Sunday, January 10, 2010

Rotterdam scrapped, Utrecht in!

January 10, 2009

Yes, I have been home from the trip for 5 days now and am sitting down right now to try and catch up on the blog since I only have a few more days left to cover. The jet lag has affected me in a completely different way than it did while I was in Holland. The night we arrived home I stayed up until midnight and then went to bed, but was up at 5 a.m. Since then, I have been getting extremely tired and sleepy by 10 p.m. which is really unusual for me since I normally go to bed around 11:30-midnight. I have also continued to wake up at around 5:30 a.m. I have managed to just get up then and stay up all day without napping and then going to bed around 10:30 or so. When I start back to work tomorrow, that really would be ideal for me to keep on that schedule. For one thing, if I were to wake up at 5:30 that would give me 2 hours in the morning to get ready before I even have to leave for work. Prior to the trip, I only had an hour to get ready because I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed before 6:30. So in a way, I kind of hope I do stay on this schedule. Anyway, here is what happened on January 3, 2010.

Getting up on Sunday was pretty much the same as any other day. Bill and I got out of bed around 9:30. Our original plan was to take the train to Rotterdam because we were eager to explore a city we hadn’t yet seen in Holland. That plan got scrapped after all of the snow that fell the night before. The roads were icy and we didn’t want to risk driving in those conditions. We, as in Bill, Ed, Joy and I were still eager to explore somewhere, so we decided to go to Utrecht instead. I had heard it was a nice little city and we could still take the train there and it was closer than Rotterdam. I called my cousin Justin to let him know we’d be going. Justin was going to be our tour guide in Rotterdam since he is familiar with the city. He also knows Utrecht well because that is where he goes to school. He is a graduate student at Utrecht University. He would also be our tour guide in Utrecht! I spoke to Justin and told him we would take the train into Utrecht from T’Harde, where the closest train station was to where we were staying in Elburg. He would meet us there so our plans were set.

Once we were all ready to go, we made the ten minute drive to the train station. This is what I photographed on the drive there, after the snowfall from the night before:

The train system in Holland is extensive and you can go nearly everywhere by rail. We had already taken the train to Amsterdam so we were looking forward to another ride on the rails. You can buy tickets right there at the station from the computerized kiosk, so this was going to be easy enough. Or so we thought. We got to the train station about 15 minutes before our train would be there to take us to Utrecht.

We found the kiosk and went to buy our tickets only it wouldn’t let us because it would not take our VISA debit cards! Now before we even left American soil, we all called Bank of America to let them know we would be using the debit card out of the country so that they would be aware of any international purchases while we were away. If you don’t, then the bank will think this is unauthorized activity and will shut the account down in a heartbeat. Well, as it turned out, we barely used it in Holland because we couldn’t even find many merchants that would even accept credit cards, aside from BP, every time we needed gas!!! And now this stupid ticket kiosk at the train station was denying us as well. And this isn’t a large station where there are people who work there that can sell you a ticket. All that was there was the ticket kiosk. It was just as well because the prices of the tickets were much more than what we expected they would be. It would have cost 21 Euros each to ride the train. That is when we decided to just drive there. As always, it would be about an hour drive and since the roads had been cleared of snow, it was safe to drive. As we made our way back to the parking lot, I snapped a photo of the train we SHOULD have been on!

We quickly made our way back to the car and then we were on our way to Utrecht. When we got there, we called Justin who was visiting our other cousin, Reza, who was working that day at a department store called V & D. He told us to park in a parking garage nearby and where he would meet us. We found it, parked and then made our way to trying to find Justin. We waited outside for him and he soon found us and then took us back to V & D. We had already been in another V & D store when we were in Zwolle at the beginning of our trip. In fact, we had lunch there. This store also had the same set up and we were all hungry, so we decided to have lunch there. Unfortunately for Justin, he was feeling sick. He didn’t look well, so we told him to go ahead and go home. He told us where to go once we left V & D, and then we parted ways. We had our lunch, and then stopped by to pick up some goodies. In this case, chocolate, because this particular V & D not only had the little restaurant, it also had this:

This is only a part of what they had. There was much more chocolate to be had! We bought some white chocolate (my favorite) and some dark chocolate. YUM! After we left there, we went outside to find the main city square. It is beautiful in Utrecht as well, with old churches like this:

Old houses like this:

The cobblestone streets that are all over Holland:

And my favorite:

The canals!

The canals are so neat to see with the homes lined up beside it.
We just walked around the city, exploring everything and checking out the shops. Eventually we made our way down one of the streets and I came across this shop, which I found particularly ironic. I mean, I never would have thought I would find one of these in Holland. Of course I had to take a photo of it because it would be so hard to find any of what this store sells in Arizona!

Yes, a bit of sarcasm there! On the other hand, I am POSITIVE you will not find this in the window of most stores in the U.S.! (Yes, Amsterdam isn’t the only place you can find things like this!)

I thought of my good friend Kim, who also makes cakes, and thought this might be one to add to her shaped cake pan collection, but I just didn’t want to risk going through U.S. Customs on the way home and opening my luggage to this!
Once it started to get dark, we decided to head back to Elburg. Another hour long drive back. We made our way back to the parking garage and just as we were headed to the car, our cousin Reza called. We forgot that we were going to stop back by where he works at V & D to see him. He had just gotten off work and wanted to see us. So he also happened to be in the parking garage so he drove down to the level we were parked on and we talked a little to Reza before we all headed home. We had seen Reza at the Stook family reunion two days earlier, but prior to that, the last time we saw Reza was when he was about 12 years old, when he and his parents came to the states. Now he is 25! It was nice to see him again and we told him he needs to come back to the U.S. again. Reza remembers a lot about his trip to the U.S. when he was 12. He remembered our old house and that we had a basketball hoop out front and he remembered our dog, Eddie, who we still have! (Yes, Eddie is pretty darn old. He is 16 now!) He remembered things I have long forgotten! Anyway, we said our goodbyes and headed back to Elburg after another day gone by much too quickly!

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