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The Netherlands

September 28, 2016 Leave a comment

This autumn, I went to the Netherlands. I went with some friends, and we spent the first week in Amsterdam. Then, my friends returned to the states and I spent a week touring the Netherlands. Its not a very big country.

We flew out of Dulles Airport, outside Washington, DC. We flew on KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines. The flight was ok. The plane was an Airbus, and the seats in economy were pretty cramped, with very little legroom. The cabin attendants were very nice, and beer and wine were free. The food was airline food, but brandy was offered after dinner. The entertainment selections weren’t anything special. For the first half of the flight, the cabin was very warm and stuffy. There weren’t any air vents that could be operated by the passengers. On the second half of the flight, the cabin air was a little cooler and fresher.

We landed in Amsterdam, at Schiphol Airport, one of the busiest in the world. It was about 7 a.m. local time, but midnight for us. We powered through. We had arranged for an AirBnB apartment in Amsterdam, but couldn’t actually get in to it until about 10 a.m. So we hung around the airport and ate some Dutch breakfast. Ham, cheese, croissants, strong, but small cups of coffee.

When we finally headed out to town, we discovered the many attendants who work at the airport. Everywhere you go at Schiphol, there are uniformed people whose job is to help you get where you are going. We went to a taxi stand, said we needed a taxi for five, and suddenly, there was a Mercedes van to take us into town. It cost 50 euros.

Our apartment was centrally located, next door to the Vondelpark, and a short walk from the Museum Quarter. It had two showers, and two tiny toilets, and three bedrooms upstairs. Downstairs, there was a large living room, a dining and kitchen area, and a big outdoor deck. We were on the second floor of the building. There were other apartments above us.

We unloaded our luggage and went out to explore the city, and to look for a “coffee shop.” In Amsterdam, coffee shops sell marijuana and provide a space for smoking. Pot isn’t legal in the Netherlands, but it is tolerated. (Once I was outside of Amsterdam, I only saw one other coffee shop.) Most of the people in the coffee shops are not Dutch. The prices are decent — 12 euros for a gram of pot. Pot can be purchased in a variety of forms — by the gram, already rolled in a joint, or in various kinds of edibles.

We went to a Bulldog coffee shop. Bulldog is a chain of shops, and claims to be one of the first coffee shops in the city. Its popular with tourists. The shop we went to was located on the Leidensplein, a square just inside the canal ring. It was once the place where farmers and merchants would leave their wagons as they came into the city. Now its a big square with lots of pubs, taverns and restaurants. The surrounding streets are also full of restaurants and bars, and coffee shops.

My companions were determined to power through the day and overcome jet lag. I gave up and took a nap. I slept for two hours, then got up and managed to stay awake until midnight, and then slept until 10 the next morning.

Over the course of the week, we explored Amsterdam. We took a canal boat tour, and visited the Ryksmuseum, the Amsterdam City Museum, and some of us went to the Van Gogh Museum. We spent time with some expats who live and work in Amsterdam. They told us a lot about how the city works.

Amsterdam is a crowded city, built on reclaimed land, and ringed with canals that used to carry freight, and now serve as settings for houseboats, and tourist boats. The houses are narrow and tall, and infamous for their steep staircases. Most of the houses feature hoists on the upper floors. At one time, these were used for hauling goods to be stored on the upper floors. Now, they serve to get furniture to the upper floors. On occasion, they are used to bring people down for medical evacuation.

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The tiny toilets are a regular feature of these houses as well. Surprisingly, the toilets are tiny even in houses built at the beginning of the 20th century. And the Dutch are not small. Many of them are quite tall. Go figure. I’m 6’1” and I barely fit into one of these “closets”. I can’t imagine how someone taller could do it.

My favorite part of visiting Amsterdam was walking the streets of the older parts of the city. Narrow lanes, tall houses, and canals. The Vondelpark was lovely, and I walked there every day. At night, especially on the weekends, its very lively with people socializing and partying through the night.

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Normal weather for the Netherlands in the early autumn is cool, wet, and cloudy. The whole time I was there, it was sunny and warm. The people I met told me the whole summer had been cold and wet and the only good weather they had had was during the weeks I was there.

We did all the usual tourist things — museums, boat rides, coffee shops. The restaurants served a menu that would be pretty familiar to any American. Breakfast was distinctively Dutch. It seems they like a croissant with ham and cheese, and strong coffee. They also like pancakes. Pannekoek are thinner than our pancakes, but not as thin as crepes. You can get them sweet — with fruit and sugar and syrup — or savory, with meats and spices. They are delicious. I had an order of the small pannekoek, called poffertjes. They are a little fluffier than pannekoek, and are served with fruit and syrup and butter. Somehow, my order got overlooked, and when the cook found out, he sent me out an extra large order. We were eating at a pancake house with an outdoor patio, and there was a large open window into the kitchen. The pufferties are made with a machine that drips batter into little shells that are then put over a grill. I later chatted with the cook. He was very pleasant. Actually, all the Dutch people I met were very pleasant.

Categories: Uncategorized

Ives Run Recreation Area, Tioga, PA

September 18, 2014 Leave a comment

This is a very nice campground, located a few miles off of US 15, just south of the New York border.  The campground was well maintained, with lots of walking trails and access to a lake.  Ives Run is part of the Corps of Engineers network of lakes,dams, etc.  I’ve stayed here three times in the last two years.

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Here’s my map, and how I got there from Slate Mills, VA.

IvesRun_map

Categories: camping

Lake Powhatan CG, Pisgah National Forest

September 10, 2014 Leave a comment

PowhatanCG_map

The first part of my summer travels came to an end in Asheville, NC, where my sister lives (and now has a B&B).  Just outside of Asheville, in the Pisgah National Forest, there is an excellent campground at Lake Powhatan.  

In addition to being very convenient to Asheville, the campground is a real bargain for seniors who have the Federal Lands Recreation Pass.

LPowhatanCG

Cumberland Mtn State Park, Tenn.

September 9, 2014 Leave a comment

I was originally headed for Edgar Evins State Park, east of Nashville, but when I got to the exit, I discovered the campground was closed for repairs. (The campsites there are on decks built out from steep hillsides. Very cool.)

So, the next closest state park along I-40 was Cumberland Mt. State Park, where I had camped before.  I got in well after dark and was having some adventures backing into the campsite, when several of my new neighbors came over with lights and helped me out.  Nice folks.  Its a nice park with excellent facilities.  It gets very busy on the weekends.

CumberlandMtSP

Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas

September 9, 2014 1 comment

Petit Jean State Park

This place was an unexpected gem.  I saw it on the map and decided to give it a try.  It was little further off the interstate, and the drive up the mountain was slow and curvy, but the trip was worth it.  Highly recommended!

PetitJean

PetitJeanARK

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Foss State Park, Oklahoma

September 9, 2014 Leave a comment

Foss State Park is, for me, conveniently located just north of I-40 in western Oklahoma.  Its an easy day’s drive from Albuquerque.  There are two campgrounds.  One sits close to the lake, within site of the dam that makes the lake, and the other is located in a little hollow, set back from the lake, and more sheltered from the wind.  This second campground, Cottonwood. offers some pretty nicely spaced sites, with electricity and water.  There is a bath house with excellent showers, and a set of trails for walking that take you to some nice views of the lake.  My dog liked it a lot and didn’t want to leave.

It cost $20 a night for a site with electricity, and the showers require quarters.

Foss SP OK

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Categories: camping, Uncategorized

Camping with KC

September 9, 2014 2 comments

Most summers, I travel from New Mexico to the east coast and New England, camping along the way.  I pull a 1975 Airstream behind me, and my dog is my copilot.  I like to stay in state parks, Corps of Engineer campgrounds, and National Forest campgrounds. These facilities are convenient, inexpensive, and usually very well-maintained.  In many cases, they are also in beautiful locations.

I rarely have any idea ahead of time what these campgrounds are like.  I haven’t had much luck finding useful guides to public campgrounds in the US.  I’m sure there are some sources out there, but I haven’t found them yet.  I mostly use my map book combined with Woodall’s Camping Guide.  Woodall’s focuses on private campgrounds for RV’ers, but it also includes bare bones descriptions of public campgrounds along with directions on how to get to these places from major highways and intersections.

In the posts that follow, I have pictures and descriptions of the campgrounds I have visited in recent years, starting with those I used during the summer of 2014.

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