Expedition Amsterdam – Arrival Day

Last May, we saw a great deal on a four night trip to Amsterdam.  As we had never been before, we decided to ask some friends to join us and take on this new adventure!  Here is a glimpse of our trip day by day.

Overnight flights can be rough – but this one was direct and we arrived in Amsterdam at 8:30am local time and hit the ground running.

We took a taxi to our hotel – IBIS Amsterdam City West – checked in (we were fortunate that our rooms were ready so early in the morning) and headed out to explore the city around 12:30pm.

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Our adorable “double” room at the Ibis Amsterdam City West. Comfy and quaint.

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No bells and whistles, but certainly clean and comfortable including a lovely breakfast each morning.

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This bathroom is neat – it is like a bathroom “pod” – it reminded me of a cruise ship bathroom.

We bought a four day transportation pass (24 Euros each) and took the bus into Amsterdam Central (about a 15 minute ride).  From there, we explored the inner canal area, including the Red Light District and surrounding areas.  We ate an early dinner then headed back to our hotel around 6pm.  All and all, it was a bonus day that we enjoyed, getting our bearings, seeing the Red Light District during the day and figuring out the layout of the canal rings.  Tomorrow – the Jordaan District and Anne Frank Museum.

Here is a picture Diary of the day – the PG-13 version!

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Our first photo upon arrival.

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Well, this sums up Amsterdam – a cannabis shop, a snack shop and “Pimp” Steak! All that is missing is a Waffle or Pancake shop!!!

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Truer words were never spoken for me!

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I enjoyed hearing these guys clipping and clopping along during the day.

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Classic canal pic!

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Our first selfie.

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Red Light District – and I thought Vegas was a bit racy:)

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Beautiful architecture.

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I love this.

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I mean, wow!!!

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American tourists!!!

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I can handle snorting chocolate – yes, folks, snorting chocolate! That is right up my alley!

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As evening settles.

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Canal at night.

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Venice of the north!

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Crepe number one in the books!!!!!

Christmas Market Joy

You know, sometimes you have an opportunity to take a trip that resets your soul.  Just over Thanksgiving, I had that opportunity!

If you follow my business Facebook page, Live It Well Travel, you will have seen some of the highlights of the fabulous Christmas Market river cruise my husband and I took over Thanksgiving.  It was everything I believed it would be and more!

Let me give you and overview of our trip here and post some of my favorite pictures, then I will dive deeper into my river cruising experience, each of our destinations and then some fun facts and finds from our trip!  It promises to be a cool series to wrap up this years’ blogging adventures!

We departed the Friday before Thanksgiving and arrived in Basel, Switzerland the following day.  We got settled in our hotel, and attempted to stave off the effects of jet-lag by taking a wonderful walk around the old city of Basel.  We enjoyed a wondrous walk, an alfresco meal and a great first night’s sleep!

The next morning (Sunday) we awoke and walked to a nearby hotel where we picked up a car we had rented for the day.  We drove to the Alps and took the cog train to the highest train station in Europe!

Monday we walked around Basel some more (and Limed, too), checked out, then boarded our river cruise, the Monarch Countess.  This was our first river cruising experience and to say we loved it is an understatement!

Over the next 6 days, we visited Strasbourg, France, Frankfurt, Wertheim, Wurzburg, Bamberg and Nuremberg, Germany.  We visited Christmas Markets and wandered ancient streets.  We sipped wine on the Main River and traversed 52 locks between Basel and Nuremberg.  We met people from all over the US and made friends with so many more.  We learned some German, practiced our French and broadened our perspective.

It was splendid!  Here are few of my highlight photos!  Be on the lookout for posts to follow!

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Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. We had spent much of the day in Grindelwald and climbing Jungfrau (by cog railway), then decided to take another small mountain pass at dusk and were treated to this delight!

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Strasbourg, France. Some of my new friends – I made a LOT of feathered friends on this trip!!!

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Our home for the week docked in Frankfurt. This is the beautiful Monarch Countess.

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Christmas Market at Frankfurt, Germany.

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An evening toast to the good life. We are standing on the Old Stone Bridge in Wurzburg, Germany, marveling at the fortification in the background and enjoying a common daily activity.

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Early morning sun on the Main River between Wurzburg and Bamberg.

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Bamberg, Germany. Photo taken of one of the seven hills that make up the city. The colors are breathtaking!

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Bamberg, Germany

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Main Christmas Market, Nuremberg, Germany.

 

Downton in Bean Town

Sometimes it is fun to tour at home.  I live in a gorgeous part of the Northeast – not too far from Boston and close to the coastal Maine towns of Ogunquit, York and Kennebunkport.  I also live less than two hours from the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire and lakes galore in both states.  My husband and I love taking local weekends – even off season – to enjoy the beauty that is in our own backyard.  A simple date night in Perkins Cove, Maine makes me feel a bit like I am on vacation.  If you have never heard of Perkins Cove – Goggle it.  You will love it!!!

A couple weekends ago I had the pleasure of joining some girlfriends in a day trip to Boston.  While it is lovely to just get together, we did go with a purpose – and that was to see the special Downton Abbey exhibit that was in town for two short weeks.  We decided to make a day of it.

We left Dover, New Hampshire (close to our home towns) via the Amtrak train Downeaster in the morning and headed to North Station in Boston.  We splurged on the Business Class seats ($31 per person round trip) and enjoyed some visiting and relaxing – watching the world go by.  I had forgotten how much I love traveling by train….the train trip is coming back in vogue!  It is part of a travel movement called “slow travel” and it is emerging as we begin to love our journeys as much as our destinations!  Stay tuned for a blog I am working on about slow travel and what it’s all about!

While in Boston, we road the “T” – the subway, walked a ton, ate at “Cheers” in Faneuil Hall, shopped, saw our exhibit, got caught in a rain shower, passed through some type of filming (movie or TV show, we aren’t sure – we didn’t see anyone famous!) enjoyed Boston Commons (a lovely park) and made our way back to the train station to catch our ride home!  It was a fabulous day with friends and I got indulge my Downton Abbey obsession just a little!  Perhaps there will be a post about that someday as well!!!

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Amtrak Downeaster on a gorgeous summer’s day in New Hampshire!

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The ever busy and fun Faneuil Hall

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I love the juxtaposition of old and new on the east coast – our cities are a blend of history and modernity.

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Outside the Downton Abbey exhibit

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Mr. Carson’s pantry.

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The famous maid’s bell board.

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Bell board up close.

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The amazing costuming is something I really love about period dramas. Downton Abbey really shines in this department!

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The dining room!

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Outstanding evening dresses for Lady Edith, Lady Mary and that FABULOUS pants outfit by Lady Sybil!

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This car was on the “set” of the movie/show we saw while in Boston.

TBT…BEFORE the cruise…

Before our fabulous cruise in May of 2015, we hung out in London for 5 days and toured the area!  We arrived in April and we were met by my brother in law and his wife and daughter.  They live in Poland and we took advantage of being close to them and arranged a short holiday!  This was our second visit to London and we enjoyed it very much!  We stayed in a suburb all together and did some AMAZING touring!  Here is a photo journal of that visit!

 

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We walked EVERYWHERE and this photo was taken on way to Harrods!

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Windsor Castle – one of our favorite stops! We were rushed in our visit and I cannot wait to go back. This castle is really a fine example of Royal castles and it was a highlight of my stay in London!

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Windsor, Char and Sable – you all haven’t met Sable yet, but this kitty gets around. She even has her own book series in the works!

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Windsor!!!!

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My first favorite thing about this London visit (aside from seeing family, or course) was scoring coveted tickets to tour Highclere Castle – AKA Downtown Abbey. Here, Sable checks out the grounds as “Downtown Tabby”.

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My handsome hubby and I at Highclere Castle.

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Family photo taken by dad. Yes it was cold, rainy and windy – it was April in England!!!

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Kelly and I ate out one night while the kids went back to the flat with the family. We ate at a restaurant in the basement of Harrod’s that specialized in TRUFFLES!!!!! It was SO good!!!!

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Kelly and Freddie Mercury at Madame Tussauds.

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Sable MIGHT have been getting a bit too familiar with the queen. Madame Tussauds.

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Kelton’s hair resembled Albert Einstein’s a bit too much!! Madame Tussauds.

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Oh Char….well this is a statue representing the overindulgence of King Henry the VIII’s court at Hampton Court – another FAVORITE stop of mine – a must see!

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Char strikes again….sleeping next to the famous wine fountain that was created for a treaty meeting in northern France between Henry the VIII of England “and France” and King Frances I of France. This fountain flowed with wine in front of a “castle” built out of golden cloth to represent King Henry’s magnificence. So famous is this amazing tent that the event in history is referred to the Field of the Cloth of Gold. My history buff side shines through!

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Gardens at Hampton Court

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My beautiful rose petal and Hampton Court gardens.

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Iconic Tower Bridge!

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Mind the gap. We got an Oyster Card and used all manner of public transportation throughout London! I love this shot of Char and Sable!

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A view of Parliament from the London Eye.

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Westminster Abbey

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Big Ben!

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These adorable sheep were all over the city and the kids posed with them whenever possible! The sheep were dressed in outfits that represented the area where they stood.