Friday, April 24, 2009


Wow! This place was amazing, I've never seen so many colors, some of them so vivid it's hard to describe. Reds so deep that the entire bloom is just a blur, combinations, variations, patterns, it was an awesome experience. And I am such a flower guy.... not. :)

We did a tour package purshased in the city about 2 blocks (unless you follow Tom-Tom's directions) from Amsterdam Centraal. It was a little pricey, but it included the bus to the gardens and back, and the admission ticket, so we were able to avoid the long lines and the insanity of parking - ok, yeah, we didn't drive out, but still.

We had a couple of options on the tour, a shorter one which was a couple of hours and a longer one which was almost 6 hours in the gardens. When we chose the longer one I was really wondering what the heck we were going to do in a tulip garden for almost 6 hours, but it turned out to be exactly enough time for us to stroll comfortably through, stopping to look at the beautiful beds of flowers and to enjoy all the different visual and olfactoral nuances that are Keukenhoff.

It's a little sad that the experience is so fleeting, but the gardens are only open a few weeks each year, so, if you can, plan your trip to Europe in the Spring. It's a little cool at night still, but you won't regret the visual experience of Keukenhoff.

We weren't in Amsterdam very long, well long enough for me to stubbornly follow Tom-Tom's directions until we very nearly missed our tour, a story best untold, but what we saw walking to and from the tour office and along the bus ride was lovely.

And then there was this amazing parking structure, three levels, for bicycles!

Ya gotta love Europe, I know I do.

I have a few more pictures of the garden, maybe I'll add a slide show if I can get Mrs Murphy to show me how, she's way more blog-savvy than me.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Yes, we're in Amsterdam! It's amazing, really, to think all of these places I've heard about, read about, are so close. Of course it didn't seem so close yesterday, with the train delays it ended up being about a 9 hour trip door to door from home to the hotel, but all in all it wasn't an unpleasant journey.

We're using our Eurail Global Passes to travel and we have to make reservations for the international trips. This week we had some challenges getting seats from Heidelberg to Amsterdam, but Julia worked it out at the train station. Heidelberg to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Duesseldorf, Duesseldorf to Ultrecht, Ultrecht to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, and shuttle bus from Schiphol to the hotel. Even though we were about 30 minutes late departing Frankfurt, and another 30 minute late departing Duesseldorf, we still had a pretty smooth trip.

We're staying at the Hotel Schiphol A4, a 4-start hotel about 10-15 minutes from the airport. We're in a 'quad room' which is kind of intriguing. In standard configuration it has sleeping for 4 in one big room, with the toilette/water closet off the main room. Sparsely furnished but roomy, and they added a fifth bed - so we're all in one big room, but it's just two nights and we're not here for the hotel. :)

Today we're headed for Keukenhof to take in the colors of 7 million bulbs during their Summer Bulb Weekend, it's gonna be a lot of fun!

Being Smarter than the Shower

Everyone keeps asking me, "So how's the family adjusting to Europe?" and my response is always the same, "they're loving it!" And I think that's absolutely true, at least that's what they tell me, and sometimes it's easier for dad to just take everyone at face value. Now that's not to say there aren't challenges and adjustments....

There's no QuikTrip around the corner which means no fountain Diet Cokes at any hour of the day.

There's no Diet Coke! This has not been a very good thing as most of our family dearly loves Diet Coke. There is Coke Light, but I'm sorry even a non-connoisseur such as myself can tell the difference, and in this case, change is not necessarily for the better.

In most places everything closes at 7 or 8 pm, and almost everything is closed on Sunday - yes I think that's a good thing, but closing at 7 does reduce the 'convenience factor', in fact, surprisingly in this day and age, there doesn't seem to be that drive to suck the money from your wallet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You see people out after dinner walking their dogs, riding their bicycles, walking in the park, kayaking on the river, *LIVING* and not shopping. I think it's awesome...

And things generally are just different here, space is more of a premium because the green areas are more jealously protected. In the USA it's all about sprawl, but here, at least in our area, we don't see that. So there is an inherent need for efficiency. A lot of those things we used to look at in the Ikea back in the USA and say "what on earth is that?" or "why doesn't this work in my shower?" make sense now. Most of the time if we just pause and think things through it makes sense, or at least you can see the logic behind the design, there really is some amazing engineering to be seen here. Don't get me started on the windows....

Sometimes though, we have to work to be smarter than the shower. Last week we were in Paris - an amazing experience but more on that later - and in our hotel bathrooms we had shower heads but no shower curtain. There was like this half glass wall that covered half the length of the tub, but I don't think any of us ever actually figured out over the 4 days how to use the shower without spraying the bathroom to some extent. Some of were less successful than others, but we'll leave that be for now. :)

So for this week, to the chagrine of some and for the entertainment of most, our favorite line is "Try to be smarter than the shower!" Of course we're in Amsterdam today to see the Tulips at Keukenhof so I'm sure we'll pick up a new quote for next week. Stay tuned!