Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Europe 2014 - Amsterdam, The Netherlands

For the next part of our adventure, we chose to fly to Amsterdam rather than take the Eurostar.
Flying put us there in a couple of hours, but the train would take a lot longer and we only had an afternoon in the city.

Donald, Ivan, Hannah and I had all been before in August or September 2002.
When we moved to England we went to the US Embassy in Amsterdam to take care of some final Visa paperwork.
Uncle Daniel was working in Holland at the time and met us for dinner.
It's also the place where we found out that our family of four was going to be a family of five!
(so technically Jenelle was there too!)
This time around though, Hannah would remember more and I would be just a LITTLE less distracted!

We took a train from Schiphol Airport to Centraal Station.
What a beautiful station!
 photo by Hannah
We locked our bags in the luggage storage facility and then got a tram into town to see the Anne Frank House and Museum.
I finally deciphered the sign.
"Every man wants a six pack."
"Men know why"

Well I wish I could read the very fine print because then maybe I could find out why too!!

We took a tram to the Westermarkt stop and made our way to Prinsengracht (I think it means Princes Canal) where the Anne Frank Museum and House was located.
photo by Hannah
I had tried to purchase tickets in advance that let you skip the line, but they were sold out, so we waited in a very long line.
It goes all the way up and to the right - I'd say we were there for about 45 minutes to an hour.
 So as we rounded the corner I took pictures of the building...
It wasn't until later that I realized that I took a photo of only the museum.
When you go inside the main entrance of the museum, you are led into what was the annex that the Frank family stayed in.
The trouble is, once you are inside the museum, it is hard to determine where you are...what direction you are facing, etc.
Once I got home and realized that my photos of the exterior weren't really the right ones, I was crushed.
I know it shouldn't matter, but the experience of being in this home and place where this amazing young girl was hiding was SO powerful!
I wanted my photos to represent the time there as best as they could.
Oh well...
I did find a photo online.
(credit goes to
The museum is to the far right and the house and annex are third from the right.
Hannah and I had both read Anne Frank's Diary and had seen the movie as well.
(If you haven't read her diary, go and do it now!)
It is short, but powerful, wise, insightful and prophetic!
After seeing this place, I read it again while we were still on our trip.

I was in awe during our tour, but became emotional when we walked through her room.
There were, on the walls, the exact pictures that she had hung - as any teenager would do - of people and things that made her happy.
They had protected those portions of the wall with plexiglass and knowing that it was original was overwhelming!
She was Hannah's age...
She died when she was 15 years old - less than a month before the British liberated her concentration camp.
Her father was the sole survivor of their family and was able to have her diary published.
"To build up a future, you have to know the past." - Otto Frank

Just walking around the city is a pleasure.
The canals and the architecture of Amsterdam are so beautiful!
I really like this city.
I would go back and back and back.

In these next pictures you can see that the homes have hooks at the top to use when large heavy items need to be lifted to the upper levels.
Just look at the gorgeous shutters on this home!

And of course...bikes!
I remember seeing them when we came before.
This picture doesn't begin to illustrate the amount of bikes you see.
And you had better be mindful of where you are walking.
These people aren't messing around on their bikes and you will be run over.
Not kidding.

Before we left for our room that evening, we had to have some patat or vlaamse frites.
Delcious salty french fries!
They come with a sauce of your choice - a big blob of it - and of course I chose something spicy!
Oh these were soooo good!

So after our time in the city, we took a bus to our next host's home just outside of the city limits.
What a difference after our first overnight stay in London.
Our host was Marta and we loved her!
(Hi Marta!!)
Seriously, she felt like an old friend and we were so comfortable in her house.
She had sweet pets that liked to hang out with us...especially her lovely little cat Bruxa!
Too bad Bruxa didn't catch mosquitos though...
It was hot and humid in Amsterdam and the next morning poor Hannah counted about 20 bites!

We had stopped at a small shop in the station on our way and bought "dinner".
This was mine.
An unusual combination, but a perfect way to end the day!

We left the next morning very content after eating a delicious breakfast that Marta made for us.
Cheese, meat, eggs, yogurt, bread, juice and coffee!
Took a bus back to the Centraal Station and caught our first of MANY trains!

Next stop:  Cologne, Germany

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Europe 2014 - London, England

As most of you know, Hannah and I just returned from the most incredible summer holiday!
Donald gave this trip to us as a gift at Christmas...a opportunity to spend time together as mother and daughter that we would always remember.

We have been planning our time since the first of the year and back then it felt so far away.
But the day finally arrived!
On 9 July, Donald dropped us off at Seatac.
My stomach was in knots as we approached the airport, but once we said our goodbyes (I got the longest tightest hug from Jenelle - saying goodbye to them wasn't without a few tears!) and headed inside the airport, all I felt was excitement and freedom that we had 2 full weeks ahead of us for our travels!

After security, we grabbed a Starbucks and waited at the gate.
photo by Hannah
 Our plane was a brand new Boeing 777 and it did its job well...
...taking us out of the states...
photo by Hannah
...and into the UK.
Hello gorgeous English countryside!
These overseas flights are exhausting, but once we hit the runway in the UK, the feeling of exhaustion vanished!
Second wind!
We went straight to the Underground to work out where we needed to go for our room.
This is where Hannah seemed to have a talent!
The Underground system in the many other metro/underground/tram systems in Europe - and probably in the US as well - is fairly straightforward in its concept.
You have a starting point of a particular line and and ending point.
And in between are your stops.
Pretty simple right?
Well...apparently not for my brain.
I mean, if I HAD to do it all by myself, I'm sure I would eventually get it.
But it came very easily for Hannah.
Just like her dad has, I noticed natural navigational skills in Hannah.
Thank goodness!

So we went to our first room.
We wanted to drop off our backpacks and go into Central London for some sightseeing.

I choose to use for the overnight stays on our trip.
We stayed at seven different places during the 2 weeks we were gone.
Six of those places worked out really good or really great.
One of those didn't...and sadly that was the first place!

All Hannah and I have to say to each other is "Victor"...and that represents the first of many "inside joke/stories" from our trip.
The place wasn't at all like the pictures that were on the website.
It was messy and stinky and uncomfortable.
We felt unexpected by the host when we arrived.
Loud family late into the night...too far from where we wanted to explore.
Not sure how this host had so many good reviews, but since we were scheduled to stay with them again on the night before we head back home, I cancelled our reservation and made one with a hotel near the airport.

But, we were stuck for this one night so we dumped our things and took the tube to Westminster.
We've seen a few of these things before, but they are iconic and you don't get tired of them!

We walked around to the line for the London Eye.
It was loooooong!
Made us very glad we have already had the chance to ride.
And Big Ben...
There are no amount of pictures that equal "too many" when it comes to this beautiful tower!
photo by Hannah

Beautiful WWII monument to the Royal Air Force with a famous quote by Winston Churchill...
"Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few."

We walked by Whitehall Gardens - gorgeous!
How had I never noticed this before on our previous visits!!
The largeness and the grandeur of this place (and so many of the places that we visited during our entire trip) are what really struck me.
We see giant glass skyscrapers and elegant modern buildings in cities here and around the world all the time and think they are so amazing.
And they are in their own way.
But the detail in the stone and brick of the buildings that we saw during our travels are something so different.
You never stop putting their age together with the complexity of the project and wonder "How did they do that?!"

So just about after taking this last picture, we realized we were really really hungry!
We were in an area without a lot of choices and so we did the very sad American thing and ate at McDonalds.
It was out of desperation!!
And besides a coffee here and there over the next two weeks so we could access their free wi-fi, we never ate there again!
I promise!
But I had to take a picture of this meal...
Sad isn't it?
In London...eating at McDonalds.
Oh well.

After eating, we walked by Westminster Abbey,
and then to Covent Gardens.
This would be a great place to spend more time exploring, but it was after-work hours and the amount of people walking around the streets and the market was mind boggling.
On top of that, we had now been awake for over 24 hours and we were starting to feel like it.

We head back to "Victor's" (ick!) to get cleaned up and rested for the next day.
It was a long and fairly sleepless night.
We were not sad to leave the next morning for the next part of our trip.
Just a quick and favorite UK snack before we go!
Next stop:  Amsterdam

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Seattle Summer Day Trip

A week ago the girls and I took a trip to Seattle for an afternoon of doing whatever we wanted.
I've said plenty of times that I think its so cool we have this beautiful city only 2 hours away!
We need to do this more often as there is always something new to do!

And we had a lot of fun and took tons of pictures!
Hannah took many of the pictures and Jenelle added some too so you'll have to watch for photo creds!

Our drive from Yakima to Seattle.
photo by Hannah
 A stop in North Bend for a coffee!
Riding the Seattle Great Wheel
 photo by Hannah
 photo by Hannah
 photo by Hannah
 photo by Hannah
photo by Hannah

Did we have a perfectly gorgeous day or what??

After the wheel we messed around in a few tourist attraction areas...waste of money type places, but interesting to check out.
And yes...even a scary mummy from South America in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop.
We just couldn't figure out how a place like this got an actual mummy.
Shouldn't this be in a proper museum somewhere?
photo by Hannah
Jenelle and I wanted to show Hannah the gum wall since she wasn't with us when we saw it over spring break.
Still disgusting...but you can't look away!
photo by Hannah
 photo by Hannah
photo by Hannah

Then a walk through Pikes Market, lunch at The Pike Brewing Company (with lemonades and iced brews this time!) and a walk past the original Starbucks.
photo by Hannah
Could they have really imagined in 1971 what their company would be like today?
Amazing success story!
We walked our butts off to the Seattle REI.
Hannah took some cool architectural pictures along the way...
And somewhere along our walk, this kid took a cute selfie!!
photo by Jenelle
At REI, we were unsuccessful in finding what we were looking for, so we walked back down to the waterfront.
Hot and sweaty by that time - we needed some ice cream!

Then it was time to head back!
We stopped at World Market in Bellevue and then I hit the road to Yakima with these two lovelies!
A perfect day!