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We began our trip to Europe by flying from Guadalajara, Mexico to Houston, Texas and then to Amsterdam, the Netherlands.  This was my second time to Amsterdam, but the first time for both of us being in Europe in the winter.  It was lovely, despite one problem we had later in the trip, and we both very much enjoyed our eighteen day vacation in Europe.

Though it was winter, we did not expect as much snow in Amsterdam as we received.  This was the most snow Amsterdam had received since 1982, and we wouldn't be surprised if this was even more than that year.  The people who told us this was the most snow mentioned this before our time in Amsterdam was half over, and we received much more snow after that.  So much snow, in fact, that some trains in Holland (the Netherlands) shut down.

Amsterdam traditional winter dinner of hutspot and sausage

. . . hutspot (mashed potatoes, carrots, and onions) and sausage.

Europe dinner often ends with cheeses

Cheeses follow most every dinner in Europe.

Guadalajara, Mexico airport

waiting in Guadalajara, Mexico airport

Amsterdam winter dinner of meatballs

dinner of meatballs, and . . .

This is our first night's dinner, a traditional Dutch winter meal, called "hutspot", prepared by our CouchSurfing Host, Marco.  The mash consists of potatoes, carrots, and onions.  Quite yummy.

CouchSurfing Host dinner in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Dinner at Jeroen and Rene's house.  Our CS Host Marco is on the left in the blue shirt, his girlfriend beside him.  Rene is serving at the table while Jeroen is in the kitchen in the background.

Our second night in Amsterdam, some other CS (CouchSurfing) hosts, Jeroen and Rene, invited both our host and us to dinner.  We had contacted this couple to ask if they could host us during our stay in Amsterdam, and since they were already hosting people, they recommended we contact Marco, who then became our host.  This meal consisted of several courses, including quiche, lamb with hutspot (the same type of mash we had the previous night at Marco's house), and a chocolate muffin with both chocolate and vanilla sauces.  Appetizers of cheese and beer or wine (or water) started as people were arriving, and there were more cheeses after dinner, as is the custom throughout much of Europe.  In many parts of Europe, the after dinner plate of cheese *IS* the dessert.

Amsterdam Albert Cuyp Market, winter 2009

It was so cold in Amsterdam that our first stop our first morning was the Albert Cuyp Market, so that Dave could buy a scarf and sweater to wear under his jacket.

Amsterdam Albert Cuyp Market Dutch pancakes

While at the Market, we purchased some Dutch fries (not quite as good as Belgian fries, but still very tasty with the mayonaise), a Dutch pancake, and some Dutch chocolate.  We ate three things in every country:  cheese, chocolate, and fries.

Amsterdam winter with pigeons on windowsill
Amsterdam canal boat

After arriving in Amsterdam and taking the train and tram to Marco's house, we napped for a couple hours.  We had been traveling for over twenty hours.  Then we jumped on a canal boat for a tour of the city.  Besides us, there was only one other couple and then four guys smoking marijuana.  The boat captain stopped the boat in the middle of the canal when he caught wind of their smoke, walked back and told them to put it out.  It turns out that though marijuana is legal in Amsterdam, you can smoke in public only in the "coffee shops".

Dutch chocolates at Amsterdam Albert Cuyp Market

yes, that is what you think it is at the right side.  Remember that there are fewer inhibitions in Europe regarding some things than what some of us may be accustomed to.

Andrew J. Wharton outside CouchSurfing Host's house in Amsterdam

Our second morning in Amsterdam, we again woke to more snow.  It actually snowed off and on every single day we were there.  It was very pretty.  And it was very cold.  To the left are two pigeons sitting on our window sill, trying to get some warmth.  We were the first ones outside that morning, so that our tracks were the first in the freshly fallen snow.  As we said, it was very pretty.

Amsterdam, Holland windmill still functioning pumping water from city
last working windmill in Amsterdam, Holland, the Netherlands

Our first stop our second morning was the last working historic windmill in Amsterdam, the Molen Van Sloten.  Since the city is lower than sea level, water has to be pumped out of the city area when it rains or snows.  The windmill tour was very interesting, and we had the tour all to ourselves, just the tour guide and us.

modified baby seat bicycle in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Bicycles are extremely common in Amsterdam.  There are actually more bicycles in the city than there are cars.  On many streets in Amsterdam, there are eight sections:  two or more lanes for cars, two lanes for the trams, two for bicycles, and two for pedestrians.  One needs to keep one's head when crossing the street, remembering to check both ways several times.

bicycle parking lot in Amsterdam, Holland, the Netherlands

Many of the bicycles are specialized for whatever purpose the owner has.  Above is one in which a child can ride in comfort, with its own windscreen.

Left is one of several parking lots specifically for bicycles.  This one has three levels, though the lower level is below street level and cannot be seen from this angle.  That is a LOT of bicycles!

I Amsterdam sign in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Amsterdam, Holland, the Netherlands Europe building

Europe seems to have more imagination when it comes to shapes of buildings.  We saw many interesting and amazing buildings.  The one above is just outside of Amsterdam.

Outside the Rijksmuseum is the famous "I amsterdam" sign.  Of course, we had to pose in front of it.  We love how the snow clings to the tops of the letters.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

In many places, people are reminded to beware of pickpockets.  We were very careful wherever we went and never had a problem until our last day in Paris, when an aparently drunk man bumped into Andrew and took his metro ticket out of his back pocket.  Not a great loss.  Thank God we were safe through so many crowds.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Rhine River area of Germany

Lucerne, Switzerland

the Swiss Alps at Murren, Switzerland

Bern, Switzerland

the French Alps

Geneva, Switzerland

Lyon, France

Paris, France

Rouen, France

Normandy Beaches of France

Brugge, Belgium



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