What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Great Travelers on a Marvelous Adventure

After every summer vacation, I remember having to write a paper, essay, composition or whatever you want to call it on: What I did on My Summer Vacation. Even though I do not have to write and or correct papers anymore, I still want to write about what I did on my summer vacation. It is a tradition and a habit, so…this summer we took our daughter and our granddaughter on a trip to Europe.

I am reminded why summer travel is so different from other times when kids are in school and mom and pop are working. Crowds. Huge enormous crowds everywhere hurrying from one spot to another. Lines, lines, lines. The street corners are 10 and 20 deep. If you wish to see an attraction, like the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace you literally have to be 6ft. 5 tall or more and have very good eyesight for distance. The lines for attractions snake around for blocks and blocks.

We were lucky because I had purchased tickets to some venues online ahead of time, which does make it easy to enter. Also, we booked individual tours to places we felt we could not manage the crowds and it worked.

We were so lucky with plane travel because every connection was on time and a perfect match between place and times.  I usually do not bash people, places, and things, but I will now. If you can avoid KLM, do! There were four of us traveling together, so I had our seats, four in a row, in place for months and months.  But when we got to the airport, they assigned us seats all over the airplane. I pulled out my printed version of our seats to show our reservations and they said, well, you did not print boarding passes so we can’t do anything about it.  I balked and told them there was no way they were going to separate a mother and her child. I was getting quite anxious and loud, so they reassigned Karen next to her daughter, Rachel. We did arrive for check in 3 1/2 hours ahead of time so that should not have been an issue.  When we boarded, I saw the people in our 37 A, and B seats, C and D were still empty at the time, so I asked A and B how long they had those seats booked, and they kindly replied with, “Oh we were assigned these seats at the airport when we checked in.” I am still livid. Besides the seating, I have never been so cramped in an airline and it was grimy, smelly and just plain dank.  I have never bashed before, and I am not done.

Amsterdam: How depraved it seems on the outside, but looking deeply in and how lovely. What a picturesque setting.  We were on our way through a beautiful residential area trying to find the Anne Frank house and stopped a middle-aged man to ask final directions. Our question was, “Are we on the right road to the Anne Frank house?  His answer: “ Fuck YOU!”  Oops.  Our tour through the Anne Frank house was disappointing for me because I have been there before when it really was the House of Anne. They have sanitized the heck out of the real thing.  They have made it a museum with modern technology showing videos throughout and displays you have to read in semi-darkness.  When I came here years ago, you went up the stairs and you saw Anne’s room exactly how it was then, with the wall of photos and the beds, and the life there as it was lived.  Now, it is hoards of people snaking through emptiness. The somberness of the historical time is felt deeply, but not because of what you see at the museum, but because of what you have read and remembered. Now have a big museum shop and a gloriously windowed coffee shop. My goodness. I am still happy to see the lines snaking around the block to come to this venue even though it was lacking for me, it is important.

Similarly, the Van Gogh Museum was a big disappointment. It was dull, drab and several of the paintings were on loan or being restored. I would rather look at a book or online at Van Gogh’s paintings and I would have a deeper experience.  Sorry. I guess I am done bashing. Maybe.

Amsterdam has an abundance of coffee shops selling not only coffee, but also, other legal stimulants. The smell of Mary Jane is strong throughout many center streets; the preparation and open use is fascinating, attention grabbing and certainly an out of the ordinary experience. Pretty soon, you become accustom to its prevalence and it becomes just a regular sight. The canals are still quaint and beautiful as is the architecture. The city offers much to be seen and enjoyed.  A short trip put us into the countryside and you see remnants of ancient Dutch life, plus it allows you to view windmills!! Yes, Virginia, they still do have some windmills in Holland. In order to help preserve the windmills, Holland allows citizen’s to live in them and keep the windmills in working order as they are historical treasures.

Belgium:   We enjoyed the beautiful town of Brussels and had the best meal of our trip there. We bought chocolates and munched out. Our timing did not allow us to see the square full of flowers.  Bruges is in the Flemish Region of Belgium and is one of the oldest medieval cities in tact. Pure ancient beauty in architecture is found here and this kind of city with its vistas makes travel worthwhile.  Some people on our tour encountered rude treatment in Belgium. So did we, but no need to elaborate because I love Belgium.

Lace curtains in Belgian windows is becoming a lost art.

Paris:

Paris in summer is crowded with tourists because the Parisians have left the city for calmer, quieter environs. They say that the crowds of tourists have grown since Disneyland came to be a part of the tourist scene. Paris is Paris. I can tell you that the Eiffel Tower lights up with flashing lights at 9:00 P.M., 10:00, 11:00 and 12:00, and there a fewer lovely bakeries. The shopping is no big deal, sort of looks like everything you get everywhere in the civilized world. The city’s glorious crust is the same as I remember it, but the infrastructure has changed considerably. That would take another essay and I am not equipped to write it. A highlight or two:  Being first in line to float down the Seine, dinner and night lights of Paris, plus enjoying the Louvre Museum with all its fine collections and viewing Mona was a treat even though there were casts of thousands doing the same thing. Walking the streets and seeing majestic Paris through the eyes of our kids made it new and exciting for us.

London:

What new can I say about London, when everyone is in love with London, the name, the history, the people, the times and Harrods! Don’t miss a visit to this incredible department store or as we found ourselves there twice; twice as nice and thrice the price. They do have everything for the senses as well as the soul. Go just to see it; buy something, we did.  Have dinner across the street at the little Italian place with the big picture window facing the entrance to Harrods.  See who drives up in what make and model luxury car and see who gets out. See who gets picked up and if it is a gold car, enjoy seeing it because it is quite likely you will not see one again.  You will be busy asking the waiter to explain some of the makes and models of the cars. Some you have seen and some you have not. Every luxury car imaginable is driven up at some time or another to Harrods. No, we did not spend all our free time in Harrods and yes, we saw The Houses of Parliament with Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, The London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Lester Square, Westminster Abbey, had a float down the Thames, the lines around the London Eye were daunting, the Tate Gallery of Modern Art was a block from our hotel, Brick Lane was neat, and London’s Chinatown  housed only restaurants. We enjoyed seeing Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, the Westminster area where I actually found a charity shop, yippee, and, a special highlight was having lunch with Nina!!  We very sadly missed not seeing our Connie and Brian.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tamara Scott
    Aug 27, 2010 @ 13:30:13

    Sheila:
    You are so far ahead of me. I don’t even knowhow to originate a blog. Just wanted you to know how beautiful the waterfall was, and how much I enjoyed your commentary. You give us new places to visit….
    Love you,
    Tamara

    Reply

  2. Reene
    Oct 01, 2010 @ 21:36:32

    The lace little drapes in the window look like one of the beautiful cards you made from our Russian trip. You make every day scenes look like beautiful cards!!!! Reene

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: