Finally, it has truly begun. Since WiFi is my only means of posting & it’s spotty at best (not willing to pay to use the internet), posts will come at random and infrequent times. I am actually into my second week, but here is what I have written so far (please forgive spelling):
(okay–posting photos is tedious–and not working for me…I’ll just post them in bulk somewhere when I figure it out. Sorry.)
A way-too-early rise after a poor night’s sleep makes for an interesting way to travel. I’m trying to stay awake so that I can sleep the last long leg of my journey to Brussels. The dry air of the airplane has my eyes a bit hot and tired.
San Francisco to Atlanta to Brussels. Not bad. But with our beginning flight starting at 8:40 am on the 25th and ending at 7-something am on the 26th, well, if I don’t get some snooze-time in, I am going to be so horribly jet-lagged! I am trying to avoid the mistake of my last trip (2008)–we arrived at 8am, got into our hotel & slept the day away!! — took several days to regain proper day/night sleep patterns. I am hoping I’ll solve that problem by getting sleep in at the “end” of the trip. We will see how effective my plan works!
I spent the first leg working on a rough draft for a personalized story for one child. I love doing this sort of stuff–not work at all! Now, for the last leg, I have a choice of polishing this one or working on creating another for his sister. I am excited about getting these finished, printed and made into books!
There is a one and a half hour layover in Atlanta, so I’m not sure what we will do–we are on time (yay)–I specifically asked for a long layover, just in case of weather delays. I didn’t want to miss out connecting flight!! Jameson had an equally bad night, but between studying & listening to music, she’s been taking little cat naps. I’m not sure how this will effect her jet-lag or napping later. Only time will tell, right?
We are in Coach all the way to Brussels, as is Jameson on her return trip. My return will be an Economy seat. I’m wondering just how cramped I’m going to be–but that is in the future. I’m not going to worry about it at all. LOL!
Well, by Atlanta time it is 12:15am. We are only a couple hours out of Brussels, so that means it is close to 5:15am Brussels time.
The sky is clear, stars are visible, even with a half-moon rising. Below, the moon casts a dim shimmery light on the ocean and cloud cover–it really is hard to tell if it is water or the tops of clouds that I’m seeing.
My attempts to sleep have been only so-so, catching snippets of naps here and there. The ever-circulating air, the constant drone of engines (our seats are directly behind them), the air noise as it blasts up against the windows — and the barely reclining chairs — all of this hampers a truly satisfactory snooze. But, if it comes down to that for the only sleep I get till tonight, I guess I might manage to make it through the day…I hope.
I watched a couple of movies — well, really only one…cat napped through another and totally ignored a third.
But I keep seeing that moon outside my window. It draws me out, to watch it, to look down on the reflected surfaces below. It is beautiful. Calming. Off on the horizon, it looks like it is slightly lighter–perhaps the precursor to predawn? Or maybe it’s just the moonlight playing tricks. I only wish my camera could capture the low-light images: moonlight dancing on the tops of clouds, with huge dips curving down into darkness–the landscape is ever-changing…now the pillowy cloud formations have given way to larger, smooth-top plateaus and they appear to undulate beneath me. I’m sure it’s a trick of the eye, caused by the exhaust from the plane’s engines, but still, really cool!
1:14am (Atlanta time)
Definitely predawn happening in front of the plane. The horizon now has blue/white tinge to it. And definitely a sea of clouds–I see no water below me–lol…I’ll take that back, sorta. There are bits of lights below me, so we are now over land, not ocean! OR, there are a lot of boats with lights ^,^ Kinda neat, whatever they are!
Lights have come up and they are serving “breakfast”: spicy croissant egg sandwich-thing, banana (badly bruised–lol) and juice. That works.
Well, about an hour from landing and only 19% power left, so I must close for now.
26Mar 5:54 Brussels time
My friends (Dan & Lynne) greeted us at the airport, just outside customs where we had a bit of coffee–lovely! Then they delivered us to our room at the hotel where we deposited our luggage & freshened up before heading out into the city. The gentleman behind the desk did not really want us to check in until 3, so we were going to take showers in Lynne & Dan’s room and so we asked for towels, which he flatly refused to give us…he wouldn’t even give us the towels that would be ours for our room. So we shrugged it off, Lynne off-offhandedly commented that it would be a good post to the Travel Advisors…and went to our room. We received a call from the front desk almost immediately after we got into our room and were advised our room was ready & someone was bringing up our key. Teehee.
We just awoke & dressed from a two-hour nap after spending the entire morning & most of the afternoon walking through Brussels.
Lunch was at a local coffee shop sandwiched with walking about & a few doses of cuppuccino. Wine with lunch made me loopy (and goofy) & aided in a good nap. My poor ankles and knees are protesting against the massive use of cobbled steers and sidewalks (at least I haven’t fallen–yet)!!
Our little hotel room at Hotel Aris is huge–twin beds & nice bathroom. It is surrounded by a gazillion beautiful old churches & government buildings .
Now we are headed out for more walking, nightlife (Delirium Cafe) and dinner.
Brussels is famous for it’s little boy (Mennekin Pis) — found all over Brussels
and we have discovered a feminine version ( something-Pis — so wrong!!) hiding down the alley where Delirium Cafe is located. We were trying to figure out why tour groups were coming and going–Dan wandered on over and came back to our seats and told us to go check it out–so funny!!
Checkout of Hotel Aris, stopped in Turnhout to meet Lynne’s friend, Elena (she’s showing us around). We showed up too early, so we wandered a bit & finally decided to come sit at the train station to wait for her–and then we missed her (came by bus, not train–LOL)! Had to head back to the parking lot quickly to meet up with her. We had lunch at a delightful cafe & a very personalised tour of the Playing Card Museum. Kinda neat! I loved both the local cuisine and the tour!
Took the #4 tram into Amsterdam this morning. Got off at the “wrong” stop, so we are walking more, but also seeing more–love “mistakes” like that! We were nearly run over by a skip loader in a construction zone as we tried to get our bearings.
Coffee at 11:30 in one shop and lunch right after at a nice little restaurant/bar–our first meal of the day.
We wanted to visit Anne Frank House–completely booked on line & when we showed up at 3-ish, it had a line and I no energy to just stand there for probably over a half hour >.<
The plan is to try again FIRST thing tomorrow, leaving the hotel at 8am…oh, sigh.
We took the tram back to the hotel–we thought Dan would be finished with conference stuff by 4:30, but apparently not. So, I’m resting my poor feet & legs and Jameson and Lynne are down in the lobby w/computers using the free wifi. I’d join them, but horizontal is the best spot for me right now.
Well, didn’t make it home by 11:30…sigh. Had plenty of fun though–LOL. we went to dinner with Dan’s brother at an Argentinian steakhouse. Best steak ever.
Have to mad-dash to tram–thought last one came thru at midnight. Turns out they run till half past ^,^ so, now we are sitting on the tram, waiting for our stop (thankfully the end of the line because we are not paying attention!! LOL)
SO TIRED–keep saying I’m not going to stay up this late.
31Mar11, Thursday 5:30am
The days are beginning to blur–cannot remember what day of the week it is. As I lay here, still blurry-eyed, I can hear birds breaking the silence in the pre-dawn light. Cars are beginning to stir, their occupants heading off to work most likely.
As for me, snuggled in bed, I have three hours before breakfast–but I am still full from dinner! Our meals have been ridiculously delicious–and I hate to think about the copious calories we have consumed. It will take me the rest of my trip to shed the pounds that I am sure I have gained. Arg.
Our time together is winding down–Jameson will catch the plane back home on Saturday. I will miss her, but it’s good to know she will be home to keep our critters company.
We saw a war memorial yesterday, for the Battle of the Bulge, and it was a beautifully solemn sight. The reminder of how many men (and women) fell to fight for our freedom and safety was overwhelming. In the states, most memorials are in the eastern region, but here in Europe, they can be found peppered throughout the country side in towns or in fields–a testimony to the fact that the whole of Europe was one giant battle ground.
Wednesday, a Hollander asked me a question that I am embarrassed to say, I could not answer with any articulation: “What have you learned from your stay here (in Amsterdam and Holland in general)?”
I never was very good with pop quizzes! I could have gone in so many directions, but spewed out some inane answer instead.
What have I learned?? That certainly is a good question to take with me into each area I visit! The area in general is beautiful–with its canals and breath-taking architecture. I am always surprised at how well the old and new can meld so smoothly when done with planning.
I love to listen to the Dutch speaking. There seems to be an up-beat tone to their speech–can’t fully understand what is being said, but I can pick out a little here and there with the bit of German I know. And both Jameson and I can hear the “origins” of the Minnesotan accent in their speech.
The plants are just beginning to bud–spring has announced itself with crocuses popping up everywhere. We are too early to see much in the way of tulips or any other flowering plant right now, but the promise is there before your eyes, everywhere. I really didn’t think about that point when planning my trip–the concentration was on “when is Jameson able to join me?” and that was a very small window of opportunity. I will plan differently next time.
As with everywhere I have gone so far, the people have been wonderful and helpful to a fault.
Well, except for a small group of tourists (country of origin will remain unnamed) that were extremely impolite & inconsiderate on a canal candlelight boat cruise, talking & partying loudly over the guides comments so no one could hear what was being said. We finally got fed up and shushed them (on many occasions). They did quiet down, but made a game of it, mocking us with overly loud shushing sounds. Another reason for me to avoid tours (the first being, I hate being herded around like cattle).
Oh dear…the food has caught up with me, I think. Or I need to stop drinking sparkling water–I am feeling horribly bloated this morning. Don’t feel much like eating anything — my body’s way of saying enough is enough?
Once we arrived in Frankfurt, we did some walking around, poking our noses into gift shops here and there. Found an owl watch keychain–couldn’t resist (only 12€). So cute!!
Dinner at nice little expensive tourist restaurant. Dan recommended Schäbien Maultaschen mit salade, which was delicious–along with a glass of Merlot (my favorite)! It is a local dish. Prior to that, we had some local Apfelwein (like hard cider), which was way to strong for me (though Jameson had no problem!)
Jameson deposited into taxi, to be taken to Frankfurt an Main airport bright and early (6:30am). We all said our good byes, had breakfast & returned to our respective rooms to pack & check out. We had a long drive home with plenty of “business” stops–picking up supplies, mailing some of my clothes back home (I really did overpack!!), then off on our long drive to Kiel…made it in 6 hours, I think.
Very leisurely morning; left the house to look around Kiel. Found a Sky (grocery) store that was open on Sunday (unusual for the area) and had a fish market–bought some fish (seeteufel=sea devil, monkfish & AKA poor man’s lobster), then went in & bought a few items–including a tin (touristy) cup for me to take away 🙂 (FMI: all-fish-seafood-recipes.com)
Lynne & I hopped on a little ferry right (free) & Dan met us on the other side w/the car & we went thru some of the town & down to the marina for lunch. I had a carrot-ginger soup (YUM) and bröt. Wandered some, took photos and then we purchased petrol for car, then headed home to put perishable away. Now, with groceries away, we all kicking back (down loading photos, surfing web, etc–Lynne commented that “before computers we would be socializing, right?”. LOL…)
On the train, but after Lynne dropped me off at the station I got my # & waited for it to come up–musta blinked, cuz it went from 220 to 222–mine being 221. I was chastised for not paying attention: “You may not read German well, but you can certainly read numbers, yes?”
So, that said, the rest was uneventful (‘cept I tried to go forward to what turned out to be first class –have 2nd class ticket, which was just fine). It was ‘sealed’ thankfully, so no more embarrassments. Now I’m seated, rolly under my seat, back pack, jacket & purse in my lap & cooler in overhead bin. Not bad. Smooth ride so far. Lol–they were not on time though (I would have thought, from all I’ve heard, that they would be) — left about five or so minutes late.
Now, I have not been to Hamburg, which is where my connecting train is, so watching the scenery whiz by is fun. Unfortunately, my choice of seats has access to back half of a huge window & I lean against a metal partition , so I get a bit of a view of where I am going. That works well. I can also just see the electronic board that tells me what the next stop is (I must push myself up to make me tall to see it–the bain of being short …LOL!)
The gentleman sitting next to me is getting off at Hamburg, so at least I’ll know when to get off ^,^
From my point of view, the beautiful countryside seems to be made up of patchworks of forests and fields, with clusters of houses & outbuildings, then little communities once we approach a town, then back to the patchwork design of forest & field. I love the sturdy brick architecture I see everywhere. Praktisch (practical) and simple, but with little flourishes here and there, as if to show the world there is a more whimsical side to be found, albeit hidden in most ways.
Lots and lots of graffiti along the tracks. So sad. On beautiful buildings, too.
Transfer was made smoothly, but it’s amazing how long a half our is when your teeth are floating–lol–didn’t want to chance missing my train & hauling my stuff up one *major* flight of stairs (then back down) to find a WC was not terribly appealing.
This time, I am watching where I have been (facing rear of train) — decided to pay an extra 5€ to get a reserved seat. Didn’t know the train would be so empty! And just ahead of me are seats with a table. Drats.
Oh well. Learning through experiencing 🙂 No big deal.
I’ll also have to remember that there are power outlets between the seats…could have my laptop out for longer jaunts (only 1hr 45min from Hamburg to Berlin). My seat/luggage storage is right next to each other, which will be nice. And the announcer is ‘sprechen deutsch’, then english–yay…less likely to miss my stop, since I cannot see the electronic banner.
I think we just passed a community garden, with little buildings & gardens. Sweet. I’ve seen the French version (2008), maybe I can find some in Berlin for a cultural comparison.
Ok…I’ll say it…
Three times today alone–and many times since I started my trip, I’ve been offered assistance with my luggage. I’m flattered that everyone wants to help, but I know the real reason–LOL: I look old! Little short dumpy thing trying to lug around luggage that’s almost as big as I am tends to draw attention, I guess. So far, I am conflicted when answering–I CAN do it myself and about half the time do. Other times, when tired, accept the offer of assistance. I had one young cute girl offer to show me where the WC was (in the train station) and then take me back to my platform. I thanked her graciously and just hunkered down to wait for the train…eye teeth floating…stubborn does not look good, does it?!