Archive for the ‘Amsterdam’ Tag


Sorry, I’ve been away from here too long.

The cough hit again when I got home, and this time whatever the bug was hit my back too, so there were a few moan and groan days, such as drain one’s energy. These little nasties tend to seek out our most vulnerable parts.

Besides that, I found I can’t do anything with my travel photos until I get the new external drive I’ve ordered. Seems I’ve overwhelmed my little MacBook Air. I want to say I’ll have some photos for my blog after I get the chance to go through them to delete and edit. But I do hesitate, knowing that I never did deliver my Iceland photos as I had promised. (Have you noticed how time goes by faster every year?)

I do want to tell you, though, about our last day in Amsterdam. As I’m remembering the day, one thing that stands out is bicycles. Not only the fact that bicycles are a major mode of transportation, with their own broad lanes, but also that for some reason lots of them end up in the canals. We came by one boat dredging the waters, already loaded with recovered bicycles, and pulling up another whole bunch. I was too slow with the camera to catch them in the grasp of the claws, but I did get a shot of the piles already recovered. How it does inspire the imagination to make up a pretend backstory.

There are times in my travels when I arrive at a place where I’d like to stay a while. That’s how I felt at the Beguinage, a beautiful inner court of town homes rentable only to single women. Founded in the middle ages, it was once home, in the form of single rooms, to women who were one step away from being nuns, but never did take vows and were free to leave to get married. Now, in my daydreams, I could imagine spending the day working – teaching or whatever – and returning at night to the calm and beauty of the area. Maybe a quick pause in the lovely chapel would be in order.

At the other extreme of experience was the visit to the Anne Frank house. Doug – the world’s best personal travel agent – had discovered the option to buy a ticket on line for a half-hour lecture at 6:00 p.m. (as I recall) followed by a tour. Without that, we would have been in a huge line that stretched way around the block.

Anne’s father had certainly done his best to protect his family. For the situation, the structure was relatively roomy, like a small house, really. But imagine living there in silent darkness, with the windows covered. And ultimately being betrayed just a short time before the end of the war.

So here’s my true confession. I never could make myself read Anne’s diary. We assigned it in Developmental Psych classes; friends told me it was inspiring; but I was sure I would think only of the horror that Anne eventually suffered, and the senseless killing of her dreams. Having visited the spot, however, I think, for some reason I can’t really explain, that I can now read the book.

And I am more than happy to have experienced her hiding place. I like knowing that her thoughts and life have not only survived, but influenced people in many different languages and many parts of the world.

That was the end of our trip. The next day we flew from Amsterdam to Minneapolis/St. Paul. The process of making it through security and the subsequent check points was amazingly efficient. And it’s always good to get home.





Ignoring chronological order, I’m writing about the most exciting thing first. Many years ago, arriving for the first time in Europe, I was on a National Student Association tour spending eleven days on Holland America’s Line the s.s. Volendam, most recently having been used as a troop ship in WWII. Facilities were far from luxurious, but how perfect an eleven-day crossing for a bunch of ready and excited students. As it happened, we couldn’t disembark in Rotterdam until some paper work was finished, so my roommate and I volunteered to do some necessary typing. As we performed our clerical duties we pulled into the harbor, and the first thing I saw was “the clock.’ It is firmly fixed in my memory as my first and very exciting sight in Europe. I don’t know if that’s true of Harriet and Justine who shared the adventure with me, but for me it was a marker.

And two days ago I saw the clock again as we celebrated the naming of the new ship of the Holland America Line, the m.s. Koningsdam, complete with dedication by Queen Maxima, a special trip to the Rijk’s museum, and fireworks. That’s when I saw the clock again, as we pulled away from the dock. Now atop what has become the New York Hotel, it was the clock that marked my first visit to Rotterdam and Europe when it then crowned the Holland America Line building. I don’t know if Harriet and Justine would have shared my excitement, but I was thrilled with the full circle.

A special treat for those of us on board was an evening at the Rijk’s museum, with a fantastic guided tour in small groups. So much to learn, and so much that tied into the excursions we had enjoyed and the things we experienced on land today.

As for other neat things we’ve done, before leaving the Koningsdam, we enjoyed two more land excursions: One to Gouda of cheese fame (pronounced “Howda” with a guttural “H,”) and another to Edam. Both delightful small towns. I much prefer small towns to big cities.

But now that we are back on land, spending a couple of days in Amsterdam (where I am experiencing the “full circle sense” again) I am enjoying this city. The road: many widths. The bike lanes, the wait-for-the-trolley-and-bus lanes, the trolley and bus lanes, and the car lanes.

Quite a venture to cross the street.

I confess that yesterday I spent every spare moment dozing after starting another round of antibiotics with the return of “the cough!” and getting very little sleep before disembarking. But in between we enjoyed lunch at the music hall followed by a rousing concert (which did keep me pretty roused.). Handel’s “Water Music,” and Shostokovich.” A beautiful venue, and amazing how much difference the orchestra and the acoustics can make. The orchestra enjoyed a long and well deserved standing ovation.

Today, though, was blessed with the effects of a good, long sleep, and then off on our own expeditions – in the pouring rain: First Rembrandt’s House – a joy in itself and tying together so much of what we had been experiencing and learning. Then, followed by lunch in a nice dry spot, came the Jewish museum and then the Portuguese synagogue. So much visual pleasure. So much to learn. So much to think about.

And now, with a special Hello to Harriet and Jus, that brings us up to a rather hasty update.



















Yesterday we had A lovely trip to a small down in Normandy –just amazingly beautiful. And today we had another wonderful excursion to another small town on the sea. Today it rained, poured actually, and I loved it. Yes, the wind blew our umbrellas inside out and our raincoats and cameras got wet, but we’d been told there is often rain and wind in the area, so I really enjoyed lapping it up.

Why a bonus? Because today we were supposed to be in La Havre, but the ship had to spend another night here in Cherbourg because of strikes that would tie up the roads in La Havre, preventing any excursions away from the ship. So, another day here in this lovely area.

Tomorrow we move on to Rotterdam. All kinds of celebrations are planned in honor of this new ship, including a dedication by the Queen.

We’re nearing the end of the trip, but we have three days to look forward to in Amsterdam after leaving the ship before flying home. The end of the cruise always makes me feel sad.

At any rate, I plan to keep you posted until my paid WiFi plan runs out.

Posted May 19, 2016 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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