Beef for 2 or 8?

One of the funniest stories I’ll take away from the Europe trip is the night we ordered beef for two at a restaurant and this is what we got…
The worst part, we were in Paris so there is no way to take home a doggy bag. The meat wasn’t even extra rare. “They just ran a cow through a warm kitchen”.

Thursday’s Journal

We started today around 11:00am. First stop was the Jardin du Luxembourg. It was beautifully landscaped. The streets of Paris might be dirty but the French respect their landmarks. We heard kids laughing all over the place as they fed ducks in the ponds around the grounds. You couldn’t help notice the Greek influence there. Statues of a Greek actor rehearsing his lines and other elements situated around the grounds. We did get lost trying to find it. We spent a great deal of time being lost. Make sure you prepare better than we did. Do not try to be spontaneous on a European vacation, that ain’t happening. I thought we needed to see the Sacred Coeur. That was easier said than found. We walked what seemed like miles upon miles, asking everyone who didn’t speak good English how to get there. We finally stumbled upon it. Word of advice, take your hiking shoes because it is up on a hill and it is a steep one. The church is just as I’d thought it would be from seeing pictures but I did not know about the panoramic view of Paris you could get from that hill. It was something you couldn’t stop looking at. We really needed some lunch by this time. On our way up to the church, we got some jambon and fromage (ham and cheese) sandwiches from a bistro. When in France do as the French do, oui? We also used the side of the hill in front of the Sacred Coeur to relax our feet and eat. A sidewalk performer sang everything from Lionel Richie’s “Stuck on You” to The Eagles’ “Hotel California”. We had to laugh because he kept putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable on the word “hotel”, he didn’t hit “ho” but “tel”. It sounded funny. We went inside the church and I don’t want to keep describing things the same way but it was beautiful and very inspirational. I am not Catholic but you couldn’t help feeling “un peu” closer to God. Our next stop was some shopping. We decided to take the Metro instead of the RER this time. It was packed. Some fellow tried to get on without paying but the driver spotted him, parked the bus, yelled out a few lines in French and then threatened to call the police before the guy got off the bus. We made a couple of stops and even got to see the famed Moulin Rouge on the way. It was kind of like one of those things where you look up and say “oh look, that’s the Moulin Rouge.” We ended near the Arc du Triumphe. It is mammoth. I was awed by how big it was. I thought almost as much of the drivers who whiz in circles on the roundabout surrounding the Arc. It was time for some shopping on the Champs Elysees. Wow, the throngs of people pumping lots of money into Paris’ economy. I thought I saw a lot of people on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago but this was something much more. At this time, we were so tired from walking, it actually hurt. Bicycling or mopeds are the choice transportation. I have to comment on the amount of beautiful women dressed to kill with high heels whizzing by on bikes. Something much different than you would see in the US. We decided to check out the big department store BVH, I think that is what it is called. My friend was looking for gifts and we were in the place forever. She decided she wanted to get these earrings but the guy wouldn’t sell them to her because it was 7:30pm. The store was closed, no exceptions. We started walking back to the hotel when she spotted a jeweler. It said “ouvier” in the window, open! The door was locked and the man inside came over to unlock it. He asked what piece we liked. I didn’t know because we were window shopping. He locked the door back up and went about his business. My friend then found something she liked and I told her if she wanted it, she had to get him to open the door again. She did but he did not look to repeat the process. Once inside, his mood changed. He tried to sell us two diamond rings. They were nice but we were not in the market for such things. We paid for the earrings in cash which he liked and we were on our way again!
(I’ve not yet completed this…)

Wednesday’s Journal

Wednesday got off to a quick start. After getting up, getting backed again, we settled our hotel bill and headed to the train station for our trip to Paris, France. If you are traveling by train make sure you mark down your day of travel on your Eurpass. The conductor warned us if we didn’t do it the next time it would cost us 10€ for failing to do so. I thought I would end up sleeping a lot on the train ride. My friend didn’t have any problem. I nodded off only to have a sudden jerk on the train wake me back up again. The rail was a great way to see the countryside of France. Lots of little villages all of them anchored by a little church. You also see a lot of livestock grazing on the green hills. The train from Basel to Paris booked down the rail with very few stops. Once we arrived in Paris, we needed to find a hotel. We took a taxi down to the Chammps where we were told we’d find a hotel that was under construction and offering cheaper rooms. We didn’t find it. We departed the taxi and started looking for help. We checked out several hotels in the area but they were booked. We were told to go to the information center on Rue de Pyramid. They were swamped because everyone was suffering the same trouble as us. They dd not have reservations. “Paris is booked!” the woman at a travel information center told us. 76,000 rooms in the city and not a one of them available? Hardly! She found us one on the Rive Gauche or the Left Banke. We reserved a room but once we arrived the clerk informed us there was a mistake. She spoke a little French and threw up her hands a couple of times and then smiled after a phone call, exclaiming “Success!” She had located a room for us just down the “rue”. The price was cheaper than the first hotel. 185€ a night. The room was very small and tight. It was much smaller and nowhere as luxurious as the Hotel Victoria in Basel. It would have to do because of the number of tourists in Paris. The walls were covered in fabric with padding behind. It appeared as wallpaper. A beautiful room but small. The bathroom was nice. It was all white marble. Instead of a shower curtain, there was a swinging pane of glass that covered about 1/4th of bathtub. It did not stay in any one position so it made it tough to shower. Good concept though. It looked workable. The water pressure everywhere we stayed was great. I had always heard about the problems with that over here. After getting situated, we decided to try to see a couple of sights. We heard that Notre Dame was close so we went there. It was beautiful. Tons of people there to check it out. Travelers’ note: Men wear jackets a lot in Paris and you won’t see too many guys in tennis shoes. Mostly you’ll see dress shoes. Take a pair of black shoes and a sport coat or be willing to wear your suit coat alot. We bumped into three people on Segways. One of them was the tour guide. I really wanted to take the bike or Segway tour around Paris. My feet would not hurt so bad. One of the girls on the bike was very cute. More on that later. We asked the tour guide if it would be too aggressive to head to the Tour de Eiffel. He said not on foot. We decided to spread our wings and try out the RER. That is the subway. The Metro in Paris refer to the buses. We got on the subway and preceded to the Eiffel Tower. It was a perfect time to get there, dusk and just before the hour. At the top of hour, lights sparkle from the base of the tower up to the top. I thought there were a lot of people at Notre Dame, but there were a ton of people at the Eiffel Tower. It was a carnival atmosphere. A merry-go-round, cotton candy, people selling all sorts of souvenirs and just all sorts of tourists. It was very beautiful and breath taking. It was more than I thought it would be. After trying to take it all in, we passed the two girls from the Segway tour. I made some small talk with them. They were younger but they were cute. They were gigglers which increased thei cuteness. We took the RER to Left Bank where we were staying. We grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant. Our waitress was from New York and staying in Paris for the summer. She provided us with some information about Paris. We went back to the hotel room. Fell asleep then I developed a little stomach problem. I had to lay down in the bathroom because I felt so horrible. I ended up sleeping on that cold marble floor all night long. We’d hoped to get up the next morning early but that wasn’t to be…

Tuesday’s Journal

We didn’t get out of the hotel until about noon. We immediately took the tram to Marktplatz and started doing a bunch of shopping. I am so upset because I found a bunch of very cheap shirts yesterday and couldn’t find them again today. We looked all over the place but I didn’t locate them. We went inside this beautiful church. It centuries old and you could go all the way up the tower. We made it a great way up before turning around. We stopped at this tight stone spiral staircase. We could not tel where it ended. Claustrophic, the heights and what if it fell. Hmm, that would be my luck! Next we went across the Rhine and took some pictures along the way and then sat alongside the river for awhile. Luckily, it was sunny the entire time. We didn’t venture into the northern part of the city other than that. By this time, it was time to eat. But before, a nice windy rain hit and turned my umbrella inside out, breaking it. What’s ten dollars after all? We ducked into this store that sold all types of trinkets. I found Basel’s city flag. After some more searching for those cheap golf shirts we found a nice bistro. I had a light Calzone and it did the trick. Now, it was beginning to rain again and we were starting to get tired. We decided to go back to the hotel. After being sick all day, my friend wanted a little rest. We found out from the lady at the Info Center there is a place where the 8 Tram takes you where you can see three countries at the same time. France, Germany and Switzerland. That’s next up on the list… My friend decided to spend a little downtime at the hotel. I wanted to find those cheap golf shirts because we thought we spotted them on the trip back to the hotel. I took the number 8 back downtown. I didn’t find them but and maybe the best find of the trip for me was seeing a stained glass hanging in this metal shop. It was too much to spend but I found a Baselstab, the symbol of Basel. It was 35 euro and I bought it. Earlier in the day I found a Basel flag. After going back to the hotel, we ventured out to the place where you can see three countries at once. It was on the northern side of the city and again we took our favorite tram, the number 8 all the way to its end. At the time we went there it really wasn’t a popular time for tourists, and it was out in the middle of nowhere. We saw two rats and not too many people. We got the pictures we wanted but not before it started to pour again. We quickly got out of there and headed back to the city. We checked out the hotel restaurant and had something to eat before retiring for the night.

Monday’s Journal

The night on the train wasn’t much of a good sleep especially for my friend. Before going to bed, we ate something in the dinner car and got to see some of the sights of Germany out the window. Cologne or Koln looked awesome. During the night, my friend got sick and between, she thinks, the food and the motion of the train. She was in the WC most of the night. Once we reached our stop in Basel, Switzerland. It is the hometown of my great grandfather’s grandparents. We didn’t think it would be any problem to get a hotel. It wasn’t, but you have to pay for it. We are staying in the Hotel Victoria. The hotel is three star but it is really nice. The room is big and we have a balcony with a table and two chairs. We just wanted to get in somewhere because she was so sick. I didn’t know what to do with passports but apparently we didn’t have to do anything. That caused a little delay. So we hurried it to the hotel after running into an American woman who tried to help us. We just needed something fast. We ended up at the Hotel Victoria. After getting her some water back at the train station (I didn’t yet know a grocery store was 50 meters away from our hotel). I got some crackers and brought them back for her. Then we fell asleep, she in the bathroom and me in the bed. About an hour or so later, she needed some gatorade so I repeated the trip but this time to the ‘Co-op’ grocery store next to the hotel where prices were much cheaper. Along the 50 meters back to the hotel some old man who I think was drunk was rambling on about something looked at me and called me an ‘idiot’ I don’t speak German so I don’t know what his problem was. Back at the hotel, The hotel I took another nap because I was exhausted then showered then my friend told me I should explore Basel without her. I was afraid to leave because she was so sick. She even made the comment that she hoped she didn’t have to go to the hospital. She told me she was feeling better so I should go. I got dressed ventured down to the Basel Information Center in the train center for more details. A lady told me I needed to take the 8 train from platform 5 to get downtown. It is probably a 10 minute walk (I learned later) and a 10 minute tram ride from the hotel. People look and act differently in Switzerland than in The Netherlands. Of course there is the language factor. Just think three different cultures in one week. As soon as I got off the tram I saw the Basel History Museum. The Europeans love their museums. Once inside I was excited to pay seven francs for admittance. The woman behind the desk informed me because the museum was within one hour of closing, the admittance was free. Nice! I truly wanted to find my relatives’ name on something. I asked the woman but she couldn’t provide any help. I still really enjoyed the free tour and there is a lot of history there. I then took in the city and that was the big turnaround for me. Honestly, I was starting to wonder if this trip was a mistake. Do not get me wrong the wedding part was top notch and irreplaceable but after being let loose in another country I had some doubts. One lesson to pass on… Prepare!! I didn’t have any clues where hotels were, I knew some of them but… So I continued on my trek around the Marktplatz and through the pouring rain. Yes, an umbrella is priceless right now. After doing a fair amount of people watching I realized I packed the right amount of clothes just not the right ones. I needed to bring more pants and collared shirts. You stick out wearing t-shirts over here. I have worn the one collared shirt I brought three times. I am going to buy more tomorrow they have great deals at this one store. Even with the rain, I really got time to explore the downtown. My friend said she might be feeling better around 6pm and so I decided to get on the tram. I took the 8 going the wrong way but discovered my error after just one stop. Back at the hotel, my friend was not feeling better, she was passed out and down for the count. She didn’t even know I was there, she later told me. I figured I shouldn’t lose the day completely so after tidying up my belongings, I set out to find an Internet Cafe. Not easy. No one gives completely good directions here or at least not good directions in English. It’s their country and they speak German. Someone told me there was one by the cinemas, that got me close to McDonald’s and that was all I needed. They just unveiled new Internet computers for the public. One franc for 15 minutes. I got a half hour and the clerk thought I was crazy. I got some messages and sent out a couple before my time was up. I then boarded the correct train before arriving back at the hotel. My friend was up and I shared my day and thoughts. She didn’t venture out because she was still not 100%. I got her some bread and me a baguette deli sandwich at ‘Co-op’. There isn’t too much for English only speaking people here in Switzerland so we’ve been watching a lot of “CNN World”. I did get to see an old “Young & the Restless” in French, that was cool. They renamed it something else and even indicated in the credits who did the overdubbed voices. Okay, time to get to bed. Hopefully, I will have some company tomorrow.

Friday, Saturday & Sunday’s Journal

Right now, we’re riding on a train from Amsterdam to Basel, Switzerland. We chose a sleeper compartment. This will be our “hotel” for Sunday night. I’m so tired from the travel and the whirlwind that was the wedding. I am going to try to sleep and then possibly we will go to dinner in the dining car. There is not that much space in the car at all, it is very cramped quarters.

By now, you’ve already read about the delay disaster on Thursday into Friday. When we finally arrived in Amsterdam, there was a car waiting to take us downtown from Shipol. We met the parents of the bride. When then boarded a boat to see the city after some light hor’dourves at the Hilton where we all met. The boat ride was something to behold. The canals of Amsterdam truly define the city. I have to tell you I think it’s a great way to catch the sights of Amsterdam without spending all of the time traveling by foot. Even with our limited time there, we really got to get a good look at this Dutch city. Just after we got off the boat, the heavens opened up and it started to pour rain. I had an umbrella with me but of course, not “with me”, it was in the hotel in my luggage. Nice! We got drenched. The wedding planner quickly went to a nearby store and bought about 20 umbrellas. We luckily got one but we were all still soaked. In trying to get the rain off my head, I swiped my hand back throught my hair and accidentally flipped my sunglasses off and right into the canal. Stupid sunglasses!

When the rain let up a little, we walked to the Van Gogh museum. The Dutch are very proud of him. They don’t pronounce his name the way Americans do, they say Van Gauck. It took a little getting used to. We all had headphones on that allowed you to get more information on certain paintings. It was impressive to see all of the artwork up close. The Dutch don’t look at “Starry Starry Night” as his best work. They love “Sunflowers”. It’s a national treasure for them.

We then went to the restaurant “In De Waag” in Amsterdam. The meal was unbelievable. I started off with carpaccio, I’d never had something like this before but it was interesting. You have to try new things once and a while. Some of you warned me against eating at McDonald’s and Burger King and so far we’ve done that. After dinner, we wandered quickly into the Red Light District. It was busy mostly with people “window shopping”, we didn’t see too many people buying.

We then caught a bus back to Wassenaar to the hotel. We stayed at the Van der Valk hotel. A very nice place but Europeans have obscene keychains in hotel rooms. Very odd. Where would you put the thing. You surely won’t lose it. The accommedations were great. My friend we traveled with told us you couldn’t flush toilet paper. He was wrong! Why would you trust him anyway? We got some well deserved sleep that night. Our group that came over together was very tired.

We got up on Saturday but not in enough time to go on a bus trip to The Hague. We were simply too tired. It was too aggressive of a schedule for us Americans. Instead, we got up slowly and got ready for the day to come. We boarded a bus to the bride’s parents’ house. It was decorated elegantly for the day. We had some food there and then got readly to walk to the town hall. It wasn’t but 750 meters away. Raadhuis De Paauw almost couldn’t hold all of the people who showed up for the wedding. It was standing room only. I loved the woman in charge of the ceremony. She had a beautiful British accent and spoke fluent Dutch. Let’s just say she knew how to work the room and keep a civil ceremony interesting. The wedding was beautiful not too romantic but romantic nonetheless. After having been through it, I’d love one like it. After the ceremony, I told the woman what a good job she did and told her someday maybe I’d need her services over in the States. She told me “Just get me a ticket and I’ll be there.” I’m seriously thinking about that one.

We went back to the bride’s parents’ house for some cake, some pictures and a champagne toast. Next, we were whisked off to the castle for the reception and a lot of fun. A beautiful couple of days that went off with only one hitch, my friends’ wedding. Cheers!

We got up early today after having missed brunch at the brides’ parent’s house. We quickly found out there is little leeway in checkout times in European hotels. If they say 11:30am, that’s when they expect you to be out.

Buses, trams, trains, walking and biking are the rules here. There are few taxis and cars. Before we had to get on this train, we took a bus down to Amsterdam from our hotel in Wassenaar. We caught lunch and did some shopping. My friend got to go to the Anne Frank House but I couldn’t because I couldn’t find a locker large enough for my rolling garment bag. It almost fit!?! You couldn’t take luggage into the house. I sat outside and watched people. That was an experience itself.

Side note: Everyone smokes over here. It’s almost air pollution. I hate it!

I’d heard a lot about the Sex Museum (they have tons of museums in Amsterdam, even one for tulips) The Sex Museum lived up to its reviews. Don’t miss it. It’ll only take about 30 – 40 minutes of your time. I even found an Internet cafe. I was very happy about that. Cyber withdrawl! We then got aboard this train to Basel SBB. Note to guys: Don’t go to the bathroom on a train without holding up the seat. That thing will slam down at the absolute worst time!

Here it is midnight Monday morning and 6pm Sunday over in the states. I’m tired from the travel and the jet lag!

Still raining!!!

I have a lot written about my trip so I will not waste this time on the net to retell those stories. I wrote a bunch on the train trip here last night. Bad news, I have a sick companion, she’s sick back in the hotel. My first impression of Switzerland wasn’t great, some random older man walked up to me for no reason and called me an idiot. Still don’t know why. The city is beautiful I realized that after a trip downtown. I have so many stories and I was a lone visitor today. It is still raining but part of me doesn’t mind it anymore.

Swiss kezboards have the y and z flipped so it is quite difficult to tzpe this without anz mistakes.


Cheers from Amsterdam

Hey everyone,

I’m sending this post from an internet cafe in Amsterdam. The wedding was great. It’s been raining the entire time we’ve been here. A couple of breaks here and there but mostly the weather’s not cooperated. Tonight, we board a train to Switzerland and then on Wednesday, it’s off to France before returning home. So far, it’s been unbelievable, I’ll share the pictures and stories on my return, like the visit to the Sex Museum!