Friday, June 29, 2012

Why you should never listen if someone says "Trust Me"

29 June 2012

It was a big travel day today and I also found many new "truths" today. The first is that it's a much bigger day of travel when you're lugging luggage (see how aptly that is named)! Another obvious "fact" in travel is that, the more you have to carry, the more stairs you have to climb...and you will inevitably find the elevator right AFTER you do climb the stairs with all the luggage! The last thing I learned (again) is that the words, "Trust me" should be followed with healthy skepticism.

We landed in Hoek van Holland this morning and the disembarking began at 7:45am. They do a ship-wide wake-up call at 6:30am. I slept really well on the boat and was deeply asleep when the phone rang at 2:30am. Mom and I both thought it was the wake up call, but it was a prank call...apparently drunk youth are obnoxious in any country. (Actually, I'm going with the fact that it was a mis-dial and not malicious;-) When we went back to sleep, it was a peaceful night. The actual wake-up call was over the ship's loudspeaker...I can't get it out of my head...using Bobby McFaren's "Don't Worry, Be Happy." I don't think I'll change my alarm to use it, but it is a "happy" tune to wake to:-)

When we disembarked, we took the train to Rotterdam. We've explored that town many years ago and today decided that we were just traveling on to Drenthe (a province in the Netherlands where my mom grew up). I read the train schedule and we realized we could get most of the way on one train. A big deal when lugging luggage. We found the elevator (yeah) and realized it didn't go up to the platform (boo), but then realized the stairs had an escalator (yeah!). We walked across the platform to the train track listed and realized there was no elevator/escalator down (boo!). With some gravity assistance, we got down to the platform. (This was not just a single flight, but about 3 floors worth to pass over the trains.) There we waited until the announcement came on that the train we wanted was leaving from a DIFFERENT that required climbing back up the stairs and down another set of stairs with the luggage (boo) within 4 minutes (serious BOOOO!).

We did decide that, since we weren't competing for a spot on the Amazing Race (and that, if we were, we would have taken less luggage and trained for it), it wasn't worth risking cardiac arrest to make it. When we got to the top of the stairs, I left Mom there with the luggage and went to check in the main building for the whole route to Hoogeveen.

Great news! There was a direct train with only one change! Oh, and by the way, there was also an elevator if you went UNDER the tracks and there was no need to carry all that luggage up and down those stairs...ooops...guess I got the cardiac training today. I went back up to Mom and I carried the luggage DOWN for one last time. Dutch people are very nice and 3 different people offer to help carry the luggage, but we had time and I didn't want to inconvenience anyone, so I did decline (OK, it may have been pride, but I'll move on...)

We got on the train and found an open car with jump seats designed for people with bikes, but it worked great for people with lots of luggage. There was a couple speaking English across from us. At our first stop, they got up and got off...and then jumped right back on. The train started moving and they were talking to us and immediately realized that WAS where they wanted to get off! Just as they were realizing it, the conductor came through. He asked them were they were going and they said,"Assen." This was just one stop past where we were going. The conductor said that they didn't need to switch trains. That the one they were on went there. When they questioned him about the other information they had received, he said, "Don't listen to those other people. Trust me!" [Yes, this is the part I shouldn't have trusted.]

We realized that we were going in the same direction, but to a smaller town, so the express train we were on wouldn't stop there. We told the couple, who by this time had moved up to the top floor, that we would tell them when to get off. It would be a long ride. We settled in, knowing we had quite a ride ahead, until we got to Zwolle. In the past, you had to be careful which end of the train you were in. One half went your way, one went another. We were hoping the conductor would come back through to confirm that we could stay on.

When we were in train station in Zwolle, I poked my head out of the door and the sign saying were the train was going, said the other way! I mentioned this to Mom, but we settled back in, but then she asked the man getting on our train if this one stopped at the town we needed. He promptly said, "No, it's the other half." We quickly jumped up, walked out the door, walked up to the other half, and, as the train we needed pulled away without us, stood on the platform and realized we forgot to tell our buddy couple that THEY needed to get off too!!! I felt AWFUL!!! Yep, never listen to the words "Trust Me."
When we got on our train between Zwolle and Assen, where my aunt and uncle were picking us up, Mom was in a chatty mood. She told me about her high school and "finishing school." That program (including chemistry) was not one that worked for her. She stayed there for one semester and then decided it wasn't worth going back. After that she took a nurse's aid course and had a job at a hospital.

My Aunt Gre and Uncle Ger met us at the train station in Assen. Mobile phones make coordinating much easier than in "the old days." They took us through Westerbork on the way home. Westerbork is the town that my mom grew up in. We stopped by my grandparents old house. They had had it build when they retired. It has changed a lot. They've added a "sun room" and changed the yard layout. I'm going to have to pull out my old pictures to see the differences. We headed into the town center and had lunch. I ordered the Nasi Goreng lunch at a restaurant that was located between the house my mom was born in and the house she grew up in. It was very cool!

We also drove past my mom's elementary school on our way home to Oosterhesselen. We moved our stuff into the room and have been spending the afternoon hanging out. I also got some homework done for my graduate program that starts when we get back to the states. Lovely day...tomorrow we have a major family reunion for Uncle Ger's birthday. Looking forward to seeing many of my cousins and their kids. I'll also see my other Aunt and Uncle.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bloody Americans...June 28,2012

Bloody American Tourists. Yep, that was us today. Fortunately, I don't think was particularly offended anyone, but we were the America Tourists today.

We left Downham Market on the train this morning, and found out once again the value of the round trip purchase. We were going to get a ticket to the train station in London and then deal with the return in 2 weeks, but it was just a bit more to get the return ticket and it will be good for a month! I love a good deal. We have a ticket for the trip to the Netherlands tonight that covered the train from London to Harwich, the boat over, a cabin, and the train to any station in the Netherlands. When I tell folks what it costs, everyone assumes that is per person, not for both of us. I love being able to shop on Internet before leaving.

When we got to London Liverpool Station, we checked our bags into a storage space. Handy, because did LOTS of walking today and the luggage would have been a pain. We went to information and asked about a city tour on a bus. We wanted to be able to hop on and off if we were near things we wanted to see. I had cheezy gift shopping on my mind and wanted to get lots of it done. We decided to have lunch and found a place called "A Bunch of Grapes" in the Leadenhall Market. I decided to go with a traditional English dish-spinach ravioli:-) I had a coke
served with lemon to drink and mom had a ham and cheese toastie with chips.

We wandered over to St. Paul's Cathedral to catch the tour bus. Three different bus tours start at that point and I felt like a piece of bloody bait walking into a shark tank. We were eventually snatched up by one of the sharks and found ourselves immediately on a double decker tour bus with an open top. It was such a beautiful day and the live tour guide was very friendly and funny...exactly what you want in an entertaining afternoon! We spent a lot of time stuck in traffic. There was a major dedication of a statue to the Royal Air Force from the Second WW. We actually just missed the queen mum and Charles and Camilla. We saw the dedication live on TV when we were eating lunch, but when we drove by with the tour, they had already gone back to Buckingham Palace.

We continued riding to Picadilly Circus (no animals were injured in this event) where we got off and did some light shopping. Apparently, the Picadill was the ruff collar from Shakespeare's day and they were shopped for on Picadilly Road. We decided to go to TGIFriday's, like the good American Tourists. Standard chain food...OK, but not very exciting.

We decided to take the Underground back to the Liverpool Station. It had been hot all day, but the Tube was UNBEARABLE! They are really going to need to work on that before the influx from the Olympics. We were both SO happy that we had left our luggage at the station. We actually got back to the station just before the early train left for Harwich. We caught it just on time and had a very relaxing ride over. When we got to the boat we checked in and boarded the boat. We have a cute little cabin, like a train car. There are bunk beds and I think I will definitely be sleeping on top tonight.

Mom and I are now hanging out in the lobby. We can hear the engines starting and are enjoying
croquettes, drinking cassis (my favorite Europe drink), and chatting about life. We'll be heading to bed soon, sleeping on the boat, and waking up in the Netherlands.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June 27, 2012

Lots of walking today...yippee! Almost 10,000 steps. Life is good.

Mom and I walked into Downham Market. We went to several Charity Shops today, which we call thrift shops. Some fun things, but nothing I couldn't live without. I did pick up a couple cards. We had a very nice day in town and, even though it's been overcast, it has not been cold. Shorts were the order of the day and we did actually see the sun at least twice! We were spent from the walk into town, but were saved from walking home by an appropriately timed text that allowed Ruth to pick us up on her way home.

I have decided that a simple lunch, bread, cheese, soup, is delicious when you are sharing it with loved ones. It has been really comfortable hanging out here and I really like the family time with Nico and Ruth. After lunch we headed into Ely. Ely has a cathedral that I saw many years ago, but it was undergoing rennovation. It was nice to see it without the scaffolding. The cost to enter felt a bit excessive, so we just walked around the lobby and the outside. There was a symbol created by and artist for over one of the entries. It is called, "The Road to Salvation" and I was completely enammored by the visual. It just captured my mind. I did get a photo of it along with a postcard. There were pieces of jewelry with the symbol and, while I found them stunning, I also know I won't wear them (they were mostly gold and I never change my earings). Maybe I can get the symbol on something that I would wear. In Ely is also Oliver Cromwell's house. It was closing time, so we didn't take the tour, but did see the house and take some photos. I never realized it was in the same town, but maybe I just didn't know who he was the last time I was there.

Ruth, Mom and I walked down to the river to get a cup of tea. While we were walking down, we saw a sign for a bike path. My mom was telling Ruth and I about these large (5 meter) bicycles in the Netherlands along a famous bike path. She had seen and photographed one of these bike sculptures when she was last in the Netherlands. Mom had recently heard the story on the Dutch news about someone stealing one of these bike sculptures and how the news said a few days later it had been returned. After a moment, Ruth asked what the rest of the story was.

Mom: "That's all I know. I don't know if they caught them."

Ruth: "You don't know who took it then?"

Mom:"No. They just took it at night and it got returned."

Ruth: "Your nephew Jans took it. There's a video. Your brother Jans was also on the video."

When we got home tonight we looked it up. There is a big 4 day bike ride in the province my mom grew up in and they took it for the event as a prank. They posted the video on YouTube ( and then invited the other mayor over. The video in town takes place on the street my mom grew up on. My uncle is in these videos and my cousin is in the first one. ( National News theft and my family was responsible.

We had a great dinner with Nico, Ruth, and Hannah. It was fun to try to explain the family to my 21 year old cousin. Last time I was here, she was 11, so it's fun to connect with her as an adult. My mom told lots of family stories and she was surprised by lots of the stories. It's good to connect.

June 26, 2012

Today was truly a vacation day for me...sleeping in late and hanging out with wonderful people.

We slept in and when we got up it was almost time for lunch. Ruth was already home from work and was working on lunch for us. Even a simple lunch is wonderful in a new location. We had bread rolls with "the best" chutney, meat, cheese, or a homemade spread create, prepared, and sold by Uncle Nico's students. Delicious enough, but for dessert we had fresh strawberries with double cream. Perfect.

After lunch we headed into Downham Market to exchange some money. The bank we went to had an ATM machine labeled "Hole in the Wall." Don't know if they are all called that, but I did find it funny. We actually ended up changing money at the local travel agency.

We headed out in the car for a drive and ended up at a place called Norfolk Lavender. This outdoor garden/lavender distillery had many products from the plant and lots of gardening items for sale. They were in the process of collecting every variety of lavender known. The small fields were beautiful and it smelled delicious. When we got there the police were there trying to catch a crook who was passing counterfeit bills and they were searching the place for his wallet, which they hadn't found yet. While we were there, they had to call an ambulance for a kid who was bit by a goat in the petting zoo was a dangerous day!

We stopped in Burnham Market for a spot of tea and had a nice chat. It was warmer weather than they had had here for several weeks, but it was also a bit rainy and so we sat under the table umbrellas at the restaurant. This is the "vacation home" place for the English jet-set. Johnny Depp has a home there, along with several other TV/movie stars. It's just like being in LA, only not as warm, sunny, or pretentious.

For our last stop we went to Wells-next-the-Sea. There is a Dutch tall ship that got "stuck" there about 10 years ago. It was a beautiful ship that reminded me of the tall ships I used to sail on to Catalina with the kids. Because it was a Dutch ship, they served Dutch food, so in addition to a British hard cider, we had pannekoeken (Dutch crepe-like pancakes)! Mom went with cinnamon and apple, but I had spinach, cheese, and boiled egg! Life is good on the food front!

This evening, Mom gave Nico and Ruth a quilt she had made out of tea towels. Several of them were from England, but many were also from other countries they had visited, like Australia.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Travel: Past and Present meet

2012 is supposed to be the "end of the world" by the Myan calendar, so it is time to get some traveling in before the end. My mom is turning 70 this year and, at her request, she and I are traveling back to "the old country."

It's a return trip, so to speak: with my mom back to the Netherlands and England to see her brothers. She still has 2 brothers in NL and one in England. We are currently over the Atlantic on the way. There's also a rundown of numbers coming across that probably have some significance, if I went for that sort of thing, but are at least interesting:
70-the age my mom will be this year
60- the age my uncle Nico is turning this year
50-the number of years my Uncle Gerrit and Aunt Gre are married
30-the number of years Uncle Nico and Ruth are married

On January 1 of 2013, it will have been 50 years since my mom emigrated from the Netherlands. She traveled on New Year's Day because that was a day that her parent's store was closed. She landed in Detroit Airport and was picked up by Ben and Jerry (really), but they refused to stop for ice cream (not really). She had come through New York first. On that initial flight to New York, she was sitting next to a man from South Africa who spoke Afrikaans. He helped her fill out the paper work in English because he could translate from the Dutch. He then proposed to her saying that they really needed women in South Africa. She decided to take the plane to Detroit because her brother and brother-in-law were waiting for her. Good thing cell phones weren't an option for
changing plans;-)

Yesterday was a long travel day. I left LA and went through Minneapolis to Grand Rapids, MI. I was picked up by my mom and her sister, Alice. We passed through Kalamazoo to do some luggage exchange and then mom and I headed to Detroit for our flight. We got to our hotel at 1:45am and got a couple short hours of sleep before we took off this morning. This flight was via Chicago and we'll land in London Heathrow tonight to head to Uncle Nico's house.

We're now in Downham Market and planning on sleeping until we're done!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It's been a while...

It's been over a year since I've blogged or had a "proper" vacation.  It is time to remedy both.  School is almost out and then I am off on an adventure.  For those of you aware of my last 2 international trips, I'm hoping it's not THAT kind of adventure.

My mom and I are traveling back to the Netherlands to see her two of her brothers' families. We will also be going to England to see her youngest brother's family.  My mom will be 70 this year and it is a good time for us to travel together and celebrate her life and her-story.  I'm hoping for lovely and uneventful trip and that I come back looking better than my current passport picture!

I will also be in Michigan with my family and starting a one-year graduate fellowship program.  Traveling, learning, and meeting new may be the PERFECT summer!