October 20, 2016
Wow, I didn’t realize it had been so long since I posted a new blog entry. Even though on a daily basis it doesn’t seem much is happening, when I look back at my journal, things did occur!
Since I knew I would be alone in the house between September 15 and October 4, I took advantage of that alone time to take another train trip. On September 26 I took a “fast train” from Paris to Amsterdam. I had stopped in Amsterdam for a couple of days on my way home from Tanzania in 2012, felt there were things I didn’t see while I was there. I stayed in the same hotel where I had stayed in 2012. I remembered that it was very close to the main rail station. In fact, it was only a couple of blocks from the station, so I was able to walk to my hotel from the train station. That is the great thing about being able to travel with only one small bag – walking a few blocks with a roller bag is possible – even for an old gal like me. I arrived in Amsterdam at around 6, so I just ate dinner in the hotel that night (Monday). On Tuesday, I got a “hop on, hop off” pass for a canal boat, and went to the Van Gogh museum (which was just about to open when I was there in 2012). It was great to see and a nice way to spend a morning. For lunch, I stopped at a cute little outdoor café between the Van Gogh museum and the Reigtsmuseum. After a great lunch, I headed for the other museum. I focused on the special exhibits (jewelry, furniture, silver and gold tableware and objects). Those were fascinating. Then I took the canal boat back to my hotel. I lucked out because the weather was perfect for walking and taking a canal boat!
I had asked for a reservation at a restaurant that served traditional dutch fare. I have found that most restaurants in Europe offer what they call a formula dinner – a fixed price menu that gives you 3 or 4 courses. This meal included a salad with beets and pickled herring on greens, then a casserole with beef in the bottom of a casserole dish, then a layer of gravy, then mashed potatoes, topped with cheese and broiled a little. Dessert was an apple tart. Kind of heavy, but yummy. However, not the sort of food I am used to having on a regular basis!
Day two in Amsterdam was an all day bus tour that took us to Delft to the Delft pottery museum. The Delft ware was originally to be like the very expensive Chinese porcelain pieces that Dutch merchants were importing from China in the 16th century. The pieces are hand painted even today – and hence very expensive (at least to my tastes!) I did buy a 4” plate of hand painted pottery for about 60 euros. Just hope my cats don’t get up in my bookcase and knock it off! After Delft, we went through Rotterdam to see the harbor. Whereas most of Delft and Amsterdam survived World War II with some damage but able to restore most to look as it had before the war, Rotterdam and its harbor was almost totally destroyed. Today, Rotterdam is the 3rd busiest harbor in the world – so needless to say, it was impressive. After driving through Den Hague, where the international courts are, we headed back to Amsterdam.
The next morning I walked back to the train station, and took a fast train to Brussels. My impression of Amsterdam and the Netherlands was of a friendly, clean but busy area. Brussels didn’t leave me with quite as positive image. There was a strike going on around the train station, so the taxi ride to my hotel was exciting as we ended up driving down the tramlines to get around traffic! I was very glad. My neighbor here had given me a recommendation for a traditional Belgium restaurant which was within walking distance of my hotel. Food was excellent, but I was glad to have an early reservation since it was starting to get dark earlier.
Day 2 in Brussels was a morning bus tour of the city. Brussels is the seat of the European Union administration, so it is very cosmopolitan. There are about 30,000 administrators and consulate employees from all the countries in the EU. To me it seemed to be very busy – lots of traffic, and people everywhere, but not terribly friendly. So, I can cross Belgium off my list and am glad I went, but don’t need to return.