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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Back from Amsterdam

We are back from Amsterdam, and I miss it. As you can tell, once Chuck was done teaching, I didn't have a lot of time to update this blog. I had such a wonderful time walking around by myself and taking pictures of bikes, doors, and skinny rows of houses when he was teaching. But it was hard for me not to feel a bit guilty because Chuck wasn't able to relax and enjoy Amsterdam the way I could. Once he was done teaching, he was able to enjoy Amsterdam with me.Wednesday night we found a wonderful Dutch restaurant called, 'The Pantry" which served traditional Dutch food and the waitress was very nice. We learned a lot about traditional Dutch food from her. We liked this restaurant so much we went back Friday night. On Thursday and Friday we had time to explore together. On Thursday we went to the Rijk's Museum and saw some paintings by Rembrandt and others that were truly amazing. We also went to the Heineken Experience which was quite and adventure and I have a new found admiration for Heineken. The next day we went to the Anne Frank House and museum, which was quite sobering. We had gotten tickets to the Hop On Hop Off bus so we got a nice tour of Amsterdam on a warm bus because it was snowing again outside.Crazy that they say it doesn't snow much in Amsterdam because they are too close to the water and we had snow on and off the whole time we were there. To me, it added to the excitement of being in a foreign country, and having snow at Christmas time. That night we went on a canal cruise because it was the very first night of the Celebration of Lights that Amsterdam is trying to promote. This was the first year for this new celebration. The best part of this cruise was being able to see inside the homes to see what the skinny houses looked like on the inside. Many were decorated with Christmas trees and it was really beautiful. We were able to see inside some of the house boats as well. The lights that they were talking about were mostly in the center of town.The canal cruise actually went through the Red Light District which was interesting to say the least. We got just a glimpse of things and saw a lot of red lights! The canal ride was pretty though because each canal bridge was lit up, which is just a normal thing in Amsterdam, not having anything to do with Christmas. It was a nice way to end our trip.We got home last night at about 8:00 p.m. and found we had no heat. Fortunately Chuck had a heater here to warm the bedroom up enough that we could sleep quite comfortably. The guy came this a.m. and fixed the furnace and right now things are warming up. I am still in my clothes, a sweatshirt and a bathrobe though so it's not totally warmed up yet. Well, tomorrow it's back to our regular routine...I will be subbing in Sprague and Chuck will be heading out to Orlando for a meeting on Tuesday. But Amsterdam will forever be special in my heart!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Well, I was up for an hour yesterday morning before Chuck had to wake up to teach. Once he was up and ready, we went down to breakfast, and oh my, what a breakfast buffet there was. When I saw it, I felt like I had entered breakfast Heaven! There were all kinds of fruit, sliced and whole, yogurt with bowls of various toppings, eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, many types of bread, a whole variety of meats and cheeses, a variety of juices, and coffee and tea. It was a truly amazing sight to behold! And the taste…wow, unbelievable! Everything tastes so fresh here. More like real food. We came back up to the room and Chuck gathered his things and was off to go teach. I feel bad that he has to go to work while I get to have fun today and the next 2 days as well. I will probably venture out in a bit and explore the area around here, but this morning I am going to do some writing for this blog and Hub Pages. But guess what…it’s snowing in Amsterdam. The hotel guide book says it rarely snows here in Amsterdam but there’s usually rain and sleet. I love snow. I just opened the hotel room window and discovered it’s snowing and I am extremely happy right now. I hope it keeps up.More later.....Well, it's later, actually much later. It is now Tuesday a.m. here in Amsterdam. I did go for that walk yesterday morning in the snow and it was just as beautiful as I had imagined it would be. People were excited about the snow because it doesn't snow here much. Everything seems prettier with snow falling down around it. I walked for about 45 minutes, and then came back and sat down in the lobby of the hotel and wrote a hub about it! Chuck found me at about 10 a.m. in the lobby and had brought me a heart shaped cookie that they just happened to have as refreshments...ever the romantic that guy!!! Then Chuck joined me after his lunch for just a few minutes. I wrote some more, then decided to go for another walk. This time the snow had stopped. I had a great time taking pictures. I wandered across the street a bit. We are staying in the area of Amsterdam called, "Leidseplein" which is the center area for nightlife. That's not exactly our style but it means there are lots of restaurants and night life to watch so it's a good place to be as tourists.I walked around for about an hour and took pictures. There are Christmas decorations up all over the area and it makes everything very festive. I headed back to the hotel to meet Chuck and as always he needed to work out. I had already taken two nice long walks and all of a sudden felt very tired. I realized I had actually been up since 3:30 a.m. so took a 30 minute nap while Chuck worked out. We headed over across the street to find a restaurant for dinner. I had fun showing chuck the areas I had discovered earlier in the day, especially the area for ice skating with a beautiful Christmas tree in the center. We found a Heineken restaurant that looked good because it offered soup and sandwiches and a nice area to observe the street and people going by...mostly on bikes of course...even in winter. I had tomato soup and he had a really thick green pea soup with meat in it, and slabs of what looked like thick bacon on thin slices of bread on the side. We each also ordered a cheeseburger and fries which costs about $20 each...yikes! Isn't that amazing? We goofed on that one. We could have each had soup and split a cheeseburger because we were so full we had trouble finishing our meals. We headed back out into the cold, carefully picking our way through the streets so we didn't get hit by the bikes here!!! Once back at the hotel we were tired so went to bed to get ready for another day tomorrow. Poor Chuck...he's teaching while I am having fun exploring. But at least we will have Thursday and Friday here together to be tourists.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

We're in Amsterdam!

We are here in Amsterdam!!! Just wanted to catch you all up on our adventure. We first flew to Chicago, and had a 6 hour layover which we spent in the United Club Room. Chuck thought it was funny that I was quite excited about having a 6 hour layover. If you have ever been to the United Club Room in the O’Hare airport, or in any airport for that matter, you may understand why. The room is actually a few rooms with comfortable chairs, and some tables. There is a variety of snacks available which I am going to write a hub article about so I won’t go into too much detail here, but we had access to as much coffee, soda, hot chocolate, tea and herbal tea as we wanted. There were also snacks like cookies, fruit, cheese and crackers, etc. It is not often that I get 6 hours to sit down somewhere and write so I was having a ball. Of course traveling with Chuck means we need to be early everywhere, bless his heart. There’s no way we will miss a plane if he’s along! So we didn’t really have 6 hours because we needed to be at the gate early so we could be first in line when they started boarding. But even so, we had about 5 hours and that was great. My time in the United Club Rooms always seems to go fast because I enjoy myself so much! Once on board the plane, we had an 8 hour flight. They fed us dinner and we read and watched a movie with Meryl Streep called,”Hope Springs.” It’s the one they just made in Stonington, CT. and even though we both had head phones on we got all excited and made pointing gestures to places we recognized when they came onscreen. After the movie, we went to sleep. It was not a very comfortable sleep because we were basically sitting up except for the few inches the seat went back. I was awakened a few hours into my sleep by a sharp pain in my knee from being in an uncomfortable position for so long. Breakfast was served…a croissant, fruit and a drink of our choice. Within an hour we were on the ground in Amsterdam. The weather was 37 and it was raining and sleeting alternately. We made it to our hotel, the smallest hotel room I have ever been in, except for 1 we stayed in when we went to New York City once. It has a nice bathroom with amenities that are a bit different from those in the U.S. because they include a toothbrush kit and razor. There is a narrow area for the bed, which is full sized…yikes! And then an area at the end of the bed with a chair and desk set up. When we finally made it to the room it was about 1:00 p.m. Amsterdam time, and 6 a.m. Eastern standard time. We probably only slept about 4 hours at the most on the plane so I was tired but Chuck said we needed to keep moving, and not go to sleep just yet. Apparently the worst thing we could do is sleep then because our bodies needed to get used to the new time zone. We went to the hotel restaurant and had a great view of the street in front of us which is a main area and near a park. We saw tons of people on bikes as that is a main form of transportation here. By this time it had stopped raining but was still cold. I wasn’t very hungry because I was so tired so I just had tomato soup which was served with the most delicious bread and a side of fresh butter that was absolutely yummy. Chuck had a Panini that was similar to pepperoni. We had fun watching everyone go by. After lunch I still really wanted a nap but Chuck convinced me to stay awake and we went for a walk. I must admit that I was getting a bit cranky in the hotel room because I was SOOOO tired, but fortunately once we got outside, the cold air woke me up and I was much better, both in terms of my mood and alertness! We walked down the street and came across a large park where many people were walking, with dogs or on their own, and again there were lots of bikes. We wandered on past shops and restaurants and found a canal that had tour boats leaving every 30 minutes so we decided to take a tour. It was a great way to see the city and I took a ton of pictures. The canal boat had a glass roof over it and it was really warm inside. Half way through I was so tired that I could barely keep my eyes open. Turned out I was sitting next to the window right next to a heater! I changed seats and continued to take lots of pictures. The houses are so cute, all smushed together side by side going up 3 stories high. After our canal boat ride which lasted 75 minutes, we walked around the city a bit more and saw tons of restaurants. I don’t know how people can make up their minds as to where they want to eat! We went back to the room arriving back about 6:30 p.m. I was fighting sleep so read a guidebook about Amsterdam then Chuck showed me how to set up my computer to use the internet and a different plug for Europe. By this time it was 7:30 p.m. and I was beat so I told him I couldn’t fight sleep anymore but to stay up as long as he wanted as it wouldn’t bother me. Apparently I was right because that was the last I remember until 3:30 this a.m. when I woke up needing to use the bathroom, and I haven’t been able to get back to sleep since. That’s fine as I can nap today while he teaches. After lying in bed for an hour and 15 minutes, I couldn’t fight the urge to get up and write, so here I am, at 5:00 a.m.writing to all of you. We are here, safe and sound and ready for an adventurous week in Amsterdam!