Hook of Holland to Harwich

Rather than return the car to Paris, we decided to keep the car for another two weeks and cross the English Channel on a ferry.  The limitation of carrying two bags per person on the Chunnel influenced the decision. We opted for a 5-person cabin on the ferry. The kids felt they were at the Ritz.  It was a cut above the ferry from Bari to Patras. Our ship was the Stena Hollandica.

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The tractor trailers are parked on the deck.  Our car was parked on the level below the trucks.
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One last look at Holland.

Rather than drive to London and arrive in the evening, we stayed in the port city of Harwich.  Our car GPS lead us to the correct address but we did not see the sign for The Good Life Guest House.

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We saw the Family Shopper and the bar on the corner.  About the third time we passed the location, Marcia saw the sign on the second story for the Guest House.  Notice the Union Jack on the left, the EU flag at half mast and the French flag on the right.  We assumed half mast EU flag was a comment about the referendum of the UK to leave the EU. Brexit is getting a lot of play in the newspapers.
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To celebrate our first day in England we walked down the street from the Guest House and had a traditional British breakfast; bacon, bangers, tomatoes, and eggs.  When we sent the picture as a text message to Mark, he commented on the absence of beans. Next time…

Oostappen Vacation Park Elfenmeer

IMG_1256We had a 6-person bungalow at the park.  There were hundreds of spaces for tents, travel trailers, and small mobile homes.  There are twelve of the Oostappen Parks across the Netherlands and Belgium.  The Oostappen Parks are like KOA’s in the US, except much larger than KOA’s.  The bungalow was ideal for a bit of roughing it.  Before we left for our trip, Marcia had coordinated with Petra, the mom of Sarah’s friend, Maya.  Pitra grew up near the park and was back in the Netherlands to visit family.

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Marcia at the door to our bungalow.
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The white birch trees behind our bungalow reminded me of camping with my parents and sister at Hickory Run State Park in the Poconos.

Marcia and I enjoyed the opportunity to interact with Petra and David. Petra introduced us to a Dutch pastry that sounded like fly, but was spelled with a v. Petra and David went to town and brought back two, an apple and strawberry fly.  David asked which was our favorite.  I went back and forth in mind over a few days.  In the end, I decided the one I prefered was the one that I was eating at the time. The pictures tell the story.  They are about 14-15 inches in diameter.

We had a fair amount of rain for the last month, but there were intervals where the sun came out.  We had our first warm day where the temperature hit 80.  However the water was cold.

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Ella’s expression tells all about the pool temperature.

It was fun for the Sarah, Rachel and Ella to have Maya to play with during the week. Adding one to the mix after four months of just sibling interaction was healthy.

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David and Petra kindly watched the girls while Marcia and I went out for dinner at at the Castle in Herkenbosch (Kasteel Daelenbroeck).  We had one of the best meals of the trip.  We began eating before thinking about taking a picture.  In order to remember an excellent meal, we took pictures of descriptions in the menu.  (Liverham is ham from the local area.) The Limburger Spargel was Marcia’s selection.
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I went with the Rotbarsch and Langoustine choice.  It was the best fish of the trip.

Amsterdam

We used Hyatt points to stay at the Hyatt Place at the airport. Free breakfast was a bonus. It gave the girls a lot of options from which to choose. Although Marcia had explicitly requested adjoining rooms, something was lost in translation. We had adjacent rooms without the connecting door in between the two. The girls were fine with it.

For the last three weeks the continent of Europe has had more than its share of rain. It seemed to rain everyday, but there were often periods during the day where the storm clouds gave way to sun and we enjoyed temperatures in the high 60’s to low 70’s.

On our first morning in Amsterdam we got up at 6:30, headed to breakfast, took the shuttle to airport and from the airport took the express train to Amsterdam Central. From there we walked 20 minutes in drizzle that alternated between light and heavy. We arrived at the Anne Frank house minutes before our reserved tickets.

In the first room, the girls grew quiet, reading the quotes and descriptions on the walls. They remained solemn as we traversed the rooms and stairs to the small rooms that Frank family lived.

Both Marcia and I had previously visited the house. It had been at least 15 years for me and for Marcia closer to 20 years since our first visits. For both of us, the second time was a different experience. Marcia commented on the fact that they had added rooms with displays and videos on the first and second floors.  The new additions did a nice job of orienting the visitor to the Frank family’s experiences before the rise of Nazi Germany.

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Another contrast was the density of people moving through the house. They tried to control the crowding  with an online reservation that limited the number of people entering in 15-minute intervals. Nevertheless, we moved from room to room with a large crowd of tourists. Unlike my first time, the others around us did not seem as affected by the experience. I did not feel the heartache in the rooms. This time it had the feel of being at a crowded museum looking at one of the paintings that was featured on the audio tour. People were respectful but not as emotional as my first time. My fear is that as time passes, the Holocaust will become more and more distant and less real to the visitors.

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After departing the Anne Frank house we had a snack at this corner restaurant. Marcia and I had a savory chicken crepe and Ella shared parts of her apple and honey crepe with her sisters.
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A scene from walking along the everpresent canals.
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Another canal view.

Amsterdam has to have the greatest density of bicycles of any city on earth.  Below is a shot of bicycles parked by the Amsterdam Central train station.

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Notice the first and second level bicycle parking beyond the row of bicycles that first catches your eye.

Luxemburg City, Luxemburg

Luxemburg City was an overnight stop from Switzerland to Amsterdam. We arrived at about 5:00.  Marcia immediately put the washer/dryer to work.  Marcia, Ella, Rachel and I went to dinner.  Sarah opted to stay in the apartment.

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Our apartment in Luxemburg City.  I backed the car into the opening because it was raining when we left in the morning.
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A view of the train station in Luxemburg City, which was near our apartment.

While approaching Brussels, google kindly notified us of an accident clogging traffic on our route.  Marcia clicked on the suggested alternative route.  Plan B led us off the beaten path to a wonderful neighborhood restaurant (left photo below).  Shortly after we ordered, the waitress brought five small spoons.  Marcia asked about the red substance on the spoons. The waitress said, “American beef.”  I asked whether it was tartare and the waitress said yes with a big smile.  Since all the other tables had been served the same tartare beef, I decided to throw caution to the wind and try raw beef.  Much to my surprise it had a pleasant texture, coarser than ground beef, but not a solid chunk of meat. Marcia had asparagus croquettes while I had the vegetarian salad (with the other four spoons).

The above picture to the right is a photo of a fence.  Interesting.

 

Lake Thunersee, Switzerland

The morning started sunny and in the mid-sixties.  The perfect morning on the lake gave way to on and off drizzle.  We missed the boat we intended to take from Hiltenfingen to Interlaken. Fortunately, there was another boat 90 minutes later.  With the extra time we bought some bread and pastries for breakfast.  We sat at Pier 17 and watched 12 young kids individually take out 12 Optimist sailboats.  Once they were clear of the dock, pairs of high school-aged kids went out in sailboats with spinnakers.  The wind was gusty and they handled their boats well, hiking out over a well healed sailboat so their bodies were parallel with the surface fo the water.

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It is hard to differentiate the snowcapped mountains from the clouds in middle of the picture. The picture was taken while we cruising from point to point in a large boat.
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While cruising the lake, Rachel and Sarah had a contest to see who could hold their nose the longest.  After at least 20 minutes they called it a tie.
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When we returned from the boat ride, Sarah and Rachel took advantage of the playground at Hotel Bellevue in Hilterfingen. There was a light rain but they were not bothered.
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Rachel strikes a pose.  You would not know there was a light rain.

Trummelbach Falls

The next day Marcia, Ella, Rachel and I drove 45 minutes to Trummelbach Falls. It is unique in that over many years the falls cut various channels through solid rock. The power of the water is captured in the below video.

Zermatt, Switzerland

It was a long drive from Malbun, Liechtenstein that included a “ferry” through a 17 km tunnel.  After hours of driving, we boarded a train to Zermatt.  In Zermatt electric cars rule.  No internal combustion engine cars allowed. Even though it was mid-June there were a surprising number of tourists in a town devoted to skiing.

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Rachel is on the walkway (black jacket and ponytail).
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Not a crystal clear mountain stream.  The water was closer to a gray sludge.  It was roaring through the canyon and scraping off loose debris and shaping the rock in its path.
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Rachel took the picture of the lone flowers on the wall  of the canyon.
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The rock face of the canyon wall.
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Marcia and I had a quiet dinner at Whymper-Stube. The raclette and fondue were excellent. The girls opted to have rice and noodles at the apartment.

Day 2 in Zermatt – we headed to the Zermatt-Matterhorn Gondola.  On the way to the terminal, we got our first cloud-free view of the Matterhorn.

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We took a series of three gondolas to arrive at the

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We took  three gondolas to arrive at Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. Each Gondola took us higher.
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The Matterhorn peak is the one to the right.  It looks like Ella is pointing, but she was throwing a snowball over the edge.  It doesn’t appear in the picture, but there is a sleep ledge behind Marcia.
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It wasn’t just the kids tubing.  The run was short but fun.
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Resting after tubing.  The air is quite thin at that altitude.  
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Despite the thin air, the girls could not resist a snowball fight.
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The entrance to Glacier Palace was bored through the glacier.  This was not manmade.  
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Workers cutting a new display from the side of a passageway. It will eventually be a winged dragon.
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Rachel sitting on a block of ice in front of a ice carved from the glacier.
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From left to right, Ella, Rachel, Sarah.  To their right is an ice carving of the Matterhorn. We expected the fur seat cover to warm.  Not so, it initially felt like sitting on ice.  After a minute or two, that’s when warm could be felt.

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Glacier Express

We did not know what think when the GPS in the car asked whether we wanted to take a ferry in route from Malban, Liechtenstein to Zermatt, Switzerland.  The option without the ferry was an hour longer. Marcia looked on the iPhone map and could not find anything other than many river crossings.  Throwing caution to the wind, we choose the route with a ferry. Eventually we arrived at a train station. It was a wild ride through 17 km of darkness.