zephyr illusions photo by donna October 1992. The view atop Chasseral, Jura Mountains looking across Switzerland to The Alps on the horizon. Fog, intensely thick, rising from Lac Bienne and stretching its fingers high onto the Lignières-Plateau de Diesse after wholly filling the valley below the plateau.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

European Adventure 2005 Day 20


Awoke at daybreak to get an early start... leaving Utrecht and returning to Amsterdam for a couple days before catching a ride back to the States on Icelandair.
Got a some good suggestions from a friend for some traditional Dutch candies and thought it a great gift idea for my nieces and nephews. so, after breakfast i headed for the Hoog Catherijna.... a modern shopping mall that seems completely out of place juxtaposed to the old town centre. i arrived at the Jamin candy shop a few minutes before they opened for business so i walked around the mall and noticed how these sorts of places all look and feel the same. i worked for many years at malls just like this one and find them very boring.
Anyway, when the shop opened i filled three big bags with the loose candies of many varieties. the shop clerks helped me find the kinds my friend suggested... Kaneelstokjes, red & white mice, black & white sticks, Maria statues and red & black berries (those look good!) and then i just went wild scooping up others that looked interesting.
After having a good time laughing with the shop clerks about how funny it sounds when i try to say Dutch words, I left the shopping mall and headed into the old town to find a shop where i saw some of the pretty Delft blue & white ceramics that i want for other family members. the ceramics aren't the genuine Delfts Blauw made in Delft, but are very well done, have nice color and are hand-painted, so i bought them.
My shopping done, i went back to the hotel buying a beautiful bouquet of sunflowers on the way (don't know why... i had no vase or place to put them, but i had been admiring them ever since arriving Holland), checked out of the hotel, said 'tot ziens' to Utrecht and was on the road to Amsterdam.

On another recommendation from my friend (who figured i could handle with ease small rural roundabouts without getting lost :p ), i made a sidetrip to Kasteel de Haar.
Wow, how pretty is the castle out in the middle of the tranquil countryside with horses and sheep grazing the surrounding meadows. Lots of tall trees were everywhere around the village and castle grounds. i wish i could have toured castle De Haar and its gardens, but the owners are currently in residence and the grounds are not open to the public.





I really enjoyed seeing the castle, complete with moat and drawbridge from the gatehouse and road (more like a country lane) that runs along the moat.... well, maybe it's a canal, but what is a canal around a castle if not a moat? even though i admired the castle from afar rather than up close, i'm really glad i made the sidetrip. it was a nice way to leave Utrecht.

I found my way back to the highway and continued to drive in the rain to Amsterdam. hehehee, the drive went well until i made the wrong exit from the highway and got lost somewhere in Amsterdam. very quickly i decided that being lost in a car in the rain (those tram tracks on the streets are very slick when wet!) in fast driving Amsterdam was not a fun thing and my good vibe from castle De Haar was deteriorating rapidly. so, being the clever lass that i am, i drove looking for parking, parked the car, found the nearest cafe and asked for help.... would the cafe worker be ever so kind as to phone for me a taxi. the taxi arrived quickly and i paid the driver €13.00 to lead me to my hotel. LOL, mission accomplished!! :D

With the help of the taxi driver escorting me, i arrived at Hotel Villa Borgmann to be greeted with big friendly smiles and a hearty welcome from the owners and was surprised when they immediately handed over a key to a room without putting me through the check-in procedure. Villa Borgmann is the small, quaint, privately owned hotel located on the south side of Vondelpark where i stayed and enjoyed a typical Amsterdam single with park view the first week i arrived Holland. this time the owners gave me a HUGE room with full bath. it's almost like a suite in size..... (and, again, i am totally impressed with the size of the windows!! yeah, it's the little things that get me excited :) the large room is on the front of the hotel and is not as quiet as the single parkview room i had previously, but the Wifi connection is much better. the owners know i like having a good internet connection so this is why they chose this huge double room for me. cool people :)
The hotel is operated more like a bed & breakfast rather than a hotel.... personalized service (the concern about my good Wifi connection, for example) and bright clean rooms with individual character is what i really like about Villa Borgmann. i offered the sunflowers that i had bought that morning in Utrecht for the lobby/reception area (they were surprised, but delighted to have them), got settled in my nice accommodations and then took the tram going to town centrum.

Or at least, i had planned to go to the centrum... the tram was running 10 minutes late and i boarded a very crowded tram with hardly any standing room (a nice man offered me his seat :) ). after the tram began to slowly move, an announcement was made by the tram operator... something in Dutch, of course, and i didn't understand... and there was a big noise of disapproval made by the tram riders. i was confused, not knowing what the disapproval was about, and waiting to see what would happen. then, all hell broke loose.... a young (he looked about 16 years old) man looking very dirty and smelling like he had bathed in beer began staggering and pushing his way back toward the ticket agent booth where he stood next to me yelling belligerently in Dutch at the ticket agent. she yelled back angrily at him and the two of them really got into it. the tram reached it's next stop by this time and the ticket agent came out of her booth and was aggressively telling the young man to exit the tram. he didn't, she was a tall waoman and towered over him shouting angrily, the young man was yelling back, a couple of the nearby male passengers began to lend support to the ticket agent (lol, she was in command and didn't need any help, though!). and then, appearing at the open tram door a woman police officer. (now, that i think about it, i think the tram must have stopped in front of the Police station that i had seen on the route .) the police officer was demanding the young drunk guy to exit the tram and he refused. i remember being amazed that all this highly aggressive behavior was happening (still not knowing why) and yet nobody had gotten physical. but, then, the ticket agent moved in closer to the young man still shouting out him to exit the tram and kind of pushed him with her whole body, edging him out the tram door. damn, that young drunk guy reached out and struck at the ticket woman. that was it, show over... the police officer and one of the male passengers took hold of the drunk guy by the arms and put him off the tram and sent him reeling up the street still shouting over his shoulder. the ticket agent shouted 'biatch!' (this was the only word i understood during the whole episode, lol) at him and resumed her position back in her ticket booth. whew. guess that's big city life for ya, eh? :)
The tram began to move ahead, again, very slowly. at the next stop it became clear what the earlier announcement was all about. we were informed to all exit the tram because it was not operating properly and to get on the tram behind us. i'm not sure, but i'm guessing that the young drunk guy was demanding his money back since the tram was not taking him to his destination. in his drunken state, i'm supposing that he didn't understand that we were being moved onto another tram to continue our journey.
Anyway, we were deboarded the malfunctioning tram at the Museumplein and i decided that i would just walk to the nearby Leidesplein and have my evening meal there rather than continue on into Amsterdam Centrum.
The Leidesplein wasn't very busy, probably because it was a rainy wet kinda cold day, but still there was plenty of activity. lots of sports fans were awaiting some football (soccer) game to be televised in the sports bars, cafe employees were drying off outdoor tables and chairs, tourists wandering about and the best busker i've heard since being in here was playing guitar and harmonica. he was really quite good and i tossed €4 into his guitarcase and asked if i could have a photograph. he said 'sure' (noticing the two coins i had tossed) and went on playing. i listened to him for about 10 minutes then went off in search of a dry table for food and drink. i found a place under a canopy (just in case the rains came back) and had a very tasty Tosti of ham, cheese & tomato and a tall Heineken while chatting with the Canadian couple at the table next to me. they were doing a whirlwind 2 week European holiday and had just arrived from Antwerp. after 2 days in Amsterdam sampling the menus at coffee shops, they would be on their way to Nice where they would rent a Porsche convertible for a drive to Paris.
I finished my dinner and wished the Canadians a pleasant holiday. as i headed off to find the tram that would take me back to my hotel (without incident), i thought about how glad i was that i decided to spend the entirety of my 3 week holiday in The Netherlands and not do the whirlwind tour thing... something i had originally intended. 3 weeks is not enough time to really know a country, its culture and its people, but i really feel like i have soaked up a good bit... i'm sure that i have gotten a closer look into life in Holland by walking through the streets, looking at and touching the historic buildings, talking to local people, sharing the same spaces....
don't think spending my time behind the wheel driving through countries would have given me any where close to the same thing.

When i got back to the hotel, i was pleased to see the sunflowers i had brought with me from Utrecht in a vase in the center of the reception area. they really are happy pretty flowers and looked lovely in the lobby adding a vibrance. when i opened the door to my first floor room (second floor for americans) and turned on the light i had a real nice surprise... there was a vase of the sunflowers brightening my room, too :) that really made me smile for some reason.

life is good :)

4 comments:

  1. I think you must be on road now back to the states.. i hope you enjoyed your trip here.. i think you do :D

    if i every visit in your region, i'll be posting as well.. and it will be up to you to come up with good tips :D

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  2. :) yess!! i did thoroughly enjoy my trip!! as i write this note, i am, indeed, back in my hometown in Pennsylvania, USA working to update my journal of my last days in Holland... a bit sad that i had to leave The Netherlands. Holland is a beautiful country with intriquing history, beautiful towns and great friendly people.

    if you ever do come to my region, Prof., i will most gladly give you travel tips! :D bedankt for all you gave me :)

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  3. thank you for saving me some trips up high towers... :)

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  4. :D :D it was all my pleasure to climb those church towers!! i hope i get to climb them again, sometime!

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