Monday, November 24, 2008


The sun is shining as we drive into beautiful Holland. Thom keeps pointing out old wind mills along canals, new giant wind mills, sheep, and barges along the big canals. It’s really flat here, and green. I’m so happy the sun is finally out. We’ve had grey skies, rain, and snow ever since we arrived 5 days ago. We’ll be touring into Amsterdam all day tomorrow and maybe tonight if we get settled quickly. We have a reservation at a youth hostel outside of Amsterdam. The tour book says, “Don’t drive in Amsterdam!” With the canals, bikes, minimal parking, and break-ins, we decided to take their advice. So the hostel just outside Amsterdam has parking, and then we’ll take the train in. We’ve discovered that youth hostels are a great way to go for our family, which run us about $90 Euros/night (about $120 US). We all get one room with a bathroom, which usually includes some bunk beds. We have to make our own beds. Continental breakfast is included which is a great deal for the 6 of us! We try to avoid hotels because they require us to pay for 2 rooms since we have 6 people. This easily runs about $250/night in US dollars. I’m reminded of my travels around Europe 25 years ago. After Luxembourg, we went to SHAPE near Mons, Belgium where Thom hoped we could stay in military housing. SHAPE is an army base where NATO headquarters is located. Unfortunately, we arrived on a Saturday and housing was closed for the weekend. So we ventured into nearby Mons and booked the last room at a youth hostel. Then we walked into the local cobblestone grand square where a children’s festival was taking place. The kids were delighted, played a few games, and walked through the “Haunted House.” In the morning, we visited a stunning cathedral before departing. The artwork inside was breathtaking, including alabaster statues, unbelievable stained glass, wood carvings, and paintings. These cathedrals are so colossal. It was Sunday morning but very few people attended mass. I imagine that hundreds of years ago, this cathedral was filled with townspeople and organ music every Sunday. We drove through Brussels, and happened upon the weekend flea market. What a hoot! You can find anything from fresh fish, fruit, and candy to toys to all kinds of clothing. It’s been snowing, so we bought gloves, hats, scarves, and Will even bought a coat for about 10 Euros ($12 US)! From there we made our way through Brussels. It’s a good thing it was a Saturday because we had no idea where we were and the traffic was light. We found all the tourist sites, including the Grand Place, the cathedral, and the town’s favorite statue of Julien. He’s a little bronze statue fountain who pees gleefully. Thom was impressed to walk the Grand Place and see the artistic statues decorating all the buildings. A school group was posing for a picture in the square, yelling their school cheers. We also found a bronze relief of Jesus lying down, which was rubbed to a golden color by visitors wishing for their prayers to come true. From there we headed north, but only made it about 20 miles due to the snow storm. Cars were traveling about 15 mph. So we settled into another youth hostel in Mechelen, Belgium where we caught up on three loads of laundry. That’s a hard thing to do with all this traveling! In the morning we treated the boys to a trip to Europe’s largest toy museum. It’s normally closed on Mondays, but this Monday was our lucky day because it was open for many school field trips. We spent close to three hours learning about ancient toys from Egypt, Africa, Europe and all the way up to modern video games. I’m sure each of the boys will blog about their favorites. Then we drove north to Holland, which is where we are now. It’s amazing to think we’re in our 4th country and this is starting day #6 for us. Yet we only drove about 5 hours in Germany, 1 hour in Luxembourg, 4 hours in Belgium (through the snow!), and 2 hours in Holland. The countries are so small here….especially when we compare driving here with Alaska!


Sabina said...

Hey you guys!

How was Amsterdam? Did you like it? I go there every now and then, and over and over again it's like a complete other world, or even another dimension, for me...I'm not sure I like it there...It's not even Dutch culture, but it sells, so they exploit it. In my opinion, that is. ;P

I was pleased to meet you guys, and I really hope you enjoy your trip! I'll stay in touch, and read your adventures!

Good luck and have loads and loads of fun!

With love,

The Besch Family said...

Hi Sabina, It was nice to meet you on the train, and we loved Amsterdam. Please email us and we can keep in touch. Good luck with your English classes and plans. Joan and Thom