29 December 2009

Amsterdam

On the 26th of December, we headed for Amsterdam on the Thalys, a fast train. We brought the dogs along so we had a bit more luggage to cope with. We took the metro to Gare du Nord station and hopped aboard with ease for the three hour train ride to Amsterdam. No delays. No security lines.

We stayed at The Toren, which we found courtesy of TripAdvisor. It was a beautiful hotel and a great location right on the Keizersgracht canal. Our American friends Scott and Johanna who live in Amsterdam tipped us off about buying museum tickets online. This let's you go straight to the front of the line. That was helpful as when we arrived at the Anne Frank
Museum (around the corner from our hotel), we avoided waiting in the long queue in the bitter cold and went right in. Delaney had just finished reading The Diary of Anne Frank for a school assignment, so she was prepared to understand exactly what she was seeing. It was the second time through for Randy and me, but we picked up on new things we hadn't noticed before.

We had to bundle up when the freezing rain came and the temperatures dropped. We headed to the Rijks Museum. It's in the middle of a ten year refurbishing, so only a small section of the museum was open to the public. What was there though, was breathtaking. There was an exhibit of artifacts from the Netherlands' Golden Age in the 17th century. We loved as well the Rembrandts and the work of Hendrick Avercamp, the foremost painter of Dutch winter landscapes. His pictures of "frost fares" are packed with lots of activities and comic scenes. The museum is beautiful inside and out. Very impressive!

When not loading up on culture, we feasted on fine Danish beer, famous pancakes, traditional pea soup (called Erwtensoep or "snert") and lots of other treats. We shopped, strolled, and took an hour long boat canal tour on a sunny afternoon.

While there, we celebrated our one year anniversary living abroad. We laughed remembering how much luggage we had to juggle on our way out of the airport the day we arrived. It was one challenge after another: Trying to figure out where to buy groceries...stumbling over boxes. Randy having to put together all of that IKEA furniture. We've come a long way and we're proud of how we've all adjusted.


As 2009 comes to a close, we're geared up and ready for 2010. We're brave and we're bold!


Christmas in Paris

We spent Christmas in Paris. Just Randy, Gina and Delaney. No other family - just the three of us, Tucker and Scout. We had to make due. We tried to decorate the place and make it festive, but it was nearly impossible.

Randy and I went to BHV in hopes of finding a string or two of lights and other decorations. As is customary, the heat was on full blast and the crowds were as thick as ever. We winced at the choices available and at the prices. Everything was lame and expensive. We longed for a Target. The trees for sale look like they've come straight from 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'. Again, very expensive but not appealing.

Delaney surprized us by putting up this lovely 3' high handmade Christmas tree. We augmented that with a bowl of ornaments purchased at Monoprix, our grocery store.


It certainly wasn't Paris 'chic', or like anything we were used to from home, but we were together and that was what counted. We enjoyed a lovely Christmas Eve together and the following day, made a wonderful meal and played Monopoly - Delaney's favorite.

Peace on earth. Goodwill toward men.