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Saturday 26 Nov 2005: Arrival in Amsterdam:

A view of Amsterdam and canals

The flight from Madrid was routine, but Iberia is a no frills airline. Everything has a charge…even a glass of water is €1.50. After a week in the third world it was reassuring to once again be in an organized and efficient airport! We walked unimpeded from the plane to the taxi. Our taxi driver entered the hotel address into his navigation system and informed us that our travel time to the hotel Zandbergen would be 16 minutes. Robin had found the hotel on the internet…it is located in a convenient section of town on the #2 tram line in the museum district. After checking in, we walked 2 blocks to an authentic Italian restaurant / pizzeria; the fresh hot and spicy pizza and cold Dutch pilsner beer was a much appreciated treat after a week of tagines and cous cous in Morocco. After dinner we met in the breakfast area to enjoy some single malt and chocolates and make our plans for the next day.

Sunday 27 Nov 2005:The Hotel Zandbergen in the Amsterdam Museum District One of the reasons we wanted to spend a few days in Amsterdam was to visit with friends whom we had not seen in several years. The other significant reason for the visit was to meet with the barge broker…more about that in tomorrow’s narrative. After a very good breakfast, we found a supermarket near the Van Gogh museum where we bought a strip ticket to the street trams. Then we walked to the house boat museum where we visited a converted barge and asked the hostess a barrage of questions about house boating Amsterdam. From there we walked 3 blocks to the Amsterdam Historical Museum. This was the designated meeting point for Roy and Margie to meet us. Roy is a Fluor colleague we have known since 1980, but we haven’t seen them since 1984. Being with them was almost as if time had stood still as we caught up on our activities for the past 20 years. We sat in a coffee shop for 2 hours exchanging stories and having a great time. While we were visiting we got a call from Pauline who announced that she had arrived in the neighborhood. We had met Pauline in 1980 while hiking in the Austrian Stubai Alps. She has stayed with us in Houston and we have had a few chances to visit her and her family (Jan, Jan jr. and Eva) in Holland. Because of an unseasonable snowfall, only Pauline could make the trip from Arden to Amsterdam. Steve and Robin decided to go visit the Van Gogh museum while we continued our visit. Roy led us from the coffee shop to a pub on Dam square where we had some typical Dutch bar snacks and beer. All too soon Roy and Margie had to leave for a 50th birthday party. Pauline, Hugh and Becky rode the #2 tram back to the hotel where the joined Robin and Steve for happy hour. We decided on a local venue for dinner and continued our visiting until Pauline had to catch the train home.

Monday 28 Nov 2005: A view of Leidseplein in Amsterdam The plans for today were to meet with Jitze Doeve at the Sander-Doeve Boat Broker in Vlaadingen near Rotterdam. We took the train from the Central Station to Vlaadingen Centrum and then walked about 3 minutes to the brokers office. For the next 2 ˝ hours we discussed every possible aspect concerning owning and operating a barge in Europe. The session was very positive and we left all charged to continue the pursuit of finding the right barge for retirement. The train ride back to Amsterdam was a continuous conversation rehashing our visit with Jitze and brainstorming about traveling through Europe on our own barge. When we arrived back at the central station, we found a coffee shop for an afternoon snack of pie and coffee; then we went to Dam Square to visit the Christmas market. There wasn’t anything of interest there so we walked to the tram stop and waited and waited only to discover there was maintenance on the track which had shut down the trams. So we continued to walk towards our hotel and made one stop at a market to pick up supplies for happy hour. The weather was typical…cold and wet, but still we managed to walk everywhere in spite of it. After we arrived at the hotel we spread our wine, cheese and bread on a table and celebrated the successful visit with the barge broker. Later we looked for a restaurant in our neighborhood and happened upon a Tapas bar. The place was only OK, but tapas were just enough to fill in the small empty spaces left from the happy hour. We returned to the hotel to pack for the return flights home.

Our last happy hour of the trip

Tuesday 29 Nov 2005: We met Robin and Steve at breakfast, but had only a few minutes before their cab arrived for the ride to Schipol. They trip back to Newark was via Delta in First Class! We had about 2 hours before we had to leave for the airport so we walked back to the Leidesplein to take some pictures. We returned to the hotel, checked out, grabbed the #2 tram and changed at the Central Station for the ride to the airport. Becky and Hugh flew home in Continental Business First; a very pleasant end to a wonderful trip!

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