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On Florida time

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It’s been a long time since I have blogged. Life exploded as it tends to do and somehow quite a few trips were left on the back burner with the memo to myself “Oh, I’ll catch up eventually.” Well, I haven’t but here are some current pics of our time in Florida since Friday.

As you can we’ve been quite busy visiting with Kris’ family around the New Smyrna area. We’ve climbed the lighthouse at Ponce de Leon Inlet, walked on the beaches every day, had fabulous fresh seafood here and there, visited a flea market or two, went in search of alligators basking in the sun and instead found the manatees. I chashed Woody Woodpecker all around the McGarvey family place and eventually got a decent picture. Kathy made us do an Easter egg hunt early since we wouldn’t be here for Easter Sunday. We even had lunch with a white Ibis guest named Joey.

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Now we’re down in Key Largo to visit Camp Pennekamp to snorkel and relax. I will apologize ahead of time for any commentary that is wonky but I am doing this on my phone. Just be patient while I find my groove.

Till next time,

Karen

 

 

One of the Seven Seas

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At different times in my life I have thought it would be exciting to live on a sailboat. Maybe sail the Seven Seas. Though my idea of the Seven Seas extends geographically to the more medieval version. You know the one I’m talking about- where seafarers navigated their boats to exotic locales and explored tiny islands unknown to man. The Seven Seas to me are the Adriatic, the Mediterranean including the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea, the Caspian, the Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea.  As time went by I knew this was a dream that I probably wouldn’t realize in this lifetime but that was okay. A lot of work goes into owning a sailboat requiring a true passion for the sea. Also it helps to not have paranoid fears of what might swim in its depths. I love to snorkel but I am a bit phobic of what I cannot see lurking in the depths of the water. Recently I flirted with the idea of learning to scuba dive yet my subconscious comes front and forward to terrorize me.

JAWS (imagine music from movie building up in volume)

GIANT TENTACLES REACHING UP FROM THE DEPTHS

Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera. Could it be possibly that I have watched too many scary movies since I was young? Or is it just a normal fear and a respect for creatures that live in an environment that is unnatural to humans? Ponder that for awhile…

Kris swimming in the sea.

No fear of water = Kris swimming in the sea.

So maybe I’ll never scuba dive. Possibly never sail around the world to explore the Seven Seas but I will continue to explore the world with Kris to swim in waters far away from our home in Texas. Kris and I did make it to the Tyrrhenian Sea, a part of the Mediterranean two years ago giving us a taste of brilliant azure waters. She actually jumped into the water out of the boat we were touring in to take a swim but then again she is a water baby.  Taught the big ole scared sailors she was in the Navy with to swim too.

Back in 2012 we hadn’t been to Hawaii yet. When we finally discovered snorkeling we fell in love with the turquoise waters off Kauai. We have now been back to Kauai twice. That is where the thoughts of learning to scuba dive started to materialize in our minds. It hasn’t happened yet but here in Lake Jackson there is a diving school at Mammoth Lake. Yes, fossilized bones from an actual mammoth were discovered there years ago. So, we’ll see. In the meantime, look below the silly picture of me in goggles to read about our visit to the island of Mallorca in the Balearic Islands off the east coast of Spain. DCIM100GOPRO Kris and I left Germany just when the weather was beginning to cool down again. Apparently, the warm weather that everyone was enjoying was not normal; just a tease. We flew the infamous Ryanair once again. It’s hard to pass up the cheap flights that are offered to destinations unknown. As long as you obey all the rules set by the airline you won’t have to pay any penalties. That does mean being there when they say you need to be, luggage must meet weight and size guidelines, and what a German young man learned the hard way is to carry proper identification. His friends boarded without him. Actually, one of the friends stayed behind with him to take care of the business of getting his ID from their home (an hour away) and taking a later flight. For an extra charge, that is. All I have to say about that is- Ding, dong- where was your brain young man?

Our flight was short and sweet and before we knew it we had arrived on the sunny island of Mallorca surrounded by so many German speaking tourists that I thought Ihad arrived back in Germany. Actually, there were lots of Brits too and we had a nice conversation with a man and his wife from the U.K.

Majorcans speak Spanish and a local Catalan dialect called Mallorquí. It is a beautiful language that sounds like a cross between Spanish, French, and Italian. Kris and I had fun practicing the little bit of Spanish we know from living in Texas. The housekeepers were patient and liked to get me to say various words in Spanish when we ran into each other in the halls or for turn-down service. Personally I think they wanted to hear my Texan drawl butchering words that otherwise sound pretty. A laugh or two at my expense is fine. Smile lines show that you enjoy life.

I have to admit that Kris and I had no clue on where to book a hotel when we decided to visit Mallorca. Most of the information we found on the internet isn’t geared towards American tourists either. I think this is mostly because the island is a destination for Europeans. So we closed our eyes and picked a hotel. Turned out to be a resort that catered to adults and quiet time. Fabulous. The  Meliá de Mar is located in Illetas, a small port town, away from the maddening crowds of Palma. We were just at the end of the winter/ spring off-season so the hotel was still quiet. The day we left for Barcelona I noticed the hotel getting lots of arrivals for the start of high season.

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The adults only Meliá de Mar. Actually the rules state no one under 16.

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View from the room.

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Nice train ride up and down the mountain.

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My own private Idaho- I mean lagoon.

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Kris obliging me with a pic on the train to Soller where lemons reign supreme.

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The fragrance of the lemon trees was intoxicating.

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We had lunch of tapas in the town square with the cathedral across the way. The best aioli in the world for the potatas bravas.

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We hopped another train down to the Port of Soller.

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Watched this lady from our spot on the beach. It was so obvious she just wanted to swim but she had no one to watch her backpack. Before I could get up and offer to watch it she just laid it on the beach. Before we knew it she was floating on her back in the clear blue sea.

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Me- wishing I had a bathing suit on so I could swim.

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Makes you want to live on boat, huh?

On a different day we rented a car so we could take a road trip across the island. We wanted to go deep into the earth to visit the Cuevas del Drach that have an underground lake. After following the path down, down, down we came to an underground arena built from stone where we listened to a live classical concert boosted by Mother Earth’s majestic acoustics. Not having a professional camera I give you this link to see a really good quality picture- http://www.mallorcadaysout.com/9.9.html.

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No pictures could do these caves justice.

Kris and I wandered about the east side of the island that day after the Cuevas del Drach. We explored little beaches and towns but didn’t make it to see the archeological areas which include Roman and Prehistoric sites. Alas, there just wasn’t enough time and we will need to come back one day.

We did get to Palma, the islands largest city and capital. Wandering around the streets of old town it is apparent there is an Arabian influence in some of the architecture. For you die-hard shoppers there are lots of great boutiques.20150428_10114220150428_12070120150428_095841

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Great door. Can I bring this home, please?

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Clean and cold fresh water everywhere.

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Always wear good shoes for the way ahead is steep.

The seafood served on the island is fresh from the sea. Two specialties served are octopus and baby squid. I can’t bring myself to eat octopus since I read somewhere that octopus are highly intelligent creatures but Kris and I did taste the squid as an appetizer one evening. Tasty. And don’t let me forget to mention the olives. And sangria. And cava. The list goes on and on.

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Also, breakfast was served every morning on the terrace overlooking the sea. I could get used to that.

20150428_080750Mallorca or Majorca, however you wish to spell it is a lovely escape from reality even without ever stepping foot on a sailboat. I hope to get back some day.

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Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.

And that my friends concludes the longest post I think I’ve ever written. Hope I didn’t bore you to tears because there is still one more to come. Soon I will take you to Barcelona where the flag of Catalonia flies.

Till then-  Adéu,

Karen

Let them eat cake

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Not really but I imagine that is what Ina the Airedale thought.

As most of you know when I am in Germany I visit with my friend Ursula in Bad Dürkheim which is usually a 50 minute train ride from Karlsruhe. This year Deutsche Bahn has suffered through seven railroad strikes since September. Ursula alerted me to the fact that a new strike might affect my chances of getting to her town or making it back to Karlsruhe so I decided to rent a car to make my journey. It worked out great and took less time, maybe 35 minutes and I arrived in Bad Dürkheim to spend two wonderful days trekking around the countryside. Below are a few pictures of the vineyards and mountainside where we hiked with Ina each day.

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Two days is just not enough and next time Kris and I both hope we can spend more time in Bad Dürkheim with Ursula and Ina.

Next post will be about our travels in Spain. Have a great day!

Tschüss,

Karen

Bon dias!

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I have been trying to get some pictures uploaded for you to enjoy. “Insert curse word here” – the computer, the WIFI, or something is not cooperating with my wishes today. So….

Kris and I leave Barcelona in the morning, fly to Frankfurt for a short layover, and then home to Texas. Once home, I will post photos of the fascinating and beautiful places we have visited while in Mallorca and Barcelona.

For now “Bona nit” which is good night in Catalan.

Karen

Call me a bad blogger

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But I will post a new entry soon. Kris and I left Germany on Saturday morning and arrived in Palma, Mallorca around 9am. Our hotel or I suppose I should say resort honored our early check-in. Kris is getting some well deserved down time after two weeks of serious project time which appears to have been successful.

I have lots to share about my last few days in Karlsruhe and Bad Dürkheim but it will have to wait. And of course about this beautiful island in the Mediterranean. So until then

Adios,

Karen

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wasser ohne gas

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Or no gas in my water, please!

“wit Kohlensäure” means with carbonation/bubbles/gas and “naturelle ohne Kohlensäure” means none. At least that is how I interpret it when I am buying water in the shops here in Karlsruhe. I won’t even go into the chore of buying water with no bubbles in the other countries we have visited. I am like the character in Dr. Seuss’ book “Green Eggs and Ham.”  I do not like fizz in my water, my mouth thinks it is a bother. Yeah, I can’t rhyme but you get the gist.

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Something I do like is the price of one of my favorite candies-the Ritter Sport Pfefferminz. Under a dollar and sometimes closer to fifty cents (euro). I also like the bubbles in prosecco!

I am sure you noticed my German language book. I carry it along with me just in case I am having a hard time communicating. Hard to imagine but sometimes my Texas accent inhibits the correct pronunciation of the few words I know in German.

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Spring has gotten an early start here in Karlsruhe. Flowers are blooming, the trees are sprouting foliage, and the lilac bushes serenade me with their fragrance daily as I walk through the streets of the city.

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Last night we went for a walk looking for something different to eat besides traditional German fare. We found a hamburger joint popular with the locals advertising freshly ground beef. Kris and I ordered the single burger but the Dutchman ordered the next to largest burger on the menu. I believe he said that he was still hungry after consuming the biggest burger I have ever seen in my life.

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Betcha he goes back tonight to get another one.

There is a train workers strike here in Germany. I had planned on taking a local train to go see my friend Ursula and her Airedale Ina in Bad Dürkheim but instead I have rented a car. This will insure my return on Friday to Karlsruhe so Kris and I can leave for Majorca (Mallorca) Saturday morning. Pictures will be taken of my visit with Ursula but I imagine any posts to the blog will have to wait until Spain.

So until then-

Tschüss,

Karen

P.S. – the beer is still fantastic here in Deutschland.

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eten en drinken

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Pretend that the pictures below are postcards. We are here in Karlsruhe, Germany at the Kubler Hotel with really bad internet service so this is a quick post to show you what we did at the end of the week in Terneuzen. Every afternoon here I can pick up some internet service (that we pay for believe it or not) and I will get off an update. Short and sweet.

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The owners at Bistro Bonne Foi where Kris and I had dinner one night last week in oud Terneuzen before we left for Germany. Nice little restaurant with excellent service and delicious food prepared almost in front of you.

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Original outside wall from small alley that used to separate this building from another one. The owners decided to save it when they extended the size of the restaurant by a few feet.

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CuliNeuze, a wine and tapas owned by Peggy (also works at DOW) in oud Terneuzen. This lady knows her wines and local beer. Also on the wall is a tapas type menu so you can have a delicious snack while marveling at all of the vintage odds and ends. Highly recommended!

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Not a great picture but the music was fantastic. One of the performers is renowned and award winning harmonica player in the Netherlands. He and his wife own the cottage Kris and I rented while there.

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On Saturday Kris and I drove over to Antwerp to meet one of her colleagues for dinner. After walking around for awhile we had dinner at “Het Vermoeide Model” at 7:30. The restaurant is quaint and built right up against the wall of the cathedral. There are three levels with extremely steep stairs which were fun to navigate when needing to go to the ladies room before leaving. The very top floor was closed off due to high winds where when open there is said to be a spectacular view of cathedral and the city.

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The towering Cathedral of Our Lady Antwerp. In order to do it justice I need a bigger and better camera. You get the idea though.

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This is probably the most beautiful train stations in the world.

Till next time- Auf Wiedersehen!

Karen

het oude is nieuw

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Translating the above statement for those of us that don’t speak Dutch – “the old is new.” I have come to understand that some words and phrases just don’t translate well. When reading translations from Dutch to English there are times when you just have to laugh. The title to this post fortunately reads just fine. Later in my post there will be a few links to Oud Terneuzen if you are interested in a bit of history. Remember not everything translates in the correct order so do a little rearranging in your brain and it will sound just fine.

Normally Kris and I stay here in Terneuzen at the Golden Tulip L’Escaut. Always in the same room because this particular room has a sliding glass door which accesses a roof top balcony. The location is right across the street from the water too. Only once have we stayed elsewhere and it was because everything in town was booked for months ahead. The Hampshire is the other hotel and it is nice also with a sauna and indoor pool. I am actually renting my bicycle from there this week.

When Kris checked to make reservations for this trip two months ago she found everything booked in town except for this place in old Terneuzen. Here is a link for where we are staying with a bit of background – http://translate.google.nl/translate?hl=en&sl=nl&u=http://www.oudterneuzen.nl/historie/kandeelstraat/kandeelstraat11/&prev=search

Kris found the cottage on booking.com instead of Airbnb for this leg of our journey. Here are a few photos that I have taken as I have explored the immediate vicinity.

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The ladder is sturdy and thank goodness I overcame my fear of heights a few years ago.

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We have to pull down the ladder every evening to sleep in the loft.

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Uh oh, all of our baggage sitting outside. Not quite Rick Steve’s style…

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One of the many old cannons that can be found here in the most unlikely places.

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A rather dark picture looking out the door from inside.

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The bathroom is tiny. It is a chore to make sure all of the water is squeegeed towards the drain but it is efficient and meets our needs.

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Looking down Kandeelstraat 11 from in front of our door. Another piece of sculpture  found all around Terneuzen.

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Here a link translated to English about Oud Terneuzen. http://translate.google.nl/translate?hl=en&sl=nl&u=http://www.oudterneuzen.nl/&prev=search

The name Terneuzen comes from Ter Nose back in more ancient times when the area we are staying in was part of the old fortress. What is interesting is many of the residents here are unaware of Oud Terneuzen. I have ridden a bicycle through the alleys and streets surrounding us and wasn’t aware either.

Tonight Kris and I have reservations at the little bistro next door, Bistro Bonne Foi at Tuinpad 22-24. A colleague of Kris’ said it will be a nice experience.

Bistro Bonne Foi

Bistro Bonne Foi

One of the oldest buildings here built by Van Rampu. There is a house and stables for horses. The horses were used to haul the boats along the canal Ghent-Terneuzen.

One of the oldest buildings here built by Van Rampu. Originally a house and stables for horses now a theatre and cafe. The horses hauled the boats along the canal Ghent-Terneuzen.

Last but not least, my desk with the beautiful blooms this country is famous for!

Last but not least, my desk with the beautiful blooms this country is famous for!

I hope I have not bored you today. If the links don’t work let me know and I will get them to you. I am off for another bicycle ride and pick up some laundry. Have a wonderful day and till tomorrow,

Doei (plus three kisses)

“A bloomin’ paradise”

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If you’re a florist, that is. I just returned from a fantastic bike ride here in Terneuzen.

Along my route today I found myself on the other side of town passing a garden center that I have had my eye on each time we have come here so I popped in. 20150414_120601

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I was in floral heaven for a short time.

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Almost as nice as the fields of flowers we saw growing on our way here Sunday from Amsterdam. Remember we went to Keukenhof Gardens on one of our previous visits and enjoyed it immensely but once is enough. Too many people in one place for our taste. Besides, I am trying to be easy on Kris so she feels like exploring Spain when we get there.

If you read my blog post from Monday you know that we stayed in Amsterdam for a few days after we arrived. Sleep is always a priority after a nine hour flight for both of us. I guess I don’t have to point out we aren’t as young as we used to be and I definitely need my beauty sleep. We grabbed a nap waking to a need for real food so we hopped on the metro riding it into the central station. This always helps us to get an idea of where we are and where we want to go in a big city. You can do the same with the hop-on hop-off bus too. Since we have learned to greatly appreciate the efficiency and cost of good metro systems we buy the “however many days you will be there” pass.

We exited the metro at Het Leidseplein; though a busy tourist area, it is a decent sized square filled with tables covered by canopies and heaters above your head. This is important when night temps can still drop to 40 degrees F. We found a table at Cafe Hoopman and ordered fish and chips plus a cheeseburger. Kris is still working out what she is able to eat so a variety is what we order. A short walk around after dinner, a sweater purchase (on sale and it was really cold) then back to the hotel to get to bed early for Friday’s day trip into Alkmaar.

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The first time Kris and I came to Amsterdam we visited for a week and did the whole tourist experience. This visit I had decided that we needed to take a day trip to Alkmaar (http://www.cheesemarket.nl/) only an hour outside of Amsterdam by train from the central station. Some of the best cheese I have ever tasted is here in The Netherlands. I am always trying to figure out ways to fit the largest wheel into our baggage. I haven’t succeeded yet but I will share it with you if I ever manage to do this. My luck I will make the evening news as “Tourist arrested trying to hide humongous cheese wheel in baggage home to USA.”

We arrived in Alkmaar just in time to see the last 45 minutes of the reenactment of the weighing, sampling, and selling of the large cheese wheels along one of the canals in the city center. Lots of stalls sold a variety of local cheese which we sampled and I only purchased one small wheel covered with wax and plastic. This is necessary to pass customs so I can bring it back home. Hard cheeses are okay to buy and bring into the USA but the soft cheeses you must enjoy here. There are stiff fines for bringing certain items through US customs and the soft cheeses are not worth the fine one must pay if caught.

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We also passed a haringhuis. You know, the stands that sell the slightly smoked (looks raw) fresh herring. I have repeatedly told myself every trip we’ve made to The Netherlands that I’d try this national snack food. Three years and four trips later I finally have. Kris took pictures of me while I sampled the herring while another couple from the USA asked me if it was slimy and awful. Surprisingly it wasn’t fishy nor slimy and quite tasty. The raw onions served on top of the herring gave it a good crunch. I still prefer other recipes used to prepare my fish.

Kris had read that Alkmaar is home to the Beatles Museum so we thought we’d try to find it but it had moved elsewhere to a larger location. At this point, Kris was feeling her recent surgery with the endless walking through Alkamaar’s large city center. We decided to find a cafe so we could sit for awhile and people watch. As we headed down one of the quaint canal streets we found the National Beer Museum De Boom. Here is the link and a few pictures- http://translate.google.nl/translate?hl=en&sl=nl&u=http://www.biermuseum.nl/&prev=search

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The tour in this 17th century building includes a look at the brewing process, various tools, equipment and machinery, and an incredible collection of advertising materials used to promote Grolsch, Heineken, La Trappe, Amstel, etc. over the last century. After you’ve climbed the steep staircase three floors you make your way back down to the pub in the basement. Did I mention that in medieval times and up into the 20th century this was a working brewery?

Outside the pub there is a floating barge on the canal where we chose to relax while enjoying one of the 86 Dutch beers that the pub serves from its “trying tavern” in the basement. Honestly, I have to say I enjoyed this self-guided tour much more than the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam due to the lack of crowds pushing at you from behind to get their free sample of Heineken at the end of the tour.

Kris and I decided that when we make our way back to this part of The Netherlands we will find a hotel outside of Amsterdam, maybe in Alkmaar to rest our weary bones before heading on towards the next destination.

On our way back to the train station we meandered through the streets enjoying the beauty of the city hall, old buildings and one of the churches. Then what did we happen to see- the last picture shows it perfectly.

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An Airedale named Ava was walking with her humans. Nothing like a doggie fix!

Next post will more of Terneuzen, oud Terneuzen to be more exact where we are staying this week.

Een goede dag verder!

Karen

Ketchup, I mean Catch up

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20150413_141405Goedemorgen!

Whoa, it has been awhile since I wrote of our travels on the blog. I missed blogging about three different  trips we took last year. San Francisco,Kauai, and the Florida Keys. I will try to get a few pictures posted from 2014 when I get a chance. Time sure does fly when you are having fun. Time to catch up then.

At this very moment Kris and I are in Terneuzen (The Netherlands) for another round of work with her Dutch colleagues. Next week we travel to Germany for week two. After the second work week we will fly down to Mallorca (Majorca) the largest of the Balearic Islands which are east of the Spanish coast. After catching a few rays of sunshine on Mallorca for a few days we will then fly over to Barcelona.

I’d like to say that all preparations for this trip went smoothly and we prepared for it efficiently but I cannot tell a lie. A couple of bumps in the road tried to throw us off course. The biggest bump being that my lovely spouse spent most of her 50th birthday in an emergency room. I had thrown her a birthday party on the Saturday before her actual day. Fortunately, she did get to celebrate her birthday milestone but two days later after lunch at her favorite Mexican restaurant, the gall bladder rebelled. Apparently, some gall bladders give out at the ripe old age of fifty. Uh oh, I probably jinxed myself but I am a few more than fifty at this point. What I have more to worry about is telling too much about Kris’ gallbladder on the blog. Wink, wink.

The hospital admitted Kris almost immediately and observed her until the next morning when the offending organ was removed. Then came news that a stone was hiding out in her abdomen causing more issues and another procedure scheduled. At this point, I thought we might have to postpone our departure date. The week before we had requested to rent an  apartment on Airbnb for when we arrived in Amsterdam. Not a good idea after a surgery that requires cutting, stitches, and rooting around in side of your tummy. Did I forget to tell you that most of the apartments are walk-ups? Crazy, steep Dutch stairs in the truly old houses and apartment buildings in which we had hoped to rent. No elevators or lifts as they refer to them here. Stroke of luck though, the apartment fell through due to the owner not responding to our request in a timely manner and our deposit refunded. Still, no decisions could be made until Kris underwent yet another procedure to determine if any other issues had arisen.
The hospital finally released Kris four days later after being admitted on her birthday leaving us with less than five days to consider what to do. Obviously, Kris made it through numerous days of immediate recovery issues and follow-up doctor appointments but she is still not 100%. I have taken over some of the travel tasks that we normally share. No heavy lifting for her so we are as close to Rick Steve’s traveling style as possible for these two Texans. Minimal baggage one real suitcase to check and smaller bags to carry on. This limits our shopping but that has its plus side, I suppose, at least for the bank account…

Since all apartments were out we booked accommodations in Amsterdam at the Conscious Hotel by the Vondelpark. It worked as it was the only hotel (not a party place, not too noisy, not crazy expensive) still available at such late notice. The staff at the hotel was great, turned us on to a great little restaurant, and the location rocked since the metro stop was right across the street. One thing we did miss was no coffee pot in the room. This impacts Kris greatly since she wakes up early, anywhere between 4:30 & 6:00 am. We find that most of the hotels and bed & breakfasts don’t serve coffee or breakfast until 7:00am. That is a deal breaker for us most of the time but in this instance we had to take what we could get. No other complaints though. The staff let me have mucho pillows too. What really made me happy was the extra long bathtub that the Dutch have in most of their bathrooms. Like I’ve said before, you can swim laps in one if you are only 5’4″ like me. Bathtub bliss!

So, there it is. There is more to tell but I think you will have to wait until my next post. I am going to go sit outside in the refreshing clean air by the North Sea and drink another cup of coffee before I go looking for a bicycle to rent for my week here in Terneuzen.

Tot gauw!

Karen

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