Wednesday, December 1, 2010

International Hotel de Foltice: Part 1

Sorry for the month-long absence from blogging. I'd like to say it was because I was just so busy that I didn't have time to write, but it really was the opposite and nothing too interesting happened until last weekend. The beginning of November was consumed with planning, cleaning and organizing for my parent's coming to visit, which meant we didn't really do a lot of extracurricular activities.

Alas, on November 19 my parents hopped on a plane and made their first overseas journey to visit us, becoming our first official guests at the International Hotel de Foltice. They were to stay for 10 days and we had a lot on our itinerary. Details of our escapades will be split into two posts.

Here is a  map of the main places we visited with my parents.  The orange dot in the middle is Borken.  The purple dot just to the left of Borken is Winterswijk.  The blue dot to the right is Munster.  The yellow dot on the far left is Amsterdam.  The pink dot near the bottom is Koln.

Although they left the US on Friday, they did not arrive in Dusseldorf until Saturday morning. Bryan set off in the big van to pick them up while Dylan and I got some fresh German pastries for breakfast. Day 1 for them was very low-key, since they had been up for 24-hours travelling and still had to make it to 9:00 p.m. Germany-time before they were allowed to go to bed.  This is the best way to force yourself to adjust to a new time zone.  We went on a long walk around town, stopping at the park for Dylan to run and helping them get acclimated to German village life.

Dylan holding his grandma's hand at the park.  He was so excited to have two additional people to entertain for a whole week.
Grandma and Grandpa smuggled on the plane some of Dylan's toys that we had to leave behind, like this car steering wheel.  He was so excited excited to get some toys back, it was like his birthday all over again.
On Sunday, we were planning on touring 2 or 3 nearby castles, but Bryan said that someone (he couldn't remember who) told him that Winterswijk, Netherlands has a good Sunday market.  I said numerous times that didn't sound right - no one has markets on Sundays here because nothing is open on Sunday.  Truly, the only establishments open on Sunday are about 1/3 of the bakeries and restaurants in town.  Everything else - grocery stores, retail shops, etc. - are all closed, so a Sunday market is really odd.  He insisted that his information was solid, so we all piled into the van and headed for Winterswijk, a 20 minute drive away, only to find the city a virtual ghost town.  No market, nothing open.  Doh!  We rerouted to Gemen, a suburb of Borken, where there is a nice moated castle that is now a hostel and were at least able to tour one castle before all of us were ready to head back home.

In front of the Schloss Gemen on what was probably the warmest day of the whole week.
 Monday was our first real travel day, where we took a daytrip to Munster.  Bryan was able to show off his office and the University and while he worked for a few hours, we did some shopping and enjoyed Munsters first day of their Christmas markets.  Bryan joined us at lunch time and we took Mom and Dad out for their first Turkish doners, our personal favorite food here.

Bryan, Dylan and my parents in the Prinzipalmarkt in Munster.
Dylan was a travelling champion this day and made it through the day with virually zero complaints or tantrums.  The more we traveled throughout the week, the more Dylan's patience for us lessened and by my parent's final day here he pretty much flat-out refused to sit peacefully in his stroller, even for just a walk around town.  Lesson learned.

Tuesday we headed off to Amsterdam, for our farthest excusion of the week.  Driving into the city was ... interesting, to say the least.  Bryan got accurate highway directions, but once we were near the city his directions stopped, so we "felt our way there."  We had no information about where or how to park, so we ended up driving through the most pedestrian/bicycle congested areas in a giant 9-passenger van.  To be frank, it was scary and stressful. The van's 1st gear kept sticking, so Bryan stalled a few times ... which lead my very helpful dad to make fun of him and shout "Third gear!" each time he stalled (implying that Bryan was trying to move forward from 3rd gear instead of 1st). This made Bryan very angry/flustered because he insisted he was in 1st gear.  With each stall he became an increasingly aggressive driver - I'm surprised we didn't hit anyone or anything.  I finally had to referee and tell Dad to "keep it to himself" if Bryan stalled again and for Bryan to calm down and take a few deep breaths.  Driving got better after that, as it was a little safer and everyone was quieter.

We finally found a parking space outside the main city area but couldn't figure out how to use the meter, so we just sent up a prayer that the car would still be there when we returned and that we wouldn't get a ticket.  Thankfully both came true and we parked for free instead of paying 45 Euro's for parking in a garage for the day. 

We walked through Amsterdam's most infamous district (hint, hint) first because it was morning so there were fewer assaults on our eyes and morals but we got out of there as fast as possible. We then headed to the shopping district, then finally to the Anne Frank House side of town, and enjoyed how beautiful the city is (outside of the red light district).

Me, Mom and Dylan - somewhere in Amsterdam.

Bryan and Dylan in front of the European NYSE headquarters.  To Bryan's surprise, there wasn't a huge lineup of people waiting to have their picture taken in front of this building.  Actually, he and Dylan may very well have been the first people ever to request getting their picture taken in this spot.  Bryan even went inside and asked for a tour.  The security guard laughed at him. 

Bryan and I by a canal.
The trip home from Amsterdam took twice as long as it did to get there.  Traffic was simply atrocious - it seemed like every single person in the Netherlands works in Amsterdam and commutes home outside the city.  Mom saved the day and had a Tootsie-Pop sucker in her purse, which we gave to Dylan.  It pacified him for a good hour until we got home.  No one seemed to mind the sticky mess he made as long as he was quiet.

Part 2 coming up soon...

1 comment:

Charlene Quinn said...

Great blog! Thanks for sharing.
I'll need to show grandma & grandpa net time they are here, although it's snowing. Could be a while!