Family blessings in the Netherlands 

Our trilogy concludes with some thoughts on the blessings of family. The purpose of the trip was to meet up with our son Cliff and daughter-in-law Natalie. She was invited to be a presenter at an international conference of librarians in Maastricht.


Amsterdam was fun, the trains were not, and Maastricht was pure happiness with ones we love. It was a week of exploration, sidewalk cafes and pubs serving local brews outside in the fresh air. Arguably the best bookstore in the world occupies a former cathedral. Stacks 3 stories high replace the pews with the rest largely unchanged, except for the Starbucks. Okay, it’s not actually Starbucks, but all it would need is the sign.

  

I’ve described the trip in reverse. Our week in Maastricht was first. Then Cliff and Natalie caught a plane for Prague. Sandy and I took the train back to Amsterdam, where we had a week of quality time together. No matter how far apart we live, family is what matters. Maastricht is half way between Taiwan and Florida, so it was perfect all around. What matter, though, are love and quality time. I promised to tell you what like is like when lived on wheels. I hope this helps people understand that life is full and loving whether one is a biped or a wheelie.

Maastricht is best described in pictures. Enjoy. Thank you for stopping by. Please leave a comment. We now resume our regular blog, already in progress.

In Amsterdam we stayed in an ultra-modern hotel. Here we experienced the ambiance of a grand hotel, appropriately named.
A modern shopping area with the same shops one finds in the US or UK with the ancient welcome center at the end.
Perhaps the best Italian restaruant I have ever found. 

Here’s Sandy in a lightheated moment. We hope you have enjoyed our accounts and maybe will entertain the idea to go yourself.
Fun cars, fun scooters, and bikes galore.

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Cobbles, rails, and brickbats

Last time we talked about the wonders of Amsterdam, a vibrant city to which I fully hope to return. The city, the entire country in fact, proved to be sorely un-wheelchair friendly. First came the cobbles. I’d negotiated the cobbles of Covent Garden in London, but this was beyond my worst fears. I had not realized much of the country was built before the 18th century.

 Cobbles abound. The streets, the sidewalks, the plazas. Cobbles cobbles everywhere with nary a smooth spot to roll. Now add curbs. We think I must have popped a thousand wheelies over the two weeks!

What would make cobbles more fun? Let’s try trolley tracks. There is a wonderful system of trolleys. Clean and safe. Trolleys run on tracks. So now we are getting up some speed on the cobbles and doing wheelies across the tracks. One track, two tracks, quick turn toward the left, one track, two tracks. Straight a few feet and one track… One street had eight tracks to cross.

 A commuter’s dream, just not great for a pedestrian on wheels!

Then there are the trains. I’ve long heard about Europe’s amazing train service. Long distance trains run every 30 minutes, locals more often. Just hop on one and go? Hardly. The cars are not accessible, but there are attendants with spiffy, portable ramps.  Simply call ahead at least 24 hours (not 23) and specify exactly which train you will be on.

You’ve bought your tickets at the station, called ahead, and have arrived at the station again. Two very courteous people help you onto the train. What’s wrong with this picture? It is marked with the appropriate symbol, you have been provided a ramp, but what do you see but stairs?!? Seven steps up or five steps down. I chose down. How a paraplegic does five steps on the train might be a topic for another time. It wasn’t pretty.

This was First Class. We were told Coach has flat cars. Bingo! Flat for less money! Have you ever wondered how your suitcase feels while you are riding in your seat? For the long trip from Maastricht in the south to Amsterdam, we were escorted into a small section separated from the rest of the passengers at the back of the car. This is where travelers put their bicycles. Four seats have been added. Air conditioning had not been added. It was a time of record hot weather. Complete misery, not to mention how my MS reacted.

After a long train ride to Amsterdam there was the matter of nature. “Do you have an accessible restroom?” I asked the friendly policeman. “Maybe. If there is one it would be upstairs straight above us, but to get to the lift you will need to go all the way to the other end of the station and come back.” I assumed the trip back down would be a reverse of said route. I waited until the hotel.

I’m writing about the trip and smiling. Friendly, safe cities make forgetting the hardships easy. So maybe I won’t toss the brickbat after all. If you get the chance, by all means go!

Here are some pictures to entice you. And the next entry will be about a wonderful college town.


    


  
  
  
   

Amsterdam – Kudos

 Bicycles and canal boats. Bridges and flowers. Beer and wine and cheese. Tapas and pastries. These are Amsterdam. What a wonderful place! The city simply radiates energy and smiles. Our week there was the hottest on record, but normally the temperatures are moderate. The sidewalks are wide with few hills, and the city invites you to explore on foot. (On wheels? Stay tuned for brickbats, coming here in a few days.)
We quickly found the Dutch to be welcoming and helpful. The airport is clean, and the separate, accessible restrooms were a welcome change from what I typically find in the US. Language barrier? Virtually everyone speaks fluent English, and airport signage includes English.

 I knew English is the unofficial language, but I was surprised when the accent is clearly American English rather than the pure form from nearby Great Britian.  What could be more familiar than Starbucks in a bank?

We were too late for tulips. The famed flower of spring blooms only a short time.

 That said, we were spoiled for beauty. From the spectacular floating flower market near Dam Square to window boxes adorning lovely buildings that date from the 16th century, Amsterdam is a riot of color.

 I love hydrangeas and was in awe of the beds that adorn lawns and gardens. Huge, perfectly shaped blooms like I’d not seen before.

There are millions of bicycles across The Netherlands. They are literally everywhere, ridden by college students, store clerks, hotel staffers, and office workers.

  
  

No blog about Amsterdam would be complete without the canals and parks for which the city is famous. They are not to be missed. I hope to visit them again.

  
  
  
  
  

Summer, kudos, and brickbats

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Thanks to anyone kind enough to visit this blog. Welcome!!! Last time I said I’d soon put up some pictures of our trip, award some kudos, and toss some brickbats. Soon was too strong a word. I realized this afternoon it’s been weeks. MS and summer are not friends. I’ve been in the middle as they fought. Then there was the issue of getting photos from my iPad to Popping Wheelies. Time got away from me. Let’s back up, get a good rolling start, and pop right up onto those Dutch cobbles – soon! Please check back or watch for updates on Twitter and Facebook. Would you believe soon?