First Journal Entry - February 3, 2009
200 lbs. of luggage. I find my departure EMBARRASSING, almost APPALLING. Yes, it’s me Debby, the thrifty, NEVER pack more than a carry on and RARELY check a bag (ski trips are the exceptions) So, I’m off with a hop, skip and jump (once I checked ALL those dang bags!)
My flight out of Tampa was an hour late, but I had plenty of time in Miami, so no problems there. The overnight flight was fairly short and sweet, and I had a nice young lady from the Netherlands beside me. She had finished a very fascinating volunteer journey to Haiti, helping at an orphanage. While passing time on my London Heathrow layover, I of course HAD to savor a half pint of cider! Large coffee and muffin for 2.99 or ½ pint for 1.50… hum… a no brainer!?!? While it was (gulp) still early morning, I guiltily set my time to the Netherlands zone, which put me a wee bit closer to a respectable beverage time! Plus, the joys of traveling, people are oblivious to a clock and I must say, it was slightly difficult to find a seat among all the adult beverage partakers! Cheers to those souls!
I was very lucky to have a friend from 18 years ago pick me up at the airport and take me to the hotel.
I met Dick at the Crowne Plaza in Tampa and even though we lost touch for MANY years, it was destiny
(and my website on google) that reaquainted us about 8 months ago. Dick was an air traffic controller in
Amsterdam and still works at the airport. His parents live in Scheveningen and he visited them after
dropping me (and ALL those bags) off at Kurhaus! (MANY thanks, Dick)
First day of work
My first day was a strange rollercoaster… a rough start but then uphill! After a very good nights sleep,
I awoke at 8:00 and began to get ready for my first of 2 shifts on Sunday with start time of 12:30. In my
room, around 10:00, I decided to make sure all my voltage adaptors were going to work properly for
sound check! OMG, OMG, OMG… my computer adapter was totally malfunctioning, the worst of any
disaster. What this means is after an hour or two, my battery would be dead and I would have no
computer...which translates into… no sheet music! While my pulse rate rose into triple digits, I
desperately tried every thing I could with no luck. I decided that I could “get by” my first shift with piano and horns… enough material for a few hours. Oops, holy crapola! My iPod battery was less then half full and the only way to charge it is with the computer battery, which takes off more of my precious computer life time! OMG, OMG, OMG! So… as any pro would, I make a set list of piano songs that I play by memory and then leisurely waltz down to the piano, start hooking up my equipment, and casually mention that I have a little issue with my adapter and while it wasn’t a big problem (OMG… what a fib) did anyone have a suggestion? So, while I’m waiting for a tech guy to arrive, the restaurant manager says he’ll give it a try with one of the MANY adaptors that the hotel keeps for its guests!! OK… “fine with me” I very casually say, and off he goes! When he returns in 5 or 10 minutes, all is well and the new adaptor has given my computer (and me) a MUCH needed lifeline. Whew… so now the computer and iPod are plugged in and charging for the day! Hooray. One GIANT bullet dodged for me. Whew.. now I’m ready to give ‘em my first day of “stuff”.
Let me tell you … destiny was soooo looking out for me when I was placed at this location. OMG (oh my gosh, If you still haven’t figured out the anagram) This bar/restaurant is a former concert hall! The Rolling stones played here for their FIRST concert outside of England and the walls are covered with other famous artists that have played here. The acoustics are so perfect that my saxes and flute/piccolo don’t need microphones! And it’s huge, 4 or 5 stories of tiered balconies encircling the sides and rear! Amazing and magnificent. The Sunday brunch was well attended with many families and groups and I had a few dancing and clapping. I even had 4 folks come up with tips, which is a rarity I understand! It was a fun time and I look forward to next Sunday, even though it will be another long, long day. (It actually counts as working 2 days!)
My performance location is a little hard to describe, but let me try.
Picture a large concert hall. My piano is on the “stage” and the diners
are the audience on the main/lower level, and then people are passing
by on the uppers 2/3 tiers. A huge, huge, huge dome is above all of us
with magical 18th century paintings of Neptune and other “water/ocean”
themes encasing the dome. Now, imagine where the backstage would
be behind me. Well “backstage” is the bar area! It’s really a neat set-up.
And the piano is a 6 or 7 foot, black, Yamaha Grand Piano.
Beautiful tone and excellent touch! Now, try to picture a large staircase
that enters and exits the restaurant from below me (an orchestra pit concept).
This is coming up from the lobby area and people seem to just stop on the
stairs to look at me! . Hard to describe how magnificent this “palace” is.
Tomorrow, I’ll have time to wander and get out the rear doors onto the beach!
I slept in quite late and went straight to find the gym. It’s nothing special but has
enough equipment and space to get a good workout. I was the only one there,
and am guessing that’s how it’ll probably be everyday! I went straight from the gym to get lunch before the cantina closed at 1:30. My lunch and evening meals are served in the cantina (bummer, this turns out to be the employee cafeteria!) The people here are NOT overweight or heavy set and I know why! Lots of cucumbers, and tomatoes, and paper thin slices of meat. The chili today was tasty, but very thin like tomato soup! They do have some awesome looking breads and cheeses and I’ll probably only be able to resist that stuff for a short while! Well, I’ll take this as a good thing to help with the gym work! The weather was not sunny like it was when I arrived. Very light snow flurries mixed with occasional rain showers were falling and it was windy and cold as heck. No beach stroll today!!! And, because I wanted to find some free or cheap internet, explore a little bit and get out of the hotel, I chose to take a tram to Den Hague. It was pretty easy to get the ticket and sort out the route to the main library where I heard there was free internet! Behind China, Holland has the 2nd largest amount of bicycle riders in the world! Wow! Lots of them on this cold, dreary, light rain day! Crazy!! After emailing Ron and family that I hadn’t been kidnapped or lost in transit, I strolled the centre of Den Hague, got more information on their transportation services, ate a Turkish pizza (interesting) while window shopping, and finally stopped in a pub to warm my bones, peruse my map a bit more and then hopped the tram for the 15 minute ride back to Scheveningen for my mystery meal/dinner in the lovely “cantina”. My boss almost walked by me (no make-up and the wind blown tourist look) and then asked me about playing my sax tomorrow night for a group of VIP’s. Of course, I had nothing better to do then try and score brownie points, so it looks like I’m going to do another strolling sax party, like I did (between shifts) yesterday for another small group. Unfortunately, by the time I finished talking to the boss, the cantina was closed, so I’m having pretzels for dinner and trying to forget about the NY Pizza Place a block away. (toooo friggin cold to take that walk)
The HOLLAND ADVENTURE
February & March 2009
The Kurhaus Hotel - Scheveningen, NL
10 minutes for Den Haag 40 minutes from Amsterdam
Update - Feb. 5th
Tuesday - My “working” day off
So, another really fun day full of adventure, but I must start by telling you of my mishap
of almost 24 hours ago. I spent most of last evening typing this journal with my bed
reclined up! (a kinda cool thing that this bed is an adjustable bed, huh?). So, after about
1 hour of mindless MTV (one of the few channels in English) I decided to call it a night.
I reached over and turned the dial to let the bed down, and I’ll be danged if the knob
doesn’t break off!!! Crap! Midnight, and my bed is not usable! So, I call down to
reception and tell her my bed is broken, but “needle nose pliers” should be able to get “us” through the dilemma. Duh… don’t ever try to explain needle nose pliers to a Dutch speaking GIRL! LOL! My bad! So, Patrick the bellman comes up and says “oh, I think I can fix with nype tongue”! Well, now I’ve learned another Dutch word! Yea… Nype tongue (I’m SURE this is misspelled). Within 15 minutes my bed was once again usable. Here’s the REALLY amazing thing…. When I returned from my short breakfast journey this morning (I took a “to go” box), the dang knob was replaced and working! I LOVE this 5 star hotel stuff… lol!
So, did I mention that my bathroom is really lovely, (no shower curtain just a clear glass to keep the water in and a nice garden style tub) …but there’s a stupid mirror right above the bathtub, so every in and out of the tub gives me LOTS of motivation to get my butt to the gym!!! So, off to the very empty gym for my morning “sweat it off”. I’m going to take a picture soon, (of the gym view, not my bathroom) so you can see my view of the beach. Really beautiful!
And, today I’m quite proud of myself, because I feel like I figured out how to beat the eating scam! As mentioned above, I took breakfast out in a box. Now, don’t get too excited, it was a boiled egg, 1 thin roast beef slice, 1 thin salmon slice, wheat bread, some grapes and some almonds! Oh yeah, a yogurt too! They had lots more, but scrambled eggs or Belgium waffle just wouldn’t be so great 4 hrs. later. This “gourmet meal in a box” was eaten after my gym self-torture session. When I was leaving for the afternoon, lunch was being served, but because I had just eaten breakfast, I wasn’t hungry so I took that lunch meal “to go”. This meal was the obligatory cucumbers, shredded raw carrots, a kabob of some kind (LIMIT ONE) and a piece of bread… (I’m laughing as I type… honest to goodness, these people are not fat and this is why!!!lol) So now off to Den Haag for HOURS of free internet at the library! I learned yesterday that if I brought my laptop, the WiFi was free! Yahoo…I’m in heaven!! Unfortunately, while it was well into afternoon here… NO ONE was bloody awake to talk to me back home!!!! A 6 hour time difference sometimes sucks! :-O Finally, I get to IM with Ron and then Skype with my parents, so that’s very cool and I feel a bit more connected to home! The library in Hague is extremely modern and a contemporary design. Cool, large windows go all the way around and allow me to see the rain turn to snow and then back again to rain, plus it’s at a busy intersection so there are lots of trams, buses, cars, trucks and bikes to watch. This goes on all afternoon! Finally, at 17:00 (I’m showing off... that’s 5:00PM for us) I head back “home” to Scheveningen. I was quite amused and entertained as I witnessed the hundreds (maybe thousands) of people riding their bicycles through the “snow rain” as if it was a glorious day in May! Most didn’t have on hats and they pedaled as if the weather was perfect. I was extraordinarily thankful to be a on my warm tram staying dry and indoors for my journey back home. I didn’t even curse the 1 block walk to the entrance of the hotel after watching those bicyclists! Back to the room I had a BIG decision, eat my “to go” lunch from earlier and pack “dinner to go”, or just eat dinner and save the lunch for an emergency in the next day or two! (lol) Well, a new guy was overseeing the cantina, and he wasn’t going to let me leave without eating this WONDERFUL food! This was all in a “kind” way, not mean or demanding! So, he forced an apple pie in my hand, and I put down my box (yes, same crappy box that I had put my breakfast in.. you gotta laugh) and I went through the line to find the SAME crappy cucumbers, carrot sticks and kabobs from lunch!!! Gag! But, there was a really, really wonderful mushroom soup that saved the evening and the kabobs weren’t overly awful. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you about the fried boiled eggs. I’m NOT lying…frigging FRIED hard boiled eggs. These folks are so sweet, but VERY wacked!!
For the evening, I dressed in my sparkly blue, backless dress (that Ron hates), and made my way down to the VIP reception that seemed very important to all the bosses here. They wanted me to give “special” entertainment to the VIP group! It worked out well, after I realized that I was playing sax music to the WRONG group! How was I to know???? They were ALL smoozing in the bar and then this group went into a side room. I followed them in, playing a rousing version of It Had To Be You on my tenor, and when they closed the door and I saw the bosses still out with another group in the bar, I got that “oh, no” feeling in my stomach that I was with the wrong group! Crap! Oh well, it still went well after I gracefully exited the applause of the WRONG group and I played for the real VIP’s a bit longer on sax and flute. Samantha (the mgr. who actually picked me for this job) asked if I’d play a bit of piano and sing too. Hello… but of course! I was later invited to eat, drink and smooze with the whole group and it was as if I was a part of the party. Really neat! I had a good time and exited the party at a good point (I think) about 22:00 (10:00). It has been a really great “day off” !
There is a renovation project going on in the hotel’s south wing and guess where my room is.. yeah, south wing. Up until last night, the work seemed to be during daylight hours but last night was an all nighter for the crew, which meant very little sleep for me! Plus, I hate down pillows because they are so soft and FLAT and that really got the best of me with my inability to sleep from the giant working “rats” above me! It sounds as if my room will be relocated which is good and bad. Good because well, hopefully, I’ll get a bit more rest but bad because… remember who brought 200 lbs. of luggage??
The Lottery of Netherlands is hosting a humongous party here Thursday and Friday and they started setting up today. I watched the transformation of “my” room! several times throughout the day. The room was stripped of tables, chairs and booths and about 35 “guys in black” brought in an unbelievable amount of staging, lighting, rigging, large video screens and a stage that covered the main staircase from the lobby below! I was told they rented the room for 50,000 euro. JUST THE ROOM. The stuff that came in today must’ve been ½ million at least! Crazy! I ended up playing at a smaller restaurant/ bar area, and even though it was relatively quiet because people were eating in Kaminsky (our ultra, expensive gourmet restaurant), the night was still “good” thanks to a group from Shell Oil Comp. (several people from Houston) and a couple of local regulars! The next two nights should be fun to watch from afar! Supposedly, the prime minister will be here as well as TV stations and every mucky muck from NL.
I struck out on the internet negotiations, (darn) but the asst. GM said they would like me to stay on for April which is a real positive! They seem very pleased with my performances! :-D
I also "gave in" and bought a 5 hr. "hotel" internet card to be used to Skype Ron at 1:00AM (my time). I spoke with mom & dad for a short while and they called Ron to alert him that we could FINALLY webcam! It was a real treat to visit face to face with him and Keathel! Love our webcams! Well, it’s 2:40AM and I really need to wrap this up. Hopefully, I get to Den Haag main library tomorrow to post these last entries and webcam my "morning" people!
Beach Walking & Town Discovery I left Florida 1 week ago, and except for the day I arrived, today is the first day of some sunshine through thin clouds. So, I ditched the fitness room and headed down to the beach with my MP3 player, bottle of water and a camera around my waist! I was hoping my 3 layers of clothes would be enough to keep me warm (thanks Kassidy for that tip), and did a workout exploration. I headed south down the beach and walked all the way to the harbor. I had a delightful time watching quite a few dogs frolic along the beach and some of them were barking and playing in the waves. All the usual beach things… seagulls squawking, seashells that were mixed in seaweed and ocean debris and walkers, joggers and some tourists were out. Then, I came upon my big shocker! Surfers! Yes, really. I counted 9 or 10 of them out trying to ride an occasional 2-3 ft wave! I admired their brave dedication in their wet suits out there in the cold, cold North Sea. I never imagined I’d see surfers pedaling their boards down to the beach! I’m guessing this place is a real bustling beach town in the summer. The whole promenade is lined with restaurants and shops, but many are closed right now. Once I got to the harbor, I walked way out to the entry point, passing several fishermen with their lines casted out. They gave friendly smiles as I passed. After retracing my path back up to the harbor, I took a quiet back street right through the middle of the fishing warehouses. Again, very typical fish packing houses and loading docks but it was neat to smell it (it was good fish smell not nasty or rotten) and see the happenings! When I finally got to the main street area of downtown, it was precious. They had giant Valentines hanging above the street and all types of “mom & pop” stores lining the small, little narrow road. I noticed several shopkeepers standing in their doorways, just passing time or talking to other shopkeepers.
I had so many nice smiles this morning on my 2 hour walk.
The Dutch people are as friendly as I had heard and speak very
good English. It is a real treat to be here for my first adventure away.
Back at the hotel, it was lunch time and I headed down to the cantina
for lunch. Yesterday, they had a yummy pasta and I was happy for “familiar”
food. Today was a fish schnitzel, wonderful green beans and German potato
salad.. REAL good too! It finally occurred to me (duh) that they have international
eating themes each day. Several days ago, the kabobs and fried hard boiled
eggs were of middle eastern style, yesterday was Italian, today German…
ahhhh… makes more sense. But, I’d still LOVE to know about those hard,
dry meatballs on my first day! Lol! The eating has become easier as I adjust to
the new foods and am learning the ropes of “squirreling” my meals as take-away,
thus eating on my schedule!
Update - Feb. 9th
Saturday off to Delft (home of famous Delft pottery and Vermeer)
After a rather early wake up, I was on the tram heading to Delft fairly early with my little sandwich, hard boiled egg and an apple! I had grabbed a little food from the buffet just before it closed and ate my grapes, almonds and smoked salmon (oh yes, that’s the best part of b-fast) while taking my after gym shower. The ride over to Delft was about 30 minutes on the tram and it was an adventure just watching out the window! We passed through Den Haag on the way over to Delft and I confidently exited the tram at the stop that was written on the brochure of the pottery factory I wanted to see and tour! It was a little bit exciting and scary not having a clue where I was or exactly where I was going. Normally, it’s not too big of a deal, but I can’t read ANY Dutch… so that definitely adds a challenge to the seek and find game! Thank goodness these nice folks all speak English. I only had to stop and ask for directions once, as I didn’t think I was heading in the right direction. It was a residential area and I was heading through parking and apartments… but it was all OK and I arrived at the Delft Factory JUST before I wet my pants! Because my mom has done ceramics, I wasn’t awed to see how molds are poured and fired, and the painters had the day off, so I didn’t even get to see them painting. For some reason I thought it would be a bit more glamorous… but neigh, regular kind of ceramics. It is a neat part of the history though, and I’m glad to have been through the little tour! Well, out to the street and at this point, I had no real map to guide me, so I was working off my internal compass. I eventually made my way into the town center after walking along a canal for about 10 minutes and watching several rowing teams speed by. I wasn’t exactly sure how to find the town centre, but when I saw a big church steeple, I remembered Rick Steve’s (European travel guy) saying that usually in Europe, always head towards the church steeples and you’ll find the town center. Well, once again he was right! As I got closer to the steeple, I could see that the tower was leaning a LOT and it looked as if it was going to fall over any moment! I could also hear an accordion playing in the distance, so I knew I must be heading right! What a little jewel of a town! Holy cow! Every single block is surrounded by canals and there were many bridges connecting it all. I stopped into a book store to try and buy a phrase book... but nothing was right for English to Dutch. Lots of Dutch to English but I really need it the other way! I just leisurely strolled on through the streets and finally stumbled into the main town square area. It was really picturesque and a typical kind of European town square with big churches on each end and lots of shops and cafés lining the perimeter. I picked a little park bench in front of one of the big churches, and while (honestly) it was freezing cold to sit there.. I decided that it WAS going to be the perfect place to take my picnic. I watched everybody while I ate for about 20 minutes and then moved on in search of the information center and maybe a cup of tea somewhere! Neat! So, I picked up some literature (yeah in English...) and a decent map of Delft at the tourist center, and I look forward to returning for a historical self-walk of the little town. I was back to the hotel just in time to get ready for work and that’s when I finally had my cup of tea! (cheap wad I “still” am…lol) It wasn’t quite as busy as they had expected for a Saturday, but it was still good. I was told that I am allowed to have dinner in the restaurant each night. It’s great news, but a small draw back is that the food is WONDERFUL but extremely high calories, so I’ll have to make some adjustments and use my self control wisely! I had a Caesar salad and then a grilled salmon meal. The salmon was on a bed of mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. Don’t say yuck… it was delicious! I did however make myself stop eating after half of the potatoes and kraut. Nothing extra special for the music part tonight and unfortunately, no “funsters” in house! Hopefully soon!
Another Sunday Bruch ALREADY!
My first day to skip the gym, but since it’s a little tough with my double shift.. I splurged for the day off! A few really nice groups, but mostly all “shy” Hollanders. I’m pretty sure the occasional smiles meant that they like what I was doing and the staff tells me the people love it… they just aren’t a very loud or demonstrative culture! The highlight of the day was when my new friend Fritz came in with his soprano sax and we jammed for my last 20 minutes of the night, mostly to a table of more new friends…Sonja, Monique, and Roberto. Fritz is a FABULOUS player and we had a good time and sounded darn good too!
Today, Monday is my day off and after a very leisurely morning, made my way to Den Haag again to post pictures, enter this blog and webcam back home to friends and family!! Very nice meal of roast duck at the hotel, with a glass of Chardonnay and some yummy bread! Oh... now this is the life!!! :-D
Tuesday- I stopped at the main train station in Den Haag for information on future travels and after multiples stops at “ticket and information” kiosks… the 4th kiosk was finally the correct one for “international” (guess Paris is another world away! lol). Although I got limited information it was enough to get me to the right internet site. After struggling within the difficult and NOT user friendly Thymes website (2 hours at least) I eventually booked our Paris trains for when Ron arrives. When the library closed at 8:00, I went back to the hotel and thoroughly enjoyed a delicious meatless lasagna! I was in bed at 10:00PM and slept through most of the construction! So much for my “wild and crazy” nights off!
Wednesday- A very good day. Today is the day I hope to get my wireless microphone problem resolved. After my usual gym and b-fast routine, I took the #9 tram into Haag and got off at what I hoped would be the best stop to find the Rock Palace (love that name), a music store that has PA equipment. The man at the library last night had pointed out the area on my map of where the store was located, so I had a general feel for approximately where I was heading! Lucky me, after walking 6 or 7 blocks on an angled tiny road, I actually walked straight up to it! Very, very cool! The salesman (Wib) got me squared away and in about 10 minutes I was out of there with my 25 Euro adaptor and a “snoopy dance of joy” good feeling! OMG… I expected it was going to be a painful process, but nope! Super easy! Hooray, sooooooo I stopped in the Fiddler Pub (again) for a celebratory ½ of cider (in truth, when the guy at the library was explaining the approximate location of Rock Palace, he described a big church at the end of the pedestrian area and I recognized the church as the one that sat beside the pub of last week, which is why I found the store so easily…LOL). Next, I headed over to the Passage Shopping in search of a bookstore where I could purchase a Dutch phrase book and some fictional reading. I had good luck finding Passage and the bookstore and then spent at least an hour browsing. My final choice for the fictional book was The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I’ve wanted to read this book for quite some time, so now’s my opportunity. Finally, over to my “home away from home” library where I spent a couple of hours on their glorious free internet! It was a good night at work… starting with a birthday party for 9 staff members. The hotel treats their employees to drinks and a special dinner in Kandinsky (the VERY fine dining restaurant of Kurhaus) for their birthday. A really nice gesture I think! Samantha, the Asst. GM is the lady responsible for my being here. She said she selected me from the resumes that Mirkos had given her, so I am most appreciative to her. She has given me several compliments and on this night she said that Mirko was booking me for a return visit in Oct.! While that was nice to hear, I probably won’t be able to return that soon! But still, it’s very encouraging that they like what I’m doing! I had several corporate guys in and had a fun evening of music, laughs and our new “bar” joke of…”more sax, Debby. We want more sax!” Finally, back to the room about 1:00 where I’m working on this update and very sleepy!!
Thursday- A regular morning and then I worked on transposing and getting lyrics for The Power of Love so I could sing it for the Sat. night marriage proposal. I found the small upright pianos that are used for banquets in the back halls and practiced on my new arrangement! I also worked on a piece of music “Salute de Amore” given to me by Bas. Bas is one of the restaurant supervisors and his father teaches piano. He also plays piano but has not been able to take the time to play. A pretty decent night, a little slow at first but Edwin & Edwin came in again and Mike & Ron leave tomorrow. E&E were having a great time with several other bar patrons and when I left, they were already popping the 5th or 6th bottle of champagne! Fun! So, nothing really out of the ordinary to report for today, but I think that’s a good thing and means I am getting settled in!
Friday- As I do every single morning, I stopped in the restaurant to make a plate of food that will later be b-fast and lunch. Sometimes I sit for a coffee, but not always. Today, E&E (Edwin & Edwin) were down for their b-fast and I joined them for a coffee before heading up to fitness. It still amazes me how fluent the Dutch are in English. By the time I finished my morning routine of gym, shower, dressed and out... it was 1:00 and I quickly took the tram to town for internet. I was very concerned to hear that my dad is back in the hospital. I don’t know much yet, but it sounds like perhaps a case of low blood sugar or low pressure and that he should recover easily.… I’m just waiting to hear! After 2 ½ quick hours in Haag, I was back at hotel and getting ready for the first of two really busy nights. Because of Valentines Day, the restaurant is fully booked and it will be alive with lovers! A gentleman proposed to his lady, tableside, on his knee and over my microphone which was very romantic and tender! He had arranged for a large bouquet of roses through the hotel and I played the Greatest Love of All behind his proposal. It went very well and I hope the proposal tonight goes as well, too! Because we were so busy, I didn’t take a break until 9:45 when it slowed down. Over 4 hours is a long time to sit (although getting up to play sax and sing helps) After a 30 min break, I started up again for the bar group that was forming and ended up playing until 12:30 (1 hour extra). It was a lot of fun and I was successful at getting some audience participation, including a sing along to Piano Man and several requests.
Sat. Valentine Day
A beautiful, sunny day with blue skies! Hooray! I decided to take my fitness down to the shoreline so I layered up the clothes and out I went. My first challenge was getting out of the hotel! It’s normally easy, out the back door and down the steps! But today, I immediately had a rush of adrenaline. The patio walkways were frozen and as slippery as an ice skating rink…whoa, LOTS of caution walking out to the stairs. After several close calls but no falls, I made it to the stairs but, the gates were still closed and locked! Oh crap… now I’d have to make my way all the way back into the building! Finally, after going out the front door of the hotel and all the way around the building, I am on the beach with MP3 player ready for a brisk walk to Boston, Foreigner, Journey and some motivating 70’s music that has126 bpm! It was fantastic! The air was cold, but the sun was shining so brightly that it was invigorating. Once again, I smiled for most of the morning as I watched the people and dogs enjoy a beach like it was their last day to live! It might be my imagination, but the dogs all seem to have BIG grins and run faster then Florida dogs to catch the balls their owners pitch from a slingshot type of stick. Then the dogs just happily bounce around and approach any new face walking by with a “hey, how are ya” kind of greeting! I’ve seen almost every breed of dog on my walks and they all get along great and are so fun to watch! I also was humored at a youngish couple, maybe mid-twenties just playing a little wrestling game. They were laughing and having such good, simple fun and when I was returning from the other direction, they were still playing but now she had managed to get his glove so that seemed to be the objective of their wrestling and teasing fun! A little girl of about 6 or 7 was riding here unicycle along the beach while about 3 or 4 family members walked with her and shouted encouragements! I also marveled at the horseback riders that were enjoying the beach and also some kite flying attempts by a young family with a small child! Lots of laughter today from the people enjoying the outside air and sunshine! I also counted over 30 surfers today..brrrr… crazy idiots! After walking all the way down to the harbour and back, I continued past the hotel to the north side of Scheveningen. It was much quieter on this side and there was an endless amount of giant sand dunes to be explored. The dunes are covered with some kind of grassy bush that give them a desert feeling. I followed an path to the top of one of the dunes to something called zwarte pad and had a great panoramic view from up there! I finally made my way back to the hotel through the town side and enjoyed looking at the residential windows. People display things like flowers, or trinkets for people passing to see! One thing I found funny was reading a little welcome sign at someone’s door… I don’t remember their names, but it was cute with little hearts on the sign and they had a little picket fence in front of their tiny little garden. The whole scene reminded me of Leave it to Beaver. Then, as I walked by their windows, they had big bongs sitting in their windows! LOL! (bongs are for smoking weed) Just kind of cracked me up! Evidently, the “Cleavers” like that kind of thing! Too funny! With that thought, I haven’t seen any drug use, homeless people or shady doings. That must all be in Amsterdam, but I will soon find out as I’m planning to take an overnight trip there tomorrow and Tuesday!
Last night was completely sold out for the hotel and restaurant because of Valentines Day! I again played straight through my break until about 10:00 and then took my dinner. Another couple became engaged as planned, and while this one was not so public (over the microphone) as the night before, it was still sweet and when I asked the gentleman if she said yes, the other diners were alerted to what was going on and gave a big round of applause. I think someone even sent a drink over! That was all fun and I had good feedback from the crowd, even though they don’t clap and tip like Americans. It’s a much quieter appreciation, but the staff assures me that I am being very well received!
I received informative emails from my brother, Kassidy and Keathel with updates on my dad. He’s doing much better and should be out of hospital today! I also enjoyed webcam with Ron, it sure bridges the distance for me!
Monday Feb. 16th
My intentions were to stop in the Haag library on my way to Amsterdam, but unfortunately, they don’t open until noon on Mondays! So, I popped right back on the tram, made my way to Centraal Station and after taking some pixs of the thousands of bicycles parked outside, bought my ticket and was able to catch a direct train that was departing in 5 minutes. What good luck! The train was a double decker and I picked a seat upstairs to have a better viewing advantage, although it was unfortunately riding backwards, but not that big of a deal. The trip took about 50 minutes total with just few stops along the way! Within 10 minutes we were out of the city and traveling through flat, flat farmland with small canals cutting perfect rectangles through every field and small footbridges dotted throughout the fields. And yes, I saw many windmills! Some were old fashioned and some were the new modern styles. It’s amazing that this whole country is below sea-level and yet they have devised such clever ways to work with mother nature for living and farming. The trees are still leafless, but I’ve seen a few small little buds on some branches, so it won’t be long, and I’m trying to imagine how beautiful everything will be soon! I hope to see this spring magic before I leave! The train station was large and bustling (as all large stations always are) and I exited as quickly as possible, shuffling right along with the sea of moving bodies. Once outside, I spotted the landmark buildings that my co-worker Bas had explained to me at work, and thanks to his hand drawn map and directions, I walked straight to and checked into my hotel in 10-15 minutes. It was very easy! I wanted to find some free or cheap internet because Bas was also going to email a restaurant suggestion (his friends owned), but it had not come through when I got internet,. I did IM with Ron for 18 minutes! The reason I know it was 18 min., is because I was on a 20 minute card and planned to buy more time to visit with Ron. However, a young man came in, sat down at the computer beside me and I quickly decided that I would end the visit with my honey and get to some fresh air. The young man was quite fragrant (QUITE) so that was that! Lol!
UPDATED Feb. 19th
I spent the rest of the day walking and walking and walking and walking. The last two “and walkings” weren’t on purpose though! I should know from past experiences that when you are dealing with angled roads… to not trust your sense of direction! Yeah.. I was way off the map I had…. But, I finally got situated after stopping twice for directions. My feet hurt from the many cobblestone roads, they take a toll after a while. I enjoyed the flower markets, the never ending canals and the old majestic buildings of Amsterdam. It is a very busy, touristy city and I wouldn’t place it in my top favs. It certainly is the liberally city that we hear. I didn’t go close to the red light area and yet I still had “hits” by guys! Seems to me with all the “easy fun” to be had, they’d leave a “wholesome looking” broad like me alone. I had a funny little incident with one butthole, but after I gave him my VERY, VERY best “F*** O**” look, that was that! :-} It was a light drizzle all day (but never turned into snow or ice) which made it seem a little bit dreary and sad. And, the almost constant odor of reefer being smoked in the coffee shops reconfirmed the sex and drugs reputation of the city! It IS all that!
It’s been an adrenaline packed day or two. On Tuesday morning, as I was VERY leisurely updating this journal in my Amsterdam hotel room over coffee, my computer totally froze up. It refused to restart for quite some time and when it finally started, it continued to lock up! What a mess and giant scare. As I weighed all my options (repair, have something shipped from home or buy new) I knew I needed to get back closer to Scheveningen. I skipped going to the Anne Frank house, strolling around Jordaan and maybe going to Van Gogh museum and caught a late morning train back to Den Haag. The trains run every 15-30 min. from Amsterdam to Den Haag, and I missed a direct train by literally 4 seconds… dang, once those doors close, that’s that! So, I went back downstairs to the information desk and inquired on my next option. There was another train leaving in 10 minutes but I would have to transfer trains in Leiden. I figured what the heck, and took the chance on making the transfer properly. It turned out to be an easy change and in 50 min., I was back in Den Haag. I went straight to the library (my new heaven for internet), and tried to get AVG to clean out the virus in my computer with no luck. AVG had been scanning for over an hour when the computer locked up again. So, that was that! I inquired at the desk (I’ve gotten to know the clerks quite well!) about a computer repair or sales center close by and made my way towards resolving this problem. Thank goodness I didn’t have to work that night, which gave me almost 2 days to sort out the problem. I ended up at Media Markt which is like a Best Buy and made a Samsung R510 purchase for €666 (really…the number made me leery to buy it) but I get the tax back so I’m considering the purchase for €599, which makes me feel better! :-} lol! I made my way back to the library so I could unpack it and begin downloading the many things needed for a new computer and all the registrations! I looked like a wacko computer vagabond lady with my new computer box and packing sitting there, two laptops churning away on the table, my STUFFED computer bag (remember I still hadn’t unloaded from my Amsterdam overnight trip) and my camera case, purse, coat, scarf and hat all heaped up on the chair beside me! Also remember, I had walked in light rain for most of the last two days! The whole situation looked pretty funny to me after I took the time to see myself! Several of the library attendants checked on my progress through the day and they’re always so polite and nice! After leaving the library at 7:30 (almost closing time) I walked about 10 minutes over to my favorite little pub The Fiddler to have dinner and see what was going on there! They were having a trivia game night and the place filled up before I left. I invited some young girls to sit at my table, as everything was full. It turned out they were all from abroad (Canada, New Zealand and U.S.) and were “Nanny’s” in Den Haag! Interesting! I stayed for the first round of the game (it looked like they had 12-15 rounds) and then walked to my tram stop carrying two laptops in my bag (I was listing to the right..lol) . I had asked the library to please throw away my box and packing, as I didn’t think it’d be smart to be walking in the dark flashing a new computer box! The #1 tram promptly arrived and carried my tired butt back to Scheveningen. I had VERY fortunately brought back ups of all my music scores on travel drives, so that was how I spent the night in my room AFTER a MUCH needed shower!!
It’s hard for me to describe my first nail appointment here in Holland. Acrylic nails are very much an American thing and very few women have them. Even though I’ll never get rid of them, I have had moments where I felt like an “evening” woman because of them… thank goodness for gloves on the trains! Anyway, I was told of a nail salon in Chinatown that did good work and was cheap… ok, my kind of place! It was called U.S.Nails! Really! Lol! It was not fancy by any means… stark walls, no atmosphere, truthfully, it didn’t feel clean and it smelled of Asian fish! Nice, huh? I actually had thoughts of a concentration camp or illegal abortion clinic in Mexico… but, really, that’s not funny and I knew I shouldn’t be having THOSE type of thoughts! I lost count of how many people worked on my nails but at least 6! I felt like an Indy racecar during a pit stop! Both hands at the same time, super fast, one person shortens, another shapes, another preps, another does the acrylic… on and on it went! And, I’m really not sure, but it seemed they were arguing with each other! Crazy! I got tenser and tenser by the moment as they are not gentle and I had several moments of ouch’s! One lady kept patting my hand telling me to “relax, relax”! :-O It’s funny, but it’s NOT! Believe it or not, they look just fine, but I’m NOT looking forward to my next “refill”! Amy, you SHOULD be here for this! LOL!
The rest of the day was same ole same ole, and it was fairly quiet in the restaurant and bar for the evening.
A day of relaxation! First, there was coffee in the restaurant with my book, next, a long and satisfying gym workout and then b-fast in the room after my shower at 1:00PM. I updated this journal while in a robe, wearing my fuzzy slippers, sipping hot tea and listening to Jim Wilson’s relaxation music most of the afternoon! Ahh, THE life!
A LONG POSTING! 1 weeks worth!
Friday- MOVING DAY
About 3:30 AM I made the decision to change rooms. Even though it was a pain in the neck, the construction noises through the night had finally gotten the best of me, and I asked to be moved. Besides, I didn’t want Ron to be disturbed so much when he arrived next week!
My move is worthwhile! The room is larger with a queen bed and is very contemporary looking. I can still see the ocean and beach, although I have a casino rooftop to gaze on, rather than the majestic Kurhaus dome and flags as before! Oh well, at least I’m getting sleep now! :-D
A few days ago while riding the tram, I saw the Bibliotheek in downtown Scheveningen and decided to walk to it and see if they offered free internet like the one in Den Haag! By golly, it is a branch and all the rules and policies are the same! So hooray, I won’t have a 15 min. tram ride to get to the library! I can now either take a 10 minute (free) walk or if it’s raining, ride the tram down 3 stops for .90!
It was a busy Saturday night in the restaurant and bar and I opted to skip my dinner hour! I played from 5:30 until 11:30 without breaking. It was a long haul, but people really enjoyed and appreciated my music all night which was rewarding in itself!
When I purchased my new computer last Tuesday, Visa flagged my account as irregular activity and I have to contact them to verify that I am the purchaser and it wasn’t fraudulent. They emailed me that I could do it through their website or simply call collect. Well, NOTHING has been simple and I’ve worked on the project on and off all week. Now, I’m getting frustrated at how difficult it is to do this. The website unfortunately rejected my inquiry and finding payphones for collect calls is nearly impossible. This morning I vowed to get this resolved but after two unsuccessful trips into the freezing wind and drizzle this morning, I was exasperated. The payphone down the street was not going to make a collect call outside of a Dutch number and I finally decided that it was going to be worth the cost of the call from my hotel room… no matter what! But, even that wasn’t going to work! The bellman who had been trying to help me with Dutch numbers for the payphone finally came up to my room to “show me” how to call out. He was not able to get the call out either and I at least felt somewhat redeemed about my ignorance! It was now time to get dressed for work so the task was once again left unfinished. Arrrggggghhhh! It should not be this difficult, but it IS! Work was fine... a normal Sunday brunch and then evening shift, but I was super tired when I finished and slept very well (again) in my nice quiet room!
Mission accomplished for the &*#$@* credit card! The Manager on Duty today dialed from his phone downstairs and let me sit at his desk to complete the impossible! Alrighty then… I can start my day off! I’m humored at how easy it seems to be for me catch the trains OUT of Den Haag, but not visa versa! I boarded the train to Haarlem with less than a minute to spare... lucky me! But the return was the EXACT opposite. I heard the whistle conductor’s whistle blow right as I reached the top of the stairs and was about 50 ft. away as the train pulled away! Not a real big deal, as the next train left in 20 minutes, but still, it seems like such a coincidence that the exact same thing happened last week on my day to Amsterdam! Funny, huh?
I had a fantastic day today in Haarlam. The big blue VVV (tourist information) was easy to find and after a short chat with the lady there, I had my €2 map in hand and was on my way! Not sure where, but I was on my way nonetheless! I took the main street towards town center as she had suggested and enjoyed window shopping for several blocks. When I heard the music of an accordion, I guessed I was arriving on “something” and yes…. I had stumbled onto the Monday town square market! The market was a cross between a flea market and an arts and crafts festival but there were LOADS of beautiful fabric bolts and all kinds of sewing accessories (zippers, threads, buttons, notions, etc.) for sale. After browsing rather quickly, I decided to take a look inside the very beautiful and very large church that towered over the square. It was only €2 to enter and I also needed to use a toilet, so it seemed well worth the admission price! (yes, that’s so bad to admit) However, it was a worthwhile investment for many reasons, but mostly because the HUGE, HUGE pipe organ was being played. It was powerfully moving! As I read the pamphlet, I learned that Mozart had played this organ in 1778 when he was 10 years old! Now, how cool is that? Speaking of cool…. I hung out in the church for over an hour, but I swear, I started to think it might have been warmer outside! Well maybe not, but I could see my breath while walking over the stone floors (ALL tombstones) and I decided it was time to find some hot tea! As I made my way out, I inquired about the organist. The very kind lady (I know, I keep saying how kind everyone is, but they ARE!) explained that it was a conservatory student taking a lesson! Neat! She also showed me on a postcard where the student and teacher were sitting while playing… completely hidden behind the pipes.
After exiting the church, I followed some signs towards the mill. The lady at the tourist information had suggested it, since the museums were closed on Mondays. Ok… why not? I planned to stop in a tiny pastry shop for that hot tea that I was craving, but nothing seemed to be open on this side of town! Darn, a bad combination of “off season” and a Monday! Drat! As I turned a corner, the wind was now blocked and I had a nice little view of the river. Even though the canal boats were securely moored and empty, it was still lovely to look at! My belly was hungry by now and so I wiped a park bench dry and took out my little picnic lunch that I had packed earlier. While eating, I read the map more thoroughly and learned that the mill had been rebuilt in 2002 after burning down in the early 1900’s. Ahhhh, that disappointed me and so I now was expecting a tourist trap mill. Well, if it cost too much I figured I’d just skip it. As I walked up, I admired what a nice job they had done on renovations, but was still skeptical of a tourist trap…gosh, I’m sooooo American! “only €2 to enter” I thought, plus I spotted hot tea and toilets! Ok… good deal! (lol) The lady suggested I watch the 12 minute film upstairs to better learn about Haarlem’s history while waiting for the guide. She even carried my tea up the stairs for me!! (nice people, huh?) It turns out that I had Pieter (a volunteer guide) all to myself and about an hour and half later, I knew more than Google about windmills! It was a fantastic time! This windmill is considered a learning museum and is run by volunteers… no profits from the tourists. Oh, one funny thing… in the film they talked about a tourist monument (trap) somewhere here in Holland that was erected just to attract the American tourists… and they show 2 obese people with cameras. I thought it was hysterical!! It’s so true... we are soooo much bigger than the rest of the world! Anyway, back to the windmill… very, very worthwhile and I’m so happy to have seen it, especially with my own private guide! I’m definitely hoping to return with Ron… I’m sure he will also enjoy the learning!
I stopped in the Fiddler Pub for a delicious chicken curry dinner (and cider) back in Den Haag, then dashed over to the library for a quick chat with Ron before they closed at 8:00 and then back to my Kurhaus “home” for a fairly early night in bed typing this journal! Whew.. a great day!
Updated Feb. 24th
I opted against the out of town journey today as I had rented the practice studio room at the library for a 10:00 AM session. But man, I got an adventure anyway! Today was not the normal, quiet train ride into Den Haag. About 3 days a week, a random patrol of train “enforcers” quickly board at a stop and check riders for their valid tickets. Sometimes I can just tell that someone is trying to get their without paying… they just keep watching for the enforcers. Today as we halted at a stop, one young kid bolted for the front door to exit and made a successful escape. The guy sitting directly across the aisle from me quickly “punched” his ticket in the machine and when the officer looked at his ticket all seemed well. Several stops later, 2 of the 3 officers surrounded the guy and started an obvious confrontation. Darn… I was soooo nosey as to what was going on and my Dutch has not improved that much yet! Lol! Fortunately after about 5 minutes they all began talking in English! Yippee… I was now privy to the encounter! :-D Of course, the police knew the guy was trying to pull a quick one and apparently when his ticket was originally checked, the officer specifically told him that his stamp was only good for that zone and he must exit the train at the next stop… which he didn’t. Now, he was making excuses about why he didn’t exit and the cops weren’t falling for a minute of it! After the third cop joined in… it got good! And my seat was primo viewing and listening! In fact, the lady officer was almost straddling my seat! Again, thank goodness they switched over to English so I can accurately relay this story! They wanted €25 immediately or his passport! No ands, ifs or buts! But…. (Lol).. it was his choice! They pulled out their phones to call the city police to meet them and told the guy to quit playing his games and make a decision. He was a terrible liar and should’ve just shut up and admitted his guilt! But, all in all it was pretty entertaining and I was CERTAINLY happy I had a valid ticket! I politely looked up at officer #3 and indicated that I needed to be “unblocked” from my seat, as my stop was coming! I think they got off at my stop too, but I certainly didn’t act like I cared anything about the situation and never looked back! Ha! How bold! LOL !! So, that was how my morning started!!! I amused myself for hours at the library looking at sheet music and being on their internet! They have more sheet music at this library than ANY music store I have ever been in and they don’t appear to care if you make copies or not. They asked if I needed copies, and told me where the machine was… right over in the corner! .10 a copy! Awesome… better than a candy shop for me! They obviously aren’t concerned about copyright lawsuits as we are in the U.S. I made a quick trip over to Rock Palace for Ron to see if they rented guitars.. but nay.. no such thing! And, The Fiddler is within a block of Rock Palace, so I (of course) HAD to stop for a cider and a bag of crisps! (potato chips) I told Katie (the barkeep) that she would be meeting my husband soon and he might be living with "them" next week! Lol!
OMG! I just found a pub closer to Schevenigen that has Free Internet! Woohoo! Life is STILL good! Lol! NOw I guess the Sherlock Holmes may become my new best friend! lol!
It was another regular day in lazy luxury, with nothing extreme to share…gym, shower, lunch, a walk into town and work. The best thing was when Samantha and Dirk (Asst. GM and F&B Mgr.) both stood at the piano and said how many good things they are hearing from the guests. They said they were very happy with the job I am doing and want me back asap. They knew that Ron was still in the states and that may affect how often and how long I can be here! I reminded them that he would be here Saturday and they could “try real hard” to convince him that it would be a great place to live part of the year! LOL! Samantha asked about September, but I told her that I would still be in Alaska and then, I wanted to spend the winter months in Florida.
March 1st - Sunday Morning:
For the past 3 days, I have been on a countdown towards Ron's arrival yesterday (Saturday). On Friday, I told co-workers and customers that I had the childish feeling of Christmas. I couldn’t wait to jump into bed that night, knowing that “Santa” was arriving when I awoke! I really laughed at myself for this giddy analogy, but it seemed to describe my excitement perfectly. As I left the piano bar towards my room that night, I sang "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", which had some folks laughing (myself included)! On Saturday morning, I was singing it again as I walked out the door on my way to the airport, which had the desk clerks and bellman laughing as well!
Yippee, Ron arrived and Saturday was enjoyable as we just strolled around and I shared some of my favorite places in Den Haag with him. Of course, The Fiddler, Sherlock Holmes and Rock Palace were on the list. The hotel restaurant was sold out that night and I needed to start work a few minutes early, but it was a very enjoyable night to work, especially since Ron was there taking it all in and meeting my new friends and coworkers. Very fun!
Side note to this story! (2 weeks later), Pieter drove Ron & me to this monument! lol! We had a good laugh while having our picture made beside Hans Brinker! (See below)
Thursday, March 12th
So yes, all is well with me…I was just negligent with my blogging while Ron was here.
We had LOADS of fun, and I just didn’t have time (or desire) to sit at the computer and ponder my daily activities!
I’ll quickly update this blog with photos and brief captions of my past 2 weeks!
Monday (Mar. 2nd) - High speed train to PARIS, Sacre Coeur, Montmarte, Evening Bus Tour and an Evening Canal Cruise
(yes, all on Monday)
Tuesday – 3 hour walking tour of Paris with guide Matt, Afternoon at Versailles.
Friday – Bus to Noordwijk to meet with Jan about possible theatre work next year
Saturday – Delft, discovery of Lekerbek(fried fish) at the market
Sunday at Scheveningen Beach
Kitesurfing and sailboarding
An unbelievable beach transformation.
One week ago,NOTHING but sand…now there are
continuous cafes with a concrete sidewalk the ENTIRElength of the beach.. Absolutely amazing! .
Monday – Haarlem, VERY good windmill tour with Pieter and an unexpected visit to his town of Spaarndam, including visiting the "tourist" monument of Hans Brinker (the boy with his finger in the dyke) and a visit to Pieters home!
Tuesday – Late-Morning Canal Cruise in Amsterdam and walking the city for the remainder of the day
Wednesday, March 11th
Ron returns to U.S…. and Debby resumes her blogging/updates! :-}
March 19th - I've been very negligent on my blogging! I got out of the habit during Ron's visit and haven't quite resumed to the discipline! BUT- I added a bunch of pictures today to the Kodak Gallery (link above) so that will give you a share of all my busy travels!
Friday, March 20, 2009
A CURRENT CHALLENGE
The time is flying by and I now must face the uncertainty of my flight home. Because an April (music) contract never came through, I am trying to get my flight changed from May 5th to something close to April 1st. My ticket is a “freebie” from miles, so this adds an interesting twist to the problem. As of today, I’ve managed to advance my departure to April 13th, but that is still 2 weeks of where to stay and what to dos! I have hope from the American Airlines agent that more seats will open as the date gets closer! I am not making any plans for April 1-13 for several more days. I fortunately, have my Holiday Inn employee cards, so IF I must stay, it will be another adventure to see where I will go and stay to fill my 2 week “vacation” period! Maybe Spain and visit Carmen (our exchange student of last summer) or I have American friends visiting in France or I’ve always wanted to visit Italy?? Who knows? I love being here in Europe, but the fact that I’ll be leaving again for 3 months in May, makes me prefer to be home now. (I adore my backyard pool area and sitting on the porch having morning coffee with Ron and Keathel!)
So, Ron has been gone for 10 days and I’m back on the “routine”, the basic up and at ‘em, coffee in the restaurant with my breakfast and lunch to go, up to the gym for my favorite torture time, shower, eat, walk to the Scheveningen library for internet, then time for work!
Earlier this week, I was a bit overzealous with my sightseeing plans for my Monday and Tuesday days off! ! Yes, I visited the towns that I had wanted to see (plus two extra) but it was tiring even for me! Lol!
Monday I chose Gouda (pronounced How-da, with plem sound on the h) and Rotterdam to visit. Yes, Gouda is a cheese town and was cute as could be. I spent 3-4 hours just walking around and enjoying the quiet Monday morning. Nothing opens until 1:00 on Mondays, but that was fine as I am only a window shopper (tire kicker) anyway! I’ve been enjoying the countless “family” bicycles and thought I’d take pictures of these clever designs! I also was amused at the smallest car I’ve ever seen! It sounded like a broken weed eater as it approached and the driver actually felt compelled to lock it up….. lol! I naughtily thought “only the most desperate circus clown would attempt to steal that contraption”! … LOL! After taking some photos of the wishful “Ferrari:”, I headed towards the train station. As I walked along and tried to take in every detail, a magnificent smell caught my nose and flagged my brain to “seek and find”… lol..yummy time! It turned out to be a very thin waffle that they (somehow) split like a bagel and spread a honey and molasses mixture in the middle. Here’s the kicker….all this pleasure for €1. WooHoo.. and a bargain to boot!
So, back on the train heading to Rotterdam, I had that OMG, why did I eat all of that Stroopwafel feeling??
(Lol… cuz I always do that silliness!!! BIG LOL! )
Still on Monday
I was going to Rotterdam to try and find the original Holland America Cruise Terminal. My buddies, Edwin and Edwin had told me of the place and said it was worth going to. Plus, I thought it’d be quite appropriate since I’ll be with HAL for the summer! I was afraid it’d be a needle in a haystack search, but it turned out to be very simple. The lady at the tourist office immediately knew what I was looking for and gave me directions and a city map. It was a wonderful area to see and was very, very worthwhile. I enjoyed a glass of wine in the old bar and finally left after a big dog kept barking at a kid that was teasing him. Yes, dogs are welcome in the restaurants and bars! (funny, huh?) I took a water taxi back across the big river and then walked back to the train station. From what I saw, I like Rotterdam MUCH more then Amsterdam. It’s very, very modern and has a vibrant feeling! I hope to make time to go back and visit the city more thoroughly before I leave.
Tuesday, March 17
NEVER buy a 1 day unlimited train/tram/bus/metro travel card.” LOL!
I say this jokingly as I always want to get the value for a purchase, and I dang sure got my euros worth on this day!
A roundtrip train ticket to Maastricht (3 hours away) was €41 or I could buy an unlimited day pass (includes trains, buses, trams and metros) for €42…. Well, easy decision since I was going to need an additional bus and tram later in the day! WooHoo… a transportation bash! After boarding the train, I was further studying my route and realized that the train would be stopping in ‘s- Hertogenbosch. A couple of my customers had suggested I visit this city a few weeks earlier, so I figured “what the heck”! It was indeed a cute town and the cathedral was the most beautiful that I’ve seen in Holland so far! After about 1 ½ hours in Den Bosch, I boarded the next train towards Maastricht via Stiddard (where I almost remained on the train that suddenly wasn’t going to Maastricht anymore! ) A funny moment, and I luckily exited that train just before it departed to where I wasn’t going! When I arrived in Maastricht, I was a bit disappointed in the lack of charm that I find in most Dutch towns! In my opinion, Maastricht is too big to be small town and too small to be big town. The town square wasn’t overly large, so the buses and cars seemed quite chaotic.
My 2 favorite things of Maastricht… an awesome bookstore that originally was a cathedral (really, really cool) and an advertisement that was hanging in the front of a clothing store window (a large naked woman on a zebra). What a chuckle!! .
A co-worker had suggested I
visit Valkenburg while down in
the south area of Holland near
Maastricht. I knew I didn’t have
time to see it thoroughly, but I
figured I would get an idea of
what the village had to offer…
plus, I had the free transportation
The bus ride to Valkenburg
was very scenic and we actually
drove through some foothills.
It looked like Germany
(of course, we were practically
in Germany). Turns out this
was an old fortified city and a small amount of the old castle and the city walls were still standing. It is very much a town made for tourist, but hey, I’m a tourist and I love those things! Valkenburg is very charming, romantic and a cute little village that is on my list of places to visit again!
It was 3 hours back to Scheveningen (not as fun in the dark, and tired, and hungry) but luckily, the Italian restaurant that I had wanted to try out in Scheveningen was open until 11:00 and happily served me an awesome meal!
Wednesday – Sunday were regular, routine, enjoyable work days and since I’m trying to catch this blog up, that’ll do! :-D
Monday, March 23
My day off, and I unsuccessfully tried to get an earlier flight home. Almost… but no cigar! The seat that the agent was booking for me sold before she got my ticket finalized! Crap! Oh well…. maybe tomorrow! I ended up staying in my room for the day, as I apparently caught a stomach virus and simply had no energy! Dang! But, I did manage to meet my co-worker Mariella for dinner that night and we had an enjoyable but early evening!
Tuesday, March 24
I’d been hearing about Edam & Volendam since my arrival and really wanted to get to them before I left! To get there, I had to go to Amsterdam by train and then take a bus! Glorious! Quiet, quaint and old! I went to Edam first and it was like stepping back in time. As I do in every town, I stopped in the VVV (tourist information), talked to the greeter and bought a map of the town. The maps usually range from .50 to €1 and I really get enjoyment from looking at maps….(yes, I know that’s weird), but I do! I walked around for 30-45 minutes and bought a Holland souvenir tile for our outdoor fence collection!
Back on a bus to Volendam and this is the Disney World of Holland tourist towns! OMG! A harbor town with shops, restaurants, more shops and 3 costume photo stores!
Yep, I did! Debby goes Dutch! LOL!
I randomly selected Foto-Volendam and they were so nice! The owner even gave me a CD with my pictures so I could share them on this blog! Thanks, Cees! After, window shopping every wooden shoe outlet, cheese sales, T-shirts and magnets shops, I was back on the bus to Amsterdam to catch the train back to Schevengingen!
But, my day still wasn’t over. I still had another adventure to sort out..........!
STILL on Tuesday the 24th
Over a month ago I told my (fabulous) sax playing friend Fritz that I would attend his performance at a jazz club in Delft and this was the night! I arrived back at the hotel at 7:30, quickly showered and dressed and headed out, stopping at the front desk to get some directions! It was a little tricky, but after a 35 minute tram ride, a 15 minute wait for the 10 minute bus ride and then a 5 minute walk, I arrived to the “club” at 11:30! Thank goodness for a tiny little sign by the main road that pointed an arrow, because the place was not initially visible. The “club” was an old converted farm barn, situated at the end of a hidden, tree lined, barely lit dirt lane that was running along a tall factory security fence. It was a really strange location and seemed to be more of a private catering hall (what the hell was I getting into … lol??)! However, upon entering, I happily discovered it to be packed with over 50’s drinking, dancing, laughing and simply having a great evening out! It was a little awkward at first, since my new friends Roberto, Sonia and Monique were not there (as promised) and only Dutch was to be heard! (but of course, I AM in the Netherlands…lol) All turned out fine once the band took a break and Fritz introduced me to a few people! The band was amazingly good and I enjoyed their last set of the evening. I graciously became “roadie” at nights end and Fritz gave me a ride back to Kurhaus!
It was about 2:00AM when my day of adventure finally came to an end! Whew… I need to have a regular “work” day, so I can get some rest..LOL…LOL!
Wednesday, March 25
My dad had open heart surgery today, and much of the day was spent watching for emails and waiting for news. (As I type this on Saturday, he’s improving slowly and all the updates are positive.)
The weather turned a bit bad again (so much for sunny spring) and it’s really, really cold and rainy!
Friday, March 27
Today, when I awoke, I was glad the sun was shining because I was planning to visit Keukenhof Gardens. I had purposely waited until the “last minute” to go, but it was still too early and the outdoor gardens were scarcely blooming. However, the indoor displays had thousands and thousands of flowers and I saw the most amazingly vivid, vibrant colors and remarkable blooms ever! Plus, the smells were so sweet! Quite intoxicating and overwhelming! I actually took pity of anyone who might have allergies, because this would’ve knocked ‘em out!
Saturday, March 28th
Here’s the short version - After many phone calls, my flight home has been rebooked three times and I depart Scheveningen on Monday! I must overnight in London, but I am MORE than happy to eat some Indian food, drink some cider and attend a musical to pass the evening in my favorite big city!
My friend Dick (who drove me from the airport to Kurhaus) has graciously offered to drive me back to Schipol on Monday! WooHoo! This will make my journey MUCH easier! Thank you, Dick!
I just learned this morning that there might be traffic problems on Monday due to the high profile conference here at Kurhaus!
(THE Hillary will be here) So, I am getting some documentation from our manager which will allow Dick to drive up!
I will try to get pictures of all this excitement (if I can)!
My new friends and fans- Roberto (above) & Vladimer (right)
Above: Albert and Eric
Right: Bas and Chris
From JFK Airport in New York
The last blog for this trip! I have a 4 hour flight layover (NY) so I thought this would be a perfect time to recap.
After talking to my managers on Sunday afternoon, I called my friend Dick and told him not to drive over on Monday morning. There was too much risk of him not being allowed to enter the area. I fully planned to take the tram and train, but on Sunday night my friends Fritz and Roberto devised the plan for my departure. Roberto volunteered to drive m, and I graciously accepted. Because he lives in the apartments beside the Kurhaus, he has full access. Cool, good karma! Woo hoo!
Sunday night was certainly bittersweet! I felt sad to leave and yet happy to get home to my family and Florida friends! The bartenders surprised me with a goodbye gift of a big chocolate basket FULL of chocolate candies! I told them I would eat it ALL beside the pool on Wednesday afternoon (my first day home). Well, I MIGHT have exaggerated a little bit…maybe half of it! Lol My new friend Vladimir presented me with a goodbye gift of a 2 CD set of Broadway music :-D and my friend Fritz brought in his sax and we played several songs at night’s end. I regretfully finished the night by playing a slightly tearful rendition of “People”!
Monday was an early rise and shine, and Roberto promptly picked me up at 9:30AM. We arrived early at Schipol airport and had time for a cappuccino! Next, I met my friend Dick (he works at Schipol) for a delightful lunch before catching my 3:30 flight to London!
Oh, I want to share this airport “fun” with you. I had multiple laughs at the airport from the many, many, many Scots (I mean thousands) that were wearing their crazy beret hats, kilts and work boots. Let me assure you that hairy legs, skirts and work boots are something to be appreciated! AND, here’s the kicker… (after embarrassingly taking a couple of leg photos) I was seated by a bloke on the flight and got to gaze at those hairy kneecaps all the way to London! I really wanted to ask THE question, but smartly didn’t! LOL! By the way, Scotland lost to Holland in the BIG foottball (soccer) match the day before!
I was proud of my thrifty ingenuity once arriving at London Heathrow. I bought a £7.50 day travel card and all buses and tubes were free for the rest of the day (the hotel shuttle alone would’ve been £16) ha! Ker-ching!
I planned to go to the musical We Will Rock You to enjoy my talented friend Alex perform, but he developed laryngitis and was unable to work that night! Darn! Anyway, I still took the tube (subway) into town and after viewing the TKTS ½ price ticket board, I snubbed the few shows they had listed, walked around my favorite areas of Leister Square, Covent Garden and Shaftesbury and finally went to my favorite Indian restaurant. I ordered everything on the menu (well, almost), and was nearly comatose when I finally left. It’s such a shame that the Indian restaurants in Florida lack the same flavors and quality as those in England!
Everything else has been pretty straight forward. I woke up at 6AM to ride the “free” public bus over to Heathrow, caught my flight to New York with no issues and here I am, closing out this journal for my Holland adventure!
My gosh…. Two months SURE went fast! It’s been better than I ever imagined and I am beginning to ponder
my upcoming 3 month trip to Alaska!
Wow! What a year this is! Yes, Life is so good! Love ya! Bye!
My new friend Frits, saxophonist extraordinaire
More photos of my
Jackie, Carmelita, Rodina
Frits & the nice lady that enjoys my music!