What Shall We Do Today?

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I was scrolling through Facebook today and a beautiful picture of Amsterdam popped up in my news feed. It reminded me of how much I missed that amazing city, and also that I had not finished my final post about my vacation there.  So here we go!

As with any vacation, there is the universal question,”What should we do today?” Some people take trips where everything is planned for them. You are told when to get on the bus, when to eat, what you are going to see, where you are sleeping at night, and in some cases when you can go to the bathroom. I hate that kind of vacation! Been there; done that! No thank you. It is my vacation, and I will decide what and when things happen.

Our Amsterdam trip was no exception; however, when there are four people sharing the same holiday, there have to be compromises. My friends are the best at this. We are also a “fly by the seat of our pants” kind of group. Yes, we had some loose outline of things we wanted to do like our visits to the Van Gogh Gallery and the Rijksmuseum. For those two exhibits, we actually purchased our tickets online before we left because we did not want to wait in long lines.

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We also arranged to visit the cousin of one of the girls, and she lived in the northern part of the Netherlands. She was expecting us for lunch, so we planned our day accordingly. Here we are waiting for the train. It took us about an hour to reach her beautiful, small town. 20180902_101743

One morning we woke up and during breakfast, we decided to take a ferry to the “Eye” and the “Lookout”. The “Eye” is a film museum and the architecture is very modern in contrast to much of Amsterdam. “The Lookout” is the tallest building in Amsterdam; however, in comparison to skyscrapers in other parts of the world it is actually small.

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I took this picture from the ferry (which is free to ride). On the left is the “Eye”, and on the right, the “Lookout”. If you look closely at the top of the “Lookout”, you will see a metal frame hanging over the edge of the building. That, my friends, is a swing which sways back and forth over the side. I must say, when I woke up that morning, I certainly had no idea that I would agree to doing that ride. But I did!

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I was terrified, and shocked even my kids when they saw the video.

Some days we headed out from our boat just to explore. We visited the flower market.

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We shopped and checked out markets in various squares. We walked, we took the ever so efficient tram, we used the “Hop-On-Hop-Off” boat, and even a bicycle taxi. We crammed as much fun into our ten days as we possibly could, and that included an evening in the famous “red light district”.

For myself, I prefer to experience things at my own pace. I have no idea where I will venture next, but I can assure you, it will be a blast.

Thanks for reading,

Penny xo

Planes, Trains, Boats, and Tourist Buses

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And here we are outside St. Peter’s

I love to travel. It is my favorite type of holiday. Yes, lying on a beach or sitting at a cottage are very relaxing, but I prefer to explore new places and cultures. When my kids were much younger, it was exciting to introduce them to little pieces of the world. I would scrimp and save all year just so we could go on an adventure. Later, I traveled with a couple girls I worked with because as teachers, our vacation times were the same.

As I got older, I began traveling with my girlfriends since most of us were both retired and widowed. Our families were grown and gone, so we had the freedom to do as we wished. And most importantly, we had known each other for so long that it was easy to spend time together. 

Several of the earlier trips were with large tour groups on those huge tourist coaches with a guide. I suppose it is a convenient way to travel, but I quickly grew to dislike the rigid schedule imposed. Whine Country Tours.As we gathered more confidence, it became fun to plan our own schedules, book our own hotels, drive ourselves, and eat when and where we chose.

Every trip has become an adventure, and most times you have to just go with the flow. I love to stay in small local hotels; you seem to get a better feel for the culture. I  have unknowingly made reservations in a tiny nine room hotel in the heart of the “red light” district in Rome, in an ancient monastery in the south of France (we had no windows or screens and the pigeons seemed to think they were welcome inside), in a converted palace in Florence (no elevator…our rooms were on the third level and the stone stairs were about 18 inches deep; I have still not heard the end of that one), and in London above the train station where we accidentally overflowed the bathtub and flooded the room. Ahhh the memories!

Not long ago, a friend and I decided to go to China and Tibet. Just getting a visa was an adventure. I think we were the only Caucasians in line with 100’s of Chinese at the Chinese Consulate.  The sixteen hour flight was exhausting. That trip took us on every mode of transportation from plane, train, boat, bus, and even a gondola ride.

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The sleeper car on the train found us paired up with two Chinese men who spoke no English. To get to the top bunk, you had to stand on the bottom bunk, step one foot onto a tiny ledge on the wall and hoist yourself up. Getting down in the dark at night to go to the bathroom was quite the endeavor. Mind you, trying to aim for the hole in the floor to pee while the train rocked back and forth was also a challenge.

Scariest of all was our trip down the Yangtze River. The region had been plagued by torrential rains previous to our arrival. Cities and villages along the river had flooded badly and large boats could not dock in their usual places. In order to get to our ship, we were taken by bus for about a four hour ride to where they could bring the ship close enough to shore for boarding. It was late at night, we were exhausted and hungry, it was still raining and muddy, and we had to carry our luggage down steep steps to reach the fast flowing, dirty river. They had roped together wooden dock sections out to the ship, and crew held flashlights so we could see. If you fell over, you would never be found. The next morning I took this picture of where we had walked the previous night.

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What the hell was I thinking?

All in all the trip was amazing and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Sometimes, you just have to take chances.

This all brings me to our next adventure. Four of us are going to Amsterdam this summer. And to make things even more fun, we have booked a houseboat in the old section of the city to live on for our stay. Check it out with this link….

https://www.bookahouseboat.com/rentals/amsterdam-the-netherlands-rustic-city-centre-houseboat-471

I will definitely keep you posted about this new experience.

 

Thanks for reading,

Penny xo