Saying Goodbye to Amsterdam

Yesterday afternoon my daughter and I boarded the Ama Mora in preparation for our river cruise south into Germany. Ama Mora is a beautiful ship, the dinner was very good, and the crew is so friendly. My cabin is gorgeous and a comfortable spot. Since they had a few open cabins, we were able to get a separate one for Tanya, so I have one all to myself! Which is good since lately I have started to snore a bit, unfortunately one that is a new development and I keep thinking if I lose some of this extra weight it will help? Thankfully I am single. LOL

Central Amsterdam was a warren of narrow sidewalks, narrow one-way streets ringed with little shops, cafes, businesses, lawyers, and residential homes all mixed together on street after street. I walked more steps in the past 9 days than I can ever remember doing. Unfortunately, the food was so good my weight didn’t budge at all. I blame it on the burger bars all over, a great stop for quick takeout. I hit two of them!

For the end of week I walked, a lot. I love the canals and looking at all the houseboats. The tippy looking buildings and the bridges. If I had more time….

I did choose one day tour, out to Giethoorn Village. I chose this one as they picked you up at your hotel, rather than having to figure out how to get up to the north end for the windmill tour pickup. I am glad I did; it was a relaxing day, and the tour guide was very friendly and knowledgeable. He was originally from Tibet but has been living in Amsterdam for over 20 years now. The tour company is his own business so was eager to make sure we relaxed and had an enjoyable day. I have my raincoat on, but it only drizzled a little bit in the late afternoon. I found the tour on Viator.

On Thursday night I did an evening canal tour. I was not impressed; I didn’t read the description close enough. No tour guide (just prerecorded radio messages!) to help out. And it would just randomly switch to Dutch now and then. Also sketchy in that it was hard to hear, ear bud only (I have hearing aids). Often, I missed the place I was supposed to look at as there were no directions, just “out there” in the dark somewhere. The captain never said a word, perhaps he did not speak any English? Also, no way to purchase snacks or drinks on a two-hour cruise! Definitely didn’t understand what I was getting.

My last day was meeting up with my daughter, Tanya, as she arrived in Amsterdam to prepare for our cruise down the Rhine River. We walked, a lot, and had some good food during her short visit. She did get me into may small shops that I typically would just walk on by. We also went to the Albert Cuyp Street Market. A tourist trap in some ways, but we found a couple nice deals. I found a cute ring as a souvenir too. Plus, the stroopwaffel was awesome! Although I still think Tanya should have gotten the chocolate sauce on half.

I will save my favorite stop, the Rijksmuseum, for later. Then onto the river cruise! I am finishing this post up as I sit here on my balcony enjoying the evening on the river!

AMSTERDAM – Days 1 and 2

Here I am, relaxing in Amsterdam. This is definitely a curious city with all the canals and narrow streets. And the traffic! Pedestrians have to fend for themselves, they definitely don’t have the right of way here. So you are constantly on the watch whenever you walk. In fact, if there is a traffic blockage they even skip up onto the sidewalk and don’t like it when you don’t move out of the way. This free for all is the first thing my taxi driver warned me about when he picked me up at the airport even. The previous week he saw a bicyclist hit a pedestrian, pick himself up and ride off! So the driver stopped and gave her a ride to the hospital, where she found out she had a broken ankle. Unfortunately, it meant she had to miss her river cruise, so sad! I don’t want to do the same, so I trying to be careful.

Day one saw some serious exhaustion as I slept very little on the airplane, big surprise. I liken it to being in a hospital as the stewards roam the aisles to see if you would like a drink, or maybe a snack, periodically. Plus, the calls for assistance from fellow passengers, or those trying to find the bathroom. Fun times!

Above are some pictures of my hotel room, really more of a small apartment. Once I unpacked I did some walking around to stay awake. The sun was shining, and I put in quite a few steps around the inner canal rings. I had a nice pasta with chicken for dinner before heading back to my hotel room to try and sleep.

On Monday I slowed down, my legs developed quite a “rash” after all the walking the State Fair last week and the airplane ride and walking yesterday. The “rash” is really a bunch of burst small capillaries according to my dermatologist. I get it almost every year for the last 10 years or so during the fair unfortunately. It can be sore but is usually just tingly and hot feeling. Not comfortable at all, so I slept in and didn’t go out except for lunch and then dinner.

Lunch was at Cafe George, I had the Croque Monsieur. It was very good and I had a nice view of a canal. Dinner was at Red, which is just a few doors down, a great steak with the wonderful Dutch french fries (frites) out along the canal. It was great, until a bee decided to try and fly up my skirt which made me jump and spill half a glass of a wonderful rose on myself. Of course!

Here are a few shots from my walk and eating out.

I will post more soon!

Confused and dismayed

I am deep into planning a trip to Europe for an extended amount of time (posts will be forthcoming as I get there). My housesitter is lined up, my neighbors all know what is happening and almost everything is paid for and scheduled. Whew. But….. Unfortunately I made a last minute change in schedule, opting for Toulon instead of central Marseille as a base of operations. I panicked to be honest. I had one person too many tell me how unsafe Marseille is for a woman on her own who doesn’t really speak French hardly at all. So, cancelled there and reserved a spot in Toulon in an apartment building that has a staffed lobby, yet is still within walking distance of a train station and the port. I feel so bad for the place I cancelled as I am sure she will have a tough time renting the unit so last minute, but they had free cancellation until September 1st. So here I am feeling guilty, but at the same time relieved at the decision. Does that make sense?

Log Cabins and bears = oh my!

I am sitting here, trying to recollect when I started coming to the Log Cabin Resort here in Trego, Wisconsin. My daughter, Tanya, found this place first, starting in one of the smaller cabins (the Pine Cabin, an efficiency really) with no working television but at least electricity and water. The draw was always the Namekogan River, the resort staff and the surroundings. And my daughter and son-in-law love to go tubing on the river.

Namekagon River – Wisconsin’s Moving National Park

I would camp in Shell Lake at the Red Barn Campground while they would come and stay here at the resort. Always the weekend of July 4th. Then in 2014 they weren’t able to make it and to maintain our reservation I stayed here, and that was that. Tanya had put our name on the waiting list for a 2-bedroom cabin which we got in 2015. So this is my 7th year in the Bear Cabin here at the resort. The current owners purchased the resort 5 years ago (awesome!). This is just something my daughter and I love to do together each year. Relax and cook and sample surrounding restaurants. Mostly for pizza and cheese curds! The staff are friendly and watchful; the tubing and canoeing operations are well-oiled machines; and the beach is great for swimming (just need to be careful of the current). I plan on coming as long as I am able to drive and lug up all my supplies!

Camping | Trego | Log Cabin Resort and Campground (logcabin-resort.com)

Trego is a small SMALL town. Mom and Dad used to own a home on the Namekogan River flowage, just upriver of the dam. My siblings and the grandchildren loved to come and visit in the summer. Being so close to the dam, the current was much tamer and we loved to swim there. The water was cold, but nowhere near as cold as Shell Lake! We were very sad when they sold the house and moved to Florida full time.

What is there to do in Trego? It has a great breakfast spot (The Prime), the river and national park land. Not much else. But it is between Hayward and Spooner as well as on the road from Eau Claire to Superior, Wisconsin. During the fourth of July weekend you see a lot of license plates from Minnesota! It is a great place to stay and you can find a lot of wonderful spots to eat, hike and visit. I definitely recommend a stop at the Lakeview in Shell Lake and a trip out to What the Heck in Spooner for sure, I always stop at these two and go from there. The Shell Lake Arts Center (Home – Shell Lake Arts Center), Perlick Distillery (Perlick Distillery), Pine Brook Farm and the beach in Shell Lake are also great places to stop. To burn off your food, try one of the local hiking trails, such as the the Trego hiking trail; visiting the Wilderness Walk in Hayward; shopping in Spooner; fishing or sailing in Shell Lake; swimming; or floating down the river. Just relax and breath.

What the Podcast? Part 2

I am now up in northern Wisconsin at a cabin in the woods, continuing to recover from my trip down south and back. My hands are starting to feel normal, my left knee is no longer numb from all the weird positions I had it in to drive so much and I am not so worn out. My mind is still locked in on some of the drama and unfortunate circumstances encountered during my trip, but family can be family! I love them so but we do drive each other nutty once in a while.

All I have to say regarding my recent trip, getting old can really take a toll when you just want to wander! I love driving and taking the scenic route. You see so much more than you do on the highway. The other side of driving so much, it is so easy to drift off mentally. Podcasts are a great way (for me) to help keep my mind in the here and now. Nothing that is too riveting, you are after all driving, but interesting.

New Favorites:
– The Join Us in France Travel Podcast – This is by Annie Sargent and gives you perspectives on on all things France! Her voice is wonderful to listen to which definitely helps. I am planning a trip to France in the future, and I definitely need to learn more.
– Donna & Steve – I know, I know, why recommend a local radio show podcast? But really, they are so fun to listen too. Funny, light-hearted and yet a bit competitive on their contests. Most of what they talk about is not so local that someone in another state couldn’t listen and understand what is going on. For example, the latest episode they talked about Tim Allen and Lightyear; hot dog toppings, Slow Jam and Beck. Not exactly local! They are on Talk Radio 107.1 here in town. All of the shows are great, but this is the one that I have tuned in to via podcast lately.

But now I am back home and planning my next trip! Reading all about train travel in Europe!

Stiff and Sore

This is another list, this one of what I do to help keep me moving and somewhat flexible while traveling. My body is a mess. I have scoliosis in my spine, fibromyalgia, severe tinnitus (with some hearing loss) and “extra deep” hip sockets (the surgeon said good news, no arthritis, bad news, nothing he could do to help). And why I get so paranoid about bonking my head (twice in the last couple weeks)? I had a subdural hematoma three years ago on my left side. Bonking the left side leads to a lot of anxiety and tight muscles in my neck. I try not to talk about it or complain, but I hurt all over all the time and it is a battle to move properly and easily at times. Move too much, wham, move too little, wham. So, spending a lot of time driving, or sitting, can be a challenge. Here are a few things that have helped me during this trip. And don’t get me started with physical therapists who say don’t do it if it hurts, I just want to laugh maniacally and then ask what????

  1. YouTube – Bob and Brad (www.youtube.com/c/BobBrad)
    Bob & Brad are two physical therapists who were recommended to me by a physical therapist I was seeing many years ago, when we were trying to figure out what was going on with my hips and legs. They are funny and offer a lot of quick videos on how to stretch, move, sleep and even crack your back when there isn’t a chiropractor near by. I love them!
  2. YouTube – Lynn Schuck (www.youtube.com/channel/UCZHry9AZGqHjQa22cK10fDw)
    Lynn teaches a form of yoga called Eischens Yoga. She calls it yoga “… for the tired, the desk-bound, the stiff, the injured …”. I took some classes from here a few years ago and loved it. Her focus is on balancing the pose with what your body can do, that modifications are natural and you shouldn’t force yourself into what you think is the correct way to do a pose. She also has a variety of short sessions on YouTube to help with specific body parts. And I still hear her in my mind whenever I try to do certain yoga poses.
  3. YouTube – Laura Erdman-Luntz (www.youtube.com/c/LauraErdmanLuntz/videos)
    Laura is an excellent yoga coach and she loves mixing essential oils with your practice. I haven’t kept up on using essential oils, I do use them occasionally to relax or help with my allergies, but not like I did while I was actively taking yoga classes with her and others. But long story short, she also has some nice short takes on moving with yoga and I recommend trying it out.

My goals is to find things I can do in a small area, in a hotel room, with no equipment. If you have any suggestions for others to try out please let me know! I could use them on my next road trip!

Now I am off to do some gentle movements and physical therapy exercises after sitting and resting all day! Allons-y mon ami!

UPDATE – I finally went in to the Emergency Room to get my head checked out. Good news, no sign of a new subdural hematoma or a stroke. Bad news, well it is still cranky old me. 🙂

Sevierville & Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Unfortunately, between a touch of altitude sickness after the mountain driving, being so stiff and sore from driving, and just mentally exhausted after the past month, I wasn’t able to fully enjoy the area and stuck mostly to the towns. WOW what a tourist trap!! It was tough to find a place to eat or things to do that didn’t involve events or compounds. I had some great food here, don’t get me wrong, but wow. If I came back, it would be to totally avoid Gatlinburg proper and spend all my time out in the mountains or on the river.

What did I enjoy?
1. Scenic helicopter tour – This is more of a conquering my fear of heights more than a relaxing time up in the sky. But the staff were wonderful and the helicopter was comfortable. They put me in the front with the pilot, which not sure that was a good idea? There was open glass under my feet and I was so scare to touch anything! So I just gripped my seat and hung on. Sadly, it is a bit expensive, between the equipment, location and insurance I am not surprised. I did an “extended” tour and it lasted about 10 minutes and covered about 16 miles. The pilot was very helpful and calming and I am glad I went. I now have 4 helicopter flights under my belt, this was by-far the largest helicopter so far.

2. Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum
For my second day out I went to the Smoky Mountain Welcome Center and hopped on a trolley to go into Gatlinburg. Do NOT drive into Gatlinburg! The traffic is horrible and it is packed tourists, plus you will likely have to pay to park. Riding the trolley is free! The museum was fun, I love his museums so no surprise here. Gatlinburg is all about Ripley’s!

I also meandered down the streets after the museum, including a stop at Paula Deen’s store. Gatlinburg is a cute city, lots of fun shops, distilleries, and restaurants to check out, as well as a beautiful creek flowing through the town. To wrap up my day I had a really good dinner at a Mexican restaurant next to Ripley’s Aquarium (Jose’s).

I was thinking about going back into town for my last day here, perhaps to try out one of the ski lifts up the mountain, but decided I really just needed to rest today before pushing home. So I settled on some ice cream instead. 🙂 I asked about getting a massage close by but the hotel said they weren’t aware of anywhere reliable to recommend. So sad.

Bon soir, mon ami!

Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway

Up and down we go! Beautiful drive but tough on the noggin. Ears popping in and out, headache coming and going. But loved the scenery! Kind of a mixed bag I guess. And, I was sad at leaving my mom.

I have driven portions of the Blue Ridge before (1994 maybe?), from the north side of Virginia down to the south end of Virginia during fall leaf-peeping season, at that time I also stopped at the Luray Caverns. Someday maybe I will be able to connect the two journeys! Now I started at the beginning point in North Carolina before heading up towards Kodak, Tennessee. I did stop at the Folk Art Center, how can you resist? Such beautiful crafts and a nice little museum even. Definitely a recommended stop!

Here are some pictures from the drive.

I also saw some of Stan Tekiela’s books in the store! He was a co-worker, before I retired, and I love seeing all his books out in the world.

On the road again!

My month stay in Florida is done. I didn’t write much while staying there, Florida is like a second home and I was either being super lazy or super busy with family.

I spent a lot of quality time with my mom, more than I have in years, and I was so glad I was able to do so. I teared up when I said good-bye, but I managed to keep it in for the most part. My mom is in a nursing home, and it is a sad existence for her. She talks a lot about thinking she is feeling better and wondering if she can move enough to get out of bed and into a wheelchair more often. Maybe even move to a new place, out of her room. I really don’t believe so, she is in so much pain that she wears out in a very short time. And try touching her feet! Yikes. After a career wearing too tight, pointed, uncomfortable shoes, some arthritis and a broken ankle and hip that she didn’t take care of, her feet are a mess and very sensitive to the touch. I did respond on what it would take for her to move, and she did actually try getting into a wheel chair once, but it was not much fun for her. So hard to see, my strong-willed mom now in bed all the time.

But, time to go forward with my trip. I do plan on coming back down after the holidays to touch base again. So packing up all my stuff, what I brought with and all the stuff I bought on the way!