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.

The tractor trailers are parked on the deck.  Our car was parked on the level below the trucks.
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.

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.
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.

Marcia at the door to our bungalow.
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.

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.



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.
I went with the Rotbarsch and Langoustine choice.  It was the best fish of the trip.


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.


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.

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.
A scene from walking along the everpresent canals.
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.

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.

Our apartment in Luxemburg City.  I backed the car into the opening because it was raining when we left in the morning.
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.


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.
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.
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.

On our first day we hiked into the Gorner Gorge (Gornerschlucht).DSCN2849

Rachel is on the walkway (black jacket and ponytail).
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.
Rachel took the picture of the lone flowers on the wall  of the canyon.
The rock face of the canyon wall.
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.


We took a series of three gondolas to arrive at the

We took  three gondolas to arrive at Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. Each Gondola took us higher.
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.
It wasn’t just the kids tubing.  The run was short but fun.
Resting after tubing.  The air is quite thin at that altitude.  
Despite the thin air, the girls could not resist a snowball fight.
The entrance to Glacier Palace was bored through the glacier.  This was not manmade.  
Workers cutting a new display from the side of a passageway. It will eventually be a winged dragon.
Rachel sitting on a block of ice in front of a ice carved from the glacier.
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.



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.

Malbun, Liechtenstein

Malbun is a ski resort located in the principality of Liechtenstein.  This double landlocked country has to have the highest natural beauty per square kilometer in the world.  Despite being one of only two countries in the world to be double landlocked, the per capita GDP is third highest in the world.  Situated in the Alps means there are snow capped mountains in every direction.  The entire family enjoyed our time in Malbun.DSCN2814

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We stayed at the Hotel Turna for three nights. The breakfast was included and was fabulous. The breads were world class, the fresh fruits were what we had been accustomed to during our time in Europe (excellent), and the owner/chef was dedicated to providing a 5-star experience.
This picture was taken at the same time as the above photo.  If we were staying at the Hotel Turna in the winter, the lift would have been between less than 100 ft from the entrance of the hotel.
On our first day we walked up the ski slope and encountered many wildflowers.





There were many gopher holes on the way up the slope.  Sarah took a different route up the slope and was rewarded by seeing four gophers. Two of the gophers were staring at each other.  It is spring.  Skiing down a run you would never think there are gophers hibernating below the snowpack.
Ella (pink sleeve) and Rachel (black sleeve) climbed to the midpoint of the slope.  While there they collected bouquets of wildflowers.  In the background you can see Malbun.
While Marcia watched Ella and Rachel collect wildflowers, Sarah and I climbed to the top of the lift.
The last third of the climb was a killer.  We were both winded and did not look forward to getting down the mountain. I was thinking, bad dad to push to the top. We had almost no energy reserves to make it down.  Some sections near the top were very steep. We made it down without a dangerous loss of footing.

Memmingen, Germany and Schloss Neuschwanstein

From Salzburg, we drove to Memmingen.  Rather than stay on divided four lane highways, we used well-paved two lane mountain roads.  We used these roads so we could pick up our tickets for the Neuschwanstein Castle the next day.  Marcia had made reservations and we would have needed to arrive two hours before our reservation time, so we hoped to avoid the need to get up early and be at the Castle two hours early.  Marcia went to the ticket office was told she had to return the next day, no advance tickets for the online reservations.

We used the autobahn to go to our the Riku Hotel in Memmingen. As mentioned in a previous blog, drivers of the German cars zipped by at 90-100 mph. It was fun to put the metal to the metal for short stretches.  I’ve enjoyed driving our French car.  The steering is precise and the car doesn’t feel as though the five of us and our gear is too much weight.

Leaving Memmingen in the morning was complicated since the public garage where we parked the car was closed on Sunday.  At the hotel we were given an electronic token that was supposed to open the garage door and lift the gate.  No such luck.  In the garage there was a group of six college age young people who had been at an outdoor music festival. Their car was parked in the garage and they had called the phone number on the booth inside the garage.  No answer. I went back to the hotel and explained the garage was closed and that I was unable to get the garage door to open. I followed the clerk’s directions and went back to the garage, again the door did not move. After the second try, the hotel clerk kindly offered to go with me to the garage.  She brought a second electronic token.  She watched as nothing happened when I inserted my token.  We traded tokens and the new one worked.

Going back and forth to the garage resulted in a delay of 45 minutes.  This meant we did not arrive at the castle two hours before our reserved time.  The ticket agent informed Marcia her reservation for the two castles and the museum was cancelled because we did not arrive in time.  This turned out to be another time that plan B was better than the initial plan.  Since the online reservation did not require a deposit Marcia saved money by only purchasing only the tour of Neuschwanstein Castle (click on link for more info on the history of the Castle).  The 90-minute tour was perfect for our collective attention span. DSCN2718

The walk up to the Castle was supposed to be 10 minutes.  We had the option of taking a bus (2.4 Eur pp) or horse drawn carriage (6 Eur pp).  For five people that seemed like there were better ways to spend 12 Eur.  Even though there was a slight drizzle, we followed others and headed up.  After at least 15 minutes, Marcia questioned the 10 minute estimate.  We walked for 25 minutes and came to point where the horse drawn carriages stopped.  Near that point there was a sign saying 10 minutes to the Castle.  No one complained and the above picture is one of the sights on the walk up.
We bribed Rachel and Sarah to appear in the picture by agreeing to get them ice cream.  Sarah doesn’t look to excited by the deal, but she is in the picture!  Ella stated she did not want ice cream.
Notice the smartphone in Rachel’s hand.  A practice that started when she was walking to fifth grade continued while we were on the trip.  She read while walking.  Over the last couple of months, she extended the skill by reading while we were on climbing or descending stairs.  Often the stairs were tricky circular ones.
The view from the Castle.  Sarah is to the left taking a picture she shared via Instagram.  We walked down to the lake that can be seen below. We ate at restaurant on the edge of the lake.
Another view from the Castle.
On the walk down, we came across this snail.  The walk down was quicker and we were on a mission to find a place to eat and get some ice cream for Sarah and Rachel.
The wildflowers were in full bloom. Everyone enjoyed their lunch at this restaurant.  The restaurant was on the edge of an amazing crystal clear lake.  
The view from the patio of the restaurant.
Sarah’s order of potato pancakes
Marcia’s order of Salmon Trout with white aspargus.
The Castle we did not visit but could see from the restaurant.

Sound of Music Tour – Salzburg

Marcia is a good sport.  I tried to get the girls to do the same pose, but they would not go for it.DSCN2658

Several months before we left for Europe, Marcia insisted we watch the Sound of Music. Prior to getting on the bus, the girls and I were a bit reluctant about the tour.  On the bus they announced it would be a four hour tour, and we looked at each other.  Four hours, oh no. Turns out we all enjoyed the tour.

The queue waiting to get on the bus.
The building to the right is where the boat scene was filmed.  They had to do two takes, because on the first take the youngest daughter fell out of the boat on one side and everyone else on the opposite side.  It would not have been as scary if she knew how to swim and would have fallen on the same side as the rest of the children and Julie Andrews. As it was spring during the shooting, the mountain feed lake was extremely cold.  Nevertheless they did a second take and got it right.
There is a tiny trail to the right of the tallest mountain.  That is where the train scene was filmed.
This is the church where the filming took place.  The director decided the actual church where the von Trapps married was not grand enough.  
The interior of the church fit the requirements of the director.  The figures at the altar were not on a painting, rather they were carved statues.
A closer look at the altar statues.
This is the gazebo that appeared in the film.  It was moved from the grounds of the mansion because people were climbing fences and walking across the frozen lake to get a pictures with the gazebo. It was moved to a park in Salzburg.  The filming of the actual song and dance was done in one half of a gazebo constructed on a sound studio in Hollywood.
We had a break to explore Mondsee and we happened upon a bakery with a couple of outdoor tables.  The desserts looked so good, we stopped and feasted on the above desserts.  The total came to 11 Euro.  We clearly were not in Paris.  Tasted as good as they look.