Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Haarlem, Amsterdam and Corrie Tenboom's house

Today we braved the wind, cold and rain to take the train to Haarlem. It was a 10 minute ride. Then it was just a bit of a walk, several blocks, to get to Carriers house. We had to wait about 20 minutes to go on the one hour tour. It was quite interesting and since I had seen photos of her home, it felt like I had been there before. Just like Amsterdam, everyone bikes to their destination. Rain or shine, day or night, bikers are everywhere. Did I already mentioned that motorcycles and scooters also use the bike lanes? Then add in the buses, trams and cars and you have a real mess.

The side door
View to outside through front windows

The narrow 2 ft by about 9 ft area where people were hidden

The linen closet where people had to crawl in through the lower shelf and replace linens and then close the "door"
Living Room where we were given an overview of Corrie's life and family
Not much is original, but the sconces and the 2 clocks belonged to the Tenboom family

The outside of house

Monday, November 23, 2015

AmaWaterways River Boat Cruise

I've missed so many days that I can only post a few highlights of the past 7 days. We boarded in Basel, Switzerland and it has been a very interesting time of sightseeing and history lessons. Just wish I could remember all that I've been taught! Now it is Sunday at just before noon as we approach Amsterdam. This is the first time we have seen people fishing from the shore. We are now on a tributary of the Rhine as I recall.

We began our river cruise on a man made channel and traveled on this somewhat narrow portion until we moved onto the Rhine River. We have had to go through 13 (I think!) canals as we travel to Amsterdam. I have seen many castles and cathedrals! The Christmas markets are being assembled and we are sad to have to miss most of them because they won't open until tomorrow

The Christmas decorations likewise have been in various stages of installation. We have had fall decorations on board and when we went up for breakfast this morning it was all decorated for Christmas. The weather has been very nice through the our adventure but it began raining 4 days ago but only for 2 days. The past 2 days have been VERY cold!

After going through Switzerland, we observed France on one side and Germany on the other side of the river. I was surprised at how narrow the Rhine River is. Cars seem to be able to travel quite freely over bridges from France to Germany and vice versa. We did have armed patrols as our tour busses crossed into France but it seemed lax compared to USA border crossings.

I have drunk beer and some has been tolerable. Since this is a wine tour, I have had champagne when we boarded, mimosas for breakfast a few times, and wine with lunch and dinner most of the time. I've eaten French food and German food, neither of which are my favorite. Two nights ago we ate in the "special" dining room and I had lamb which was good. I have gone on a gondola ride up to the top of a Vineyard but since it was raining I skipped the rest of the talk and went right back down.

We ate at a German restaurant in Cologne last night but Sharon and I left after a few bites and wandered through the streets back to the tiny market by our boat and bought a glu wine for €2.50 which is just a hot mulled spicy red wine. While in Rudeshime we were served a Rudeshime coffee which is wonderful. They drop 3 sugar cubes in the bottom of the "cup" and add some brandy and then burn off the alcohol. Then they add hot coffee, and add whipped cream on top it off with shavings of chocolate. Oh my, was that good!

The Cathedral at Cologne was stunning. It has 3 pipe organs. We learned that Eu de cologne was first created in Cologne was called Farina, but it was quickly copied and called 1411, but it does not ell nearly as wonderful as the original.

The Mouse Tower
Streets of  Cologne, Germany
Inside Cathedral at Cologne, where there are 3 organs.
Huge Cathedral of Cologne

Thursday, November 19, 2015

More photos of Switzerland

Matterhorn and more

Flowers were still inbloom all over in Switzerland

A bit high up
New friends!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Trying to play catch up

I am getting way behind in making meaningful posts. LOTS has happened, so bear with me. He are day 2 on the Amacerto riverboat, but I need to go back a few days.

Sharon and I have had a wonderful 2 days in Brig, Switzerland. It is very expensive in Switzerland. For example I saw a beautiful winter coat. Very stylish and only $1800. I won't be bringing that home. I discovered Raclette, which is a very simple meal of raclette cheese, boiled new potatoes, pearl onions and pickle. Sounds strange, but look it up on the Internet. It was only $9.50 per person and I ate it 3 times! Cheap food, comparatively speaking. Oh and Swiss chocolate really is good but one piece of.candy had to do because it is as much as it is at home.

When we arrived in Brig, we heard music and discovered that just a few blocks from our hotel there was some sort of beer festival going on. We still don't know what it was but lots of people were outside drinking beer and having a civilized nice time. We took lots of photos and found it to be very interesting.  We felt totally safe walking around at night.

The next morning we took a local "red" train to Zermatt and found that if we wanted to see the Matterhorn we would need to go on another train (another €80) to go further up the mountains. I haven't added up all the money spent in train fares but it will be a sizeable chunk! First we took the train as far as it went, then had to get off and travel by bus to St. Nikolas  (which the bus driver called Santa Clause, then onto a cog train to get up to a fabulous spot to view the Matterhorn. We met a wonderful couple on the train and they were planning on hiking down from one of the towns along the way for about 2 hours.I forgot where they were from but they spoke pretty good English. The people we have met all along great the way have been so nice and helpful that I wonder what visitors to our country think of us!!

It was beautiful scenery driving through the Alps. We took lots of pictures and yet I couldn't get a photo of the 2 black cows that had HUGE bells hanging from their necks. The houses are just as you would imagine  they would be. Totally made me think of Heidi and The Sound of Music. I fell in love with Switzerland.

After we got back to our hotel it was dark out, but we went out to eat a Schnitzel dinner and then walked several blocks to a very old castle. It was too late to go in but the Castle Garden area was beautiful with all the lights on. I don't have time or energy to look up all the names of things right now. Sharon is asleep and although we got up at 5 am this morning to watch us leave Basel I'm still wide awake. Here are some photos but I will have to leave it to you to figure them out. I bet you will recognize the Matterhorn!

Baby with ear protection from all the loud music. Mom is part of the festivities.

Anna from the train to Brig
Love this phone system the desk in the Victoria Hotel
Some sort of festival

Brig, Switzerland

Thanks to Sharon's husband for suggesting that we stay in Brig for 2 nights. We had never heard of Brig and I'm not sure how Ron came up with the thought we should go there, but what a great idea that was! On the train from Leeds Spezia,we had a 24 year old sweet girl sitting across from us and we had a delightful time getting to know her. She is a student, lives in Lusanne, Switzerland, and was raised in Italy on the border with Austria. We have found many helpful people on this trip who are more than willing to help us onto and off of trains, advise us as to what to see, where to eat, etc.

Anyway, when we arrived in Brig we immediately, saw the Victoria Hotel right across the street, and decided to check the price. It was $130 per night and though I thought that was a steep price, we agreed that since it was so convenient we should try it for one night and see if we could find something cheaper. As it turned out, others were $170 and $190 per night so we were happy with what we found.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Milan....A crazy busy train station

Why, why, why won't there ticket machines work to buy our tickets to Brig, Switzerland. Card denied, card denied, card denied! Both of us tried our debit cards, because unfortunately the machines require use of a card with a pin. So here we are waiting 30 to 40 minutes for our number to come up to be able to speak with an agent to purchase our tickets. So frustrating because we had to give up our hope of taking an earlier train and will now have to wait another hour. Ugggh. Masses of people here. Don't want to come to Milan ever again. Not that I've seen anything other than the train station!

And back off people!!!
Why do they need to stand so close to me when there is plenty of room to stand and talk? Guess I'm thinking pickpockets. We already had a very well dressed man asking for money on the train. Luckily one of  our compartment mates translated for us that his wife is pregnant and they have other children. She said it was a lie and he should get a job.
There were a few newer building to interfere with the quaintness.
Crowfed train in the aisles.

Crowded with lots of confused passengers.
And even more people, but no gypsies in sight.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Rapallo, Italy, Finally

It is now Saturday, November 14th, and we are now on the 8:43 am train from Ravalli to Milan. So let's  back up a bit.

Yesterday after finally getting to Rapallo and dropping our bags at our hotel (the Europa) for safekeeping because it was only noon and checking wasn't until 2 pm, we went to the nearest atmosphere machine and for more euros because we were both  out. Then we  began walking along the waterfront  taking photos and enjoying the warm, sunny weather when we happened upon a man selling purses. I didn't put up much resistance and ended up bargaining a good prize for a lovely red handbag, which I am now using instead of the big, heavy black tote that Janet tell loaned me. Sharonville bought a smaller handbag for next to nothing. We continued our walking up a long winding road toward S. Margarita. It was beautiful but we were facing the traffic and a very windy and narrow road so the many cars and scooters looked like they would run right into us! We finally a got to a place where we could catch a bus to take us the rest of the way.

We were hungry by then so we stopped at a wonderful  pizzeria and ordered a glass of sparkling white wine and split a pizza for €8 (which is about  $8.50.) They didn't speak English so they tried to show us and tell us that the pizza was very small, maybe 8 inches. That was OK with us but when they brought it out, you can see from the photo it was much bigger then they said. We were enjoying our pizza when the waitress asked if we wanted "dulce" or dessert and we indicated that we were too full. She came back to our table with a bottle of lemon cello and two short glasses indicated she was leaving and waves goodbye to us as she left through the front door and went up the sidewalk. We were wondering  if they wold charge us for this yummy delight or if they were just treating us extra nice.

We were all alone in the restaurant with no server and no one manning the cash register but I got up and looked through the door to the other half of the restaurant and a man was sitting there and jumped up to see what I needed. I indicated that we were ready to pay and he brought us our bill. We thought he said €50 and we assumed since the pizza was so big and we had access to a whole bottle of lemon cello that maybe that was a reasonable price. We certainly had a wonderful time there. Thankfully, it was only €15 which was a  euro less that it should have been, considering €8 pizza and €4 per glass of wine. We were SO happy! Look at the picture showing the view from our table out the front door. Crazy traffic!

Trains, trains, trains=run, run, run

Right now we are stuck in Genova for an hour, because we believed the hotel man at the front to desk. He gave us bad info....trying to go Rapallo and instead we went right past with no stopping. So here we are waiting to haul all this luggage onto yet another train back to Rapallo. We were feeling pretty smug about being able to run, take the slow elevators to the correct platform and see that the train was 5 minutes late allowing us to make it on the train and then we find out it was not stopping where we thought it would. No worries. Hurry and wait. We just boarded another train back to Rapello. We would have just stayed here tonight but I had already made reservations in Rapallo so another €3.40 for another ticket.
Things are different here, not to mention that not everyone has the decency to speak English! :) I have had to wrap my brain around the fact that the elevators may say floor "0" or "-1"....what is that about??? Some places make you pay to use the toilet, which seems wrong since sometimes there are no paper towels to dry your hands.
Another thing. Every day is laundry day. Sheets, jeans, towels, etc all hanging from people's balconys. And train tunnels everywhere. Wish we had trains in the US like here. Screeching train brakes, short stops making having luggage to deal with a bit difficult. What is with all these shutters? All the buildings seem to have shuttered windows. And old rusty bikes. You hardly see anybody riding a bike to be proud to own!! Such differences in lifestyles. Despite all this, Italy has charm and mostly friendly people. Still enjoying this trip even though we are either running like crazy or twiddling our thumbs while we wait.
First photo shows about all we saw in Genova. Second one is of Sharon waiting for the train with all our luggage. I packed light like we had agreed to do, but Sharon had a harder time sticking to that plan!! Life is an adventure. Overlook the struggles and keep moving forward pushing any worries away. I haven't felt this relaxed in awhile!!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

More photos

Today we got a train pass good for the day, which took us to Cinque Terre this morning. The pass was €12 and allowed us to hop on and off as much as we wanted from village to village and use the small bus service as well.

First stop was Monterosso, the northern most village. Then we worked our way down on the train to Vernazza, got lots of good pictures and chatted with people here and there. The weather was warm and sunny. Then we went on the train to Corniglia and since it is high above the train station, we took a bus up to the town, if you can call it that! Such peaceful villages. We only had today to see everything in Cinque Terre and we were in the middle of a late lunch in the most quaint restaurant in Corniglia when we discovered we had not left enough time to catch the bus to get down to the train station to catch the train to Manarola. Oops! After lunch, we had to wait for the bus so had a small cone with gelato. Unfortunately it wasn't as good as I remembered.

When we finally got to the train station, we were told the schedule had changed and the train we needed to get to Manarola was coming much later. After waiting and waiting, it was beginning to get dark and by the time we got on the train we figured we needed to forego seeing both Manarola and Riomaggiore and just get back to our hotel (Hotel Firenze English Continentale.) Part of me was sorry we wouldn't get to all 5 villages but I told Sharon "If you've seen one village, you've seen them all!" So no worries.

After getting to La Spezia we bought our train tickets for Rapallo, Italy, which is a hop, skip and a jump to the Portofino area. Got back to our hotel Room And immediately Began searching for a hotel in Rapello. Good fortune again in that since another traveler that we had talked to said that they enjoyed staying at the Europa Hotel which is just a short walk to from the train station, I called and got a room for €84. She matched the rate I had found online which is a €15 savings from the €99 she quoted. It is always smart to ask!

At about 6:30 pm we went walking, very safe to walk in the evening. We found the outdoor mall and enjoyed seeing lots of people out walking their dogs. Got back to the room at 8:30 or so and that is that! Here are some photos from today's adventures.