Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Day 3 Keukenhof!!!!

To say we were eagerly anticipating our visit to the famous Keukenhoff Gardens of Holland is an understatement.  The gardens are are 70 acres of tulips and other bulb-flowered spectacular-ness.  They say 7 million bulbs were planted last year, each of which will be dug up and replaced for next year's bloom.  Amazingly, all this work goes into an open season which is only 8 weeks a year, from approximately mid March to mid May. So, we had originally planned to travel later in May, but adjusted our schedule to accommodate this particular excursion. 

I don't have a lot to say on this post... the pictures totally don't do it justice, either... but it's the best I've got!

(Here's a link to my blog's home page so that you can navigate to other posts about our trip)

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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Day 2.1 All Aboard

Finally on Sunday afternoon it was time to board our ship – The Avalon Luminary.  She carries 130 passengers, has a restaurant, two lounges and a sky deck.  Unfortunately, Belgium in May is still quite brisk, and frequently rainy. Not to mention that for low bridges, and overnight when we dock in a city, the captain closes the sky deck for security reasons.  So… we really haven’t spent any time up there.  But there is no lack for comfort on board regardless.

Our room has a queen sized bed (two twins pushed together, but the mattress was very comfortable, so we were never aware of it being separate beds!), private bath with a large shower, and plenty of closet space.  Since a significant driver in our decision to do a cruise is the fact that you don’t have to keep moving your luggage each day, we immediately unpacked and stowed the empty suitcases below the bed.  A big question was going to be what to do with the scooters.  As you may recall, the cruise line objected strenuously that there was no room to store the scooter.  Indeed, upon first glance it was looking to be quite awkward. 

I’d intended that each of us would store one scooter, but since the Travel Scoot was non-functional, we took them both so that Dave could tinker with it.  That scooter folds right up, so that was a simple matter to push under the bed.  The other one we were starting to resign ourselves to nest under the desk area, when I discovered that it would fit fantastically in the closet!  Et voila – two scooters stored and NO floor space sacrificed!

Learning how to move the scooters around on board took a bit of coordination, but even in the morning when the cleaning carts were in the hallway, I was still able to grab the front wheel and pull the scoots up the hallway…  Note to self – the farther back on the ship, the longer commute each day!  Gangplanks were awkward – mostly because of protruding wheels that would catch the hand ropes.  And the most difficult navigation of all, was the one day we did double park – and had to ascend to the sky deck to transfer to another cruise ship, then descend to their main deck to disembark.  I’m thankful we still only had one functioning scooter that day, because that was a heck of a transfer.  I learned to carry the scoot vertically, and hook the front wheel over my shoulder – that way I was able to free one hand to hold onto the hand rail.  Because those stairways up to the sky decks are narrow and steep!

Contrary to the protestations of the cruise line, all of the crew members were quick to offer to carry the scoots on and off for me.  To the point where I sometimes felt goaded into declaring I can do this!!  Oh well – it’s good to accept help.  Even our fellow passengers jumped in frequently to offer assistance.

As for the elevator on board... that was quite frustrating.  The cabin decks at the rear of the boat were 1/2 floor offset from the restaurant/lounge decks in the front.  There are 3 levels of cabins.  At first, second and even third look, the elevator appeared to only operate on the cabin decks.  But it turns out there is a hidden door in the side of the elevator that could open on the half floors...  HURM.  So we made rather little use of the elevator.  In light of that, the 2nd deck of cabins was ideal for Dave and I because it was generally 1/2 flight up or down that he needed to navigate.

Anyways, once stowed and the safety drill complete, we were underway just as dinner was served.  Dinner in the restaurant always had an appetizer, soup, entrée and dessert – wth 2-4 choices for each.  So there was lots of variety, and it was all wonderful!  We had already made up our minds to forego the gluten free and dairy free restrictions for this trip, and that didn’t take but a single meal to become a distant memory, haha!  It’s interesting to note that after a week of eating with abandon, neither of us have had any mal-adjustment back to this way of eating.

Most days we set sail just as dinner began, and sailed overnight.  The first morning we awoke in the Rotterdam harbor - one of the largest in the world.  Thanks to the wonder that is facebook, my brother alerted us to keep an eye out for the oceanliner, The Rotterdam which is permanently docked in the harbor.  Turns out that is the ship my parents and my oldest sister and brother sailed back from Europe to the USA on in 1961.  Low and behold, just minutes later, there she was!  (and no, those are not flames erupting on the dock, but a strange reflection of the table of people behind me, oddly spotlighted...)

(Here's a link to my blog's home page so that you can navigate to other posts about our trip)

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Monday, May 08, 2017

Day 1-2 Amsterdam

We arrived at the hotel in Amsterdam late in the day, but its light until after 9 here now, so we couldn’t resist taking a stroll to find some dinner.  As our hotel was very near the Old Town area, of course we went there! 

Old town still has the layout as was created in the Middle Ages – very narrow streets and crooked buildings.  It’s also immensely popular, so maneuvering through these very crowded cobblestone streets was fairly unnerving for David on the scooter.  After dinner I noticed he was moving about more confidently, and he said that he had decided that if he took a spill, then so be it – he would rely upon some of these crowds to help him get back up!  With that great attitude he took to navigating the challenging streets like a pro.

Old Town was packed with bars and restaurants of all flavors.  

We decided to try “La Paella” – because the menu had a list of tapas, but once we got inside and saw the paella being served we could not resist.  Beautiful pans of golden rice, mixed seafoods and veggies.   Oh, yum!  

As we claimed to not be very hungry, we split two orders – but had no trouble cleaning them up!

It was full dark by the time we left, and decided to head back through the Red Light district which essentially surrounded us anyway.  The incredible density and array of shops continued, though the themes of the businesses started to shift into the more risqué.  Alas, we did not happen upon the street where the ladies of the night advertise themselves in windows down onto the street – but I did not insist upon dragging my parents around to find it!

Back to the hotel after 11 - when we had had all intentions of an early night.  A well!  At least we needed no extra encouragement to climb straight into bed! 

Sunday morning we joined our cruise mates for a tour of the city.  We started on a canal cruise, and based on the line we saw later to get on one of these glass boat tours in town, we were very happy to have had a private tour arranged for us. 

We also were treated to a gloriously beautiful sunny day – the locals said this was the first of the year so far?!

One gets a fantastic view of Amsterdam from the canals.  There are many resident house-boats permanently moored in place.  They have mailboxes, swewage control and fixed gangplanks for access.  We even saw them doubling up (double parking) such that the second boad had access rights across the first boat to get home!

There is an incredible variety of boats.  Many with bicycles chained to a bike rack on the sidewalk.  Gardens, including potted trees on the deck and...

This ingenious one that had a floating garden alongside.

Apparently these boat houses are now some of the most expensive housing in the city!  

And of course, the bridges, too.

Amsterdam is famous for the architecture that has narrow houses with ornate and individualistic roof treatments.  Story goes that owners were taxed on the width of their house – so they are all quite narrow, but very tall.  Some are more narrow than others – 3, 2 and even just 1 window wide.

Most of these row houses come with hoisting beams from their peak.  Such beams allow for hauling up your furniture, to move in through the window on the appropriate floor.  Otherwise you’d never get that furniture up the narrow stairways!  I love this idea, and kept my eyes peeled for the sight of someone moving in… however I never did see any hoisting in progress.

Some are subdivided such that a family may own only a single floor of the house.  We saw some cases of the front door being split into two doors – apparently the halls behind them are split, one door leading to the main floor, the other directly to the staircase.  Such arrangements then necessitate mini home owners associations, as the different families need to share the maintenance costs for the front stairs, the stairwell, and the roof.  I guess in Amsterdam it is typical that the land is leased from the city – rather than owned with the house.

After just a short time looking around the canals, you quickly get the impression that the buildings all seem to be leaning one way or another!  I chalked that up to ancient architecture, but it turns out that is only partially correct.  Some houses, notably this pair,
have foundations that are failing.  The pilings that they sit upon were not driven all the way down into the swampy ground.  The portion that is exposed to air, has a tendency to rot away, and thus they have settled unevenly.

But it turns out that the much more common leaning front wall of the house is designed intentionally!  For, if you wanted to hoist your belongings up the outside of your house, it would be advantageous to have the top of the front wall leaning out over the foot.  Clever, them danes. 

On the bus back to the hotel -- LOOK, our first windmill!  This is an industrial mill, grinding the grains for the brewery you can't see below.  As opposed to the ones out on the dykes, pumping water out.

After our tour, we had a couple of free hours, so we headed out for the Dam Square which was a few blocks away.  Passed the very ornate Central Railway station, and this very popular canal side cafe.

Tons of crowds out, but we window shopped, and in the case of the Old Amsterdam Cheese shop, entered to taste some of their wares.

Dam Square is the commenoration of the dam across the Amstel river built in the 13th century to prevent flooding of the city -- thus the origin of the name Amsterdam.  The Royal Palace sits here as well, the "Koninkijk Palace".  Just a few days before our visit, the King of the Netherlands had his 50th birthday, which was a big celebration.  Many of the oranged themed decorations were still hanging around the city.

Dam Square turned out to be the perfect place for a picnic lunch.  To explain, I have to back up a bit to our airline reservations on the way over.  We booked with United, but it was operated by Lufthansa.  Not so unusual.  But I did think it was quite odd that all of our itinerary information said that there would be no meals on this transatlantic flight…!  I mean – it was a super deal, so I figured the meal was just one frill they were doing away with.  So we had purposefully gotten some sandwiches-to-go from RISE Bakery before leaving.

Only… we DID get dinner and breakfast on the plane.  Hum.  So now the sandwiches were just sorta just coming along for the ride, to Europe.  :-/  We fixed that problem, and they were delicious!

Heading back to hotel in time to transfer to the boat, we again walked back up the canal we had walked the night prior.  Just so beautiful, in any light!

It was such a gorgeous Sunday afternoon - there were traffic jams every which way you turned!

Look at that grin!  Can't walk through town without stopping for a quick pint.

(Here's a link to my blog's home page so that you can navigate to other posts about our trip)

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