Rob's Netherlands Report July 2009

This report is really for me. I'm trying to hold on to memories so I had no consideration of cutting it short for publication. Sorry. Don't die of boredom.

Aug 7, '09 - I'm still working on this. I may change the picture sizes and I need to add the slideshows.
Feb 13, '17 - Added named anchors and table of contents.

In the past we have taken Trafalgar Tours when we went to mainland Europe. This time we decided to go on our own. We chose the Netherlands and Belgium because many people speak good English and there is a good public transportation system. Not to mention the beer. We decided not to drive, partly because of the hassle of parking and finding our way around. Debbie is an art teacher so we are interested in seeing the museums and there are many.
   We bought a nice twenty one inch suitcase to go with our twenty two incher. This was so we could do only carry on baggage. We each also had another smaller bag. This worked great. Deb packed everything we needed and more.
   The trip was planned mostly around the book by Rick Steves and additional work by looking at the web. Deb spent hours reading reviews to find just the right places at the right prices. One review of a place we didn't stay was one word - "shitty".

I know it looks like all we did was eat and drink beer. We hiked for miles everyday.

I was wondering why it looked like all we did was eat and drink beer when it dawned on me. We spent large amounts of time in museums. Most museums don't let you take pictures so much of our time is undocumented. I added this 11/16/09

This was a really fun tour. Exceeded expectations.

Monday - Take off
Tuesday - Amsterdam - Historical museum, Rejkesmuseum
Wednesday -
VanGoch, Dam square, Anne Frank
Thursday - Amsterdam - Krueller-Mueller museum
Friday - Off to Brussels
Saturday - Brussels
Sunday - Off to Bruges, Groening museum, Flemish Pot
Monday - In Bruges, Damme bike ride
Tuesday - In Bruges, Brewery, Flemish restaurant
Wednesday - On to Deflt, The Hague, Maritrisious museum
Thursday - Delft, churches, back to Amsterdam
Friday - Amsterdam, Hermitage museum, Redlight district
Saturday - Amsterdam Airport, Haarlem, Frans Hals museum
Sunday - Trek home

July 13 - Monday - Take off

We took the shuttle ($58!) to SFO for our flight on Delta. Arrived 32 minutes early in Cincinnati and ate lunch before our nine hour flight to Amsterdam. The plane was about half full. Beer and wine were free. We were able to stretch out on three seats and get a little sleep on the way over.

July 14 - Tuesday - Amsterdam - Historical museum, Rejkesmuseum

We arrived in Amsterdam about 10:30am found an ATM at the airport then took an expensive shuttle, 42, to our hotel. The airport is quite a long way from the city itself. The bed was not ready so we stored our bags and went for a coffee at our hotel patio area. It looked like rain.
   We hiked to the Amsterdam historical museum. We learned that the city was created by building a dam on the Amstel river, hence Amsterdam. You should think of Amsterdam as a pearl necklace with four strands. The strands represent the main canals, Singel, Heren Gracht(mister canal), Keizers Gracht(Kizer's canal) and Prinsen Gracht(Prince's canal). The city is laid out in a very confusing manner between the canals. The museum was pretty large. Four stories around a courtyard. It was set up so you were constantly going from level to level so it was quite confusing. But it was also quite amazing. There were many large paintings of various officials.
  We bought a Museumkaart here for 40 each. The card is designed for residents and is good for a year. It got us into most museums even ones not mentioned by Rick. It saved us a bundle.

The city is a mad house, at least in Leidseplein where we stayed the first three nights. The cars, bikes and trolleys are zipping by really fast. There were about six trolley lines that meet at this square. The bikes have lanes but they are not always clearly marked and it would seem like bikes appeared out of nowhere going lickety split. It took a few days to learn to work through all this - full panic crossing the square.

We then hiked past our hotel and to the Rijkesmuseum. This is THE big art museum in Amsterdam/Netherlands. It was undergoing a major renovation so the best of the best was shown in a three story annex around in back. We saw some famous Rembrandt's, Hal's and Steen's We were pretty beat and went back to the hotel for a few minutes nap. Gotta avoid sleeping or you will never get onto local time.
  We had a light dinner. Deb had beef croquets and I had salmon with capers on toast. A nice bite.
  Then to bed. We slept twelve hours and were up an at it around 8am.

July 15 - Wednesday - Amsterdam - VanGoch, Dam square, Anne Frank

Nice TV watching. No CNN on our TV but there was BBC. Many channels are in English with Dutch subtitles, mostly reruns.

We had breakfast at a small sports bar across the square from our hotel. 20 for breakfast(!) and I only had a croissant and a coffee.

Went to a tobacco shop and bought some "strippenkaarts". They are the best method of paying for a trolley, bus or train ride. It's a strip with 15 slots on it. When you get on the trolley either the driver or a conductor will stamp your card with the time or you can fold it and stick it in a machine for a stamp. You then have an hour to ride where ever you want.

We walked over to the Van Goch museum. The "ch" in Goch is pronounced like the "ch" in Loch Ness. We had our magic Museumkaart which allowed us to bypass the long long line of people getting in with tickets. Seeing we were there really early we were able to waltz around and see everything with very little interference. The museum is beautifully laid out. We saw many famous paintings including "The Potato Eaters" and some famous "Sunflowers". It is a great museum.
   I had been reading Rick S and found we had missed some Vermeer's in the Rijksmuseum so we stopped by there again to see them and look at the other paintings with renewed vigor after a nights sleep. We got in free because of the Museumkaart. I said "thank you" in Dutch to one of the people taking tickets, they were thrilled that I knew a few words.

We took our first tram ride to Dam square to see the sights. It's the main square of Amsterdam. It's huge with an old city hall, which is under going renovation, a Niuwe Kirk (new Church),  monuments and a million people milling about. We hiked over a couple blocks to a canal and found a table with a nice canal view. We had fun talking to some Danish boys sitting near us. They were very nice and had been up over 24 hours. Deb had BLT and I had a sausage sandwich. The beer was good and the setting great. Earlier some Dutch boys were smoking pot at that table.
   Back to Dam square(slideshow) and a peek at the Nieuwe Kirk. I didn't realize our card would get us in so we just gawked from the side.

We stopped at a shopping mall in a neat old building then hiked over to the Anne Frank museum. We had reservations but were early so we hiked around the Jordaan area(slideshow). We stopped in for a beer and toilet. Then to the museum. The line was really long but we had reservations so were able to go directly in through a special entrance.    The museum is quite interesting. If you've read the book you know the place was quite small so viewing is very quick. I had just read the book a couple weeks before going, Deb is still reading it. The rooms are all unfurnished. The steps between floors were very steep. It was really good to get a feeling for the place. There was a model showing how it was during the Anne Frank time. Other presentations gave insight into the story and more. Quite moving. Strangely few pictures here.

We trammed back and took a nap. Near our hotel is an area with several dozen restaurants of all types. We ate at a Dutch place. The prices were reasonable and the food plentiful if not delicious. We stopped by a coffee shop on the way back to the hotel and had some "coffee".

To bed.

July 16 - Thursday - Amsterdam - Krueller-Mueller museum

Got up about 7:15. Grabbed some breakfast and bought some strip tickets for our trip. Today we are going out to the Krueller-Mueller museum and Voge Veluwe National Park. We got a free upgrade to first class tickets for the one hour train ride out to Arnhem then took a bus to Otterlo then a shuttle to the park itself. They provided free bicycles to travel around. You pick up a bike, ride it to your location then leave it. Later when you are done you pick up another bike and ride that around. The bikes are one speed reverse pedal brake - add a basket and you have a bike ridden by Heidi.
   The museum and sculptures are in the park. The items were collected and donated by Helene Krueller-Mueller. Her specialty was avant-garde art.
   We rode out to the sculpture garden. We walked around there for quite a while seeing many great sculptures in beautiful settings. Bikes were not allowed in this area. We had a nice lunch with tasty bread. Europe has good breads everywhere. Unfortunately we had tickets to see the St. Hubertus Hunting Lodge at 3pm so we had to hustle out there. The lodge was the country residence of the Krueller-Mueller family.
   We were flying low on our bikes for about 2-3 miles. We barely made it on time. The tour was in Dutch so we used a head set and a paper to understand what we were seeing. It was a strange place. Some famous architect had designed it for a rich guy. Everything was in brick and symmetrical. Quite weird. They even had a pond built. We missed the sculptures around the lake I think it would be uncomfortable to live here.
   We beat it back to the museum because it was closing at five and the last shuttle was going about then. The museum turned out to be spectacular. It has the largest private collection of Van Gogh's. They had what must have been VanGoch's first crack at "The Potato Eaters" and other paintings that we'd seen at the VanGoch museum, apparently practice pieces. There were many many great paintings by famous artists here including Monet, Manet, Renoir, Picasso, etc. We had made a mistake by spending too much time in the sculpture garden and could have skipped the hunting lodge. Maybe we'll make it back someday.
   We got back too late to get the shuttle but were able to take a local bus which took us back to the main bus. We met a really nice couple there, Dave and Marianne, and gabbed all the way back. We caught the train but goofed and got off at the wrong station. Oh well, a few minutes later another train came by and off we went.
   At the station we bought our tickets to Brussels for tomorrow.
   Back to our hotel. Out to the same Dutch place for dinner 40. Stopped for a port wine and watching the scene at Liedsplein. Then to bed.

July 17 - Friday - Off to Brussels

Last night there was a fire alarm. Turned out to be a false alarm. It was raining quite hard off and on. The breakfast buffet at the hotel was 20 so we skipped that. I don't remember what we did for breakfast. I think we went to McDonald's.
   The rain broke and we hopped the #5 tram to the train station. After some worry and fooling around we found our platform and got on the right train. Three hours later - Brussels. The Metro was a bit tricky. Several people were helpful. One lady actually walked us a block or so to the correct bus. We bought all day passes for 2 each - a real deal. We finally found our hotel and checked in. Quite a nice place.
   We were pretty far from the center but it was a spectacular hotel right next to the European Union Headquarters. We took the #95 bus back to the "Grand Place".
   Oh my god. This square is perhaps the best in all of Europe. (slideshow) It is spectacular. We had lunch and then took Rick Steves walking tour. Part of the walk was through a beautiful shopping arcade - Galeries Royales St. Hubert and down a street packed with restaurants - Rue des Bouchers, a real tourist place. I had a famous chocolate waffle from a street vendor, quite good. We hiked down to the "manniken pis", a famous statue made in 1619 of a little boy peeing. We had a beer at a neighborhood bar diagonally across from the statue.
   Back to the square and dinner. We had the famous mussels with wine, bread and frites at  'T Kelderke, sort of an upscale place mentioned by Rick. Very nice but it started to rain and then started to rain really hard. We were forced inside. It turns out the inside was pretty cool too. It was down a level and we sat at long rows of tables. We struck up a conversation with a guy, Al, my age from Ottawa Canada.
   We bought some chocolates and went back to our hotel and had a beer at the fancy bar. We took the beers up to our room. Unfortunately the mussels didn't agree with Debbie so no more mussels this trip. Besides I think it's a lot of fooling around for a little bit of meat.

July 18 - Saturday - Brussels

We walked to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, three museums in one - ancient art, modern art and Rene Magritte. We skated through the Magritte exhibit. Deb sped us through the rest, it was pretty crowded.
   We hiked down the hill to the beautiful Grand Place. We had a lunch at a place in the Galeries Royales St. Hubert - the arcade I mentioned earlier. A very nice lunch and reasonably priced. We walked around the Grand Square. We then got on the #95 bus and went back to our hotel for a brief nap. We are short on cash. We bought 2 all day passes again - 4, a really good deal.
   The toilet in the hotel is very uncomfortable. When I sit on it my feet don't touch the floor. Soon the circulation is cut off. The paper is sort of behind you on the left and awkward to get to.
   The hotel told us where there was an ATM so we got some cash. We got off the bus at the art museum again. I thought we were going to catch the stuff we missed. Deb said "no". So we hiked down to the square through a sculpture garden and other sites to the Grote Markt again. We went to an old bar where Deb tried a raspberry beer, which she really liked. I had a beer and a plate of too much cheese and sausage.
   Back to the hotel on the bus. We had dinner at a local Irish pub, O'Farrells. Soup for Deb and spaghetti for me. At the room Deb read while I watched round three of the British Open.

July 19 - Sunday - Off to Bruges, Groening museum, Flemish Pot

Caught bus #27 to the Midi station. A British guy who works there helped us find the place to buy our tickets to Bruges thank God. The train was delayed but none the less we panicked and ran up a bunch of stairs lugging our stuff. Hundreds of people were waiting! Thank goodness it was a huge train with plenty of room for everybody. We got good seats and were very comfortable. Train tickets were 2 for 1 today which saved a few bucks. We got to Bruges and took a taxi to our room - 12+2tip. A wild ride through many twisty, narrow, one way streets. A real medieval street layout. It's a nice old place. The basement dates to the twelve hundreds. We are on the second floor, up a spiral staircase. There is a small elevator available too.  Our room looks down on a garden. No air conditioning so we have to open the window for air - no screens.
      We hiked out and found lunch. We learned that a "Croque" is a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. A "Croque madam" is a crute with a fried egg on top. Always get the egg version it's great. Deb had a ham sandwich I guess, maybe it was a plain croque.
   By the way Bruges is beautiful. What a quaint medieval city. Narrow twisty streets branching off in all directions. Beautiful old buildings and cobblestones. I can't say enough.
   We went to the Groening museum. It was swarming with people. I've never seen such a crowd in a museum. It's because it was the last day of a display on "Charles the Bold", apparently a local historical figure. They showed mostly Flemish primitives here. Part of the museum is in an old cathedral where they have the only Michelangelo statue outside of Italy during his lifetime. A pieta with the Christ child too large.
    It was a national holiday this weekend. The town was packed, you could hardly walk down the street. There was a guy playing a hurdy gurdy - surprisingly entertaining.
   We wandered all around trying to get back to our room. Our room has a view. Went out to buy a wine and some beer for later. 
   There are several squares in this city. The Berg square(slideshow) near us is the second largest, right next to that is the larger Market Square(slideshow). The square seemed expensive and crowded so we went around the corner and found a nice group of places with umbrellas. I had some strong Trappist beer, Deb had a raspberry beer.
   We got dressed up a bit and went to a place recommended by Rick Steves - "The Flemish Pot". We had the Pre Fixe at 26 per "Fixe" - pate, beef stew in a pot & dessert. Also a Chilean bottle of Cabernet. The food was good but we should have ordered ala carte and gotten one beef stew, it was way too much food. They've got to do something about the slamming door. It was a cute and nice place.
   Back to the room to watch the end of the British Open. Unfortunately Tom Watson lost.

July 20 - Monday - In Bruges, Damme bike ride

We had a nice breakfast at our B&B.

Did Rick Steves walking tour. We hiked up the famous bell tower on Market Square. Quite a climb. Entertainingly noisy when the bells struck the half hour. We visited the Basilica of the Holy Blood. They have a vial of Christs blood given to them in 1150. They were having a viewing but we decided not to do the line. The lower Romanesque church was spooky and old. They had a very moving statue of Christ on the cross.
   I followed the wrong canal and we got lost and wandered way off Rick's path. An odd lady tried to help us while we were stopped by a bike/hiking trail draw bridge. We finally found a map which identified where we were and found our way back to the main path. We stopped in a jewelry store. Then on to the Begijnof, which is sort of a beautiful old ladies complex (the complex not the ladies). We found an ATM then stopped in for lunch at the place we had eaten at yesterday. We both had Croque Madam, very nice.
   Back to the room to get jackets for our bike ride out to Damme - highly recommended by Rick. I found it really dangerous riding in those narrow twisty streets sometimes against the traffic. After some wrong decisions we found the bike path to Damme. Turned out to be a rather long ride. I had ignored some advice and we found ourselves on a narrow path on the wrong side of the canal. Half the distance had what looked like rhubarb plants along it. Finally we got to Damme. It was sort of disappointing. There was a flea market going on but we aren't into buying junk to lug home. We rode around a bit and then headed back on the correct side of the canal. We were riding into the teeth of a gale. What a struggle. I lost the chain on my bike and got all greasy fixing that. Luckily it was right near a neighborhood pub. We nipped in, washed up and had a beer with the locals. We got on the gravel path back past some windmills, stopped at our place then returned the bikes. No helmets by the way.
   I had my first real Belgian frites from a stand at the bottom of the tower. Not bad - just good fries served with mayonnaise. I don't know what all the fuss is about. They served us frites with nearly every meal we had anyplace, strangely never with salt.
   We hiked around and discovered this little teeny alley with a two level bar. A couple insisted we could share a table with them but we went upstairs and had a beer and a bite of cheese. A place for locals.
    Had dinner at an Irish pub - Irish stew which tasted delicious. Deb had Guinness I had a local beer. On the way back to our room we found a tiny grocery run by an Indian guy (with his two little kids). Bought a cherry beer and a small wine for the room. Later that night the Irish stew backed up on me and I got sick.

July 21 - Tuesday - In Bruges, Brewery, Flemish restaurant

The usual nice breakfast. Off to the Memling museum with a stop at the best canal view according to RS. It was a nice museum in an old hospital/church. We took our time and enjoyed it. The crowds seem less even though today is the real national holiday day.
   The De Halve Maan Brewery was nearby so we had lunch there and took the tour. Lots of steep stairs and ladders. Only one step of the brewing process is done here the place is mostly historical. The views at the top were pretty spectacular.
   On the way back to our room we opted to take a canal boat ride. It's pretty much obligatory in Bruges. Quite a nice little tour. (slideshow)
   Back at the hotel. We seem to be tired. They keep ringing the bells, I guess to celebrate their independence day.
   We had dinner at a "Flemish" place. It had been recommended by another guest at the hotel. We chose the cook it yourself dinner. They bring out a very hot rock about 5"x5" and a bowl of meat. You are supposed to cook your own meat. Kind of an interesting idea. Unfortunately the flies about carried us away plus I don't like fooling around with my food. Sort of a minor disappointment. At least we didn't spend too much.
   We walked around a bit looking at the sights bought some chocolates and stopped for a beer.
   Back at the room we had difficulty getting to sleep between the heat and mosquitoes and noise from above us. At one am a fire alarm went off. We didn't move. Deb was pissed when I cracked the door to see if there was any smoke in the hallway. We had about fifty mosquito bites.

July 22 - Wednesday - On to Deflt, The Hague, Maritrisious museum

We had our usual nice breakfast at the hotel.
   We are on our way by train to Delft. We hustled out to Market Square, as we passed through Berg square an interesting looking farmers market was in progress. We got the bus for the station. We saw this cute group waiting for the train. 70 for tickets to Delft! 10:20 to 11:40 to Antwerp, 12:00 to 13:06 to Rotterdam, 13:11 to 13:24 to Delft. Some pretty close connections. We made them all by seconds. At Delft we hiked around and found our hotel and checked in. A very cute but a bit funky. We dashed back to the train station and got a "return" (round trip) ticket to The Hague. We took a tram downtown to the museum. Some lady helped tell us where to get off or we would have missed it. We visited the Maritrisious Royal Picture Museum. Free entrance with our card. Pretty nice but a small museum, human sized. Saw "The Girl With a Pearl". I had just finished the book. Several nice Vermeer's here plus Rembrandt, Rubens,Frans Hals, Jan Steen and other famous paintings.
   We trammed back to the station and back to Delft. We found the de Beestenmarkt Square which used to be a butcher shop area. Had beer and dinner at a place there 40. Half a chicken for me and fish for Deb and of course frites. We both agreed it was the best dinner so far. I also had a special Trappist beer. Back to our hotel for a drink in their bar. Then upstairs. Didn't have a cork screw and the bar down stairs didn't either. Oh well, guess we'll lug the wine around another day.

July 23 - Thursday - Delft, churches, back to Amsterdam

Nice bed, good sleep, some noise. Shower from hell xxxxx. It's one of those where the shower curtain doesn't hold in the water and it goes all over the floor. What a mess. Checked email.
   We had a nice breakfast including various smoked fish. We walked to the Oude Kirk, where Vermeer is buried. It was raining a bit but we had an umbrella we borrowed from the hotel. Then on to the Nieuwe Kirk where William I of Orange was buried in 1584
   Most churches we visited had wooden ceilings to make them lighter because of subsidence problems caused by the moist soil.These protestant cathedrals are not very interesting. After the reformation they removed and destroyed all the beautiful stuff the Catholics had in the churches. Even the stained glass windows were destroyed so most windows are plain glass.  At some point in history this church smelled really bad from all the rotting bodies buried under the floor. Didn't climb the tower.
   Market day in the main square was not doing much business because of the rain. Deb bought some really delicious strawberries for 1. They were not California giants but nice little sweet ones. Though I did see California style strawberries for sale. We stopped and bought an umbrella for 10. Bought some pastries.
   Off to the train and back to Amsterdam.

Onto the #5 tram which takes us to the Rejksmuseum near our hotel. We checked into the Park Hotel and took a bit of a nap. The room was unique in that it was a designer room. Different then any room we have ever had. It was "industrial" style. The elevator up was scary - no inner door so you could touch the elevator shaft as we moved.
   Hiked over to Rembrandt square. I lost my map when it blew into a canal. It's hard to get lost in Amsterdam once you know how the canals work. We hiked back through the famous flower market. We stopped at the restaurant area and had an Indonesian meal. Not bad. Stopped off at the Bull Dog coffee shop again (wink wink). Wandered back to the hotel.

   At some point we went to Bol's, which is a liquor maker and seller. We didn't pay the fee to enter. We stopped at a diamond place. They were actually polishing diamonds right before our eyes. We nearly bought a diamond ring here, probably should have.

July 24 - Friday - Amsterdam, Hermitage museum, Redlight district

Rain and thunder. Slept in to 8:50 because the room was so dark.

Hiked up the Spielgelk-Wartier art and antiques area again. Stopped at a neat little bread and pastry  shop I had a rhubarb and strawberry pastry. Wonderful. We cut through Rembrandt square and over to the Hermitage museum. The real Hermitage loans out art to several museums, this is one of them. The place was totally crowded - butt to butt. It poured down rain while we were there. It was interesting. Lots of clothing used for various costume parties as well as some everyday stuff used by the Russian tsars.  The wealth!
   We crossed over to the theater area and took the hop-on-hop-off bus (1 each). A nice little ride around past the train station and to the main library. The library was pretty amazing, six stories and computers everywhere. We had to wait for the next bus because we were essentially in the middle of nowhere. Finally the driver from Siranam gave us a free ride back to near the Anne Frank museum. We took a tram to Dam square. Our goal is the red light district.
   First we stopped at the Nieuwe Kirk again and took the tour using our museumcard. Another boring protestant church with a few nice things.
   We got some lunch and took Rick Steves red light district tour. Pretty interesting, a few sex shops. The girls are mostly down these little narrow alleys. They stand in the doorways and look pretty. Most dressed in sexy bras and panties. Not terribly titillating. No pictures allowed. The evening was just getting started, there were groups of cops getting ready to start patrolling. I think it was about 6pm. There were a few groups of guys around getting ready to have a good time.
   The Oude Kirk is in the middle of all this. We took the tour. Rembrandt's first wife is buried here.
   In this area is a hidden Catholic church. It was in a rich guys attic, still not very well hidden but quite nice. Remember this was a protestant area so Catholics were not welcome, though apparently tolerated if they stayed out of sight.
   We visited some marijuana seed shops just to see what's cooking. Some seeds sold for 140 for six seeds!
   We found a corkscrew for our bottle of wine we've been lugging around.
   Back to Dam square and home on the #14 trolley. We rested a bit then hit Leidseplein for dinner, which I don't remember. Then back to the hotel for some wine and bed.

July 25 - Saturday - Amsterdam Airport, Haarlem, Frans Hals museum

Packed up and then back up to the train station on the #5 trolley. Then to the airport - 20 minutes. We checked into the airport Hilton. Deb had accidentally made it for one person but for 6 they fixed that. A nice modern American style hotel.
   We then took the #300 bus from slot 7 to Haarlem. Yup, the Harlem in New York (once known as New Amsterdam) is named after it. The Grote Mark had a market day going on.
   We visited the Frans Hals museum It had many pictures of mostly 1600's officials plus other various paintings. It was laid out around a pretty garden square. It was originally built for poor old men, built in 1611. Later used as an orphanage. Pretty good.
   We had a very nice lunch. Toured the Grote Kirk where Mozart had played the organ when he was ten years old. It was very interesting. It was the only church we saw that still had other buildings attached. It was a very complex building.
   They have statue of L.J. Castor holding up a movable type pointing at himself. He invented the movable type forty years before Gutenberg. Guess he didn't think of making a printing press.
   We hit the market for our last real frites. I'm still not sure what the fuss over the frites is all about.
   We walked through the small red light district but it seemed to be closed. Probably too early. We found the station and got on the red #300 back to the airport and the Hilton. We had some problems getting our boarding passes online so we went to the Delta area and had them help us, a brilliant move.
   While walking around the airport we found a "supermarket". Well more like a store. We bought some wine, cheese, cookies and chips.
   We had a beer and shared a real American cheese burger in the Hilton bar. Went to the room and drank the wine and ate the cheese. That was fun.

July 26 - Sunday - Trek home

Today we started our 24 hour trek home. Because we were carrying our luggage and had our boarding passes we skipped a mad house mess. As I remember somebody checked our passports and we went to our gate. The security check was at the gate! We were interviewed then went through security. You don't have to remove your shoes. I figured they'd never let the umbrella through... Nope, no problem. However they glared at me and asked me "is this your bag?" "Yeah." "You can't take this on the airplane" and held up the corkscrew. A pretty wicked looking piece of apparatus I must admit. I apologized and they let us go. Darn, it would have been easy to bring some "coffee" back from the Bull Dog coffee shop.
   So on the plane for our nine hour flight. It was packed but we had two seats on the side about two thirds of the way back on the right side.  The flight was ok. I had a few wines and watched some movies and things. Uneventful.
   At Atlanta we had a five hour layover. We were hoping to catch an earlier flight even if it made another stop before San Jose. No such luck. Deb was about dieing.
   Finally we boarded for our four hour flight to San Jose  a large guy sat next to me but it turned out to not be a problem. We got to SJ and opted for a taxi ride home, nearly $50.

Comments -

This was a great trip. I think we did everything there was to do in Amsterdam except Rembrandt's house, a canal boat ride and the Heineken Experience.

There were good free maps everyplace except in Bruges where we paid .50 for one.

The public transportation was exceptional. Trams/trolleys every five minutes or so. Usually not crowded but sometimes they were. Well we did do some waiting for trains and buses outside of the big cities.

Everyone, pretty much, spoke good English. I was amazed.

Food was expensive. I think we had no lunch that was less then $30. There may not be taxes and tips on the bill but they were hidden in the price of the food. Dinner was much more.

A beer seems cheap at 2.30 but that's nearly $5 for a six or eight ounce beer.

We didn't get a good close look at a windmill. When we were in Haarlem they had just closed their historical windmill when we planned to go.

Things in Europe are like they are here only different -
public urinal
free news stand

We saw very few Smart cars but we did see a car even smaller then the Smart.

Various links -

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Van Goch Museum
Anne Frank House
Amsterdam Historical Museum
Amsterdam red light district

Brussels - Royal Museums of Fine Arts
Brussels - The Grand Place

Bruge - Wikipedia
Bruge - Groeninge Museum
Bruge - Memling Museum
Bruge - De Halve Maan Brewery
Bruge - Basilica of the Holy Blood

Delft - Wikipedia
The Hague - Mauritshuis, The Royal Picture Gallery

Haarlem - Rick Steves
Haarlem - Frans Hals Museum
Haarlem - Grote Kerk