And we're off...
Trip Start Jun 21, 2012
14Trip End Jul 11, 2012
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Where I stayed
On the Plane/Crown Plaza - Amsterdam
I thought river travel through Europe would be great. We'll see. There are several river cruise companies which travel the rivers of Europe. Avalon Tours is one of the best. Yea, it's a bit expensive, and I'm telling the kids we're just spending their inheritance!!!
Sometimes I think planning the vacation is almost as much fun as going on the trip. That may be from the many years I spent in the travel indstry or perhaps the little bit of Pace Palette "Yellow" in me. (I'm a red!) Not sure, but I do enjoy the planning process.
Couple of things. I'm not taking my clubs on this trip. No plans for golf. I do belive it will be the longest period of time that I will have NOT played golf in more than a year and a half. Remember, we had a mild winter so I played every month through the winter, including the week in Arizona at the White Sox Fantasy Camp in January with my buddy Skip Kitchen. Even played with Uncle Johnny out there. Secondly, I believe this will be the longest time Sandy will have been away from Kevin since he came to live with us almost six years ago. I'm sure she'll miss her little Grandson.
Speaking of Skip. He was nice enough to volunteer to take us to and pick us up from the airport (ORD) and keep our car while we're gone. It'll save us quite a bit in parking money. Plan is to leave here about Noon on Thursday, get to Skip's by 2:00 or 2:30 and to ORD by 3:00 or so. Flight is schedule for 6:45 PM on Aer Lingus. Tough time finding inexpensive flights. Aer Lingus on the way over and (originally) Finnair on the way back were about half the cost of the traditional airlines. Yea, we have a stopover in Dublin (on the way) and (originally) Helsinki on the way back, but that's no problem. Interestingly, I got a call from Orbitz telling me that our return flight was cancelled and they rebooked us on British Airways with a stopover in London (Heathrow). No change in cost. And it left later out of Budapest and arrived earlier in Chicago. Giddyup!
Sandy (the overachiever) started packing a week before we left. I started the day before. My motto has alwasy been, if you forgot something, that's what charge cards are for! The one item I forgot on one trip which I will never forget was underwear! Are you kidding me? Fortunately it was in the U.S. JC Penny's here I come! Sandy packed her new cordless hair curler. Interesting, it runs on butane, like a lighter. It says it's approved by the airlines. Hard to believe they won't allow a butane lighter in your golf bag, but they allow this butane curling iron. Sounds sexist to me! We were originally prepared to pack all summer clothes, but as we have gotten closer to the date of the trip and checking weather, we are finding lows in the mid 50's and highs in the mid 60's to the mid 70's. Maybe a few more cooler-weather clothes.
We also engaged the expertise of a recently-retired friend and fellow-State Farmer, Jim Ferrier to help us with things to do in Amsterdam...well, except the prostitutes and pot places (called coffee shops we're told). Jim gave us great advise on museums, the Anne Frank house and some great restaurants. We already have our tickets to the museums and Anne Frank house. I even downloaded "The Diary of Anne Frank" on my iPad to read as a precursor to our trip. Oh, Sandy also found out Amsterdam is the diamond capital of the world, so this trip could get expensive!
They also offer some excursions on the boat. The first one is to "Klompen" described as a delightful old hamlet near Amsterdam on the banks of the river with wooden houses, windmills, and engaging little shops. Sounds like fun.
We got all packed and ready to go. Bryan, Laura, Kevin's Mom and other Grandma and Grandpa are covering Kevin and his many activites over the next three weeks. Of course,Sandy put together a schedule. She's so Pace Palette Yellow!!!
We had a good lunch at Al's Beef in Shorewood, IL. Sandy had never eaten there before. They are a Chicago institution. Made a quick detour to Payless Shoes. Sandy forgot her "plane" shoes. That's what charge cards are for! Got to Skip's house, changed and off the airport. Half hour later Skip was dropping us of at the International Terminal at ORD. It was 3:15. Flight was not until 6:45, but we wanted to be very early. As we lined up a nice lady from Aer Lingus saw we had already printed out our boarding passes and moved us to the front of the line...guess it pays to print out your boarding passes early. Worried about the weight of our bags....Sandy's = 21.3 KG (48 pounds), while mine was 22.67 KG (49 pounds)....whew! Zipped through and since there is no real food past security, bought a sandwich for later. Then it happened again, TSA Agent said are any of you with family? I said, "We are." He said, "How many?" I said, "Just the two of us." And he brought us to the front of the line. I'm on a role!!!
We spent the next couple of hours blogging, reading Princeton History Professor, Elaine Pagel's book on The Gnostic Gospels...I like her when she's on the history channel. Laura and I argue about her theories, but I like her.
Sandy read her book entitled, "In the Bleak Midwinter," by Julia Spencer-Flemming.
We boarded the plane...row 42...only 46 rows in this Airbus 330 (300). Seating in coach was 2-4-2. We were part of the 4, but it was comfortable. They had indivicual entertainment screens in the back of every seat. TV, movies, music, games...very cool. Later on they served beef or pasta. Ordinary airline food. It was OK. Being on Aer Lingus, I listened to some Irish music, and we both slept as best we could. Seven hours later, we landed in Dublin...right on time.
We thought we'd be able to go directly to our next flight, but the Irish wanted to see our passports and security again. Strange...didn't have to take off our shoes. But they made us take our iPads our of our luggage. Interesting how security is different in different countries.
We were delayed 10 minutes, then off to Amsterdam. We cleared customs and walked (a long way) to the "baggage hall." Our luggage was already on the conveyor belt. Walked a bit more to the "hotel info" place and they said there was a free shuttle to the Crown Plaza. We walked to it and caught the shuttle. More like a limo...we were the only ones on the bus.
Checked in at the Crown Plaza. Tremendous experience. Upgraded us to a mini-sweet, club room with free happy hour, free breakfast...nice people. Great room. Then we did what they tell you not to do....went to sleep for 3 hours.
Up and at 'em again about 6:00 pm. Walked the "five minutes" (more like 10) to the train station, purchased our tickets and headed to downtown Amsterdam for dinner. What a great city. Lots of life. Young people everywhere. Tourists everywhere. The Central Station was just crazy with people. But all were funloving and enjoying themselves. We walked down the main drag past souvenir shops, "coffee shops" (dude!), and eateries. We headed to a place for authentic Dutch food called "Haesje Claes." It was recommended by Jim Ferrier. 30 minute wait. Headed to the bar next door for a beer and then back to the restaurant. What a great meal. Pea soup with bacon and suasauges and something called a Hotchpotch (a potatoe and vegatable mash) along with meatballs, more sausage, bacon, onions and pickles. Sounds weird, but it worked. Very hearty dinner.
Walked back to the train station, making a stop for Sandy to buy a sweatshirt...more for warmth than anything else. Windy, and chilly here.
Then the fun began. At the train station, we got on the 10a train. Oh, it was going to our stop alright....right past it about 30 minutes down the track! Argh! We eventually got back to Central Station and got on the correct train, but wasted about two hours in the process. Travel certainly has its fun moments and its painful ones too! All part of the joy of traveling to a different country. We'll know better tomorrow. We're doing several museums.
Hope I didn't bore you too much. Our trip is off to a great start. See you all in about three weeks!