Part II – March 12, 2020
Okay so I’ve slacked off long enough and it’s about time I finish this travel blog thing. Well…almost.
I hope you all got a chance to watch my video on the last blog because as much as I love writing, video is NOT my thing. I’m super self-critical of everything I do (Aquarius) so I’m constantly saying “UGH!” and “OMG I sound stupid” when I do a video. I smack my lips. I make stupid faces and then I think, “Why does anyone even talk to me if I look that stupid???”🤦🏼♀️
“But anyway,” as I said I don’t know how many times in that video, here goes part II.
I neglected to mention that prior to the egg mcmuffin and coffee, we had gone to the little restaurant next door to our hotel. It was very early and our intention was to just grab a coffee and see what else they had. The entire menu was vegan or so it appeared as there were no eggs, bacon or sausage but at least the man had coffee and yogurt bowls. Now I am mostly Keto and I almost never eat acai bowls or whatever this was. It had yogurt, some crunchy stuff, some fruit etc. but I don’t do well with any of that so I was anticipating a big ole fat belly of gas and a need for a toilet within the next few hours…fast. I know, TMI but I want to give you the full experience of the realities of travel. LOL
When we emerged from the restaurant, our driver was waiting around the corner. We were both pleasantly surprised by what awaited us! This was a sweet ride for sure and our driver was the loveliest man. He was so accommodating. Millisia and I were not satisfied with those yogurt bowls so she mentioned asking our driver if he’d stop at a McDonald’s on the way and as I stated in Part I, he did and we were happy and nappy in no time. Although she actually slept more than me on the way to Cologne, as she was up way longer than I was the night before.
The drive to Cologne took a little under three hours as you can see here on this map.
When we arrived, he dropped us off in front of the Excelsior Hotel Ernst where I was once again, mistaken for a local. Honestly, my entire DNA strand comes from Wales, and Northern and Western Europe but within fifteen minutes of arriving in Amsterdam, at the airport, I was mistaken for Dutch and now, in Cologne Germany, a nice elderly man and his wife came out of the hotel, dragging their luggage and he immediately walked straight up to me and started speaking German. I suppose the DNA doesn’t fall far from the continent after all.
After a quick bathroom break in McDonald’s (told ya so), we looked across the street and I believe the words, “Oh my God,” fell from my mouth. There before us was the oldest man made thing I’d ever seen with my naked eyes in person in real life. Here’s another photo.
This majestic, ancient, gigantic, gothic castle of faith is what the Germans call, Kölner Dom. FYI that website is in German. It is basically called the Cologne Cathedral. We didn’t do a formal tour here, we mainly just marveled, ooed, ahhed, and said, “OMG look at this!” about a half a hundred times and took a ton of pictures. There are a bunch below. Here is a snippet of history on the cathedral from this web site: https://www.cologne.de/what-to-do/the-cologne-cathedral.html
The foundation stone of the Gothic Cathedral was laid on 15 August 1248 on the celebration of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Apparently the Old Cathedral was no longer sufficiently representative to house the mortal remains of the Three Kings, which Archbishop Rainald von Dassel brought back to the cathedral city in 1164 from the conquered city of Milan. These relics made the Cathedral one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Europe. In the early 16th century, building was stopped – partly due to lack of money, partly due to lack of interest.
Unfortunately the cathedral treasury was closed for renovations so we didn’t get to see the treasures. From the link above, here is what is in the treasury…that we didn’t get to see:
In the Medieval sacristan crypt, the Cathedral treasury is home to a rich find of church treasures dating as far back as the 4th century. The treasury works of art are made of gold, silver, bronze and ivory, and include holy relics, liturgical items, textiles, insignias of Archbishops, sculptures from the Middle Ages and Franconian grave finds.
But we did see this!
After about an hour of wandering in awe, we made our way back outside and found a shopping plaza just across the way. This wasn’t your local mall folks. These were some of the biggest named stores in the world. We also realized we were hungry again. Did I mention travel makes you work up an appetite? Not wanting to waste time finding a restaurant, we popped into a Subway and yes, they are very much the same as ours here. However, we were very careful of where we ate because of COVID-19 and usually chose places that were mostly empty. This Subway had an upstairs seating area but I honestly did not want to go up there. Just one of those gut feelings so we stood at the side counter and ate…quickly. We had stores to browse!
Everything from Gucci to Rolex and beyond was on this plaza. We had fun snapping photos of the window displays and I had to keep reminding Millie that she did not need a Rolex and due to the exchange rate, she’d end up paying at least 20% more for it here than she would in America. I redirected her attention and on we went. We found a souvenir store as well and she bought her sister in law the most adorable coo coo clock! I picked up a couple shirts for me and my husband and also found him a super nice beer stein.
Millie wanted to find a Pandora store and we found one. She likes to get a charm for every country she visits. Little did I know Fairy Godmother wanted to buy me a charm bracelet. The next thing I knew, she did, complete with a charm from Cologne. I don’t know what I did to deserve her but I must have been a very good travelling companion. We also found a candy store that sold milk chocolate almond bark. This wasn’t your cheap almond pieces bark this stuff was WHOLE almonds in the delicious, creamy milk chocolate. I’m a dark chocolate girl myself but this stuff was to die for! We also found a perfume and makeup store and went in looking for a specific perfume she’s been wanting. They didn’t have it but they did have another one named Flowerby Kenzo Poppy Bouquet. It smells amazing! You can find it here.
Yep. You guessed it. She bought both of us a bottle.
Our shopping was now complete: Perfume, chocolate and jewelry. What more could a girl ask for?
After our little excursion, we met up with our driver and he took us to our next attraction. I had no idea when she said we were going to a chocolate factory that she meant Lindt! See pics below. Although this was very cool and there was so much history (some not so nice) of the cacao trade and some very interesting chocolate dispensers, we got kinda bored. After about 45 minutes we decided to hit the road. It was nearly time to meet the driver anyway so I used our last few minutes to hop into the gift shop and scoop up some chocolates for family.
Our drive back to Amsterdam is kind of a blur. I think I talked to my husband but I do remember having a pretty nice nap. I really wanted to see some windmills on the drive but unfortunately all I saw were wind turbines. They just don’t have the same appeal.
Strangely enough, when we returned to Amsterdam, as tired as we were, we were hungry again. Millie decided on Uber Eats because we were truly beat…McDonald’s again. This time we had quarter pounder meals in bed with almond bark for dessert. By the way, they have the same French fries in Amsterdam as they do in America! Can you say diet bye bye? Lol
After checking our flight back to the USA, she told me our plane was now only about 1/3 full when only days before the announcement, it was almost to capacity. We of course knew it was due to cancellations by those who were not American citizens. We just shrugged it off and laid down at last.
Millie’s final words that night before she passed out were, “We’re sleeping in tomorrow.”
March 13, 2020
We were originally scheduled for a tour of the Van Gogh museum on our last day which was something I was really looking forward to. Unfortunately, due to the virus, the museum was closed, as were all of the museums and larger tour venues in the country so another disappointment.
Up to this point, besides being super careful, our trip hadn’t been tarnished much by the virus threat. However, later this day we learned our trip to Belgium had been cancelled as well. This was a major downer I mean we were so looking forward to this. But as we said repeatedly when things did not go our way…let’s make the best of it anyway. We made our way downstairs to the lobby and saw our buddy Jan the Dutch bartender and had a latte macchiato before hitting road.
We decided to just take an Uber to Amsterdam City center aka Dam Square and go on an adventure…but not before brunch!
We went back to our happy place, The Breakfast Club. I had an incredible cheeseburger and French fries and Millie went for the omelet on dark bread with bacon. Photos above of course. Latte macchiatos, mimosas, food and then wouldn’t you know it? Rain again. Well my darlings that’s what waterproof jackets with hoods are for! Oh…and Ubers.
We walked, we explored, we browsed, we shopped and we didn’t really know where the hell we were but we didn’t care. We’d glance up and down the blocks and look for anything that seemed interesting and then head in that direction. After a while, her feet started hurting her very badly and wouldn’t you know it? A massage place just popped up out of nowhere! The next thing I knew, we were inside, boots off getting foot massages. I wasn’t for a stranger touching my feet at first but I caved and went for it and I have to admit, it was very nice.
Millisia said, “Don’t you get pedicures?” to which I replied, “Yes but Amy has been doing my feet for years. This is a stranger.” LOL
Back out into the rain we went and Ubered back to the hotel.
After a little respite, we decided to head downstairs to the bar for a latte macchiato…go figure. This body runs on coffee hon.
Unfortunately, part of owning your own business is that you are never really on vacation so despite our best efforts to relax, Millie’s phone was non-stop so she had to walk away for a few minutes to sort some things out. I was as I often am, in my own little world sitting there at the bar alone and I kept hearing someone in a deep voice saying, “Hello. Hellooo. Hello.” Followed by, “They look like nice girls,” in a rather slurred very deep voice, followed by a barrage of ridiculous male laughter as if they’d heard a hilarious joke.
Oh Lord…here we go.
I thought to myself, “Self, do you really want to turn around right now or would you rather just pretend you’re deaf?”
Of course, being the nice person that I am, I turned. There before me were two very intoxicated Englishmen. When I say intoxicated, I’m being nice. However, they seemed harmless enough and I certainly wasn’t looking for trouble (if you know what I mean) so I turned and said, “Hello,” with a half-smile and turned back.
That was my first and biggest mistake.
They struck up a conversation which was however quite flirty and a little too persistent…well one of them did while the other just giggled like a school boy. It was strange and a little uncomfortable but Millie and I played it cool, told them in no uncertain terms we were taken and that they needed to keep their distance. For one, we weren’t interested and two COVID-19. You know, I imagine this virus as a pretty darn good creeper deterrent to be honest but the one “gentleman” wasn’t the least bit deterred.
Millie got another phone call and walked away. At that point, the older gentleman kept insisting on buying me a drink, complementing me, flirting with me, acting a fool and I just kept insisting that he not. It was good-natured and indeed harmless but I knew disaster would strike at some point and oh how it did, when he went to set down his wine and instead, knocked the whole thing over, spilling it everywhere as I leapt from my bar stool and the large wine glass crashed to the floor.
After I helped the bar maid clean it all up, Millie returned and I lead her away. When we came back about ten minutes later, they were gone. Phew. Oh well, it was interesting and kinda funny to be honest. As I said, harmless except for the huge mess. After all, she and I aren’t easily harmed and can take very good care of ourselves.
March 14, 2020
With no trip to Belgium, we decided to explore another side of the city. Millisia chose the Hard Rock Amsterdam so we hopped in an Uber and away we went for lunch. We were surprised that they were open and the place was pretty busy but I did take note they had seated people at about every other table. I thought that was pretty smart considering.
After our delicious lunch, we decided to take a boat ride on the canals. The tour company is called the Blue Boat Canal Tours. The views were amazing and we learned a lot about the city, the history and the canals of course. Lots of photos below.
The tour consisted of about a 75 minute ride. They give you head phones to plug in and you choose the language you want to listen to. Then, a pre-recorded tour guide comes on and tells the stories as you go. It was very relaxing but a little warm inside that boat. After we finished, we went for a nice long walk sight-seeing to cool off.
We found a place to grab a coffee and maybe use the bathroom…which was a big hell no as it was disgusting and instead of sitting inside, we decided in the middle of this chilly, windy day to to sit outside alone at one of their little café tables. We sat and drank coffee, shivered a bit, watched the bikes go by and my granddaughter Courtney, Face Timed Millie with a warning to not ignore her Facetime calls anymore or they were gonna rumble! It was all in good fun and we chatted with her a bit, walked some more, found a grocery store to browse and then once again, went on our way because we were pooped out.
Back at the hotel after a nice little rest, it was time to go downstairs and have our latte macchiatios for the night. Those were our night caps.
Once again I have to stress how nice everyone is in Amsterdam and I honestly don’t think it’s the weed. These are just genuinely nice, happy people. Knowing we only had one more day was really sad to us. We both thought in another life, we could definitely live there.
I’ll be back with Part III soon. That will wrap up this adventure…and oh boy was our trip home an adventure.