February 8th, 2021

Adventure, Just things, Outdoors, Road Trip, Travel, Uncategorized

It was a year ago today that I made my second trip to Europe with my two oldest girls, leaving Kansas City on a Saturday morning to go to Dublin, Ireland. I know my first trip over really was a complete assault on the senses – foreign country, different foods, languages, using public transit, plus experiencing how life is for others with which we share the planet. I remember pulling into Amsterdam Centraal that first trip in 2018, seeing all the trains and tracks everywhere, thinking “Oh shit…what have we gotten ourselves into…”.

Even though I had been there before, this trip was still a life-changing experience for me in several different ways. Seeing the castle where our family started out was incredible and getting to see it with Chelsea and Angie on their first trip was such a cool thing (you’re next, Meghan!). Of course there was all of the great food we ate, the things we saw and did, people we talked to…much like the first time all over again.

I was in a weird headspace for many reasons. I hated the prospect of having to leave. There was also an accumulation of the previous five years of loss and the other BS life put on my doorstep in a flaming paper bag. In Amsterdam we took time on our last day there to go different ways and explore. I was lost in thought just getting lost in the city. I got myself into a much better headspace before my adventure and everything in life was calm & peaceful as I wandered around, looking at some familiar places and finding other places I had never seen before. It really helped me in ways I cannot describe, and it was badly needed.

Right now it would be nice to have the opportunity to do that again, venturing out into unknown areas of a city that is nearly half of a world away. No map of any sort…just walking; no matter where you go that’s where you are. Everything is new in every way and you just kinda say “WOW” inside. I would even settle for someplace domestic; how nice it would be just to be able to wander around Seattle on foot like I used to do on occasion.

A steamed BBQ pork hombow from the Chinese bakery at Pike Place Market would be delicious right about now, as would breakfast at Biscuit Bitch and a burger, cheese curds and a pint at the Five Point or a pizza from Serious Pie. There are so many places to wander around checking out and so many things I have not made note of yet. I do still update my bucket list for things and places of interest, and there are more places in Seattle on that list I have not been to but want to check out when it is safer for my health to do so.

I always keep an eye out for interesting places everywhere and I put them into both my bucket list and Apple Maps so I can have directions ready to go if I end up someplace on a whim (which does happen often). I still have plenty of things to see and do in Amsterdam yet, and both Ireland and Iceland are islands of so many things to see and do. Beyond that there is still a lot more of the world I want to experience.

I will be looking into some domestic road trip options as well, adding more to that section of the bucket list. When things calm down I will be traveling locally more so I should do something unique, like visiting all of the state parks in Washington. I have been to almost all of the National Parks in the state so there are a couple of those left I want to visit; not because they are on a list, but because I want to visit them.

I will hopefully be going to MT soon to get my stuff, but want/need to get my vaccines first. I don’t want to miss out on getting it in fear of not being able to get it if I do miss out the first time because I am gone. The weather, being another factor, has not been bad there, but I don’t need to take a chance with that either since I would be towing a cargo trailer back.

The past year has been tough for everyone but in hindsight getting to go to Europe was a big help to get me through the year. We have talked about it often and relived our experiences both separately and with each other numerous times ever since we returned. I hope at some point in the next year we can all go together.

That’s all for today.

February 17th, 2020 – Day 9: Amsterdam, The Netherlands to Kansas City, MO USA

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

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On the way to Schiphol Airport from Amsterdam Centraal Station

I woke up at 4:30, an hour before our alarm was supposed to go off. I laid there in the darkness, contemplating our trip during that time; all the things we saw and did and the fun we had. We have a 9-hour flight to ATL then a couple more hours to MCI.

It was such a great trip and after getting back home I am still thinking about it all. For me returning from this trip was much different than the first time over; having been there I already had that initial excitement of being in Europe. I also knew what to expect for not just going to Europe, but parts of the trip (Köln and Amsterdam, and a little bit in Dublin). I really had no idea what to expect about being all over Ireland and that’s the part I am still having trouble processing. The people were so wonderful and friendly. Everywhere we went in Europe everyone was friendly and helpful but Ireland has the overwhelming feeling of belonging. Galway (and the areas around it) was an even more comfortable place to be…not surprisingly, a feel of home given the centuries-long family history in the area.

The adventure of travel – domestic or international, be it by foot, transit, air, sea, or land –  is so fun and amazing. It is also what you make of it and to be self-reliant in a country where you are a visitor/outsider gives one pause to think about that a little deeper (at least it should) when they return home.

You must get out of your comfort zone to actually learn things and have great experiences when and where you travel; it’s not just about taking pictures of the same famous things like everyone else has posted online. Get in the alleys, go in a coffeeshop or a smart shop, do something you wouldn’t normally do, go someplace where your language is not spoken primarily, eat foods you cannot pronounce, try to have conversations with a local. I guarantee you will have some amazing life-changing experiences and countless stories and memories that last a lifetime.

This trip also included my first stay in an Airbnb property (Landsmeer) and I think that its a great way to travel now that I have done it. I will be looking into doing that more on my own – it’s a great way to get the local flavor of where you are and a great alternative to the same old boring chain hotels here in the States. Being retired, most of my travel will probably be with the trailer but there will one times I need to fly someplace and need a place to stay.

A few thoughts about Amsterdam – it’s a fun, easy city to be in but it is so overrun with cannabis tourists and all of the businesses play it up pretty well – to me it is really overblown and gaudy. I can stay home for that without the commerciality but Washington is overrun with people as well, especially the Seattle area.

I do feel really bad for the residents of Amsterdam; it is tough enough just living in a tourist area but what they deal with is pretty bad. Many tourists don’t care about or respect the locals and that is bad – trust me I know firsthand, having lived in touristy areas since 1996. We avoided being in the city on Friday and Saturday night and waited until Sunday to walk around at night.

I will probably be back, but will stay in the outskirts since I not only want to minimize my impact on the city but I also have other places I want to see in The Netherlands. I really do like Amsterdam’s progressiveness (which some call “freedom”…but only if it fits into their own morals). If you have a closed mind Amsterdam is just not for you.

…and some more thoughts about Ireland – I will definitely be going back to visit this beautiful place, full of some of the friendliest people I have ever met in my life. Dublin is fun and there’s a lot of history there that I still want to explore. There is so much more of the island I want to see. I had a lot of fun driving the car and really enjoyed the challenges and the differences (but not the Dublin traffic madness) and I will definitely get a car every time I go there. There is so much more to see and do in Ireland and I have to see and do it. For me, Galway has that indescribable special magic I feel when I am in the mountains.

In all we walked a total of about 58 miles in 8 days; not counting the day we left that’s an average of 7.25 miles a day. Some days were more – I know one or two were 10 miles a day! Pretty good amount of exercise! The girls did great figuring out the public transit and they fit right in. The only issues we had were the mapping apps not updating like they should (slow data speeds on our free international plans) and sending us in the wrong direction for a bit almost every time we wanted directions.

It was their first trip abroad and their first trip carrying everything around on their backs in a backpack and they did fantastic. They really adapted to this new style of travel really quick and they looked like experienced travel pros from the moment we left. To share travel with someone else makes it even better. When it is with someone you care about it is even better yet. I am so glad we got to go.

Thanks for a great trip, girls. I am looking forward to our next adventure!

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The End!!

February 16th, 2020 – Day 8: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

Today we got out of our rental in Landsmeer and moved into Centrum near Centraal Station. Our room happened to be overlooking a canal and the station along with buildings in the other side of the canal. From here we go back and catch a train to Schiphol Airport for the trip home.

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Our final hotel room is the second row from the bottom (the First Floor in Europe) and the two windows on the left. Not a bad location!

We got into our room and hit the streets again to find food and souvenirs. One thing on my list was to hit a place called FEBO. Much like the old Automats in NY City, FEBO has two options – you can order from the counter or you can drop a coin in a slot and pick out tasty morsels for €2-4 each. Kroketten, bami, kasssouffle – mostly it is deep-fried deliciousness but there were burger options as well. We went there three different times today!

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FEBO – Goes great with a “coffee”!

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The weather was a bit blustery for our last night. We went different directions for a while and then it started to rain. And then it rained even harder. My pants got soaked so it was back to the hotel to warm up. First, though, there was time for a lamb kebab wrap and it was delicious. This looks to be a second storm that came across the UK that was like the first one we got caught up in while in Ireland. We are leaving at a good time.

We went back out to stroll around some more and take one last look at the city as the rain finally slowed to a few sprinkles. The crowds were thinning since it was Sunday night. But still many people are milling about.

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Back to the hotel one last time for the evening. We put the final touches on our packing for tomorrow.

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The view from our hotel window on our last night in Europe

February 15th, 2020 – Day 7: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

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Sure coulda used these earlier!

This morning we got up early to get into the city from our house in Landsmeer. We had tickets to tour the Anne Frank House – one of the few touristy things we scheduled and planned.

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I was a bit apprehensive about it but I’m glad we went. There are many lessons in what happened to that family and history damn well should not be repeating itself. It’s a very informative, emotional exhibit and well worth visiting. The Jews could not ride bikes, swim…a countless list of ever-growing restrictions on a particular race of people. And it was absolutely heartbreaking to hear. One of the videos they showed of Otto Frank talking about losing his family – especially his daughters –  I had a real hard time watching and had to leave the room with tears streaming down my cheeks.

After that we went to find some food and just wandered aimlessly around the city during the day, experiencing the city and checking out shops and the sites. It was a decent day to be out walking and there is so much to see and do here.

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We decided to try to get back to our rental late afternoon and kick back a bit after getting some groceries and eating at home. It’s a comfortable place to be so we were able to rest up. We ended up on a ferry across the water to North Amsterdam where we then had to find our way the rest of the way. There was a lot to see from the water and it was a while new perspective.

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North Amsterdam is an artist community with a lot of interesting stuff going on.

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It was also good to be away from city center (Centrum). That’s where we’ll be staying tomorrow.

February 14th, 2020 – Day 6: Dublin to The European Continent

Adventure, food, Just things, Outdoors, pictures, Travel, Uncategorized

COFFEE!!! We need coffee.

It’s up well before the chickens and off to the airport. Destination: Germany. One more trip (for me) to Köln (Cologne) to see that huge cathedral. We didn’t sleep much last night.

We are flying the ultra-budget carrier Ryanair over as I got a screaming deal on the flights and it was cheap enough to put up with the no-frills BS – a savings of $200 a seat. Unfortunately it comes with another price for us – getting out of bed at 3:30 in the morning. Honestly, the price of the flights makes it easy to say “yes” if you can travel with a small carry-on bag. For example, I saw flights from DUB to London for 12 euro. That is amazingly cheap.

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On the tarmac at Dublin airport and up the stairs! Boarding like this is very common in Europe.

Over here, airplanes are looked upon as a bus with wings and that’s what helps Ryanair succeed. Public transportation is what makes Europe run pretty efficiently. It’s too bad we don’t have more of it in the States. In fact, Ireland is going to ban petrol fuel vehicles in 12 years. That is forward thinking.

We landed at Cologne-Bonn airport and got our train tickets to the city.

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Train station in the airport – Bonn, Germany

We got to Köln Hbf and went in to leave our bags. At the train station there is an automated baggage storage- put in €3.00 and your bags whisk away to parts unknown and are stored for two hours so you can walk around unencumbered by luggage.

We stepped outside there was that huge, imposing behemoth in all its dark-stained gothic glory – Cologne Cathedral. I think the girls were quite surprised just how big the building actually is and the look on their faces when we stepped outside said it all.

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The cathedral is still mesmerizing to me. I can’t stop looking at it in amazement and wonder. I just cannot fathom how this was built so long ago without modern methods and tools.

We went into the old market area and I bought frites and a curry wurst for the girls to try. Like the girls said – it’s good but they wouldn’t eat it regularly.

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Köln, Germany

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Old Market area – Köln, Germany

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Old Market area – Köln, Germany

Köln was our entry into the European Continent. After our visit we needed to get train tickets for the next leg of our journey. It was a bit of a challenge but with the help of a nice lady we got it done finally and went to the train platform.

This is probably my final trip to Köln as a destination. I have been here twice now and if I am this way again with someone who wants to see it I would stop again for a quick visit but not on my own. Nothing wrong g with the city – I just want to see other places.

We got on the train and headed north toward our next destination- Amsterdam. It was a 2.5 hour or so ride, with the girls on their own in one car and I was in another due to reserved seating. Once we arrived we took a quick lap a few blocks from Amsterdam Centraal Station to see some sites.

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Goes great with a visit to the coffeeshop!

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For the meat-loving traveler – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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For another kind of meat-loving traveler – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

We then figured out getting transit to our place in the ‘burbs.

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It was such an early morning and busy travel day we were tired so we relaxed for another early morning tomorrow.

Check back!