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A TOUR RETROSPECTIVE!
Here we are in Holland!
Eleven of us returned from this wonderful tour on August 15, while nineteen of us who opted to stay behind in Paris returned on August 18. The almost universal consensus was that this was one of our most delightful tours ever.
The departure from Newark on August 6 (one of the hottest days of the summer in New Jersey) was witout a hitch, and when we landed in Frankfurt we discovered that the temperatures there were much more tolerable -- in fact, it was sweater weather! We were greeted by our most delightful tour leader, Jean Jacques Legalle, and our coach driver, Mark, and were on our way to Luxembourg on Tuesday, August 7. Our Luxembourg hotel was located directly across the street from the train station, and within walking distance of the old city and the primary historic sites. Luxembourg was decorated throughout with cows -- that's right, life-size cows -- painted by artists in a competititon that would eventually end in an auction to benefit charity. Most of our tour participants had their pictures taken at one or more of these artistic cows.
Penny Laufer with one of Luxembourg's artistic cows!
We learned about the important role Luxembourg plays in the administration of the European Economic Community, got to see many of the government buildings and marvelled at the medieval remains in the old city. A highlight of this part of our tour was a visit to the Luxembourg American Cemetery, the final resting place of many of our American heros of the Battle of the Buldge, as well as of General George C. Patton. On our way to Brussels, we also stopped at the city of Bastogne, visiting the World War II museum there, and got to visualize those terrible days at the end of December, 1944 and the early months of 1945, when the Nazis made their last ditch effort to push the allies back.
Here's Joe Laufer at one of the Libertation Monuments
erected every mile from Normandy to the Rhine commemorating
the liberation of Europe by the Allies from D-Day until VE-Day
We arrived in Brussels at the height of the "mussels" season, many of us availing ourselves of the opportunity to gorge ourselves with buckets of freshly harvested and freshly cooked, butter soaked mussels.
Our evening tour of the city, including the atomium, symbol of the 1958 World's Fair, the bawdy red light district, and the " Grand Place" at night, was enjoyed by everyone. On Friday, we toured the city, getting a look at the Brussel's mascot, the "Manneken Pis", or as Jean Jacques referred to him, "The little pissing boy", all decked out in his red costume. In the afternoon, while some of our party went to Waterloo, others spent time in the heart of Brussels, shopping, eating, or just relaxing. On Saturday we had a great day in two of the medieval cities of Belgium, Ghent and Bruges. Ghent seemed to be the hands down favorite, despite Bruges' reputation -- but it was probably because of the large number of tourists there that day that made it less appealing to our group. In Ghent we almost missed seeing Van Eyck's most famous painting because of the funeral of a local beloved Bishop, but Jean Jacques got us in just before we had to leave. On Sunday we moved on to the Netherlands, with a stop at Antwerp along the route. Some of our party decided to take advantage of being in the "Diamond Capital of the World" and contributed to the local economy with their personal capitol in return for diamonds. We lucked out in Antwerp by being there for the medieval festival and were entertained by marching minstrels and local residents in medieval costume.
Joe & Penny at Antwerp Medieval Parade
Then came The Netherlands. Our first official activity in Amsterdam was a somber and moving visit to the Anne Frank house. We then went on a canal cruise, launching from the " Homo Monument". Our location in Amsterdam was ideal, not far from the Museum area. Most of us visited the Van Gough Museum. Some spent time at Amsterdam's "Hard Rock Cafe", and others found local restaurants that appealed to them. An evening tour of the famous red light district, and several encounters with street entertainers of all types, delighted just about everyone. Our excursions to the quaint fishing village of Volendam (where we sampled the mini-pancakes) and to Zaanse Schans, the international flower market, The Hague, and Delft, were highlights of our Netherlands visit. Soon, however, we were at the point of departure for the 11 who opted to exclude the Paris extension. One of that group had the misfortune of having her passport, airline ticket, car keys and credit cards "lifted" by a professional thief in the hotel lobby just before departure. However, with the help of the hotel management, and relying on good pre-planning (photo copies of essential documents, including airline ticket), was able to join the group at the airport for the originally scheduled flight home.
The other 19 were on their way to Paris via train. They occupied themselves on the 400 mile trip by evading the smoke-filled coaches by conducting their own private wine and cheese party in the dining car. The weather in Paris was wonderful, with the exception of the Seine cruise on Wednesday night, when just about everyone got drenched during the sudden storm with surprised us all without our umbrellas and ponchos. Our participants pretty much did their own thing during their three days in Paris, from museum hopping, shopping, restaurant sampling and even attending solemn vespers on the Feast of the Assumption in Notre Dame Cathedral. One of the more memorable excursions was the one to Monet's Giverny on a beautifully sunny Friday. Unfortunately, all good trips must come to an end, and we made our way to the Paris Airport for an uneventful trip back home on August 18. Another one for the record books, and one that won't soon be forgotten.
Total cost of this tour per adult was: $1895 (double occupancy).