My husband and I just returned from 4 wonderful weeks in Europe. We started planning this trip and making reservations in October.
We left the heat and humidity of south Louisiana on June 27. We arrived in Amsterdam early on the morning of June 28. We took the train to Central Station and walked the short distance to the Renaissance. Our room was not quite ready (at 9 AM); however, they stored our luggage and suggested we wait in the executive lounge for a short time until our room was ready. It wasn't long before we were escorted to a beautiful room. We took a short nap, then started exploring. The hotel is in a perfect location because many sights are within walking distance. The others are a short tram, bus, or taxi ride away. We could write pages and pages on our experiences, but I am going to write about a few of the highlights.
We were in Amsterdam during the World Cup and that just added to the excitement of the trip. We had planned an evening visit to the museum district on the night Holland was playing Brazil. We watched the first half of the game before leaving the hotel. As we traveled on the tram, we did not even need a television to know what was going on...you could hear the crowd reactions as we passed the local bars and restaurants. We were in the Van Gogh Museum when Holland won and I really think we felt the building shake. We shared the tram with some really excited fans on the way back to the hotel. That tram bounced a little more than the one we had ridden on earlier!
We traveled to Rotterdam to view the Tour de France Prologue on July 3. We spent a rather wet day watching the riders cross the Erasmus Bridge. The crowds were enthusiastic. We were glad we had experience during Mardi Gras staking out our place on the barricades because everyone wanted a front row seat.
We took the train to Brussels following the Prologue. We took the metro to the Marriott and were given the best room in the hotel. Spain won a soccer game that night and we had a birds eye view of the celebration. We were up early the next morning to stake out our prime spot to view the finish of the Tour de France. My husband, a sports photographer, wanted to photograph the sprint that he knew would be developing right in front of us. Due to a huge crash before they reached us, there was not much of a sprint. For those of you who are Tour fans, Tyler Farrar, an American rider did not crash but the bicycle of another rider who did crash got stuck on Tyler's bicycle. When Tyler was able to separate the bicycles, he picked up his bicycle and threw it. We thought we were going to have a really expensive souvenir, but it did make it over the second barricade.
The next morning we saw the ceremonial start of Stage 2. We found a wonderful spot (or so we thought) to watch the riders sign in. We were excited when the caravan passed right in front of us. Our practice during Mardi Gras of yelling "Throw me something, mister" didn't seem to make much of a difference since we didn't know how to say it in French, but we were able to catch lots of souvenirs anyway. The team buses followed the caravan, but they stopped right in front of the sign in stage so we no longer could see the riders sign in. We moved along and found another spot on the barricade and had a great view of the riders leaving town.
We had a little time before we had to catch the train back to Amsterdam, so we returned to the square to eat a little more chocolate and watch some of the Tour on a big screen TV set up on the square. It seemed a little out of place, but a crowd had gathered since cycling is such a way of life in most of Europe. We returned to the hotel to pick up our luggage. We had to catch the metro to get to the train station. Unfortunately, my husband was pick-pocketed in a textbook move. Two young girls boarded the metro on both sides of him, one stopped right in front of him while the other picked his side pocket where his real wallet was (he had a fake wallet in his back pocket). The girls scurried off the metro as the doors closed. Luckily he only had about 20 euros left, but the aggravation of closing credit card accounts, replacing his driver's license, etc. was just beginning.
We returned to Amsterdam in a somber mood, but the staff at the Renaissance helped up through a very traumatic experience.
To be continued in August....self-guided bike tour, bike and boat trip, a stay at the Marriott in Ghent, Belgium, and on to Paris.