Saturday, August 23, 2008


By now we are pretty experienced travelers. We know we need to leave early if we have to be someplace by a certain time. The folks at the hotel gave us information on the schedule to Amsterdam and sent us on our way to the station. We were feeling adventurous so we decided to hail a cab rather than bother the guy at the front desk. He was obviously busy.

We walked down the street to the corner, were we had seen lots of cabs, and waited. Okay, must of been a very busy time for cabby's. We went back to the hotel and they
called us a cab.

Once we got to the station, we are informed, it is not the station with the train to Amsterdam, we need to catch another cab. Now, less experienced travelers would be a little nervous by now because they had not left enough time for such situations, not us, we know better and have plenty of time to enjoy the ride.

The train to Amsterdam is very popular. We had to get tickets without seats. Now, even with all our experience, we had no idea how aggressive folks can be when a good seat on the train to Amsterdam is at stake. Yes, that is us sitting in the luggage car.

It was actually fun. We did get a few dirty looks as people got off and their luggage had been moved.

We arrived in Amsterdam late afternoon. The weather was about 10 degrees cooler and sunny skies. Our hotel was great. Once we got unpacked, we decided to walk to dinner. The city is so peaceful compared to the bustle in Paris. We strolled down the tree lined streets and walked through a sweet park with families picnicking and kids throwing Frisbees. We found a great little Mexican place for dinner. Everyone was very pleasant and spoke great English.

After dinner we decided to head over to the red light district. Only about 15 minutes away. We had seen lots of pictures and read stories, so we had an idea what to expect. It was actually even cooler. Very clean and everyone was enjoying themselves.

On our way back to the hotel, we realized we had passed the same shops at least twice. We were standing on a corner trying to read our map and a nice young guy asked if we needed some help. Yes please, we want to be here. He showed the direction we should be going, paused for a minute and asked if we had considered a cab, oh, now that would be lovely. He pointed us to a couple of cabs on the other side of the square and sent us on our way (thank you Christopher Robin).

The next day, Madi read that the streets in the red light district were designed to keep the drunken sailors walking around in circles. I promise we weren't drunken or sailors.

The next morning we headed off to see some sights in the city. First stop, The Anne Frank House. Did I mention this was gay pride day in Amsterdam. The festivities started early and a parade was scheduled on the canals for that afternoon.

The Anne Frank House was on the street next to the parade route. The wait in line was very entertaining watching the preparation for the parade.

The tour was inspiring. I actually cried. We finished up just in time to see the parade. I have never seen so many pink boas in one place. We took the trolley and went to the Rijks museum and The Van Gogh museum. The Van Gogh was definitely our favorite, which surprised me a little, who knew he had been so busy.

As we are leaving it is starting to rain. We bought a Van Gogh umbrella in the gift stand outside and tried to catch the trolley back to the hotel. Not as easy as it sounds. We did share our umbrella with a couple of guys that had been enjoying the festivities around the parade. They sang "Sweet Home Alabama" in our honor all the way to the next stop.

We had planned on renting bikes the next day, but the rain never let up. We stayed within walking distance of the hotel the final day. We had such a nice time and the relaxing neighborhood was the perfect end to our trip.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


We took the train to Paris from Venice. There is a train change in Milan and we missed our connection. Can you imagine, stranded in Milan over night, geeze!

We survived and got on the early train to Paris the next morning. It is beautiful. The first day was very hot. We took a cab to the hotel, dropped off our bags and went shopping - it's Paris!

We had a great dinner close to the hotel and discovered fig jam. They served it with the duck liver pate and toast, but I eat it now with everything.

The next morning we took off in a different direction. About two blocks from the hotel we see this huge old building, like three blocks of building. We took some pictures, thought it must famous, it's so big and kept walking and shopping :) It was the Louvre.

We saw the real Mona Lisa, and of course about a bajillion other great pieces of art. She is small and the crowd to see her was crazy. Madi was determined to get a picture and ventured into the crowd. I think she did a good job.

The Egyptian exhibit was huge. We got in and could not find our way out. We came to the conclusion that there is no need to travel to Egypt, everything is at the Louvre.

Every minute was packed. We saw the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, cruised the Seine river, Notre Dam, Jim Morrison's grave, Moulin Rouge, rode the subway, walked down Avenue des Champs-Élysées, saw the Arc de Triomphe.

We used the subway to get around the city. Very clean & safe. Made us feel quite metropolitan. There was one guy that was acting crazy and we were afraid he was going to jump onto the tracks. He calmed when the train got there and then tried to sell us a fan.

The visit was wonderful. There is such a vibrant energy. We loved the little cafes and the shops were delightful.

Off to Amsterdam...

Thursday, August 7, 2008


We love Venice! The first stop on our trek through Europe. We spent three days enjoying this beautiful city. The people were amazing. The food was better than we had hoped for and the city is incredible.

Our first day we took the boat from the hotel (pretty sweet hotel by the way) and started walking. The houses and buildings were so pretty. We went in several shops. Stopped at our first cafe and had appetizers. The bruschetta was great and the waitress was very sweet, but knew no English. Since we could not read the menu, we thought it would be a good idea to have our main course at another cafe.

The gondola guys convinced us we could not wait another minute to take a ride through the canals of their city. I was a little skeptical at first, but it was so amazing to see Venice that way. Madi took lots of great pictures. What we did not realize was they don't make a circle and drop you off where you started. We were enjoying the sites and the ride and all of the sudden he pulled up to a dock and we were done :)

Turned out perfect though. We ended up across the island and had a great time finding our way back to familiar territory. We stopped for dinner shortly after the ride and had some great pasta. Probably would not have seen this area on our own.

After dinner we walked through St Marc's square (of course stopping in all the little shops on the way). In the evenings they have tables set up all around the square and little areas for dinner. There were three of the restaurants that featured live music. They were almost dueling, it was very cool. And we did get to hear one of them playing Vivaldi, priceless.

For dessert we were back on the main canal. We picked a cute cafe and asked for the dessert menu. Our plan was to have something sweet and a bubbly white wine. They had the wine, but were out of desserts. We ordered the wine and went to a vendor in front of the cafe and bought cookies. It was perfect. Our waiter Michael, born & raised in Venice was adorable.

We missed our planned ride back to the hotel and finally got a ride back a little later. We went to the rooftop restaurant and sat outside for a night cap. It was so pretty. We met people from Toledo to Saudi Arabia. The waiters loved Madi and the service was outstanding.

We slept in the second day. Got up in time to enjoy the breakfast buffet at the hotel. We took the boat back across in the early afternoon and spent the day wandering around the city. Everything was perfect.

I did forget my cigarettes at the hotel and found the little vending machine. The smallest bill I had was 20 euro. The machine took the money and gave me a ticket to get the change from inside the store. Of course it was closed and will not be open on Sunday, so that pack cost me about $30. They were good:)

Our train left for Paris on Sunday afternoon. We spent Sunday morning relaxing and then taking a boat, actually several boats to the train station. We got on the wrong boat and got to travel around the whole island before we got to the station. I have to say, if you are going to be lost, a boat traveling around Venice is about as good as it gets.

(our ride to the train station)

I think Madi and I both agree, Venice was our favorite spot. It was so pretty and the people really made us feel welcome.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The passports are here, the passports are here!

Now we do officially have them, they actually came last week. Only 27 more day before we head out :)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

We got our passports!

Well we don't actually have them in our hands, but after 3 visits to various post offices, we finally got them ordered, should be here in plenty of time :)

We met with a travel agent this week to help us plan out some of the details of the trip. Edna has lots of experience, over 30 years, but not sure if she is the girl for us. I am going to go by another agent office this week and then decide who gets to help us make sure we make the most of our trip.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


We have the flights scheduled. We will leave Birmingham on July 24th and fly to Venice. Our return is August 4th from Amsterdam.

Current plan:
July 25 - arrive in Venice
St. Mark's Basillica & Doge's Palace
Thin slice pizza @ Pizza Al Volo, Campo Santa Margherita
Gelato - Gelateria Squaro on the Rio San Trovaso
Pastries - Tonolo
July 28 - train through Switzerland
July 29 - arrive in Paris
August 1 - late train from Paris to Amsterdam
August 4 - fly home

We are doing a lot research and narrowing down the sites we want to make sure we see in each area.