Tulips, Bicycles, Windmills

When the Queen’s Day celebrations concluded, Tricia and I packed up our orange gear and headed to the Keukenhof to see the tulips:

Lisse, Netherlands tulip fields

farmers fields

Keukenhof

Tricia

Keukenhof

Tricia & me at the Keukenhof

After tiptoeing through all of those beautiful tulips, we drove across the countryside, took an unexpected ferry ride, and stayed at an adorable B&B near the Kinderdijk.

Our days there were full of bike rides and windmills:

Biking to the Kinderdijk

Biking to the Kinderdijk

Biking to the Kinderdijk

Biking to the Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk

Such a beautiful, relaxing getaway. Even sorting through the photos makes me say Ahhhhhh….Tons more photos of the Netherlands are over on my Flickr page.

Koninginnedag 2012

The Dutch celebrate an annual orange crush – Queen’s day, or Koninginnedag – a national holiday like no other, on the Queen’s birthday each year. Though, really, they are such considerate people they reschedule her cold, wintery birthdate to April to assure enjoyable weather.

Nobody at last year’s event knew it would be the last regular celebration for quite some time. Beloved Queen Beatrix abdicated the throne to her son Willem-Alexander today, so it’ll be King’s Day for quite a while.

Backstory and history aside, what an experience!

Tricia and I were armed with a few orange outfits, and lots of smiles:
On the road to Amsterdam

Queen’s Night kicked off the pandemonium and served as a preview of what was to come:
Queen's Night

Queen’s Day started with a nationwide garage sale – I snapped this picture from our hotel room quite early that morning:
Queen's Day

The streets and parks were packed with booths and tables full of folks doing all kinds of things to earn (tax-free) money, like flipping pancakes to fund their upcoming wedding…
Queen's Day

Or letting people throw eggs at their face:
Queen's Day

How’s about a Queen-themed beanbag toss?
Queen's Day game

I loved everyone’s ingenuity and creativeness, and the fact that lots of booths were family affairs – even tiny kids got in on the action. And we could tell the day was full of family traditions.

As the day progressed, so did the party:
Queen's Day

Queen's Day

Queen's Day

Queen's Day

We were lucky enough to meet up with Rachel – it felt like spending time with an old friend since we’ve followed each other online for a few years.
Music brings the people together
Rachel’s the one wearing Orange. Ha! That’s her in the middle.

And it was crazy that we said good-bye, and then ran into her in the crowd again later – considering the masses, what were the chances!?
Queen's Day

Queen's Day on Leidsegracht

No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a visit to the Bulldog (if you’re a tourist, and I am. And no, we didn’t smoke any.)
The Bulldog

We were pretty tired by the end of the day…
Tricia relaxing

And ended the day like Queens.
our Queen's Day finale

Tune in tomorrow – there are lots of tulips, bicycles, and windmills coming up next!

Europe’s most content city

When our trusted Cheese Man (That’s right, we had our own Cheese Man!) suggested Jen and I visit Maastricht, Netherlands because it’s the supposedly the most content city in Europe, we knew it would be delightful. Was it ever!

The town, which we quickly dubbed Happy Land, is situated on the River Maas.
Maastricht, Netherlands

We were treated to a tiny parade while we had breakfast. Or I guess more accurately: a single band played and marched by us.
A one band parade

We spent the day exploring the pedestrian area, shopping at a church rummage sale, and touring the North Caves at Fort St. Pieter.
Jen at the North Caves entrance
Jen at the North Caves Entrance

Caves of St. Pietersberg map

The caves formed over many centuries by the quarrying of the local marlstone. Originally there were some 20,000 passages with a total length of 200km/125mi. During the Second World War some of the passages were enlarged, a well was dug and storerooms, a bakery and even a chapel were constructed, providing accommodation in which most of the town’s population could take refuge. (According to our tour guide, treasures were hidden in the caves during WWII, including Rembrandt’s The Night Watch.)

I enjoyed our day trip so much that when Big D returned from deployment a few days later, he and I went for the weekend.

Our first stop was the Netherlands American Cemetery & Memorial.
Netherlands American Cemetery & Memorial

And then we strolled through the town:
Maastricht, Netherlands

Basilica of the Virgin Mary
Basilica of the Virgin Mary

We were thrilled to find a very nice hotel situated on the river that honors the US Government rate. Its affordability made us frequent guests.
River Maas

Big D & me at dinner
Dinner at our Dutch home away from home

view at dinner
View during dinner

We soon learned that Tongeren, supposedly the oldest town in Belgium and home to the biggest antique flea market in the Belgium-Netherlands-Luxembourg region, is only nine miles from Maastricht. Since flea market shopping is an early morning venture, we’d drive to Maastricht to explore on Saturday, shop in Tongeren on Sunday morning, and be back at our home in Germany in time for dinner. I’ve lost track of how many times we visited, but I have lots of treasures from each trip.

view from sports store window
It’s Christmastime in the city…

carnival in Maastricht
Carnival

Carnival decorations
Carnival

our hotel was decked out
Carnival colors lit the night

Florida school bus!
You have to agree that it is CRAZY that city tours are conducted on an old Florida school bus!

fun statues in Maastricht

And in all honesty, this is how we spent a lot of time in Maastricht:
Carnival in Maastricht is tasty!

Maastricht, Netherlands

Argus 29

This post comes to you from The Wiesbaden Army Lodge. It’s official: We’re homeless.

Thought its mostly been fun and games for me, Big D has been working his ass off since well before we arrived in Germany. His dedicated service is the reason we’re here in the first place.

He has two pretty cool offices. One on the ground:
Peggy & Damon at WAAF
Giving his mom a tour

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1st MI AE Change of Command

And this one, too:
Ds office

We’ve visited some amazing military places here in Europe:
Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial
Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial

Netherlands American Cemetery & Memorial
Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial

Bastogne Historical Center
Bastogne Historical Center

We’ve participated in some fun Army events:
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And we’ve even cleaned up well on occasion:
me & Big D at the 66th MI Ball

His farewell last week was full of laughs, very kind words regarding his service, and we both choked up a bit.
Mark, Tony and Big D
Please note the giant poster from his modeling days on display at the restaurant!

not sure...

It’s been quite an adventure, and posting about Ds service in 1st MI without mentioning Gary would be wrong.

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Guardian Eagles, Power Forward!
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farwell gift

Three stops in The Netherlands

Big D and I set out on our first trip alone together (just two of us) on Veterans Day weekend 2010. He selected our destination: The Netherlands.

Our first stop was Rotterdam. It’s funny how little things cause us to either like or dislike a city. We had a small, smelly hotel room. And it didn’t just rain, it poured. We weren’t so impressed with Rotterdam… but we did hide out for the afternoon in a funky bar sipping wine and snacking on french fries.

hiding from the rain and wind in a cozy place

And then we wandered into the into a place called The Cinema. I am so disappointed (and surprised!) that I didn’t write in my journal about this fantastic dining adventure. We were early enough to be seated without reservations – in fact, we practically had the place to ourselves. The waitress struggled with her English and eventually we understood that we could either order off the menu, or just let them know what we liked and have the five course Chef’s Surprise. Who could say no to that!? I said I preferred meat and didn’t want seafood. And I wish D was here so I could rack his brain for the details of his meal… I know our first course was soup in a shotglass,  my meal featured a seared beef appetizer, and my main dish was venison with pears.

dinner at a great place called Cinema

The chef came out to our table, sat down and asked us what we thought, and spent what felt like a long time chatting with us before sending out our amazing, complicated chocolate desserts.

I specifically remembering asking the waitress if our check could possibly be wrong, because the total was too low. She laughed and asked where we’re from…It was the first (but not the last time) this happened. I’m always shocked when cocktails, a bottle of wine and a giant gourmet meal are affordable. By the time we left, the place was packed. And we eventually figured out that the first floor is fine dining while the other level is an exclusive nightclub with a red velvet rope to keep out the riff raff!

Suddenly, we were really starting to like Rotterdam! But we were underdressed and tired so there was no clubbing for us.

And not to make this a foodie blog, but breakfast the next morning at one of the world’s biggest ports was tasty and picturesque (and sorting through pictures for this post is really showing me how much my photography has improved in the last year or two – this snapshot does not do Rotterdam justice.)

Rotterdam

Next, we drove to Delft, an adorable little town where parallel parking is tricky.

Delft

You have to be really careful when parallel parking on a canal!

After shopping and lunch we were continued to Amsterdam where we spent a few days touring. We visited the Anne Frank House, quickly strolled through the Red Light District (truly something for everyone – ewwww), took a fun canal hop on / hop off boat ride, shopped at a flea market, ate a lot of tapas, bought a lot of cheese, spent quality time at the Van Gogh Museum, and much more.

Amsterdam

cheap!

Cheese, glorious cheese
I loved this cheese shop. Meanwhile, Big D said it smelled like feet and had to wait for me outside.

Amsterdam

A few more pictures from our first (but not nearly the last) trip to The Netherlands are on Flickr.

Fruit, veggies, cheese, flowers, and more

We have a lot of favorite things about Europe and near the top of that list: shopping at seemingly endless markets.

Last spring, Jen and I trekked to Alkmaar, Netherlands for a special cheese market which was a ton of fun:
Alkmaar Cheese Market

Alkmaar Cheese Market

Big D and I did not buy any of these at the Flower Market in Amsterdam:
no, we didn't buy any

The Pescheria, Venice’s Fish Market, was fascinating (and a little stinky!)
Pescheria

But my favorite is a a trip to Wiesbaden’s market, which makes any Wednesday or Saturday seem special.
Wiesbaden market

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There’s something for everyone:
thirsty?

Stay tuned for Christmas Markets – they’ll get a post of their own! More market pictures are posted on Flickr.