Saturday, March 31, 2018

Spring Break--Surprise Trip!!!

We had a great spring break!  Well, I am guessing the kids did as well, ha ha.  We decided to head up to Lois's. 

On the Tuesday we were packing up the truck wouldn't start. I needed to do something with the truck, but can't remember. I was quite proud of myself as I jumped it all on my own and got it running. 
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We left Tuesday afternoon and arrived around 4pm or so.  Lee and the kids were in for a big surprise, though Haley had an inking about what was happening.  Lois, Lee and I and a couple of the kids headed to the "library".  On our way there we somehow ended up at the airport.  I turned around to Lee and asked him if he wanted to go to Amsterdam with me.  He had no clue--I completely surprised him.  It was so awesome! I packed for him, passport, razor blade and all. I packed just one backpack each for us.  
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I found a pretty decent flight deal with WOW airlines. They offer some amazing rates for flights to Europe. My one complaint is that they are very punctual with their departure times.
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All ready for the over-night flight!  We flew to Iceland first to switch planes.
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Their uniforms are cute though!
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Goodbye USA!
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Likes the whilst...

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We switched planes in Iceland as that is the main hub for WOW airlines.  The restrooms at the airport were pretty fancy and very private.
March 28 2018

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Leaving Iceland about 7am, headed to the Schiphol airport near Amsterdam.
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The airport was really fun.  We spent a little too much time there because we couldn't find the bus to take us to the Keukenhof Gardens. But we intentionally went into this grocery store at the airport.  So fun.  The main airport looked like a shopping center/mall than an airport.
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We finally found the bus to the gardens.  Of course the day we arrived it was rainy and cold.  We were somewhat prepared.  We walked around the gardens and the greenhouses.

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This room had some interesting decorations.  It reminded me of the 90s.  Not sure why.  But here is an awkward photo for you.
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And we loved seeing the people dressed up dancing around to a guy playing on some drums.  Very 70s. I guess I am on a decade thing. 
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We finally found a place to ditch our backpacks for free at the gardens.  I wish we would have figured that out earlier!  Our backpacks were pretty heavy.  We took a walk to see this random castle near the gardens.  On the way we passed some small businesses on the side of the road.  Lots of tulip bulbs for sale!
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We found the castle...Huys Dever built in 1375.  It's in Lisse. 
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It was closed so we didn't go in, but it was fun finding it!  So old too!
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Our walk back. Lots and lots of bike and pedestrian paths in the Netherlands.  I loved it!
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A neighborhood close to the Huys Dever castle.
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After the gardens and castle we made our way to Amsterdam and found our hotel. A street near our hotel. 
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We finally found it.  AND the front desk was closed.  We found a sign directing us to go across the street to a sister hotel and check-in there.
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We ate around the corner at Cafe George.  Very fun.  They left water on your table in the bottles and charged you for what you opened.
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Yummy croquettes.
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I'm not a foody person and the cafe had pretty normal fare, so when in Amsterdam I had a burger.  Ha ha.  Lee had fish. Of course I needed fries as well.
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They had chocolates/truffles on the menu and we ordered them to go.
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Loved the complimentary pepermunts.
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Back at the ranch....the stairs were so steep at the "hotel" and we had four flights.  I never took a picture of the room but it had two twin beds and super small! It was the size of a small walk-in closet.  It was warm and cozy though with an updated bathroom.  I am so glad I thought to buy and bring converters for the outlets. 
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View of the city at night.
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The day was spent in Amsterdam.  I found a grocery store near the hotel and we headed there--Lidl. It's actually a competitor to Aldi.  I thought it was a European Aldi at first.  Lee and I love browsing grocery stores in foreign countries. You find stuff like this:
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And cool baskets like this.
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We bought some yogurt and croissants for breakfast.  Also I found some cute mini chocolate bars and some other chocolate. We headed back to the sister hotel, finished up our food and finalized the morning plans.  Thankfully at the sister hotel we could leave our backpacks there.  We left them under a table with everyone else's.  Nothing was stolen though, so it was successful! Oh, this is a playground right by the Lidl.
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We had a pass to ride a canal boat all day...hop on, hop off. The boats stop at certain points around the city.
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Some classic views of Amsterdam.
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We went to Dam Square.
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This was a yummy ice cream store.  They served only one flavor: awesome homemade vanilla ice cream with whipped, sweetened cream mixed in.  And only 1€ I think!
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Fun little ally off of Dam Square.
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We stopped at an Albert Heijn to find some lunch food.  Fresh squeezed orange juice!
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So totally awesome.
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Love the eggs.  We are refrigerator freaks in the USA!
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We visited a few different places around the city, but mainly enjoyed walking around.  The old, crooked buildings were fun to see.
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See the two small ones, nice an crooked off to the center left?
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And more.
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Cal is into coins.  A fun little store we saw.
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Another classic view.
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I am not a tour or museum person.  But I loved the book the Diary of Anne Frank and really wanted to go in her house.  I went online one day too late and couldn't get tickets to go in the house she hid in during WWII. We stopped in front of the house anyway.
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Love the fun vehicles in Europe.
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There were Tesla taxis everywhere.
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We stopped at this cool church, Westerkerk. There was another old church I wanted to go to but thankfully realized that it was right in the heart of the red light district so we didn't go there. Thanks to my brother Daniel for giving me the heads up about that! He has been to Amsterdam before and knows the parts not to visit.
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We seem to happen upon optometry stuff when we are out and about.  No exception in Amsterdam!  I guess in Europe you have to go to school for a few years to even become an optician.
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Fun house boats we saw on our canal boat ride.
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Where's Waldo?  I mean, Lee?
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How about me?
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These are some government buildings...I think...near the Amsterdam signs.
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I thought this was funny.
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So on our first canal boat ride there was quite the mishap.  Another canal boat rammed into us!  We aren't quite sure why that happened as we were in a larger body of water and not a canal.  We just saw this other boat come right at us...almost like a t-bone collision. Thankfully we did not sink or anything.  I thought something for sure happened structurally because the crash made an awful sound.  The captain/driver was too shook up to keep working.  Another boat came up along side up and the drivers switched places.  Pretty crazy! And this was the boat the crash happened in.  See the driver waving to us?
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Our next vehicle, haha.
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We explored a little more around town and also went to a type of mall and bought some things at their store. We hopped on the canal boat again to head north.  We caught a train to the town of Zaandam. At their central train station a huge bike parking lot.  They don't have enough space for all the bikes.  I guess it can hold thousands and thousands of bikes.
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Another titled building for fun.
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Oh, and I loved the bike traffic "lights".
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We arrived in Zaandam and walked to the hotel.  I couldn't have picked a better hotel!  A two minute walk from the train station and right by a grocery store.  We dropped off our stuff at the hotel and walked across the parking lot to buy dinner at the hotel.
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We bought breakfast for the next morning as well.  We just chilled at the hotel room that evening and watched a documentary about the Andes.  Such a thrilling night life!
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Oh, it was fun seeing shelf stable yogurt at the grocery store.  So many fun options for food storage there.  And we saw a kid "flossing".  I started laughing outloud about it and I think I might have embarrassed him. We also saw a beverage in a glass bottle but it had Minion characters on it.  It said something about alcohol on it.  But I didn't know what it said.  I had to ask about it because it couldn't have been an alcoholic drink. I asked someone and found out that it was just sparkling cider or something for parties.  I also found these cute mini spoons at the store for
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Another awesome thing about the hotel, which I wanted, is that they rent out bikes.  Our last morning in the area we rented bikes and rode to the touristy Zaanse Schans area.  There a few windmills there and a fun cheese shop.  See the factory in the picture?  It's a chocolate factory and the town smells like hot fudge.  So yummy.  
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We were out a little early because of our flight leaving at 12:30.  But I am glad we were!  About 9am there were flocks of tourists!
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Loved seeing people riding to school or work.
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We bought some cheese and brought it home to share.  So yummy!
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We decided we wanted to go in a windmill but we didn't have any euros with us.  I am glad we finally decided to get some money out of an ATM and go inside the windmill.  It was pretty cool.  We went in a working windmill.  They make peanut oil and linseed oil.  What a hard life the windmill workers had years ago.
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We made it back to the hotel, dropped off bikes and picked up our back packs then headed to the airport.  The train station that was a two-minute walk away had a train that went to the airport.  It was seamless!  At the airport we stopped at the Albert Heijn again and grabbed lunch.  I had this for lunch the day before in Amsterdam.  It was so good I was hoping I could buy it again...yes!
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We flew back to Iceland....the bar sign in the background proving we were there, ha ha.  We arrived back in Baltimore about 8pm?  Can't remember exactly.  We saw the kids and got them settled for the night, then went to bed.  We didn't experience jet lag which was nice.  Maybe because we are almost always tired?  Ha ha.
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It was a fabulous trip.  A big thanks to my sister Lois for watching my kids.  And to my kids for putting up with our antics. I got them some fun things to do over spring break and Lois had some fun activities planned for them.