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 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!

February 12th, 2020 – Day 4: Dublin, Ireland

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

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Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. The bench on the lower left is actually a sculpture of Jesus as a homeless person sleeping on a bench, complete with crucifixion holes in his feet.

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Close-up of sculpture at Christchurch, Dublin, Ireland

When we dropped the car last night we got a bus pass for a RT from the airport and a 48-hour Hop On/Hop Off bus tour around the city. Basically the buses (which operate in many cities around the world) circle in a loop and hit a stop about every 15 minutes. Just as the title says, you can hop on and hop off anywhere along the route for 48 hours after the first use.

We woke up this morning at 10:00 and there was a giant orange ball in the azure blue sky. Finally a good day! I guess we were still a bit jet lagged somewhat but part of the trouble falling asleep may be the excitement. We got ready and hit the bus for a drive around Ireland.

The first part of the tour was recorded. We got on it near our hotel an d went all over the city and saw various sites. It is a great value to get on one of these buses with the access you have to points of interest all over the city.

The big park in Dublin is called Phoenix Park and it is beautiful. It is FIVE times the size of Central Park in NYC. It’s over 1700 acres! It has a polo field, the President’s House and other state buildings, a zoo, hospital and other buildings. It supports 50% of the mammal species in Ireland as well as 40% of the bird species.

We pulled up in front of the bus office and a new driver took the wheel. He did a live narration as he drove us around and it was fun and entertaining. The Spire of Dublin is a huge spire on O’Connell Street – the main street through the city. The tour driver said locals have given it some wonderful names, such as “the Stiffey on the Liffey” (The River Liffey runs through Dublin), “the Stilletto in the Ghetto” and “the Erection at the Intersecrtion”. Apparently some don’t like it.

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Spire of Dublin

We hopped off the bus near the EPIC Irish Emigration Museum and walked across the street to see the Irish Famine Memorial. Very haunting statues commemorating the Potato Famine, which killed about half of Ireland’s population and it didn’t get back to the same level for many many years.

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EPIC – the Irish Emigration Museum – Dublin, Ireland

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The Famine Memorial – Dublin, Ireland

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The Famine Memorial – Dublin, Ireland

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Sailing ship museum on the River Liffey – Dublin Ireland

We headed back toward Temple Bar area and went into The Temple Bar for a pint and picked up a few souvenirs. Temple Bar area is where many famous Irish musicians honed their craft and earning their place in Irish music history.

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Chelsea and Angie at The Temple Bar in the Temple Bar area – Dublin, Ireland

When we came out of the bar a guy was coming around the corner up the sidewalk and instead of colliding we hugged and swung around each other. Then the guy behind him, about 6’4″ tall, yells out “I want a hug!” So I said “come on over here!” and we hugged it out and he started jumping up and down like a pogo stick and we were hugging so I did too, my feet off the ground!. We had a great laugh and went on our way. One of those awesome travel memories!

We walked around a little more and I got to see the Rory Gallagher Corner memorial, which was on my list of things to see.

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A tribute to a guitar legend – Temple Bar area, Dubin, Ireland

Rory was a legend; an amazing blues guitarist who unfortunately died in 1995. I was lucky enough to see him open for Rush back in the 80s though. Someone once asked Jimi Hendrix what it was like to be the world’s greatest guitar player. He responded “I don’t know…go ask Rory Gallagher.”. That says quite a lot about the man. I like the album “Top Priority” – check it out.

We then went back to our hotel to heat up some of that delicious leftover dinner from last night. We had wanted to go to visit a historic church a few blocks away but didn’t make it in time.

After some dinner Angie and I went out for a walk and Chelsea stayed in to kick back a bit. We wanted to burn off a little energy to hopefully sleep earlier and also grab a few things for breakfast at the local market. Dublin is quite alive at night and is so much fun. So many interesting people to see and things to eat.

While we were out we also walked over to the Phil Lynott statue. Phil was another legendary Irish musician who founded Thin Lizzy. He died in 1986 but in his short time he influenced many musicians. “Emerald” and “The Cowboy Song” are my favorite Thin Lizzy songs.

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Phil Lynott statue – Dublin, Ireland

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Urban artwork in Dublin, Ireland alley

We grabbed some dinner for Angie and some breakfast groceries then went back to our rental. Tomorrow we move to a different place so we are doing up some laundry and trying to get a little more rest while we can.

More adventures tomorrow! Be here!

February 11th, 2020 – Day 3: Athlone, Ireland to Dublin, Ireland

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

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Yes…it means exactly what you think it means

We got up and got packed then went for breakfast across the street at Bastion Kitchen. I had the bap (a sausage sandwich) with coffee and it was so delicious. They topped it with some greens and something I had never had before – a tomato/onion jam that took that sandwich to a whole new level.

After breakfast we went back up to get our bags and we took off again, this time back west to see the Cliffs of Moher. We ran out of time yesterday and we all wanted to see them so off we went!

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Driving near ‎⁨Tubber⁩, ⁨Co. Clare⁩, ⁨Ireland⁩

The drive was really interesting and beautiful. Cliot, the name given to our Renault Clio by Chelsea and Angie, barely fit in one lane of the road almost all the way there, and the rest were single lane roads. This car is small and still had to squeeze by more than once.

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Roads are not very wide! Notice the sticker on the car dashboard to remind you to drive on the left.

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Roads are not very wide!

Driving around Ireland you will see castles literally everywhere.

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Castle near ‎⁨Kilfenora⁩, ⁨Co. Clare⁩, ⁨Ireland⁩

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‎⁨Castle near Gort⁩, ⁨Co. Galway⁩, ⁨Ireland⁩

Again, the weather has been absolutely horrible and, incredibly, it was even worse at the cliffs in the form of spray and 60 mph winds that almost knocked us over more than once. We were glad we made the drive, though, and walked through the fury. It was a spectacular view and I wish we could’ve hiked up to the highest point but the winds are known to blow people over the edge. Not interested in that.

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Chelsea and Angie checking out the view at the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

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The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland

We left and went back eastbound to Dublin. On the way we stopped for a break at the Barack Obama Plaza rest stop to stretch and get a few snacks. That was rather interesting to see in the middle of Ireland.

We decided to get a hotel in Temple Bar area for a few nights. Doing this we could do laundry in our rental place and be able to stay put a few nights and get to see everything we want to see.

The other part of the plan was to get rid of Cliot since it had to be returned first thing in the morning anyway. This meant getting it back to the airport, and that meant I had to drive a manual shift, right-hand drive car in the middle of Dublin center city. I dropped the girls off to take stuff up to our room since there was no place to park Cliot. I took off and navigated Dublin traffic solo, wondering how that was a good idea.  Not sure what I was thinking but I found my way back to the hotel and we got to the airport eventually.

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Dublin traffic. OMG. It is absolute insanity to drive in and I bet it is about the same even if you know the place and traffic flows and vehicles. I thought Seattle traffic sucked to drive in. I just looked up the population numbers and Dublin has 76% more people by a count done in 2011. I think we saw them all as we drove in the city that night.

Anyhoo, we got a bus back from the airport and went for dinner at The Shack in Temple Bar near our room. I had the Cottage Pie and it was so filling I brought home leftovers. I had more of that delicious black bread with mine and it was the perfect pairing.

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The Shack’s Cottage Pie with sourdough – Temple Bar area, Dublin, Ireland

Our rental has a kitchen as well as a washer/dryer combo machine (yes, it does both!). We can heat our leftovers and we went to the store for a few things to eat in and save a few €.

We discovered the laundry machine was really not good – to get things dry it heats up to the temperature of the sun and then runs for 4 hours. I had to just turn it off to stop it – we could not figure out any other way on the controls.

It was a neat place though. The view from the balconies was pretty good.

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View of Christchurch from our rental apartment in Temple Bar area – Dublin, Ireland

There was a courtyard with some interesting history down below our balconies. There is a statue standing on top of pipes from a pipe organ coming up out of the ground. The statue has his arms raised with a conductor’s baton. It was to commemorate the place Handel performed his classic “Messiah” in public for the first time.

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Courtyard commemorating Handel’s first public performance of “Messiah” – Dublin, Ireland

I found something rather odd in our apartment.

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The bathroom fan is on the left. The switch is on the right.

Looks normal, you say? Think again. To turn on the switch you have to stand IN the bathtub! Yes…IN THE BATHTUB! I am pretty certain that doesn’t meet code where I live.

Time for sleep. See you tomorrow!