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FC: Claudia and Patty's Trip to the Netherlands and Belgium April 11-22, 2012

1: First a few nights in Amsterdam on our own, followed by a seven night cruise through waterways of the Netherlands and Belgium. The map shows the cruise route. Stops near Venlo for the Floriade, Antwerp, Ghent, Middelburg, Veere and Kinderdijk for walking and bus tours of the areas. The last day to be spent at Keukenhof Gardens with its 70 acres of spring flowers. | Venlo

2: Boarding a plane in Seattle, Claudia and I flew over the North Pole to London, England. Here we experienced crazy security measures to change planes and terminals for a flight to Amsterdam. | Waiting for the limo to our hotel; I had to wonder if the tulips were in bloom. The planters here were lacking in blossoms. | April 12, 2012

3: Our hotel, the Rho, on Dam Square was once a theater. Dam Square is in the heart of Amsterdam's medieval district. The brown building below was built in 1672. Dam Square has it's share of street performers to entertain the tourists.

4: Our first day, found us boarding a sightseeing bus to tour Alkmaar's cheese market and Zaanse Schan a historical windmill village. | The Waag or Weighing House at Alkmaar. The Cheese market has been a tradition since 1365, held each Friday from April to October. The cheese guild in Alkmaar consists of four Veems(teams) identifiable by the the four different colored hats. The cheese is sold by a hand clap auction, the clap of the buyer signifies a deal. The cheese is then carried on a sled by veem members to be weighed. | ALKMAAR April 13, 2012

5: Traditional clothes for the Noord Hollanders. A wonderful taste treat aebleskivers small pancakes. | Cheese waiting to be loaded in vans. Gondolas in the canal bring cheese to market like they did in the 1500's.

6: Zaanse Schans April 13, 2012 | Zaanse Schans gave us a chance to see how life in the Netherlands was during the 17th and 18th centuries. The 34 homes and windmills were relocated here between 1960 and 70 to preserve them. We tasted cheese, watched wooden shoes being made and visited a windmill that ground grains.

7: Wooden shoes made for us who have large feet. A few of the styles to choose from. Our first sighting of tulip fields. The countryside homes had thatched roofs, lace curtains and sparkling clean windows; just what you expect to see. Our brains were on overload as we filed away everything we saw.

8: Skinny Houses | Cows on the Ceilings | Canals | Head shops | Amsterdam April 14 & 15, 2012 | Bikes

9: Claudia thought she had a possible new boyfriend. I thought he was a real weenie. | Time spent today getting some art appreciation at the Van Gogh Museum. A small boy by this self portrait asked his mom " Did he have some kind of sickness that caused the scars?"

10: April 14, 2012 Why did I wait so long to see Europe? Amsterdam is fantastic!

12: THE DOORS OF EUROPE Claudia and I found that the doors and window grates of the older buildings were just as interesting as the buildings themselves

13: April 15, 2012 Avalon Tranquility Tulip time Cruise | We boarded the river cruise ship that will be our home for the next seven nights in the late afternoon. After unpacking we enjoyed a great dinner and a welcome briefing. | Waking each morning, we would wander down to breakfast and be asked, "Would you like coffee, ma'am." What a wonderful start to the day.

14: Monday morning, April 16th there was a tour boat cruise through the canals of Amsterdam. Having walked the streets; Claudia and I enjoyed another perspective of this wonderful old city. In the afternoon we finally set sail. It was chilly and most of the time we watched the Dutch countryside sail by from the comfort of our cabin. We experienced our first of many locks, a slow process of raising and lowering the boat as we headed down the river. | The back of a West Indies Clipper ship in the harbor | View from the tour boat | There are 7 bridges down this canal

15: The Dutch countryside and locks as we cruised. | No Anchoring on the river | Side of the lock reflected on the side of the boat

16: April 17, 2012 | Held every 10 years, it covered 160 acres. The theme was “Be part of the theatre in nature; get closer to the quality of life."

17: An Orchid house, outdoor displays and the Mexican pavilion filled with fresh flower arrangements

18: This topsy-turvy house was a favorite of ours at Floriade. From the couch of plants to the lawn chairs of moss it was quite unusual. Just don't sit on the rock bench it had metal spikes for cushions!

19: Antwerp, Belgium April 18, 2012 | Butcher's Guild Hall, Steen Castle, Groenplaats (Town Square), Laange Waaper Statue, City Hall with Barbo Fountain, Antwerp has a lot of history. The castle dates back to the 12th century

20: Brussels, Belgium April 18, 2012 | Wonderful sculptures on buildings, Belgium waffles (we could eat them all day), the Atomium from the 1958 World's Fair and of course the 1619 statue , Mannekin Pis or Pissing Boy

21: Ghent, Belgium April 19, 2012 | Canals, Cathedrals, Castles and the Guild halls- | Ghent, we needed more time or should go back!

22: Dating back to 1128 when it received it's city charter the town of Bruge has served as a trade hub for the people of Flanders. I liked to chocolate shop! | Old City gate Belfry built in 13th century | Bruge, Belgium April 19, 2012

23: Middelburg, Netherlands April 20, 2012 | Stadhuis Old city Hall completed 1452 | The Abbey and court yard Dating to the 1500's | Dear Kids, Send Money, we're having too much fun and have decided to stay!

24: With less than 2,000 residents this town has over 3 million annual tourists who come to step back in time. The Grote Merk, church towers over the town on the western shore of the Schedlt which leads to the sea. | Veere April 20, 2012

25: Kinderdijk April 21, 2012 | The largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands. They date back to 1740 and are still used today.

26: April 21, 2012 | The sun was shining and the tulips were definitely in bloom. Even the head of Chopin done in tulips and hyacinths looked spectacular.

27: Comprised of over 70 acres with 9 miles of walking paths, the Kuekenhof welcomes 800,000 visitors annually. Open from March to early May it's display of over 7 million bulbs are replanted annually and have been since 1949 when it first opened. Claudia was very patient as I took lots of photos.

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