Europe Trip in August 2004
We flew to Amsterdam and then traveled in a clockwise loop that included Aachen, Cologne, Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Nancy, Reims, Paris, and Brussels.
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As is usually our way of doing things, Larry took most of the photos, Bill processed them and installed them on the web site, and Larry wrote the narrative and photo descriptions. Larry's narrative up through the first day we took photos starts below.
Wednesday, August 4:
We didn't have to get up too early for our trip since the flight didn't leave until 12:35 pm. We checked the Northwest web site for flight information and it said our flight to Detroit would be leaving a half hour late. We left the house at about 9:45 and took the 48 bus and then BART to the airport. It took us just about an hour to get from home to the airport by public transportation.
We checked our bags and went through security with no problems. We then looked for breakfast and only found two places in the gate area. One was a hamburger-sandwich shop and the other sold wraps. I was looking for a nice breakfast of eggs and bacon, but I wasn't going to find it here. I had a "breakfast wrap"--scrambled eggs in a tortilla type thing--and coffee. Bill had a veggie wrap and OJ.
Our gate area was packed with people for three different flights when we got there. After one flight left we finally found two seats next to this hyper business lady who constantly talked on her cell phone. We took off for Detroit at about 1:30, about 55 minutes late.
We knew we were going to arrive late in Detroit, but they said we should make our flight to Amsterdam. We originally had an hour and 25 minutes to change planes, but now we'd have less than a half hour. We made it! When we got to the gate everyone was already on the plane, so we just walked up with our boarding pass, which we got here in San Francisco, and got right on.
We had an uneventful flight of just under 8 hours. We had dinner and then I watched "Shrek2". We had individual screens at our seat and were able to choose whatever movie, TV show or audio we wanted from the directory. After the movie I got some off and on sleep. Bill slept some too, but I don't think he slept as much as I did. Before landing, they served us breakfast.
Thursday, August 5:
We arrived at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport right on time at 11:25 am. We got in line for immigration and that moved right along fairly quickly. When we got to the immigration man, all he wanted to know was how long we'd be in the European Union and where we'd be traveling. He stamped our passports and said "Have a nice visit."
We went to Baggage Claim 12 and waited and waited as bags came out and people picked them up, and more bags came out and they got picked up, but ours were not among them. Oh no! Did our bags miss our flight in Detroit? When no more bags came out, we went to the baggage office window. The woman looked at our claim checks, called someone on her radio, and said to go back to Baggage Claim 12. Our bags should be there now. They were! What happened to them and why they didn't come out with the others, we don't know, but we sure were happy that they made it!
We passed through another check point and we were out in the main airport. We both got 200 euros from the cash machine and then looked for the train to Amsterdam's Centraal Station. We found the train and the ticket machines, and thanks to the help of some homeless guy, who was helping a lot of people for tips, we got our tickets. I gave him a euro. It was worth it! We were supposed to call John so he could meet us when we got there, but the train left in just a few minutes, so we got the train and then called him when we got to Centraal Station. What a mess that was. We were calling his cell phone... which cost more than a regular call. The sign on the phone said 65 cents, but that didn't work. We checked at a nearby money exchange and phone ticket office and all they sold were 5 euro phone cards. We tried again... this time putting in 2 euros. It worked!
We had to wait about 10 to 15 minutes for John. He had told us that it would be easier to meet us than try to give us directions from the station to his apartment. We're not sure about that after the phone mess, but everything worked out okay. We got to his place and he showed us around and we settled in. He has a really nice two floor, three bedroom, two bath apartment with kitchen, dining area and living room and a backyard patio. When you go out the front door of the building, he's right on one of the canals. We spent the afternoon visiting with John out on the patio and later on he fixed dinner for us, the first of our numerous pasta feeds. We watched a pigeon build a nest in a nearby tree as we sat out in the yard, and again a few times more during the next few days.
We got a call from Michael, a bootman we know who works there in Amsterdam, but lives in Utrecht, a city southeast of Amsterdam. He said he'd like us to come out to their home for a visit, but he had to check with Nicholas, his partner, to see if Friday or Sunday would be better. Nicholas plays violin in the Amsterdam symphony, and he new he had a concert, but didn't know which night. He said he'd call back at 4 pm the next day.
I got really sleepy, so about 9 pm we went to bed. It'd been a looooong day!
Friday, August 6:
John left for work before I got up about 8. Bill had a chance to chat with him while he had his coffee.
Today was our day for exploring Amsterdam. We walked all over checking out various spots we'd remembered from previous visits, we found lots of new places and interesting sights, and we found where we had to pick up our rental car on Monday. We got back to John's at about 3:30. Michael called and said that tonight would be best. If we'd take the train to Utrecht, he and Nicholas would meet us at the station.
We headed out to Centraal Station and got our tickets and went to the platform. There was a notice that the train would be 15 minutes late. When it did arrive, people got off and lots of us got on, but then they told us that we had to change to another train on another platform. We're glad they speak a lot of English in Amsterdam! We got our new train and were on the way. We found Michael and Nicholas at the station in Utrecht without any problem.
They showed us around downtown, we had a beer at a cafe along the canal, and we got to see the very old church... like lots of very old churches we'd be seeing in the weeks ahead. We then went to their home and visited, had dinner, looked at their boots and visited some more and before we knew it, it was almost midnight. We had a very pleasant evening! Michael drove us back to Amsterdam, but he couldn't find his way to John's street, so dropped us off two streets away. Driving in Amsterdam is a nightmare due to all of the canals, construction and one-way streets.
When we got back to the apartment we had a note from John (who had gone to bed) that Hans had called and wanted us to come and visit on Sunday.
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