Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
It's a big world out there and given time and luck we hope to see a good chunk of it. Part of the joys of travel for us is the planning. Researching the history, reading about the customs, figuring out what to see, where to stay, what to eat. Then every day is like getting a new toy...is it really what you wanted, dreamed about and and expected? There is a satisfaction in forming opinions based on actual experience. There are always surprises. Some good, some sad, but all interesting and isn't that all you can hope for? May you live in interesting times.
Oh and what greeted us, a smell we couldn't identify. Remember that candy we got in Frankfurt, well it smelled like feet. It had to go. We ended up leaving it outside the door, like discarded room service. It took hours for the smell to leave our luggage.
Our choices for dinner were fairly limited, so we ended up at the hotel restaurant for what? more breaded and fried meat. We tried to hang on to those few moments of vacation, but eventually sleep takes over. The next AM we packed things up and headed on home. We called for the bell hop and to our joy he offered to take all our luggage to the airline check in counter! Yes, this was a hotel attached to the airport, but it wasn't a close haul. What was most impressive was to see this very tiny man hold up the overladen luggage trolley on the down escalator. We gave him a healthy tip and a round of applause.
There were a few tense moments while we waited to see if Frederick's upgrade from business to first class would come through (I know, first world problems), but soon we were all settled in our lay flat beds for the ride home. Safe and back in the USA.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
We had one last bottle of wine to give away. We gave it to our neighbor's next door. In turn they gave us a bag of gummi candy. How nice, we put it in the suitcase to bring back home. (Yeah, that's kind of a mundane detail for the 2nd paragraph, but it will make more sense when I write the next installment.)
All that is left is to fill up the camper water tanks and we'll be ready to go!
What happens next is another "European Vacation Movie" scene. As we turn out of the campground on to the main street; it's different than it was yesterday. Cars are parked all along one side of the street. With 2 lanes of opposing traffic and a solid row of parked cars, there is just no room for the RV to fit. We have turned on to and committed to this street and there is no way to turn back. We couldn't see how narrow it was until we made the turn. I look ahead and cars keep coming towards us. It's about 1/4 mile till we can turn off this street. I'm sure there were some Germans in their cars that morning dropping more Fbombs than Tony in Scarface.
When you are in impossible situations, it's amazing the guts you find. Frederick stayed put (having no where to go), I hopped out of the RV, walked down the street to the next intersection and stood in the middle of the road, stopping traffic, just like the cops do in front of my son's school. Really, I just stood there and prevented people from heading down the road. Frederick then made his way in the RV up the path I'd cleared. I ran and caught up with the camper and we were on our way. Oh another scene we've caused! It's funny now! On we go to return the camper.
I can tell you that this did not go smoothly. I'm still hoping for a positive resolution to my the whole debacle, so I'm going to refrain from detailing how that went. Suffice to say, they don't have much time before I use my tiny pulpit here to rationally explain the shenanigans. Something is rotten in the city of Offenbach!
With the RV returned, and Lola and Lolo safely off in a cab to the airport for the next leg of their vacation, Frederick, Alex and I were now looking forward to experiencing Europe in our downsized mode. We had our "little" station wagon, still packed tightly with our bags for 3 weeks, but we were free to maneuver any street without concern.
About 2 hours southwest of Frankfurt, down the "Romantic Road" is a walled medieval city named Rothenburg. The Romantic Road, isn't necessarily "romantic" in the Virginia is for Lovers way, it's the path the Romans used to spread their world view north. Along the road are many picturesque towns and villages. Some time in the early 20th century the German's decided a bit of marketing would bring travelers to their corner of the world. So they hyped up how "romantic" it was, printed some maps and lured the tourists. It worked.
On the trek down to Rothenburg, we decided to check out the Autobahn with our new found freedom. As we headed west, we were cruising along quite nicely. We were doing about 90 and cars were zipping past us. It's truly a treat for any driver. As fast as we were zipping along is as fast as we came to a halt. No where else but Germany did we experience the madness of the "come to a dead stop" traffic jam. What's the point of being able to drive 90MPH, if at some point you have to drive 2 MPH for 2 miles? The average really gets you. We were stuck in a traffic jam that delayed us for almost 2 hours. It took everything we had to be in zen and vacationlike.
|My Navigation Tools|
We pulled up in front of the Romantik Hotel Markusturm. It's the number one hotel in Rothenburg on Trip Advisor for a reason. Instantly, someone was there to help lug all of our bags into the lobby and whisk our car away to private parking. What a joy, as parking is truly at premium inside this walled city. Of course, now we had to endure the obvious stares that come when you unload 4 hockey bags and 4 other bags and backpacks into the relatively small lobby. Yes, we are just staying for the night, we explain, but we've been here for 3 weeks. Yes, we are hording Texas Americans that can't travel without our "stuff". It makes us happy, doesn't hurt anyone else, so leave us be!
The Berger family has been running this hotel for years and let me tell you they couldn't have been nicer. They helped us get our bags up to our third floor room. Once we opened the door to our room we were gobsmacked. It was huge and beautiful! It had a balcony, a large sitting area, 2 huge wardrobes and a bathroom that blew away the Four Seasons and the Ritz back home. All this for $200 a night. For the location, size of the room, large even in US scale and the service, it's quite a steal.
After spending the last 3 weeks in our "tiny" camper, we danced around the hotel room with abandon. It was the most beautiful sight we had seen in weeks. Of course there is no air conditioning, as it's hardly needed in this part of the world and of course was needed today. The Berger's had already planned for that and had a stand fan in the room, circulating when we arrived. It was actually quite pleasant. We unpacked and reveled in our space for about an hour. Then it was time to take to the streets and experience the quaintness of this beautiful city.
If you ever go to Rothenburg, I can't recommend this hotel highly enough.
|Our Beautiful Room|
|Frederick on the Balcony|
What a historical and beautiful city. Everything you'd want in a weekend get away. Founded in 1170 Rothenburg grew over 400 years to a town of 600, a free imperial city. It was wealthy due to textiles and it's location at the crossroads of east/west and north/south trade routes.
It still stands today because for 400 more years it was a very poor city. Sacked and sieged in the Thirty Years War, it lost all of it's wealth. Time stood still. Funny, like another city of the middle ages, Brugge, Belgium, it lives today as a tourist attraction because it was poor for so long. So, 400 years from now, will Detroit be a tourist attraction? If no money is invested to upgrade and change the landscape, at what point do you be come history?
Dinnertime and more schnitzel for Alex. The boy has survived on pizza, pasta and schnitzel. Did I tell you he carries his own ketchup bottle? He'd double the price of dinner if we had to pay for the all the ketchup packets he needs to finish schnitzel and frites. Just one packet of ketchup comes with your meal. You have to buy the rest.
After dinner, we walked around exploring the town and the shops. It was very hot and very humid. Rain was in the air.
What I did next I'm not proud of, but when you are desperate, you do desperate things. As we walked around, the heat really got to me. My hair was sticking to my face and neck. The heat seemed unbearable. I needed to put my hair up, but I could find no hair band in my pockets or purse. We didn't have time to go back to the hotel to pick one up and the shops that might carry such a thing were now all closed. Then my son pointed out there was a hair band on the ground. I looked down and there it was, a bit dirty and wet, but a hair band none the less. I thought of the man in the flood who curses God for not saving him...and God says I sent you a warning, a boat and helicopter, what more do you want? In my moment of need, God sent me a hair band. I picked it up...a nice dark brown fat one. I dusted it off on my pants, took a deep breath and put it in my hair. Ok, I threw up in my mouth a bit, but damn it I was less hot. A lifesaver. I kept it and now it's one of my most treasured souvenirs. (after I soaked it in hot soapy water over night)
It began to rain, but this only made our next adventure even more enjoyable. Tonight we met the man with the 2nd best job in the world. Our friends Jon and Tracy have the best job in the world. They travel the world on cruise ships giving historical talks to passengers about the ports they will be visiting next. If you want to know more about their fabulous life, read their blog here. Gee, I wonder where they got the name for the their blog?
The 2nd best job goes to Hans Georg Baumgartner.
The Night Watchman of Rothenburg.
Every night 8PM (in English and 9:30 in German), Hans dresses up as the nightwatchman and gives a 1 hour walking tour on the history of Rothenburg. It's interesting and hysterical. The man has "it" whatever it is. This was one of the highlights of our whole tour. For $6 euros ($4 for students) you get your euros worth. There must have been 100 people following him around like the pied piper. Not bad wages for 1 hours work. 6 days a week...7 months a year..hum!
Here's a bit of his story from the webpage.
"In the years before the dawn of the 20th century, the night watchman was one of many citizens of Rothenburg responsible for the safety of the inhabitants of this walled, fortified city. Even though the citizens who slept soundly at night in their beds trusted him to keep the streets inside the high stone walls safe, his status was less than honorable. His pay was low and his job was a dishonorable one. Only the gravedigger and the executioner were lower. His job was dangerous, because he had to guard the city at night like a policeman.
The good citizens went to bed early. The people that he met on the streets were the drunks and the thieves. To protect himself and to show his authority he carried an intimidating weapon called a hellebarde.
The Night Watchman gathers his followers in the Market Square in the heart of historic Rothenburg ob der Tauber, with the Councilor's Tavern in the background.
The night watchman made his rounds from nine in the evening until three in the morning, relying on the town hall clock to tell him when to sing his "Hour Song," which reminded the people who slumbered safe in their houses that he was still alive and taking care of them.
The night watchman's horn, carried on a chain around his neck, warned the citizens of fire--the worst possible disaster that could strike a city in the days before fire hydrants. Keeping watch over the streets of the inner city, lighting the lanterns and announcing the hours in the still of the night were the duties of Rothenburg's night watchman. There were six of these men patrolling the city up to the year 1920. "
If you ever get to Rothenburg, don't miss this tour. We bought the DVD and have enjoyed the tour again after we were home. We learned that you can thank an American for saving Rothenburg. In WWII, Nazi generals hid out in Rothenburg. The US was about to demo the city, when one of the US undersecretaries of war remembered his Mom had a painting of Rothenburg in his house growing up. He asked that they offer the town the chance to surrender. The German in charge ignored Hitler's orders to fight till the end and surrendered, thus saving the town. Some of the town was damaged from the initial bombs. After the war the town basically did a press release asking for money..selling the right to have your name on their city wall. It worked and the town was rebuilt. After the tour we headed back to our hotel for another yummy German beer and some Internet time. Alas, the Internet was not working in our room. Normally hotel operators just shrug this off, like it's an unneeded extra service...sorry. Not Frau Berger, she was on the phone and had IT staff over to make repairs. It turned out to be weather related and unfixable on a Friday night, but the effort was appreciated. We could get signal in the lobby, so we sat at a booth, with 3 laptops, 2 beers and a sprite to catch up on the intraweb.
Later back in our room, we kicked back and watched some German TV. It was the local version of "Househunters". What made it so special is that the host was a forty something transvestite in a leather mini. Hysterical!
We had lunch at this great fresh pasta restaurant and drove back on the Romantic Road to Frankfurt. We have one last night at the Frankfurt Hotel Sheraton. That went quite smooth, until we got to the airport, it was quite the feat to locate the hotel.
Next up...our final night in Germany.
Here's some photos of the city.
|See the gate you have to get your car through!|
Friday, August 20, 2010
Frederick checked the next campground and learned that reception was closed between 2 and 4PM. If we stayed here in Bacarach and waited for everyone to take showers we'd get to the Frankfurt camp around 2:30. That would really bite, as we weren't the most mobile group and there wasn't much to do in this part of town. We decided for forgo our showers and get on the road straight away. We could shower when we got to Frankfurt.
It was a beautiful ride down the Rhine as we eased our way back into modern society. Yes I made the drive in my PJs, ponytail and bare face. We crossed the river and headed to Frankfurt. Once off the freeway we dodged our way through the city streets to the campsite. It was your typical city campsite. It sort reminded me of a abandoned drive in movie theater. We found a spot near the showers and set up shop.
Today we had the task of cleaning the camper after 3 weeks of 5 people mulling about. It wasn't a total disaster, but we had read posts about what a stickler they were about it being spotless when you returned it. We had planned accordingly and bought cleaning supplies along the way. Slovakia makes great microfiber cloths (I brought them home ...quite the useful souvenir.) We wiped, cleaned and swept. Frederick and his Dad took the subway into town to pick up the rental car Frederick and I would use on the weekend. We spend the day trying to give away the food we couldn't finish. The wine, cheese and condiments went well as did the dishwashing soap and the laundry soap. We bought the Slovakian version of Febreeze, which came in handy as we freshened up lightly worn garments. But..good luck giving it away in Germany!!! No one would take it...we couldn't even get our camper neighbors to understand what it was. Hum! And trust me some of them could have used it.
We also learned more about the famous 50%+ recycling rates in Germany. (The US is around 11%). When it came time to empty the trash there was a wall with about 8 different holes to put your garbage. It was like a giant shape sorter for adults. There were 3 different bins for glass alone, depending on the color. There was a whole sheet of instructions that is given to you when you check in, just telling you how to dispose of your trash and listing the fines if you fail.
Frederick and his Dad came back with the rental car...a Ford wagon, a model we hadn't seen before. It was evident that we weren't all going to fit in the car with all our bags. We'd need another solution. We also were in need of some glue. The latch on one of the cubbies had come unscrewed and the hole was now stripped. We didn't want to get charged for the damage...even thought we could see that it had been repaired before. Not taking any chances. So this requires a trip to the store. And guess what? We can just hop in the car and go...... wooo hooo!
By this time it was getting late and we were up against the notorious 7PM store closing time. We stopped at the first store we saw...an Aldi. They just put a bunch of these discount groceries in the DFW area, but I hadn't been to one. I'm not sure I will now. It's really bare. We searched the whole store looking for a little white bottle of "Elmers" style glue. In a bin, adorned in a language we don't understand is a giant bottle of what looks like glue. It's white with an orange twist up top. It has to glue, except it's giant. We couldn't stop laughing. We spent 3 weeks lamenting how small everything was in European stores. Heck, we have 7-11's with larger sizes and more variety. Now here, the one thing tiny thing we need and it's Costco size. Hilarious! Check it out next to normal size glue!
It was only 3 Euros so we bought it. In fact I had to bring it home. We'll have enough glue for school projects for the remainder of Alex's High School years and perhaps for his future children as well.
We had a supper of all the leftovers we could manage and turned in for the night. Tomorrow the camping adventure ends! I must say for the first time ever, I have been on vacation long enough and I'm ready to go home. Imagine that? One last night to go in the medieval walled city of Rothenburg and then home sweet home!
Sunday, August 15, 2010
This bridge was built during WWI to be a lifeline for German troops fighting on the Western Front. Originally it was rail bridge with a path for pedestrians. In WWII, it was planked over to allow for vehicles to traverse across the Rhine.
In March of 1945 the Germans were retreating. The US army was heading toward Berlin. The Rhine river serves as a practical western border with Belgium and other countries to the east. As the Americans advanced, all the bridges on the Rhine were blown up by the Germans. Imagine the Americans surprise when they made it to Remagen and found the bridge still standing! Not for lack of trying, the Germans had been trying for days to blow it up...it wouldn't go. So for 10 days we crossed the Rhine into Germany. Hitler was so furious that he executed 4 officers for their lack of success. On th 10th day the bridge finally gave way, killing 28 US soldiers in the fall. We crossed over quite a few units in those 10 days. The collapse didn't deter us as the army engineers built a pontoon floating bridge and we kept on coming.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
We had a huge space, right near the showers. The campground had an indoor and and outdoor pool. It had awesome WIFI that we could used to our heart's content. It had tennis courts and all manner of recreation. A great restaurant and a snack shack. Frederick, Alex and I headed up to the outdoor pool to cool off. That we did. It was quite cold! Frederick couldn't hang so we decided to head to the indoor pool. It had a slide. A long snakey tube slide like a mini Wet n' Wild. The boys had a great time. (yes that's Frederick and Alex). Frederick's parents came up and Alex talked his Lolo into going down the slide with him..he wasn't so successful with this Lola. It was a really nice relaxing time.
Monday, August 2, 2010
• Drove approximately 4000 km (a little less than 2500 miles or roundtrip from Dallas to LA)
• Visited eight countries
• Stayed in thirteen campsites over 18 days.
Here are the specs of our camper (Dethleffs I 7870-2)
• Length - 27.16'
• Width - 7.64'
• Height - 9.61'
• Weight - 11000 pounds
• Six speed manual transmission
• Europe by Van and Motorhome by David Shore and Patty Campbell - Invaluable source for planning and knowing what to expect.
• ACSI Camp Site Guide for Europe DVD - Allowed us to lookup campsites while offline; a must have.
• Rick Steves' Germany - Mostly designed for people who are travelling by train but still very detailed information on the cities he covers. It came in especially useful in Rothenburg o.b.t.
• Long distance travel by camper is very comfortable. There's plenty of room to move around when moving. You can sit at the dining table and watch a movie or eat something or even take a nap on the bed. Unfortunately, the *driver* doesn't get to enjoy the same amenities. However, the driver (and copilot) have AC, which is a good thing since the front of the camper is a giant fishbowl of untinted glass.
• When driving, I still think in "miles"; I would convert kilometers to miles then figure out how long it was going to take to get to a waypoint. I really didn't have a good idea of how long it would take to go xxx km without converting to miles, which is pretty silly since the speedometer was in km/hr.
• Driving on the German Autobahn is truly awesome. The roads are so smooth that you don't even feel like you're going that fast. Long stretches had no speed limit at all. When there is traffic, it really stops. There was a lot more construction than I expected. The freeways in other countries weren't nearly as smooth, which encouraged you to keep to the posted 120 km/hr speed limit.
• German drivers, when passing, don't leave a lot of room (often less than 10 feet at 80+ mph) when changing back to the right lane in front of you. It's very unnerving at first but they're very good drivers and they're going much faster than you.
• At the eastern European border crossings, there are signs to slow down to 30 km/hr (about 20 mph), even though there weren't border controls, per se. The reason why is there there are very large, long trenches at the borders where the retractable gates were. If you hit them at much more than 25 mph, it's like hitting a reverse speed bump and is pretty jarring, even in something as massive as the camper. I really slowed down at the next ones.
• The daily care of the camper wasn't really too bad. The worst part was emptying the chemical toilet cartridge. It needed to be emptied every few days. Fortunately, it pops out and seals well and had an extendible handle that let you roll it on the ground like a really stinky, sloshy roll aboard. The dump sites all had hoses to rinse out the empty cartridge. (Not all nearby bathrooms had soap and hot water so I would usually empty the cartridge before my morning shower.)
• When filling the camper with diesel fuel, do NOT attempt to top off the tank. When the pump stops, the fuel tank is full. The diesel will still overflow a little. Fuel ranged from 1.08 to 1.40 euros per liter so you could dump a euro's worth of fuel without trying if you top off. (Full means full!!)
• Filling out forms in Slavic languages is not fun. Better to copy what someone before has written.
• It's good to have someone help when pulling into and out of campsites. There aren't a lot of "pull through" spots in Europe.
• When driving in non-English speaking countries, it really helps to have multiple sets of eyes to look for signs, even when using a GPS. Mickie is an excellent navigator, as long as the GPS thinks we were driving a bus. She did a great job of letting me know well in advance what was coming up.
• Even if you're using a GPS system, it's important for the navigator to do a "reality check" using a hard copy map so you don't get led to some tiny country road, even if it's a shorter driving distance.
• Grocery stores with big parking lots are your friend.
• Grey roads are NOT your friend. Red roads are. GPS not always right.
• When putting up your awning, make sure you deploy it at an angle so it doesn't fill with water.
• Filling the fresh water tank is a two person job when using a short hose and high water pressure.
• If you want any kind of additional services (like Internet access or shower tokens), it's important to arrive before the main reception office closes. The after hours reception basically consists of getting your contact information and getting some kind of deposit from you.
• When driving a camper this big, you feel like a rock star. Or at least, everybody stares at you when you drive through small villages (or in the Mala Strana in Prague). Also, Europeans took a double take when trying to figure out what country TX is.
• It's no wonder Europeans drink so much beer; you can get a .5 liter glass for 1.50 euros; a .33 liter bottle of Coke is 2 euros and a liter bottle of mineral water is 4 euros. I can easily nurse a glass of beer to last thru a meal.
• We never ran into another American in any of the thirteen camp sites we stayed in. We rarely ran into anyone who's primary language was English. The Dutch, however, are nuts about camping.
• There's nothing better than coming back to a camper that's had the AC running all day after spending the day wandering cities with no air conditioning.
• Passing in a five ton camper is very exciting, as are hairpin turns on mountain roads. It's hard to pass in 6th gear.
• Crocs make good shower shoes. They provide a nice, wide, high platform in a flooded shower.
• Four minutes of hot water lasts a lot longer than you'd think.
• You don't appreciate the toilet seat until you find a public toilet without one. YUCK!
• When the campsite lists a time during the day that the showers/bathrooms are closed for cleaning, they're not kidding. At one campsite, I was in the bathroom when I heard a woman screaming something in German in the shower area. Shortly after, I heard high pressure water being blasted and a man apologizing profusely about being in the shower.
• It's hard to give away the European version of Frebreeze. They don't understand what it is.
• Two fans (one large stand up and one small table top) = one mirror cover
• It takes some getting used to not having a functional rearview mirror. Apparently, there's a requirement to have a mirror of some sort even if there's not a rear window. And the backup camera only works when backing up.
• Even when travelling by camper, "sea days" are nice every once in a while.
• It's a luxury (especially for the driver) to stay more than one night at a campsite. Driving 100+ miles every day takes its toll after a couple of weeks.
• One bottle of cheap German Riesiling = 1 bag of very stinky German Candy
• Don't forget the spin cycle, especially when there aren't clothes dryers.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Frederick's Mom's first cousin lives in Amsterdam. They moved there in the 70's with their family to escape the Marcos era of in the Philippines. The Netherlands was a very hospitable country for them and they made a new life for themselves.
We intended to meet her fairly early in the AM, but as we were up so late the night before we didn't end up getting to Amsterdam till 1PM and after walking to the tram station and taking the 1 hour tram into town, we didn't make it to the main station on time. Instead we met Lola Yvonne and took a short walk around the city. We were all quite hungry and we went to the food court at the local “Macy's” type store to get a bite to eat. It was quite good, with lots of variety. I ended up succumbing to the calls of a giant cheeseburger. I had a nice chat with the chef while he cooked the burger. We talked about my Dutch ancestors who came to Nieuw Amsterdam in the 1600's. Gosh this burger was good. I hadn't had a burger in weeks. Once everyone had refueled, we spent a bit of time walking around the city and then took the train and a bus out to Amersfoort to spend some time with Lola Yvonne and her husband.
It took over an hour and half to get out there. The next day we drove that same route and it took about 20 minutes. How long on a bicycle? There are almost more bicycle's than people in this country.
We had a nice dinner, mostly traditional Philippine dishes. They were kind enough to make Spaghetti for Alex. The dutch are such nice people over all, at least in my experience. Everyone we met was very kind and they were all so happy. A recent poll indicated that The Netherlands is one of the happiest countries. They are willing to give the government more than half of their income and let them dole it back out to them. For example, I learned the government takes 8% of your paycheck in a deduction and then gives it back to you in May so you can go on vacation. Plus you get 4 weeks of paid vacation. Really? You want the government making money off your money for 11 months? Some people get a lot for free, but I have to believe someone is paying for all this. The Dutch government isn't just printing more $$ to pay for these benefits. I'll never be able to accept that is the way to do things, but I have to admit it appears to work for them. Everyone there seems to pitch in, but it seems like it would be too easy to scam the system and get quite a bit for doing nothing. They have a saying, “just be normal”. They also say, “Als je voor een dubbeltje geboren bent, word je nooit een kwartje.” Or in plain English “If you were born a dime, you’ll never become a quarter.” I could never live like that. What if you want to be a quarter? That seems soul crushing to me. I'll take my 40+ hour weeks and save up for 3 years for my once in a life time, 3 week vacation. I know I did it. I think is a difficult society for the entrepreneur or someone with ambition. They are happy with their lot, and feel like it's good enough. I have no safety net, but I feel I have achieved a lot more than I would have been able to in a society that babysits you from cradle to grave. Would I accept a lot less, to know I'll always have a minimum standard of living? Hard to say. I could write paragraphs about my conceptual differences, but this is travel blog, not political commentary.
We headed back to the campground and reveled in our great broadband connection. The next day we headed back into town (this time taking the bus in front of our campground to forgo the ½ hour walk to the tram station). We hopped on one of those canal tours and got to see the city from that level. Another continuously inhabited ancient city. History is everywhere. Once the tour was over we decided to walk about the city. The highlight was a stop at a cheese shop.
I'm actually kicking myself for not bringing home some of the cheese. They had this old cow cheese that was to die for...I just didn't feel like carrying it around with me. I did buy fleece wooden shoes style slippers, so tacky, I had to have them.
Amsterdam is a pretty liberal and crunchy city. I felt completely out of place. I thought of my Dutch ancestors feeling the same level of discomfort when they left 400 years ago. That puritan DNA still runs in my blood, I can't help it. It's the mecca for debauchery, disguised as normal. No one's getting hurt and they are all happy, so be it.
A few months back we caught an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Fly on The Food Network. Bobby challenged a NY food trucking making waffles. As we would learn not just any waffle, but Liege waffles. They are like a dessert pastry. Crunchy with caramelized sugar on the outside, doughy and dense on the inside. They looked amazing. We search in vain to find some place in Dallas that made them. (There is a place now, Fruitelicious in Carrollton). So, you think maybe we'd go to NYC...nah, we were already planning out trip to Europe, so why not put Liege on our map.
We were on our way to a campground that was on the grounds of a 16th century chateau, Domaine du Château de Dieupart. We decided we needed to locate a supermarket to pick up food for a few more dinners. The GPS said there was a Lidl Market about mile away from our campsite. Unfortunately, one wrong turn had us driving our camper up ridiculous narrow hill. We did find a place to turn around and prayed we would not meet any large vehicle on the way up. We survived and found the supermarket. So incredibly Spartan, but we found the things we needed. We headed back and found the campground, by the side of a brook...hidden behind what....a huge Supermarket! We didn't recognize the name and missed it on the way by. Ah well, we stopped there in the AM on the way out and picked up the few things we were missing. (I needed sewing things to fix a suitcase that broke and Alex was in desperate need of chocolate syrup for his ice cream). The campsite was lovely.
There was only internet at the bar inside the Chateau. We headed up there after dinner and overheard one of the most hysterical exchanges of the trip. A bunch of drunken Irish were outside indulging in the beauty of Belgian ale. One friend spend a good 20 minutes telling the other how he was now dead to him and F U. Literally hundreds of f bombs. Alex, Frederick and I could not stop laughing. Eventually the drunk guy made his way inside and proceeded to ask Frederick why we American's had not cleaned up the mess we made in the Gulf. We decided it was best not to tackle that subject and made our way back to our site. We cooked some dinner and feasted on the ice cream we bought at the supermarket. The next day we were in search on waffles and were on our way to Brugges. The owners of the campsite said we'd have to make our way into Liege to get the waffles. I guess we figured they'd just be hanging from trees. We drove to Liege center, but after several circles around, we determined, there was just no place to park our beast and no sign screamed, WAFFLES HERE!
Thwarted, we drove off to Brugges. Frederick, Alex and I went to Brugges on our first Europe trip in 2005. It was our first stop on the continent, our first exploration of a non English speaking country (well really everyone is Belgium speaks English, but it's not the primary language). Our first train navigation. We we so impressed with the medieval city.
To see the city and be entertained, I recommend a Collin Farrell movie, In Brugges. Very, very funny in a very twisted way and a beautiful love letter to the city. We made a point to come here so Frederick's parents could see the city...and Frederick's Dad could see one of the places of his heritage. Yes, perhaps it's just a story, but there is a genealogical reference book on the history of the Fosters/Foresters family that traces their linage to the town of Brugges in the 900's. Anacher the Great had several successors, through to Baldwin the IV. He had a daughter, Matilda of Flanders who was kidnapped by William the Conqueror on his way to England and taken as his bride. Matilda's brother, Richard, came with her to England and fought beside Williams in the Battle of Hastings and crusades to Palestine. William took over England and gave lands on the Scotland border to Richard the “Forester” of Flanders to build Bamborough Castle. The Foresters lived there for many generations. One of the descendents decided to move to the new world. He settled in Ipswich, MA, in a house that still stands today. Frederick's Dad's great grandmother was a Forester, descended from this line. Frederick's great grandfather went to the Philippines in 1901, married and had 2 children. The oldest of these 2 children is Frederick's paternal grandmother.
We did not know this the first time we visited, but now 3 generations of Dorados would soon be standing in front of their ancestral home.
We stayed at another rowdy camp. This one had a “Hard Rock Casino” and all the other craziness of the last campground. I can't believe that can rip off the whole logo, guitar and all and no one seems to care.
We had to walk a mile plus to get to the bus stop to take us into the city of Brugges. Once there, the GPS directed us through the winding streets to the city center. It was acutually chilly, what a nice change. Alex has to have some chicken nuggets from Quick..the Belgian version of Mc Donalds. He ate there on our last trip 5 years ago and was no longer apprehensive about eating in Europe. Since then, we have pics of him in front of McDonald's and the like all over the world. Now, we bring our own ketchup, as you have pay for each pack on this side of the Atlantic.
We went in search of the Belgian delicacy Moulles and Frites. Mussels and French Fries. On the way, we smell it.....smells like yummy...smells like waffles! We found a little shop selling Liege waffles out the window of their store front. Yes, they are as good as promised. I now am on a quest to figure out how to make them at home. We found a small restaurant in 600 year old building. It looked good. We didn't have a reservation, but they told us if we could eat in less than 2 hours, we could have a table, as someone had reserved that table at 8:30PM. Piece of cake!
After dinner we strolled around the streets then made our way to the bus station for the bus back home. We got there just after the bus left, so we had to wait an hour till we could get the next bus. If we had a car, we'd be there in 10 minutes. I just can't love public transportation for this reason. You waste a lot of time! Once we got back to our stop, we still had the mile plus walk back to the camp. Exhausted, we attempted to do some laundry. It was 1 in the morning and the first load wasn't dry and the 2nd load wasn't in the dryer (2 washers, 1 dryer). We decided to bring them back and hang them overnight. No luck with this...as everything was just as wet in the AM. We would just have to dry them at the next spot.