25 January 2015

New Years 2015 - Dear Readers...

It is amazing to us that people are still reading our blog--www.TrippingWithMikeAndDeb.blogspot.com

We really were not blogging for the world to read, but for a personal diary of our travels ... and to let family members know where we were in our progress and that we were still alive and well.

In its 2-1/2 years of existence, this post is number 217. And we have had 8,475 page views. That is astonishing! Here are the top viewers by country, so readers are certainly not just our local friends and family. 
We've also had readers from Poland, Australia, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Thailand, even Cambodia, and more.

Here are the top posts that readers seemed most interested in. 

We don't have another BIG trip planned til May. That is a chef's tour to Italy, led by Chef John at Zazio's located in the nearby Radisson Hotel. But we'll try to post something interesting now and then til then.

Again, thanks for reading and coming back for more. It is gratifying to have friendly readers from around the world. Please leave comments if you have something interesting to add or have questions.

                                                    Most sincerely,
                                                     Mike and Deb

24 January 2015

2014 OHIO Columbus 2 - More Seasons Eatings

Last February we ate here for the first time on Kathy's birthday and could not make another trip so nearby without stopping again. It did not disappoint. We had a round of their classic Bloody Marys and Ramos gin fizzes to start. Then amongst us we gobbled down spinach salad with goat cheese and candied almonds, clam chowder with chorizo "dust," fish-and-chips, huge peel and eat gulf shrimp with cheesy grits, various kinds of fresh oysters on the half-shell, and Cuban sandwiches.

Dessert was their delish brown sugar pie. The waiter overheard our comments about how wonderful it was. A few minutes later the chef came out with a printed copy of the recipe for us and explained in detail how to make the pie. I'll bet you never had that happen before!!!
At the Pearl you don't even mind getting the bill. It comes out randomly slipped between the pages of a book. You can even leave a little note about the meal hidden somewhere within its pages. This is a first class place for food AND service and can't be missed if you are ever in Columbus, Ohio.

After that huge meal we needed to walk it off. We motored to the Columbus Zoo to see the annual holiday Wildlights show. They display four million (yes, that is the correct number) mini lights throughout the zoo. It was so beautiful, especially by the reflecting pond. Many different colors and light patterns going off and on.
We were a bit disappointed at first because we expected to see the zoo animals under the shadow of night. But, alas, they were all sleeping except a few gazelles and one lone reindeer. Apparently the zoo does not want to interrupt the animals' normal sleeping patterns by artificially waking them up during the light show. That's understandable. Once we realized it was more about the lights (and a fundraiser), we were ok with it. I really did want to see the polar bears though. Dang!
After a leisurely stroll, it was back to home. We had a nightcap and played with Jip and her new smiley teeth ball. Too funny!
On Saturday, we woke up to mimosas and more BLTs. Still great the second time around. We laid around all day, mostly catching up on family news. The guys figured out how to hook the computer up with the TV, so we could show our Europe trip slide show on the big screen. 

Dinner was at Hinkley's in Marysville. This restaurant had been closed for a few years, but recently reopened after some renovation. It was as good as we remembered. Here we munched on sweet potato bisque, spinach salad, pumpkin ravioli, seared salmon, gulf shrimp over quinoa, and perfectly cooked steak. We had Madagascar vanilla bean creme brûlée (served warm with a light sugar crust on top - umm, my fave) and berry crisps for dessert.

The next day we returned home. All in all we ate and drank our way through the weekend and had a warm and wonderful visit with J&K.

New Years Eve was at our house. It was a family affair and special guests were my Uncle and Aunt from France (whom we had visited in October). Joining them was our cousin from Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. It was a treat as we rarely get to see him. Also, K&J (along with some friends from Chelsea, Michigan) made a one day       trip to our house just for New Years Eve festivities.

Aunt started the appetizers with a homemade liver paté (how very French of her). I'm not a meat-eater, but everyone else thought it was fabulous. We also had a 10+ pound honey baked ham, Mike's favorite Bushes market baked beans (not the canned Bushes), potato salad, deviled eggs, homemade guacamole, dips and chips, and olives (a holiday must for our family). In the end, it seemed more like a holiday picnic. The sweets included three fabulous gelato flavors--tiramisu, berry swirl, and limoncello.

The evening was topped off with a glass of champagne for all and a grand show of fireworks provided by the City of Kalamazoo. They are launched from a nearby rooftop parking deck. We have a wonderful view from our balcony and the street below.

Happy 2015 New Year to all and thanks for checking our blog!
Mike & Deb

23 January 2015

2014 OHIO Columbus 1 - Seasons Eatings

Yep, I know I'm late in getting this out, but seems our life is sooooo / toooooo busy. This should catch us up though.

For Thanksgiving each family unit went their own way this year. As we were on our own, we two planned to eat dinner at Old Burdick's (a restaurant next door in the Radisson Hotel). It is not our favorite, but it is the only restaurant downtown and within walking distance that is open on TG.  It turned out to be too cold and snowy, so we opted to stay home by the cozy fireside. We had humble homemade veggie soup for dinner.

For Christmas we went to Columbus, Ohio to visit Mikes's sis and hubby, Kathy and Jim and all their animal critters. They have a dog, a cat, a few chickens, and three terrariums filled with exotic miniature frogs. Some she has raised from egg to polliwog to grown up frog. You can read all about them in past entries of this blog.

We arrived on Christmas afternoon. They had redecorated (new paint and such) much of the house, so we took a quick tour, did a meet and greet with all the pets, and then quickly moved into gourmet drinking mode. Jim always offers  exciting new liquors or fancy liquor bottles (we recall one that lit when you tipped it over to pour). Today was no exception.
He had purchased, just for us, a limited edition, numbered (#247) bottle of Leyenda del Milagra 100% agave azul tequila. The bottle was beautiful with an inner glass agave plant encased in the bottle. We just could not figure out how that bottle was created, as the agave was hollow inward from the bottom. Anyway, no salt or lemon needed with this tequila. Just sipping. It went down smooth and the bottle went down fast.

Dinner was a Japanese delight of carry outs from a place in Dublin, Ohio. There was a choice of six bento boxes--I chose the teriyaki salmon and Mike chose the shrimp tempura and steak teriyaki. Side dishes included two kinds of miso soup, a variety of sushi appetizers,  kimchi (yes, I know this is actually Korean), and octopus and seaweed salads. We had all the special sauces to dress things up. Chopsticks were a must.
For dessert, we had mochi cookies in a variety of flavors and the ugly (but tasty) iced sugar cookies I had made from scratch at home and brought.

The next morning was a late breakfast of BLTs with avocado, whipped up by Kathy. I rarely eat meat, but it is a bit hard for me to pass up bacon. It is not a religious thing, so no big deal if I go for it.

Later we went to Columbus for a little shopping and a lot of eating. We stopped at the Micro Center technology shop and bought a few gadgets. One thing we all lusted over was the 3-D printer and the working wind turbine model (about 3 feet tall). Neither one terribly useful for us, but both really cool. We staved off the urge to purchase.

Then off to the Short North district for more shopping. We especially liked the Everything-You-Could-Ever-Want-For-Your-Pet store. We bought a few dog toys there. There was also a great game and gadget store, but it was so crowded, we decided to check it out another time.
Then on to The Pearl, just a few doors down. See full mouthwatering menu at www.thepearlcolumbus.com

14 January 2015

2014 EUROPE by Rail 34 - Euro Wrap

Well, we ...
- spent 13 lovely days in Europe (Oct 9-22)
- visited six cities (St. Hippolyte du Fort in France and surrounding areas, Nice, Monaco, Brugge, Berlin, Amsterdam)
- saw three folks with a family connection (Uncle Bob, Aunt Terry, and Cory)
- browsed three museums (Beer Museum of Brugge, Rijks and Van Gogh Museums in Amsterdam)
- accomplished two+ out of three goals (visiting B&T in their home, finding the Euromaxx studios, and walking a tiny bit of the Monaco F1 race track)
- took one boat cruise (the canals of Amsterdam)
- and walked at least 100 miles (that's less than 10 miles per day and it felt like a lot more!)

We ate delicious meals everywhere and none disappointed us. My favorite was probably the colorful veggie plate at the Chat Perche in Couvertoirade. Mike's favorite was the mussels at Restaurant De Gouden Kroes in Brugge. Schneitzel in both Berlin and Amsterdam came in a close second for him.

We agree on a favorite breakfast spot--the little bagel shop in Berlin.

Best outdoor produce market and best sweets were in Brugge.

Our favorite sleepover was Mas Baumel, our Aunt and Uncle's home in southern France. 
After that, each hotel was so different and "best" in its own way. In the end, I chose The Times Hotel in Amsterdam for my fave. It had the best window view of the lovely, ever-changing canal out front and I delighted in the Van Gogh mural on the long wall.
On the other hand, the Durante Hotel in Nice was the only hotel with a house cat. Hard to beat that. If the cat had been a bit more friendly, I might have put Durante at number 1.
Mike liked the Hotel Patritius in Brugge. It was more a "historical" European style having been a mansion at one time, had a nice outdoor courtyard garden, and had the best in house breakfast spread. 
If we absolutely had to pick one sightseeing spot, my favorite was the Berlin Wall. Mike's was intrigued with the Knight's Templar village of Couvertoirade, France.
Favorite train station was Niceville and best sunset was on the Nice boardwalk.

Favorite bar was the Katz and Maus in Berlin.

Now that we are home, we think of things almost daily that remind us of the wonderful time we had on this visit and have us yearning to return. Next Europe trip is tentatively planned for May to Northern Italy. It will be a foodie event with our local Chef John, from Zazio's Restaurant, as our guide.

There will be lots of blog entries before then. Hope you keep on reading!

1) We think American graffiti is more creative than European. What we observed for the most part in Europe were tags and statements (rather then caricatures, cartoons and scenes). The Berlin Wall was a huge exception, of course, but even there the beautiful artwork was covered with word scrawls. I guess all art is temporary, but somehow it seems to me that The Wall is too sacred to be desecrated at someone's written whim.

2) You could almost count the number of people who were NOT peering into a cellphone screen or had one near their ear. What is to become of our live human interactive social skills?!

3) Bright white bed linens and duvets in every hotel we stayed. No American style bed spreads. We liked it. Our friend Suzi in SFO has often had white linens in her master bedroom. I think I'm going to switch over, too.

4) In Germany folks say "No, no, no, no, no, no" at least five or six times, rather than just "No!" Too emphatic? Overdone?

5) Germans pretty much mind the rules. For example, they rarely walk against the "Don't Walk" light at intersections.

6) Germany should catch up on no smoking trends. I think Berlin train station was the only one to have a "Smoking" area. Too bad this area was only divided by a line painted on the track waiting area floor from the non-smokers.

7) It rained in varied measure almost the whole time we were in Europe. But somehow when it came time for us to walk somewhere, there was a lull in the weather long enough for us to get where we were going without getting completely soaked.

8) The rainbow outside our Amsterdam window was the best natural light show. The Light Festival in Berlin was the best manmade light show.

9) Security seemed less apparent in train stations than in airports. At least it was not obvious. No body scans and no x-ray machines for luggage before boarding. Yes, there were cameras videoing the situation and a handful of police present. But security was not in your face or reminding you every moment that something could go wrong and beware. Since our trip, things may have changed after the horrendous Charlie Hebdo tragedy.

10) The Astronomy Club meeting in Anduze with my Aunt and Uncle was a highlight. Mike is ready to start a club in Kalamazoo.
11) Things on this trip we missed and would love to see next time--the Reichstag in Berlin, the Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam, and the Hermitage Museum of Amsterdam. Also would like to re-see the Van Gogh and Rijks Museums when they are not crowded.

12) We met hoards of nice people, reaching out to us when we looked confused or just to chat or explain things about their country. No one (except maybe our Amsterdam taxi driver and the shopkeeper in Brugge that lured us down an alley to his shop) did us wrong or was unkind or unfriendly or unhelpful.

13) Uncle Bob wore a long orange knitted scarf (see photo above) when we went out. Mike usually had on a flannel shirt which to me looked kind of lumberjack-ish. When we got him Mike started wearing his faux cashmere scarf with his flannel shirts. That scarf changed his total look to cool French country guy. Love it.

14) In the U.S. when we travel (by car at least), we always take photos of the "Welcome to Michigan" type signs posted at each state border. No way to tell that we figured out to know when you cross into a new country in Europe. Biggest hint is that the signs on businesses are suddenly written in the language of the country you just entered.

12 January 2015

2014 EUROPE by Rail 33 - And Away We Go Home

The next morning was a 03:45 get up for a 04:30 cab reservation to the Central Train Station. As we readied, we watched the news and weather on TV. It reported that many flights had been cancelled due to high overnight winds. We were so glad we had actual reservations rather than being on airline employee standby. This seemed well worth the price of a "real" ticket.

We were within walking distance to the station, but at 04:30 that morning it was cold, wet and dark, so we choose the easy route. Our cab driver was probably the only disappointment on the trip. He tried very hard to talk us into taking his cab all the way to Schiphol Airport for about 40 euros. It seemed a good deal, but we had plenty of time and didn't feel the need. We were used to the trains now and stuck with our plan A.

Anyway, he dropped us off at the opposite end of the station from the only door that was actually unlocked at this hour. It was cold and we were loaded down with luggage. Not a pleasant situation in spite of our prep work for a smooth getaway. We don't know if he did that on purpose (we kind of felt that way) or if that was the only legal drop off point for taxi drivers.

This resulted in a long walk in the drizzle over cobble stone streets with our tons of luggage. It was dark and there were quite a few homeless bum type guys hanging out under the eves of the station, trying to keep dry. It was a bit intimidating, but as we tried each door along the way, they all said, "Keep going to the end," so they were helpful after all.

Finally, we got to the last door (a really long block away) and bought our tickets for the train. Pretty fancy for a short train ride, with iridescent strips. 
The ticket guy said there were track repairs that night, so we would have to take the train half way and transfer to a bus for the last leg into the airport. We would get there only a few minutes later than scheduled.

Signage was not the best, at least at this hour, and it took us a while to find our track. What might have been the beautiful glass ceilings we were used to, seemed "under-ground-ish" in the dark of night. And there were few passengers to keep us company.
These gates to a closed restaurant were the only thing of beauty to photograph at this hour. The bus transfer was inconvenient, but not a big deal.
At airport check in, we thankfully found our flight was not cancelled and was on time. Recalling his last trip through this airport, Mike expected to see lots of shops and eating places to browse. But what were we thinking! It was still the middle of the night.

We had not had dinner, so we grabbed a tasty hot breakfast sandwich from a portable cafe cart. But ... we were so anxious to be on our way home, that we forgot to investigate the duty free shop. Dang!! How was that possible?

Not much browsing time anyway, as we were routed through multiple security check points. When the plane took off, we were just happy to be on board and on our way home with an on-time departure.
Half-way point.
Time passed fairly quickly on the flight. We lightly napped and I watched Angelina Jolie in "Maleficent." It retells the tale of Sleeping Beauty from the evil godmother's POV. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Meals were decent, but too much for us to eat all. I threw the snack cheese and crackers in my purse to eat later. But in U.S. customs we discovered you had to go into a longer, more strict line to declare cheeses you were "importing." Not sure if that applied to us, but we went there anyway. The agent laughed and waved us on after I confessed my cheesy contriband story. Other than that our transfer connection in Detroit went smoothly.

As we landed in Kalamazoo, it was wonderful to see the vibrant "neon" trees we are so used to in fall. Europe did not live up to this performance. Ah, home sweet home.

10 January 2015

2014 EUROPE by Rail 32 - Red Hot Amsterdam

By the end of the cruise we were starving. Our next stop was the famous (or infamous) Red Light District of Amsterdam.

We headed in that general direction and came across another Argentinian restaurant with schnitzel on the window menu. Mike's mouth started salivating, so we went in.

Gringo was a goofy little place with all kinds of goo-gaa decorations. It was a mix of nautical, beer steins, cowhides, bull fight murals, a big taxidermied ram's head, and other eclectic items. 

The sport playing on TV was a dart challenge from Monaco. Our waitress, Sylvia, was from Rome. The overall vibe of this place did not come together for me. Although I don't recall my meal (friend Suzi says if you can't remember it, it probably wasn't worth remembering), but Mike really enjoyed their version of a schnitzel plate. 

We found it was still raining outside, but the Red Light District was calling our name. We ambled that way. Below was our first view--a sign with a big-boobed, wide-eyed young blond in pigtails with gaping open mouth and a giant half-peeled banana headed her way. It was a place called Chickita's. Clever?! At least cutsie and not hard core, under the circumstances.
Mike noticed a fetish and fantasy shop. He laughed and gave it a thumbs up, but we didn't go in.
We came across many alleys lined with peek-a-boo windows. Women of every nationality and body style and "women" paraded their wares in each. In this particular alley windows faced the Oude Church on the other side. Taking photos in the direction of these "entertainers" is strictly banned. This was the closest we dare try.
One thing I did expect to see were actual red lights, where hanky-panky was available. But I didn't notice any obvious ones. Maybe this is more a night time thing.

There were a lot of little sexy touches here and there. What appeared to be utility access doors on the pavement were marked "XXX." Then we came across this work of art wedged within the cobblestone street.
The Oude Kerk (or old church and the oldest in Amsterdam) is in the District. Mike thought he remembered a sign from his previous visit that said "Prostitute Entrance." We circled the church twice looking for that photo opportunity, but could not find it. Hopefully the church updated its policy so that anyone can enter at any door. He thought maybe it was this one, appropriated painted red.
Besides the brothel windows, there were shops selling all kinds of sex related
stuff -- toys, enhancement paraphernalia, art (in the eyes of the beholder), perfume and liquor bottles shaped like various body parts, leather goods, sexy-skimpy lingerie, etc. Nothing left to the imagination.

Even on this rainy day, it was crowded here. Men, women, couples casually strolling. Some pointed with shock or awe at the available products and possibilities.

We soon got our fill of this area. It was fun, but not our bailiwick. We continued and happened across Dam Square, the historical heart of the city. This is the National Monument in the middle of the square. Read up here: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Monument_(Amsterdam)
Circling the square is the neo-classical Royal Palace (below), the Gothic Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), Madam Tussand's Wax Museum, and the NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolky. 

Also, the DeBijenkorf department store was nearby. Mike needed a clean white undershirt, so we thought we would grab one here. Once we entered, we found this was a VERY high-end store. One undershirt costs 40 euros and when we got home we discovered it was hand-washable only. That was an extravagant souvenir. I really have no clue, but it probably cost more than a romp in the Red Light District!!
We were tired and soaked from the rain, so we headed in the direction of our hotel. We passed through another shopping center, The Magna Plaza. Mike had visited here on his last visit (over 10 years ago) and this was the hot shopping spot back then. It was a step down from the deB, but if we had looked here first we might have paid a more normal-for-us price for the undershirt.

Back at the hotel, I said we should dry off and go find the Anne Frank House. I had read her diary as a teen and seen the play a number of times, even staged managed one version at the This Side of the Hill Players Theatre in Half Moon Bay CA. Mike wanted to get warmed up and read, so I decided to go it alone. This was a must see for me.

I scoped out the map at the hotel and set out. It was a substantial walk in the rain. First I came across this statue and memorial of Anne Frank (1929-1945). Here she looks so frail in stature, yet strong with a slightly upturned chin. Very sweet and emotional and telling.
I rounded the corner and there it was. Yes, it was indeed green, at least on the first floor. There was a line winding around the alley of quietly whispering people. They stoically waited for their turn to enter. They held umbrellas of many colors, representing to me the many walks of life interested in this long passed, young woman's life.

Honestly, I am a very emotional person and cry at the drop of a hat. I decided I did not need a formal tour inside. Viewing this hallowed home from across the canal was significant enough to bring tears to my eyes and felt I had paid sincere tribute to this heroic soul.

Nothing left to do, but to return to the hotel. I had not actually brought the map with me (when will I ever learn) and had not dropped breadcrumbs on my route. So I got lost on my return route and it was a long, thoughtful way back.

I passed by some interesting shops and galleries though, and even the pizza place from last night. I thought about a carry-out do-over here for dinner, but it was 16:30 and I was not hungry anyway.

Back at the hotel, even though it was early evening, we both called it a day. Mike read and I watched TV. Two-and-a-Half Men, Grey's Anatomy, Big Bang Theory, and the British version of Antiques Roadshow were airing on an English  language channel. Lucky for me. I jotted down notes for the blog while paying half attention to the TV.

Later we thought about running out for a snack, but it was still raining ... hard. High winds, lightening, thunder, sleet and hail were added to the weather mix. It was the first time on our trip that we turned on the heat in our room.

A great view from our lovely hotel window, but not something to romp around in. I broke out the last two of our granola bars packed for the trip and that was dinner.

09 January 2015

2014 EUROPE by Rail 31 - Smoke and Water

Woke up to cold and rain, which was pretty heavy throughout the day. By the time we were cleaned-up and dressed there was a lull. We had two chores before more sightseeing. That was to reconfirm our 07:45 Delta flight back home the next morning and to verify the train schedule to get us from Central Amsterdam to Schiphol Airport.

Our phone was still useless, so we checked the phone book and found a nearby KLM Travel Center. KLM is a partner with Delta, so we figured they could help us. We set off with umbrella and raincoat in hand. We took the location to be a ticket office, but when we got there it turned out to be a Health Center for KLM travelers. The receptionist laughed and said this situation happens all the time. She was able to reconfirm the flight for us.

We passed on a bagel breakfast, hoping to find something different for a change of pace. About 10:00 we headed toward the Amsterdam Central Train Station to find a breakfast spot and to scout out the airport transit situation ... but we got a little side tracked.

While in Amsterdam, we had passed by many coffee shops (in reality "coffee" meaning marijuana and hash smoke shops). I wanted to check one out. Hey, when in Amsterdam do as the Amsterdamians (is that the word?) do. And why not? It was legal.

Toking was not brand new to us as we grew up in the 60's. Who didn't at least try it back then. So we randomly stopped at The Bulldog. About half the seats were filled with "coffee" drinkers. 

There was a huge menu to choose from. Mike ordered 1.1 grams (smallest package to buy) of White Widow. We had to roll it ourselves. Everyone around us was rolling perfect long conically shaped doobies, but ours looked pretty raggedy. 

We leisurely shared some of it, along with a couple of cafe au laits. Ah, did I mention there was groovy music playing in the background?

We did not smoke the whole thing. It was pretty strong stuff. There are limits and we stopped at the delightfully giggly (not the weak kneed falling down) point.

That was breakfast and what a happy breakfast it was. We advised the order taker that there was a lot left over at our table (part of the doob and some unrolled product) and that he was welcome to it. We not not wish to take the leftovers in a doobie (ha ha) bag. He was a happy guy, too.

OK, we went merrily on our way to our second chore just a block away. At the train station, we verified the situation to connect to the airport. It was about 40 minutes away and only 7 euros each. We had hoped to buy our tickets in advance, but that was a no-go. Either way it seemed like little hassle, just a very early get up.

It was raining quite hard now, so rather than a continuation of our walking tour we decided to take a canal cruiseboat tour. It was glass topped so we could see fairly well. The big thing was we were warm and dry and seated. A nice load off of our feet for a change.

We bought our tour tickets at a little hut near the train station covered in blue and white Delft tiles. Very cute. The tour was about 1-½ hours. 
Captain Lieuwe (pronounced Louie, and a cute blonde like soooo many people in this town) did a fine job in covering the information for the four foreign speaker groups on board.

He first pointed out the location of the headquarters for the Dutch West India (Caribbean) Trading Company. Henry Hudson (for whom the Hudson River in New York is named) was an English explorer working for that company. His 1609 voyage linked together Amsterdam and the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island. Later it would be renamed New York (after the Duke of York) when the English took it over.

From here it is all by memory and not necessarily in order. We went past many towers and churches of note, but at that point I was not taking notes. No paper nor pen, just my camera which did not record well through the rainy windows.
We went past the Rembrandt House Museum (photo not shown) and Seven Bridges (a spot in the canals where you can see seven bridges all lined up in a row.

We saw many lovely  houseboats.

We cruised by the Mayor's house and the Dancing Houses of Damrak. They were originally built on swamp land and supported by stilts. As time passed they "wobbled" and are still wobbling and off kilter. It looked like rubber bumpers were wedged between some of the buildings to keep them from crashing into each other. (See the large black patch almost center and just to right of the tree.)
We saw NEMO, the national science and technology museum. It's kind of shaped like a giant whale ...

and the National Maritime Museum. In the bay nearby was the three masted replica of the tall ship Amsterdam. In 1749 during a storm the original cargo ship sank on its maiden voyage to Batavia through the English Channel.

I think we saw the Hermitage of Amsterdam Museum from afar. As it turns out the  State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia (one of the largest and oldest museums in the world) can display only about one-fifth of their over three million works at a time. So they have agreements with several places around the world to show their arts and artifacts on a revolving basis.

Amsterdam Hermitage and the Guggenheim Hermitage in Las Vegas are among them. The max time artifacts can be out of Russia is three months, so every three months a new batch of Russian items are on display here in Amsterdam. This was one site we did not want to miss, but we did. Hope there is a next time for us here.

We also passed by the Anne Frank House. Captain Lieuwe said it was the green one, but we didn't see any green house. I would check that out later. There was much more, but I guess you will have to take the cruise to see and hear about it.