Tales from the road: Lake Como and Bellagio

Now I get what the big deal is!

Our last day in Milan before the long slog home, we decided to take the one hour train ride to Varenna to see Lake Como and see what all the fuss was about.

The weather in Milan was finally turning cooler and the day was overcast. We took the train and sat, as directed, on the left side so we wouldn’t miss the first views of the famous Alpine lake.

Once off the train, we hustled down the hill to catch the ferry to Bellagio, allegedly the prettiest lakeside town.

The lighting was spectacular with the mountains shrouded in blue and black and capped with white clouds as you gazed across the endless vistas with cozy towns tucked along the lapping shores.

And then we saw Bellagio just as the shroud of overcast lifted and late day sun danced across the water and tinted the town yellow. Debarking, we walked the promenade past stately hotels, cafes and the inevitable tourist trinkets.

And then I spotted it. THE Money Shot! The elegant Bar Florence had a trellised cafe at water’s edge. The views were brilliantly lit and it was the perfect moment for us to imbibe the perfect drinks: a negroni for him and a prosecco for me! The late day sun, the gentle warmth and breezes and ohhhh the Lake Como views that launched a thousand digital clicks. That’s how we spent our hour.

It was the perfect, peaceful end to our glorious, galloping journey across the northern cities of Italy.

We took the ferry back to Varenna, retracing our steps all the way to the same restaurant in Milan, Prime, we ate at our first night for our last feast before travels toward home.


 Bellagio comes into view

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Tales from the road: Milan style, shopping and EXPO

    Above: Sacred and profane side by side in Milano

Milan is the perfect place to imprint all the experiences of our journey through northern Italy. We arrive by train to a bustling, stylish metropolis full of contradictions.

After settling in our b&b, Room Inn, tucked behind gates in a hip area of downtown jammed with bars and cafes, we walk to the duomo to see the number one Milan attraction, the white church with its dozens of gorgeous gothic spires. But first we passed through another kind of church– the unbelievably glitzy church of wholly consumption– a gallery of high end shops under arcaded roofs and packed with global shoppers. I stood at the corner of louis Vuitton and Prada dumbstruck that there could be such a paean to shopping right next to the holy see. It was surreal.

Following  a quiet dinner of local specialties near our place, we tucked in early. Thursday was to be a marathon of eating, learning and eating at Milan EXPO 2015– a world’s fair dedicated to food and water sustainability, biodiversity and feeding the world. If that sounds dry you can’t imagine the global spectacular we experienced.

From around the world, countries showcased their cuisine, culture and food/water technologies in architectural exhibitions by their most creative architects and artists. 

The US and Israel showed innovative vertical farms as part of their exteriors, showing how water and space can be conserved. The mammoth Russian exhibit showed off the scale of their country in gorgeous exhibits but they totally wowed us with generous samples of black bread crowned with tender smoked white fish. 

We had lunch in Morocco, sampled raw cheeses in the slow food/biodiversity exhibit and were wowed with creativity in the Spanish pavilion and a remarkable musical performance in the Argentina showcase. We ended the day in the UNESCO exhibit where everything we saw came together. There IS enough food to feed our planet if we conserve, improve farming methods, reduce waste and cherish our biodiversity of plant and animal species.  

We walked 10 miles that day following wherever our eyes and ears led us. What an incredible visual and cultural feast with crowds from around the world sharing this special space. It seems just right that Italy should host an EXPO dedicated to food. After all, its a place where eating local is their heritage and pride in every region. It is also the home of the slow food movement that has swept the world.
    Vertical farm  

 Moroccan exhibit hall

 Russian smoked fish

  Raw cheese tasting

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Tales from the Road: Genoa- where pesto and seafood rule

Genoa:not your father’s salami

Sept 7 & 8

   Arriving in Genoa at night, our first impression of this maritime city was “what a dump.” Every cliche of seedy harbors sprung to mind with visions of whores, hustlere,homeless, heroin and hookahs. We loved our historic Hotel continental Genoo with its  antique glass elevator but we weren’t sure we’d want to wander the city’s dark corridors.

Instead, we decided to grab a train to Cinque Terre in the morning and get the hell out of Dodge.

A two hour train ride the next day took us to the seaside village of Monterosso. It looked good to me but we were on a mission to hike the trail to the next town of Vernazza which was arguably (online) the prettiest postcard of the five towns.

So we climbed the trail and pretty much kept climbing for two blazing hours. I’m pretty fit but 20 minutes in and my heart was pounding. The trail is a narrow ridge along the cliffs facing the sea. It’s mostly natural stairs with just a few flat areas. Almost at my respiratory limits, we spied a leanto with an entrepreneurial fellow inside selling freshly made lemonade for just one Euro. It was not a mirage, it was a miracle! Best lemonade ever.  

We resumed the climb. Two sweaty hours after we left Monterosso we climbed down into Vernazza. The photogtaphic views as we descended were not lived up to when we actually hit the main and only drag. It was crammed with trinket and pizza shops. We rehydrated and refueled at one of them, took a few pix of the town and their minuscule beach and took the next train back to Monterosso.

We rested our tired feet in the warm Mediterranean waters and just chilled for a bit. Then, a seaside seafood pasta dinner at sunset and back onto the train for our two hour ride back.

Today, we figured we’d see what Genoa had to offer but we didn’t have great expectations.

We were in for a big surprise. Or surprises. The harbor is lively by day with historic vessels and modern boats alike. The old port is actually new as it was designed by architect Renzo Piano, a native son. There are museums and historic sites strewn like confetti throughout the city.

 Our lunch at Eataly at the harbor was traditional pesto Genovese with beans and potatoes. If we could have licked the plate we would have! Pesto Genovese is the local sauce of choice. Also fresh caught fish and seafood of every variety from tender baby octopus to clams, mussels, sea bass and more. This pescaterian is now in her food Nirvana.

After lunch, we explored the old town which is a unesco cultural site. Impressive, historic churches, piazzas and cultural buildings everywhere you look. The church of San Lorenzo is the most spectacular I’ve seen this trip with its patterns of grey, black and white stonework. 

And then we turned onto Via Garibaldi which is the street of palazzos–the palaces of the early city’s rich and connected. We wandered past one over the top Italianate, Renaissance and Baroque building after another. Our cameras were breathing hard from their work out!

And now, after five hours of exploration, we lie legs up against the bedpost in our room as I write this post and A figures out which wonderful Ligurian seafood/pasta palace we will dine at tonight.

By the way Christopher Columbus is another native son of Genoa and his statue presides in the piazza right outside our window. Certainly a fitting image for a city built for exploration,
      Octopus   San Lorenzo  a palazzo Genoa by night


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Tales from the Road: Listening to Klezmer in the Ghetto

Sept 4 & 5

One of the motifs our of Bologna stay besides indulging in vast gluttony was discovering the Jewish ghetto area. We spent some our first day wandering the maze of  medieval alleys where we thought the ghetto was. But, alas, we found nothing. Why? Because Google really sucks at navigation in medieval cities.

That night we researched the ghetto more deeply seeking locational guidance and history from local sources.From Bologna Welcome: “The layout of Bologna’s 16th century ghetto can still be precisely traced amid the narrow streets in the medieval heart of the city: here, a maze of alleys, covered bridges and small windows tells the story of a whole community forced to live in a specific area of the town by order of the Papal State beginning from 1556.

In Bologna, Jews lived in the ghetto until 1569, when they were expelled for the first time.In 1586, they were allowed to come back to town and lived here again until 1593, year of their final expulsion: 900 people left Bologna and no Jewish community was allowed into town for more than two centuries. ”

The Jewish ghetto was, of course, located in the shadow of the church so they could keep an eye on the community. The trouble for us is that Bologna is littered with churches!

The better locational cue we discovered the next day came when we walked to the “fraternal twin towers” in the center of the city then headed under an arch on Via Zamboni. When we found a street named Purgatorio, it was no surprise to us that that was where the Jews were sequestered.

It also helped that walking from this direction,  signs for the Ghetto Ebraico were now clearly marked with the hamsa (hand) symbol and easily noted. It being Saturday, the Museo Ebraico in the heart of the ghetto was closed. However, we learned that this very  Saturday night was the first in a series of Jewish Jazz concerts at the Museo and we wanted to experience it. We were now fully equipped to navigate our way back.

After a fresh grilled fish dinner at the local’s fave Il Saraceno, we wandered back to the ghetto along its narrow, quiet streets. Arriving just a few minutes before start time we were amazed–and daunted– to discover a long line waiting at the gate. About 250 people had the same as idea as us.

At nine, the  gate opened to a stone courtyard and somehow we all fit. We stood near the back. And then we waited. And waited.

My claustrophobic thoughts during the wait flitted to what it might have like being corralled in this quarter as a medieval Jew. And then I reflected on all the tragic Jewish ghettoes of the twentieth century. Then, my thoughts meandered to more modern terrors. I wished the few police stationed nearby had inspected our bags and persons as we filed into this crowded gallery. There were no inspections.

Finally, my thoughts drifted to the amazing human migration occurring right now in neighboring countries. The refugees from war and privation in Syria and other conflicts were walking across Hungary to Austria and Germany by the thousands. And they were welcomed! Different times for sure.

Suddenly the music began. Lively uptempo klezmer interpretations of Kurt Weill filled the night air with joy, creativity and life. Couples cuddled in the tight quarters, enjoying a free concert and community. The musicianship of the Gabriele Coen Quintet was engaging with their modern touches of tapping, slapping and funk to Weill’s classic works.

Filled with music, we wended our way home passing piazzas filled with other night musicians playing under the stars. This city loves music.

Today, the Ghetto Ebraico is a place of art and culture for the city of Bologna. Yet, still, the echoes of history can be heard if you listen to ghetto walls ghetto concertthe walls.


The ghetto of Bologna

For more details about this area:http://www.bolognawelcome.com/en/places-to-see/suggested-itineraries/params/Percorso_6/Luoghi_331/ref/The%20former%20Jewish%20ghetto

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Tales from the Road: Bardolino & Bologna

 Chilling in Bardolino

Bologna: where a non-meat eater goes off the reservation

We picked up our rental car in Verona airport and headed to our day at the lake– Lake Garda. We were told it’s a more beautiful lake than Como and not filled with Americans desperately seeking a sighting of Amal Clooney’s husband. In fact, we stopped at a charming lakeside town of Bardolino with quaint alleys of shops and restaurants and postcard views off the lake as you strolled the boardwalk. The water was warm and clear and we dawdled too long before beginning the long drive to Bologna.

Why Bologna? I don’t know why we picked this town originally other than it’s in the heart of Emilia-Romagna country where lots of great food products originate. But we are so glad we did. We are staying at another lovely, arty hotel in the old city: Art Hotel Novecenti. Thank you Booking.com for all these great spots and all in our budget.

Bologna is a real city with a large medieval center brimming with gorgeous architectural details from archways to painted ceilings, to impressive piazzas to warrens of streets and alleyways with shops, bars and restaurants tucked in every corner.

There is no end of foodie venues but the big thing here is, of course, bolognese sauce with every type of pasta. There’s also unbelievable charcuterie from the happy pigs of Parma. And, apparently, the cows are happy too as this is also where Parmesan cheese originates. So this normally veggie/ pescaterian eater decided to go awol and eat like a native for a couple of days. I guess that’s where the expression “when in Rome …” comes from! Meat whoring commences.

We have so far enjoyed green lasagne bolognese, prosciutto and for lunch today homemade tagliatelle bolognese and tortelloni with butter and sage. How do we consume so much, you ask? Well we’ve already walked 6 miles today through piazzas and lost passages that including climbing a medieval tower of 46 staircases or maybe 47 but I’m not going back up to recount. The views of the city, its medieval, gothic and Romanesque churches and countless red roofs were worth the climb.

It’s still pretty damn hot and we returned from lunch for a nice rest before we plan dinner at a hip charcuterie stop along the bustling bar scene of Bologna. 

Meat whoring and tower climbing in Bologna

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Tales from the Road: Mmm My Verona

Two Gentlefolk of Verona

Sept. 1 & 2

European train travel is amazing. Six air conditioned hours from Zurich to Verona. Gorgeous vistas of lake Lucerne, alpine forests, tunnels burrowed through mountains and first Italian views at Lake Lugano. We amused ourselves on the journey with torrents of photos shot and lots of tasty snacks ingested. 

And then we arrived in Verona which couldn’t be more different from big city Zurich ( although also blazing hot). First stop, our historic bnb, Corte Rialdi Verona, smack in central old town. We have a private suite with a balcony that puts Juliette’s to shame (more on that later). Antiques, chandelier, gilded mirrors, breakfast in our quarters, and did I mention our garden balcony!

Verona is like Venice’s shy little sister. It’s cobblestone, winding streets hold mysteries to lose yourself for hours. But no crowds, no sewage and no gondoliers. It has roman ruins, period churches and an ancient Roman arena where we will go tonight not to be thrown to the lions but to be serenaded with opera. Aida to be exact.

Our first night in Verona we wandered the Medieval alleys in sunset light looking for a restaurant. Today we explored all the other tourist spots, stopping to ooh ahhh and shoot gorgeous nooks and corners of Renaissance and other architecture and to cross all their bridges and trod all their stones. And we had wonderful pizza in a hidden galleria. An, of course, gelato. We are back in the land of Mimidom where every vacation day includes at least one serving of decadent gelato ( of which one scoop must be coffee for Andy)

Oh yes, about that balcony of Juliette’s. The town guides freely admit that neither Capulet nor Montague every set foot in fair Verona. Nor did their creator, one William Shakespeare. However, legend has it–and lovers believe It– and so one porch has become the designated balcony of the fordoomed lovers. It’s a lot less aggravating a myth than the “Seven Sacred Falls” of Hana that took all day to drive to in Maui. Here it’s just a few steps off the Piazza Erbe. The biggest draw is the graffiti that lovers scrawl in the crowded archway. We only stopped by this last tourist spot just so we could tell you “don’t bother.”

We were told Verona is a fair city. It absolutely is. It’s a respite from hurried cities and tourist hordes. It hides its beauties behind corners and cornices and cupolas. 

I would never sit through an opera in the U.S. Yet I’m looking forward to tonight’s open air performance. We saw some of the props being loaded to the stage this morning. It should be amazing. And hey, Janet, there’s an Opera Museum here! Just saying…. 


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Zurich: Zombies, techno fever and swiss breakfast bliss

Tales from the road: Zurich

Zurich was founded by two monks– Felix and Regula– who lost their heads, then carried them to Zurich under their arms.  They were later sainted.

We arrived in Zurich after flying 14 hours with our heads foggy from lack of sleep. We shlepped our bags through public transit, dragged them uphill and arrived at our hotel at 9:30 am, too early for our room to be ready and desperately seeking sleep.We were not sainted. We were zombies.

Zombie transportation
Zurich has an amazingly efficient tram system. It isn’t free but we never saw anyone buy a ticket or be asked to present one so we just hopped on a tram at will every day and planned to plead zombiness or dumb Americans if  ever confronted.

On our first night as jet lagged zombies, we walked for one hour to find a well reviewed tapas restaurant. However, it was closed for a private party. We wandered another 30 minutes, ending up at a Thai restaurant on our side of the river. It was good and expensive- 100 bucks for just two dishes and one glass of wine! We were warned Zurich restaurants were expensive so it turned out to be a good thing we saved money on public transit using the zombie dishonor system!

day 2- Saturday
Zurich is in the throes of a heat wave and we were not ready for blazing temps of 90+. Quickly, my fantasy of climbing Heidi’s mountain or hiking around the city were shattered. And, oh there was this other little thing going on during our sojourn. Saturday was streetparade, Europe’s largest techno music festival for one insane day.

Let me give you an idea of its scale. Zurich is a city of  1.8 million very tidy people. But for just one day, another one million people swarmed the lake and river banks. That is one million MORE people in the city. All under 30. And us!

Wild costumes, nudity, drugs and endless bottles of wine and beer. It was definitely a party scene in the heat with random dancing, trucks with blaring techno beats driving slowly thru the throngs that reluctantly parted with each new vehicle in the procession. Plus, water guns, water hoses and glasses of whatever poured over heads. We stayed for a bit knowing we would not return that night as the crowds promised to be even wilder when the little ones …yes there were little ones…were put to bed!

day 3 Sunday

It’s still too damn hot so we decide to make like locals and tram it to the beach which is actually a section of the lake where swimming is permitted. We walked thru the once pristine park and could see piles of party detritus being collected. It will certainly take more than 24 hours to return Zurich to its prior tidy condition. But the city is quiet again and piles of trash are the only evidence left of one million partiers’ libertine night.

Day 4

Monday is our last day in Zurich and a boat ride on the lake sounds like a grand idea. We’ve done all the tourist stuff: we visited Kunstmuseum‘s fabulous collection of Giacomettis –both the sculptor and his painter father –saw various Munch paintings before “The Scream” and a wonderful collection of Chagall paintings. We also visited the Chagall windows in  the Fraumunster Church, which was a small consolation prize for missing them at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

We also walked miles, visited the Brooklynesque trendy West Zurich with its Viadukt collection of shops burrowed into a train station’s arches. And we ate lots of great food,—and ice cream, but the best meals were at our daily buffet at our charming Hotel Sorrell Rex with the best whole grain breads, fresh yogurts and homemade jams, eggs, cheese fruit and the tenderest, lightest smoked salmon so that I didn’t miss my morning peanut butter on toast tradition one bit!


Street parade partiers

Street parade partiers

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Culture, Ritual, Soccer. And Coming Full Circle.

One day, two meals ten steps apart!

One day, two meals ten steps apart!

There are 2007 restaurants listed in Amsterdam on Tripadvisor. We didn’t eat at all of them but we did come full circle on our last two days.

We had a very specific agenda for those days. First order of business was having a traditional Dutch apple pancake breakfast on Monday. We found the top rated restaurant called Pancake Bakery in the Jordaan area enroute to our first cultural stop. It was perfect and we gorged on both pancakes and a veggie omelet and the really strong Dutch coffee.  Then we picked up another slice of the previously noted remarkable apple cake near the Noodermarkt and tucked it into Andy’s backpack (more on that cake later).

Then we headed to our assigned visitor time at the Anne Frank House. This isn’t really a museum but a 90 minute immersion into what it felt like to be hidden in the small “Secret Annexe” where Anne and her family and four others hid for two years before being found out and sent to concentration camps. Only her father Otto survived. And Anne’s diaries. Her writings revealed both her rich adolescent dreams and the resilient human spirit. I won’t attempt to be brilliant here. Anne’s words were the brilliant ones that captured her teenage angst while making real the horrors of this war through the writings of one gentle person.

We took the long walk back to our hotel deeply moved and rested up for our second cultural stop. A visit to the Van Gogh Museum.  Again, I won’t try to be brilliant but will share that we both were quite surprised and taken by Van Gogh’s Japanese period.  There are some astonishing works that evoke geishas and traditional Japanese scenic art in Van Gogh’s own extraordinary style. Pretty mind blowing. Unfortunately, they don’t allow pix at the museum so I don’t have one to share below.

World Cup Fever turns a city orange

World Cup Fever turns a city orange

After that, we, surprisingly, got caught up in soccer madness.  The plaza right outside the museum was transformed that day into a giant screen outdoor festival because the Netherlands were playing against Chile that afternoon. Hordes of people decked out in orange regalia were gathering there to party and we stayed for a bit before getting ready for dinner.

We watched the first half in our room and left at the break with a score of 0-0.  As we walked the long trek back to Jordaan area to a tapas restaurant, the first goal was scored by the Netherlands. How do I know this? Because the entire city burst out in an cacophanous  roar and orange confetti and tears streamed from a cafe on the corner! Everyone was watching all over the city! And our team won!  Those who know me will be surprised at my sudden sports conversion since I know nothing about soccer or any other sport involving chasing balls. But this was a national ritual that we were sharing with a whole orange laden city and it was magical.

Not so magical, however, was our arrival at the restaurant. We had neglected to make reservations. If we had, we would have known they were closed on Monday!  What to do? Andy consulted Google’s “ near me” feature on his phone  and found an open cafe just a short ways away.  We arrived at the address only to find that it was exactly next door to our breakfast restaurant! With 2007 possible restaurants to choose from in Amsterdam and after 10 hours and 16000 steps, we had come full circle. Yet, in keeping with our food luck, we had a lovely, perfectly cooked dinner of guinea hen for me and steak for my carnivore at Brasserie Vlaming.

Now back to that apple cake. We developed a special Amsterdam ritual of our own. Every day, we would pick up some lovely baked good for dessert. After our nightly big dinners, we’d walk the winding canal routes home. I’d put up a pot of water in our room, pull out a chamomile tea bag and bring out our treat. Then, we’d curl up in bed with our decadent sweets and blog, read or watch TV before heading off to exhausted sleep.

Beet soup with seafood strand at Tales & Spirits

Beet soup with seafood strand at Tales & Spirits

Our last day in Amsterdam was spent buying Dutch cheeses and other treats to savor at home. And our last meal Tuesday night before climbing back onto Royal Pain Airways (KLM–where I’m writing this as we slog back across the Atlantic) was at TA’s number 1 reviewed restaurant– Tales and Spirits. It was less a restaurant than a drinking establishment with creative cocktails and even more inventive small plates like spicy hummus “soil” in which chips and asparagus tempura were planted, all held together in a flowerpot. Inventive and delicious as were all the other dishes. On our last night, we didn’t walk back, however, we took the tram home!

This trip has been a long and mentally, physically and spiritually rich adventure.  And I will try to remember that richness when we wake up nightly at ungodly, jet-lagged hours for days after our return!

If you’ve enjoyed following this journey, please let me know.  And thanks to all who sent encouraging notes along the way.

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Biking Waterland. And “The Incident.”

Wherein we leave the velocity ( or Velo-City) of Amsterdam by biking in the countryside.

My first windmill

My first windmill

It took three countries and as many tries before I finally got my farmers market fix. First, enroute to Santiago de Compostela last weekend, we timed our arrival to be there for the last hour of their famed  market Mercado de Abastos, which on Saturdays closed at 2 pm and didn’t reopen till Monday. We also read that Saturday was the happeningest day at Spain’s oldest market and we were driving 120 Km and more the whole way because no one else drives on the fantastic toll roads of Portugal except tourists and truckers.  We would be there by 1 or 1:15 for sure.

And we were….by Portugal time!  Apparently crossing the border to Spain also meant crossing a time zone to 2pm. So, no market for Mimi.

The second attempt was back in Portugal at our Cascais Beach idyll. Walking the town, we happened upon the famous Wednesday market. Unfortunately, we happened on it two hours after it closed!

Our farmer's market picnic fixings. Vermeer would approve.

Our farmer’s market picnic fixings. Vermeer would approve.

Finally, in Amsterdam after a false detour to a flea-bitten flea  market, we made it to the Saturday Noordermarkt.  It is a fantastic little organic farmers market with cheese stands, baked good and lots of fresh fruit and veggies. But first we had to try the Apple Cake at the cafe with the line out the door just outside the market. Best apple cake ever!  Sated and sugared up, we then got serious about buying provisions for Sunday’s bike ride to Broek en Waterland.

For the rest of our Saturday afternoon, there was an incident related to what we have come to call “vacation brain”.  We won’t go into the details but let’s just say we were fleeced in a photo shop and leave it at that. Hereinafter, we shall refer to this as “The Incident.”

It took a few hours of recovery and a comforting Italian dinner to move on. We ended up at an modern Italian bistro that wouldn’t be out of place in the funky, foodie Mission district in SF.  Except perhaps for  their name: Firma Peckelhaaring. And absolutely no pickled herring on the menu!

Sunday morning, we packed up our picnic provisions and headed to the teeming Centraal Station where we rented bikes. We then took the free, two minute ferry ride across to Waterworld, a quiet haven of bike paths along bucolic neighborhoods that were picture perfect in every way. We stopped midpoint at a charming cafe in the middle of nowhere but right on the canal.  For the price of a beer and coke, we got to have a fantastic picnic on a shady terrace by the water.

We then continued riding almost to the outskirts of Monnickendam but stopped because the hour, the distance of 13 km, and the condition of our knees required us to return. The ride back was uneventful and we stopped at the same cafe for water. Finally, 26 km later, we were back on the ferry. On debarking, we resignedly headed for one more encounter at the site of “The Incident” to deal with one more frickin detail that we won’t go into.

Pooped, we walk slowly back to our hotel to clean up, blog and get ready for dinner.

Tomorrow, we go to the Anne Frank House. And to the Van Gogh Museum.

I’m starting to feel the end of our journey nipping at our heels. But let’s not go there yet.


Happy cheese-making cows.

Happy cheese-making cows.

Water channels everywhere in WaterLand

Water channels everywhere in WaterLand


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Saving My Life in Amsterdam.

Rijkmuseum and plaza

Rijkmuseum and plaza

Thursday June 19
We transition from laid back Portugal to pulsing Amsterdam.

We arrive in Amsterdam to a completely different energy from our last unhurried days in the beach town of Cascais.

We arrived early evening and grab a cab directly from central station to Bussia, a modern Italian restaurant.  After hours of travel and the infamous KLM food, Bussia had me at the petite genius of their amuse bouche!  That was followed by a four course menu of jewel-like food that tasted amazing. And was nothing like the  bacalau and boiled potatoes we’d  grown both fond and tired of in Portugal.

But it was also quite clear that from the moment we actually set food in Amsterdam that A.’s role had changed. He was no longer the driver but the person responsible for making sure that I don’t  get run over by the raging, rampant, racing bicyclists who come out of everywhere at once. His main assignment is to grab me by the collar, the backpack, the arm or any other body part at every street corner as I obliviously walk the treacherous streets of  Amsterdam. As my kids well know, I am not the most aware person when faced with pretty distractions and this city is just one bright, shiny distraction after another!

Good thing, also, is that even when A. gets slightly impaired  by a bit of local herb as he did, his faculties and reflexes are still better than mine stone cold sober.  He has total job security here– keeping me from being run over.

After our wonderful Bussia dinner, we were  off to bed at the Park Hotel,  a trendy and well-located hotel for our next six nights. And once our heads hit the pillow, we slept till 9 am!

Friday, June 20

Today,  we walked 25,825 steps according to our pedometer! That’s a lot of life saving vigilance  that A. was required to provide in just our first 24 hours in Amsterdam!

Food Porn by Dutch Masters.

Food Porn by Dutch Masters. And you think we invented foodie pix!

First, we went to the Rijkmuseum for a couple hours to enjoy Dutch painters from Rembrant to Vermeer. Then, off to find lunch at Lombardo’s, purportedly the best hamburger joint,  where A. indulged and I  had some Indian soup from another shop next door in an arty little canal neighborhood.

After lunch and gelato, We walked to the floating flower market, then to the flea market, then to the “coffee house” neighborhood where A.  tried the local herb. Afterward, we blithely walked back with many detours including a visit to a Camper shoe store where I acquired sexy red sandals and Andy blithely paid. And, finally home after eight hours of walking, eating and shopping to relax a bit before dinner at Koh I Noor, which delivered as promised ( thank you once again Tripadvisor)the best Indian food in town.

Sexy new shoes for me

Sexy new shoes for me

The cyclists here are insane I tell you , but we are loving this throbbing, busy, young and old city. “Stayin’  Alive” will be my theme song!

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