denise came out all excited that there was a spider in their room and of course Chris and I thought it was just some little garden thing - until we saw it. We didn't have anything long enough to get it so we got the owner of the B&B - a petite Phillipino lady - who also thought we were over-reacting - until she saw it. After that, it was a comedy as she knocked the spider down, it fell into a crack, and she used a whole roll of toilet paper to plug the crack so it couldn't get out -- all the time telling ghost stories about different hauntings in the various rooms at the B&B. Everybody was laughing so hard that tears were flowing.

Mom also took a big hike through the woods. We wanted to see Castle Burg Eltz, but the directions to get their were very confusing. It is not possible to drive to the castle; you have to park and either take a bus or walk. Turns out we weren't in the main parking lot so our only option was to drive to the other parking lot or walk from where we were. Other people there said it was only a 20 minute easy walk. Turns out it was a (mostly) gently sloping hike through the woods about twice as long! Mom was a real trooper though and made it the whole way - including the final stairs to get to the castle itself. As for the castle, Burg Eltz is one of the prettiest castles in Germany if not all of continental Europe. We were lucky to be able to gather a group of visitors together so we could have a English speaking tour of the interior. The tour starts starts in the castle courtyard. We saw fine examples of suits or armor, weapons, tapestries, furniture and treasures collected over the past 800 years by the Eltz family. There is also armor in this room dating from the 16th century. The Eltz family coat of arms can be seen as well as panel paintings of scenes from the Old Testament (no pictures were allowed to be taken inside the castle).

We really had a great time with Mom, Cookie and Denise. Hopefully it won't be so long before they're back again!

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