June 15-17, 2018

Netherlands-Norway Trip Part Six

At Sea Day, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Flying Home

  • 562 miles sailed
  • 5134 miles flown
  • 3 miles biked
  • 3 geocaches found

Our last day of the cruise was another at-sea day. After a rough night of sailing through a storm, we had much calmer seas. We slept late, and then went to have brunch. I spent much of the afternoon writing blog posts to be published once I had internet access again. Deban spent time in the casino. She also spent time packing our suitcases. We have an agreement for cruises. I pack our luggage before our departure for home. I also unpack us once we arrive on board the ship, organizing our clothing and gear in whatever closets and drawers are available. Deban packs us up when it is time to go home. We typically share the responsibility of unpacking at home, and catching up on laundry. 

Whenever Vickie Shaw is on an Olivia cruise, her show is typically on the last night of the trip. This cruise was no exception. This gives her the opportunity to gather material throughout the week. It is always funny to hear her relate the experiences of the week during her show. She got a lot of mileage out of the bad weather we experienced the night before, perhaps embroidering the truth a bit. 

We tried to make it to bed earlier because we knew we would be rising early in the morning to disembark. As usual, it was later than planned, and the alarm sounded much too early on Sunday morning. 

We showered, had breakfast, and waited our turn to leave the ship. We had booked an excursion for our departure that would give us a way to spend some time, but also provide us with transportation back to Amsterdam. 

Once we disembarked, we collected our luggage and then boarded a tour bus. As we were driven to Kinderdijk, our very pleasant tour guide shared a great deal of history about the sites along the way, and the sites we would see when we arrived. 

Kinderdijk is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has 19 windmills that were built in the 1700s. These windmills continue to be used to help pump water from the surrounding area, making it habitable. Half of The Netherlands is below sea level, and without these windmills and more modern methods of water removal, much of the land would be flooded. 

When we arrived, we were taken to the visitor center where we viewed a video about the windmills and their history. We then had the opportunity to walk along the riverside to see them more closely, and to even go inside one of them that is still working today. It was very interesting to see how the families of the miller lived in these structures and to see the gears and wheels inside turning as the wind moved the giant arms outside. 

After our visit, we were bused to the airport in Amsterdam. We grabbed some lunch in the airport, and then rode the shuttle bus to our hotel. After resting for a while in the hotel, I decided to go out and find some geocaches. I was planning to walk but Deban suggested that I check into renting one of the bicycles we could see outside our window. 

Enthused by the idea, I inquired at the front desk, and made arrangements to rent a bike for the day. I then rode off in search of a couple of caches. 

The first had 10 favorite points and had the tree climbing required attribute so I was eager to see what it involved. I enjoyed riding through quiet residential neighborhoods, and seeing families enjoying their Saturday afternoon. 

When I arrived at the cache site, I saw that it was next to a lake. Two young men were lying on the grass fishing. I parked my bike and spent some time looking at my phone. Within a couple of minutes they gathered their things and left, so I made my way into the weeping willow trees by the shore. I had just started making my way onto the low hanging branches when I heard voices. I turned to see three young boys on the bank, peering into the trees. One said something to me in Dutch, but since I don’t speak the language I simply smiled and said, “hello,” then turned to continue making my way across to the cache. They watched me for a moment, chatting amongst themselves, and acted as if they were going to follow. Then, they left, probably wondering what the old foreign woman was doing in their favorite tree. 

The route to the cache was not high, but required some deft footwork along some wide branches about three feet above the water. I reached the cache without incident and am proud to say that I retrieved the cache, signed the log, took photos, shot a video and replaced it – all without dropping anything into the water! I then made it back to dry land safe and sound. 

I climbed back on my rented bike and rode to a second nearby cache. As I passed through another residential area, I noticed several homes flying the flag of The Netherlands. They also had backpacks or book bags hanging from the flag poles. We had just learned from our tour guide earlier in the day the reason for this. 

All Dutch students must take final exams in high school before they can graduate. The results of these exams are communicated to their parents in the second week of June. If a student passes their exams, it is tradition to hang their school bag and the national flag from the home’s flag pole in celebration. 

The second cache I found was a simple park and grab at a car pool parking area. I had hoped there would not be many people around on a Saturday, but I had to wait a few minutes for muggles to leave before I could sign it. 

After I returned to the hotel, Deban and I walked to a nearby Italian restaurant that I had seen while out riding. We discovered that the pace of meals here is much slower than we are accustomed to at home. We were there for nearly two hours. From where she was sitting, Deban was able to watch the chef make her pizza from scratch, including tossing and spinning the dough in the air. 

We finally returned to the hotel, and after spending time on our iPads catching up, we decided to call it a night. 

On Sunday morning, we started trying to make our way into Amsterdam to see some sites. This proved harder than it should have been. Our original plan was to take the hotel shuttle to the airport, and take the train from there. However, the shuttle was booked for the next few hours with people needing to catch flights. 

Instead, we decided to make our way to a nearby bus stop and ride the bus to the airport. While at the bus stop, we noticed a couple of coots in the water below. No, not old people. Water birds. They had a nest in the water, and were working to reinforce it. There was an egg in the nest that mama coot kept trying to reposition, but it kept rolling back into its original position. 

We were so busy watching the coots, that we missed our bus! Of course, they run every 15 minutes, so we just had to wait for another. Finally, we boarded a bus and made our way to the airport. 

At the airport, we had some lunch and then bought tickets for the train. I mapped out our route to the Anne Frank House because we had made reservations online to visit it at 1:15. We got on the appropriate train, and then got off at the station that Google Maps instructed us to. From there, we needed to get on a tram that would take us all the way to the Anne Frank House.

When we exited the station, we saw the tram we needed sitting there and walked over to it. The driver was not letting anyone on, and I heard him tell someone it wasn’t running right now and he did not know when it would. He said “no electricity.” We stood and waited a little while, and then I decided to figure out another way to get to Anne Frank House since we didn’t know how long it would be. 

Our alternate route was to take the metro train, and then a bus. We tried to enter the metro station, but learned that the tickets we had bought for the other train did not work there. We went to a kiosk around the corner and bought 24 hour tickets, only to walk back around and see the tram leaving. Apparently the electricity was back on. We saw on the board that another tram was coming in eight minutes, and decided to wait on it. It never came. Finally, since we were running out of time, we went back to the metro train/bus plan and entered the station. 

We took the train to our stop, and exited. When we got on the bus and tried to use the 24 hour tickets we had bought. They didn’t work, and the driver informed us that they were a different company and we would have to buy different tickets for the bus. We did, and finally were on our way in time. 

We arrived at the Anne Frank House about a minute late for our reservations, but thankfully they let us in. Whew! 

Visiting this historic site was sobering. On one hand, the Franks and the others who hid in this place for two years were already prisoners of the Nazis. But, their life there was infinitely better than what they faced once they were discovered and taken to concentration camps. I came away from the visit feeling very emotional. 

We enjoyed a delicious meal at Pancakes Amsterdam. Deban opted for the American style pancakes while I was more adventurous and got a Dutch style pancake. It was delicious.

We then bought tickets to take the Hop On, Hop Off boat tour. While we were waiting for the boat to arrive, I made a quick trip around the corner to find a geocache. 

The boat tour was very relaxing and interesting. It provides a great view of Amsterdam from the canals that wind through the city. 

It ended at the Centraal Station, so we got on the Metro there and made our way back to the airport. The trip back was much less eventful than the trip into town. We ate dinner at the airport, and then took the shuttle bus back to the hotel. I repacked our suitcases, and then we went to bed, dreaming of being home in our own beds. 

The journey home on Monday was a long and arduous one. We had delays along the way, but ended up back home within an hour of our scheduled arrival. Unfortunately, we have not yet seen our luggage. Hopefully, it will be delivered to us soon. Otherwise, no one will be getting any souvenirs from this trip. 

As always, it was great to be home and sleeping in our own bed. As much as we love to travel, there’s no place like home. 

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