Thursday, September 21, 2017

Pictures from Amsterdam and Trip to Freiburg

In a shop window, who could resist taking a picture of this cutie!
That's a lot of garlic, in the Garlic Queen, Amsterdam

Mmmmm, lunch!
I see my lunch!
Sitting at the kitchen table, as we do, Bruce spotted a heron on the fence, just looking down at the koi pond, musing about which one would make a nice lunch. In fact, I think the pond is too narrow for it to fly down grab a fish with it’s bill and get out again, but it was sure thinking about it!

This last week with the weather change so has our lifestyle. When we arrived and for almost three weeks after we ate lunch out and had dinner in the smoking area of mostly picnic foods. Charles was pleased that we were using that area to relax in because he said many guests don’t. 

We went back to the Seafood Bar for king crab legs, full meal each this time, so good! The hostess, loves her job, is part owner of this family run restaurant we found out, one brother heads up the kitchen, another does the accounting and the father is Boss. They really run a tight ship and are continually busy, great food, service and ambiance, a real success story, as you know, I love to hear about success stories in any business.

On the train Amsterdam to Cologne and informed that we have to change trains before Dusseldorf, train people guide us but this adds about half hour to the trip. In Cologne our taxi driver is waiting at a different taxi stand across the station, another wait. I told him we had tried to map a walk from the station but he said it would have been difficult and certainly he seemed to take a lot longer to get from the station to the hotel than expected for the kilometres on the map, due to so many one way streets.

Hotel Engelbertz is old and elevator too small for Bruce’s chair so he parks it in the lobby in a corner. Rooms are non-smoking but they say limited okay. Biggest problem is that Lexi can get under the bed and with a foot rest between it will be very difficult to get her out, that’s tomorrow’s dilemma. Next day I had to take apart the beds, two mattresses on one frame, as they do in Germany. Haul the mattresses to the wall and remove the slatted frame, bit of a workout, darn cat!

It’s an old family run hotel and basic but comfortable, the people behind the counter did everything possible to make our stay okay. What I don’t understand is what happened with communication between and the hotel. Clearly they did not know anything about our special needs, but did their best to accommodate. Hotel is in the shopping District and quite noisy at 8:00 pm. 

We go for dinner at Oma’s (Grandma’s) Cafe of schnitzel type meals which are really good and stay for an extra glass of wine to listen to an Irish piano player, really good on a piano with full keyboard and you should have seen how he folded the whole thing up, very efficient. 

Nice fellow, my bad, didn't get his name.
He got shut down by the police but I did go talk to him and he said it was over taxes Germany was owed over CD sales. He said they were nice and he had documentation to back him up so he’ll be allowed to play on the street again and sell CD’s. He said people didn’t pay taxes on CD sales, would it be worth the expense to send three officers to crank down on that, don’t know, but they did. Next stop is at the cafe next door for mushroom soup, even though we were already full, this was really warm and soothing, a lot of cream used I think.

Mural in a cafe, Cologne
We’ve seen the cathedral here and it is magnificent on the outside, didn’t we’ll see the inside. A bit of a walk from the hotel and also from the train station.

Next morning and we train from Cologne to Karlsruhe, get off, are met by a wheelchair ramp equipped van, he drives us to Baden-Baden for re-boarding the train. (This stoppage of rail is due to a collapsed tunnel at Rastatt between, finally we found out ) They actually held the train for a couple of minutes to allow us to board, otherwise it would have been an hour wait for the next. Off in Freiburg and it is raining cats and dogs, teeming down, we hurry to get under shelter, not soon enough to avoid becoming drowned rats, even Lexi got wet, but not a peep out of her, probably atonement for her earlier antics. We have a glass of wine to wait it out, seems to be our modus operandi. Get to the hotel and call Dawna and Erwin to meet up with them for drinks, dinner and catch up. Hotel is Rheingold, close to the train station, in the centre, an area we are familiar with but had never stayed at this hotel before, it was great! The Central where we’ve stayed for about five years now, had a ramp but do not any more, so while we like the people there, it’s not convenient for Bruce’s chair. The rooms are slightly larger at the Rheingold and people friendly too, breakfast was good. Another thing I don’t get, they say  breakfast is included but show an extra fee on the bill.

So the trip was as easy for us as it could be even with the interruptions in rail, staff were friendly and helpful.

Sunday Dawna and Erwin move out and we move in, nice to be home again! We didn’t bother with a special taxi coming home this time, just bought our monthly tram tickets and took it, not crowded, so easy trip home. Now for unpacking, mail, making appointments, shopping, etc etc. takes a bit of time to completely settle in as I’ve mentioned before, and probably every time we’ve done it…

Cheers, Bev, Bruce and hiding Lexi Cat

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Last week in Amsterdam

Hello Friends,

I cannot get my card reader working today to give you new pictures :( . I did want to post this and will do a picture post when it stops playing possum with me.

After such a nice day Thursday on the canal Friday was frankly awful. Very heavy rain and some wind, not nice at all, all day too, little respite. 

I like this picture but others were more descriptive I think.
We had supper, yes, again, instead of lunch at the Uptown Meat Club, a burger split between us, burger itself was small compared to some but very tasty, rather  have that than a bigger one that isn’t. Chef came out and talked to us for a bit, he said the theatre crowd sometimes comes to them before or after a performance, theatre is just down the street. What I heard from him was, there wasn’t much predictability in the business, especially since it’s in the museum district with tourists but they do have their regulars too. 

Yesterday there was construction at both ends between the apartment blocking the sidewalk both ways for Bruce’s chair. He was able to maneuver the chair down but coming back we had to accept help from others to get the chair over the curb and into the building. Going right is no longer an option for him but going left, longer route to get to an exit is open now, just takes a run up and back to get to the other side of where we want to be. Construction to the right is permanent at least while we are remaining here, another week, scaffolding is erected. A bit inconvenient for Bruce and some seem to move things for his passage, others don’t care, blocking the entire sidewalk. 

People with walking problems here tend to ride regular bikes many also use, not so much motorized wheelchairs but modified motorcycles, smaller versions of Bruce’s Pepe le Pew, four wheeled scooters. I didn’t mention, no one, or very few wear helmets here. If there is a way to modify wheels of any sort, here would be the place to find the invention! It is amazing to me what people carry on their bikes, from people riding sidesaddle on the back to large packages, even saw a sink go by the other day. 

Charles dropped off two strawberry tarts to our door at 9:30 at night, on the good side they were delicious but what? timing and … well we ate them, and we are both going back to Freiburg a little bit heavier I think. Next day Omar dropped off more flowers, I caught him in the hallway and said thanks and he appreciated that.

Wandering again into the area of West Amsterdam, actually found a pet store with a beautiful, curious, orange and white male kitten about 10 weeks old, so cute! Wonder what Lexi would think to have a companion, it’s small enough right now to share the travel box with her, if she’d let it, sorry, not going to happen, I envision the box tumbling about with them fighting inside, nope, not going to happen. They sold cat food in a way I’ve never seen before, am I boring you, skip this if so, they put it in 1kg bags, which is handier but of course more expensive, good for us though.

Photo Credit Omar Traore

Omar brought in these tubs to add to the garden, naturally Lexi was curious. I  almost got a picture of her in one, little head sticking out, she's too fast for me... 

This area of town has many small shops and cafes. I had a tuna salad sandwich, toasted with gouda cheese at Vlaamsch Broodhuys, can’t get my tongue around the name but they are known for fabulous bread. Bought a few food products at another bio store which had a friendly ambiance about it. I think I shop in those organic stores for the ambiance rather than the actual product, there admitted!

Passed by a building with a ladder like structure and a male statue standing on the last rung. Another building with triangle like mirror looking sculptures in an open atrium, I read that they were installed to transfer light and move with the sun (like a sunflower does). 

We had dinner at the Irish pub of bangers and mash, side salad, it was tasty, but with bits left over in our dishes a pigeon flew up onto the table, looked me straight in the eye and started eating my salad, thank goodness I was done with it. It didn’t listen to shoo, or my hand gestures, a fellow at a neighbouring table came and shooed it off. Actually two reasons it ignored me, we were face to face, birds eyes are on the side and it was a gutsy bird and used to pulling this trick. It came back for seconds but I caught it in time from mounting the table, same bird. 

Saturday and it’s a nuthouse of hoards of people, Bruce found it quite difficult to drive. That would be my only caution about this city, being that your chances of getting creamed by a bicycle are pretty high, but it will be a tourist riding one I think, the locals manoeuvre expertly. It’s almost a ballet watching them weave around walkers, cars and trams, all at high speed. 

Wandering towards the centre of the city we found Rembrandtplein, Rembrandt Square
It’s a large square ringed with restaurants and clubs. One must be particularly rowdy, because a team of fellows were using a hose to power wash the inside!

We found the only garlic restaurant in Amsterdam! Walking by many restaurants and I liked the ambiance of this one and hadn’t even seen the interior yet which is beautiful in a minimalist way. Many portraits of queens inside, good ones too. I had garlic soup which had just a hint of garlic with a broth and cream base, served into a chive covered bowl with a metal flask of the soup. Bruce had a grilled cheese sandwich, come on Bruce! but that was what he wanted and was tasty. Walked back over three canals, after all this is Amsterdam. 

One of the first days we were here and I overheard a woman say “but I don’t see any water”, she had to walk about 100 meters to find it.

Back to The Seafood Bar for dinner, best king crab legs either one of us has had, although we don’t get them often. Last time we can remember was in Tofino on Long Beach, BC, years ago. Usually they come with drawn butter and lemon, these did not need either, so tasty. It is weird I go on and off crab but I figured that this would be a good place to eat it and righto! Sunday and they are turning people way if they don’t want to wait or have a reservation, busy place, always.

We took the number 2 tram up to Central train station and got a good fill of architecture, which was our intent! Cost for one hour is 2.90, daily cost is 7.50 which is a bargain if you are going very much further. Overheard a fellow saying, in London that would cost 15 GBP. There are some stops which require use of a ramp for Bruce’s chair, some not although they say wheelchair accessible, maybe they mean the push type, because Bruce’s chair required a ramp for the beginning station and the one at the train station. Especially at the train station I would have thought it would be accessible. I should probably do a separate post on accessibility in the cities we’ve been in, but for now we aren’t finding Amsterdam very much so.

Had another rather mediocre lunch at an old Irish pub, different from the one we’ve been to before, chosen mainly due to the fact it had heating outside and a good awning. Rain and wind were happening so we went next door to another outside seating area for a glass of wine to wait it out, not a bad thing at all. It feels like fall here now and likely will until we leave on Friday.

I haunted many of the tourist shops looking for actual cards, not postcards and they didn’t have any, just the same goods i.e. wooden shoes, fake tulips, well I won’t go on. Went into a shop that sells all Delft products, wow, nothing but Delft pottery, whole shop was white and blue, and blue and white. Anyway, the fellow told me of a card shop along the next canal. Only in Amsterdam are you given directions by canal! well, maybe in Bruges.

Found the shop and a delightful owner, she said it’s not a Netherlands thing to send Thank You cards, “we’re rude”, but it is changing with more people doing so. Step into the shop prevented Bruce’s entry so I asked if I could show him the selection I’d picked, she said “no problem I don’t expect you to run off with a few cards”. She thought we were brave travelling with Bruce’s chair, I told her it’s just a matter of booking ahead, loosing spontaneity, but better than sitting in one place all the time. She was a "card" in a card shop called Friends of Art.

There was an American/British store on the way back, always fun to see products we haven’t ever or haven’t for a long time. Bruce found some liquid smoke he uses sometimes so we bought that. The clerk in there was nice too and gave me his business card  so we can email them with an order if we want at Eichholtz Delicatessen.

Out for dinner again at the Aran Irish pub after checking out the other two pubs close by. We watched a fellow set up large fake dice coloured gold with white pips along the entrance and wondered, as we do, what event is happening. This was outside the Holland Casino, they advertise as the only one in Holland (not the Netherlands). Here’s another factoid for you, I had thought that Holland and the Netherlands were the same, not so. The country is called Netherlands, Holland is both a North and South state in it, thank Bruce for that tidbit.

All for now, next update will come from Freiburg. We travel to Cologne Friday and then Freiburg Saturday. There is a major break in the rail system at Karlsruhe so we'll have to be taken around that, inconvenient for us, but I can imagine very much more so for hauling freight.

Cheers, Bev, Bruce and Lexi Cat

Friday, September 8, 2017

Canal Boat Tour and more wandering Amsterdam

We wandered to the bigger supermarket which I found out today is the same chain as the one at the Van Gogh museum, then went out of the mall to find the Albert Cuyp market just there so walked it again and Bruce got more Stilton cheese and apricots. 

I had two missing buttons off one blouse and one off another so looked for a sewing kit which grocery stores and pharmacies don’t carry. We did stumble on an incredible store if you sew, it had the wee kit, and everything from A to Z in the way of sewing products, if I sewed I’d be in seventh heaven and was anyway, even though I don’t. Knowledgable clerks attended to the "real" sewing people in the shop, link

We were both pleased with our findings and came home across another canal. A lot of walking for me but so very interesting, today. 

Quite the building isn't it?
Note the crown on top of the lamp post, the City is renewing them on every post here. 

Lunch at the seafood place again and we are asked if we can be joined by other people, tables are quite small and close together, same as in most cities in Europe. A couple of ladies joined us and were speaking a language I didn’t recognize until the waitress came out and spoke to them, it was Dutch! Wait a minute, here I am in Amsterdam and didn’t recognize the language, why? Because I hadn’t heard conversations in Dutch before, small bits, but not entire conversations. Anyway they ordered a cold seafood plate to share and it as big as the grilled one we saw last week. Funny, they were offered bibs which even I picked up on, understood, said yes and took what I think will be a memorable picture, wine held, food, and bibs, not an everyday experience. We supposed after you got around all the shells it would be a reasonably sized lunch, presentation at this place is well done, an upmarket restaurant with both tourists and business people as clientele. 

Wednesday and it rains all day but we got lucky and went out for lunch of pea soup, different this time but good, while it stopped for a bit. 

We walked  in a different direction twice on Friday, in the morning along the  backstreets, houses are old and beautiful, had a very mediocre lunch at a Japanese restaurant who shall remain nameless, big chain, should  have taken clue from that. Very opulent inside with chandeliers and buddhas, in my opinion they should have spent more money on the chef’s. Anyway after lunch, more strolling and we find the restaurant and nightclub section, streets full of cafes of all different nations but  lots of Italian and one Tibetan, Indian and Nepal restaurant called Sherpa. We looked at the menu there and since we’ve never eaten Tibetan or Nepal food we’ll be going back to try that out, especially the Tibetan momo which is a small dumpling, proprietor was really nice too, always a bonus! 

Found these two, pays to look up! From the Blues Brothers movie, left John Belushi, right Dan Aykroyd
Bruce has been to Bourbon Street in New Orleans, he says it's the place to go for great jazz from 30's and 40's eras. 

We found the jewelry making district, mostly handmade and expensive naturally, I enjoy seeing  these works of art and will buy on occasion if I find piece that I really like, but didn’t that day.

Tried the momo’s at Sherpa, and they  were delicious but I found the wrapper on a couple of them a bit thick, okay so I’m picky. Proprietor was really nice and explained everything to us, saw him serving other customers the same way.  It’s a  go back to place for us, but while we were waiting for the kitchen to open we sat at an Italian restaurant of which are many along the street, this one had an extensive menu which would be good to try, and wasn't. Further walking and it seems the streets are divided pretty much by type of food on  offer, steak and hamburgers down one, makes me wonder how to choose without using a rating company.

There are many groups of fellows walking the  streets, I think Amsterdam is a city to hold stag parties due to the red light district, the ability to smoke pot in some cafes and the easy nature of it being okay to drink a beer in the street if so inclined.

Walked into Vondelpark Sunday and two fellows were sitting on a bench, one came over three times to get a light for his bong, he said they don’t make them like they used to, keep going out. Went to the seafood bar again, I felt like I’m missing out on veggies so had a small salad. we sat next to a couple from Seattle, talkative and interesting.

We took a canal tour, I don’t know how many tour companies there are but many, we took Blue Boat. Honestly I think I probably have 50 or so bad pictures from it but did enjoy it immensely. Enjoy the following pictures.

Paddle boats for rent.

Look at those gabled windows and the bikes which look like this everywhere
These shutters indicate traditional "burgher" architecture, built for trades people who worked and lived there.
Magnificent sailing ship
Tower built for defence on the outer wall of the City
Look closely left one leans into the right, it happens here more frequently than you'd think.

We saw the NEMO Museum, fantastic looking building, the green is caused by copper plates.

There is no food or drink on this boat so I made up egg salad sandwiches and we took soft drinks. After we went to the Irish pub for a pint and I eavesdropped on two men talking advanced methods of farming.  

So that is the "lite" version of our thoroughly enjoyed boat tour and a bit about the neighbourhoods we've seen here.

Cheers, Bev, Bruce and Lexi Cat