Day 2 Summer 2018: Amsterdam, Netherlands

We started off today in the hotel restaurant with a traditional European breakfast of tiny cups of strong dark coffee paired with assorted meats, cheeses and bread.

Haarlem Station

Shortly thereafter, we walked a few hundred yards from the hotel to the train station in Haarlem and figured out how to get the 20 kilometers or so to Amsterdam. It was pretty simple to figure out and soon the train dropped us off at Amsterdam Centraal Station.

I did a bit of research before our trip and found that with a pass called the “Holland Pass” we could see a variety of tourist attractions with one flat fee. I bought them back at home and so almost immediately upon arrival we got right down to working our way through our must see list.Amsterdam is a city full of canals, the first of which greeted us immediately upon emerging from the train station. Despite having cruddy weather, we decided that a canal cruise would be a good way to get a feel for the layout of the city.  The big take away for me, was that the name “Amsterdam” came from the fact that the city developed at the point of a dam on the Amstel river. Well, duh right? I also quite brilliantly figured out that Amstel beer is from Amsterdam. Lightbulbs are going off left and right in this crazy city.After cruising around the city, we made our way on foot to the Jordaan neighborhood to find the Anne Frank House. Tickets go on sale two months in advance and sell out quickly. We had tickets for the 2:15-2:30 window, which gave us just enough time to grab a beer and drop in to a tulip shop (bulbs) in the neighborhood.

Anne Frank Huis

The Anne Frank “Huis” is a small somber museum at the site of the annex where Anne, her family and four others hid for four years during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. It is a very well laid out and thoughtful museum that weaves you through a labyrinth of rooms beginning with the spice & pectin business that Anne’s father set up after relocating from Germany. I enjoyed it very much. I believe we can learn a lot from the atrocities of history and this museum really punctuates that point. Kai and I read the book together last year, which made it that much more meaningful.After the Anne Frank museum we wandered around the Jordaan neighborhood a bit, stopping to have a few pastries along the way.Most things close by 5 pm (1700). One exception is the ultra-touristy Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. Jeff wasn’t interested, so he walked back to the train and set off for the hotel. I “got” to go look at wax celebrities with the kids. I recognized some of them. LOL. Kiki especially loved posing with the actual-sized super life-like figures.On the way back to the train station, we stumbled upon a colossal CHEAP clothing store, Primark. The kids enjoyed wandering, trying on clothes and spending some of their Euros.  After shopping, we stopped for a slice of pizza outside the train station, journeyed back to the hotel and delightfully found Jeff snoozing with all four of our suitcases nearby.

Goede nacht!

Day 1 Summer 2018: Travel to Amsterdam

I thought summer break would never arrive this year but here we are, on the way out of town to visit four countries in western Europe.

Our first stop is the Netherlands, which we will get to via Ireland. The last two times that flew across the Atlantic, we flew Icelandair via Reykjavik to continental Europe. It seems that perhaps Ireland was paying attention and didn’t want to miss out on the opportunities ty to ferry Americans to and from Europe. Aer Lingus started their direct flight service from Seattle to Dublin just about a month ago, on May 18. Like Icelandair, Aer Lingus also offers plenty of connections to points all over Europe.

Unfortunately, perhaps because their Seattle route is so new, they have not worked out all of the logistics to the point in of precision. What was supposed to be a roughly one hour window to get us off of one plane, through the passport check and onto another plane dwindled to about 25 minutes because of a late departure. Despite our nerves, Aer Lingus handled the transition beautifully, having “connecting agents” sift us out from the crowd and escort us through the airport, through the immigration check point and onto a bus to our gate. Which just happened to be the plane that was literally right next to the plane from which we had just disembarked.

The flight was lovely, just 90 minutes more from Dublin. What we didn’t realize at the time is that our luggage had other plans.

Upon arrival at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, after watching our flight mates collect their gear, we ended up in the baggage office filling out lost luggage paperwork. Since there wasn’t much we could do beyond that, and we had been traveling about 12 hours by now, we found a taxi and rode the 15 miles or so to Haarlem to check in to our cute little hotel: Boutiquehotel Straats.

It’s been a crazy day, but not as crazy as the slowest day at school.

Tomorrow, we’re off to Amsterdam (in yesterday’s clothes).

Day Eleven: New Hampshire & Vermont

This morning, after having a continental breakfast in the hotel, we loaded up the car (how are we going to get all of this stuff home!?) and set out for our longest driving day, so far.

The plan was to follow the Kancamagus Highway across the White Mountain National Forest in northern New Hampshire. However, Google Maps did not like that idea and kept re-routing us on the shortest most expedient route. I caught it a few times and I changed our course to a route that mostly went the way I had intended. All in all, it only took about three and a half hours to venture across the stem of Maine and the entire width of New Hampshire. (New Hampshire is 168 miles long and 90 miles wide at the widest point.)

Sugar house evaporating table

After crossing over into Vermont (which actually means “green mountain” in French), we stopped for lunch in St. Johnsbury followed by a quick run through the roadside “Sugar House Museum” and gift shop. Due to the season, the syrup evaporator was not running, but the sugar house did smell heavenly in a (breakfast sort of way). We loaded up on maple candies from the sample trays and set off to finish our days’ journey. Just an hour later, we had arrived in the capital city of Montpelier, our home for the night.

Jeff and “Lady Bear”

After checking into the hotel to rest for a bit, we decided to head out to see a few sights before dark.

East Montpelier is home to Bragg Farm and Sugar House. Again, because it is summer the sugar house was not in operation. We did watch a short video that explained the syruping process from collecting the sap, to the evaporation process and finally the bottling. There was a nice lady that answered all of our questions and explained the four different grades (light to dark) of maple syrup. We even got to sample all of the different grades. There are very strict rules regarding the production of pure maple syrup and maple syrup products and Vermonters are very proud of their maple products. It was an interesting experience. We came away with plenty of treats from the gift shop, as well.


Next we drove 30 minutes over to the town of Waterbury, the home of the main Ben & Jerry’s factory. We made it in time to catch one of the last factory tours of the evening.
 First, we learned about the founding of Ben & Jerry’s in Burlington, VT in 1978. Next, we got to see the production line produce hundreds of pints of Chunky Monkey ice cream. Last, we got to go to the flavor test kitchen where we got to sample a new flavor Salted Carmel Blondie – delicious!

 We couldn’t leave without a visit to the gift shop and, of course, ice cream for dinner from the scoop shop.

Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard

After polishing off our ice cream, we took a short walk past the factory to the “flavor graveyard” where they have gravestones paying homage to defunct flavors.

Tomorrow: More Vermont and then on to Canada!

Day Ten: Portland, Maine


Blueberry Pancakes

This morning we had breakfast at the iconic Becky’s Diner, once featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (although we didn’t know that
when we made plans to go there).

Peaks Island Ferry

After breakfast, we had just enough time to walk to the other end of town to catch a ferry to Peaks Island, an inhabited island just three miles from downtown Portland. It is one of the dozen or so “large” islands and several dozen “small” islands in Casco Bay. It is accessible by a 15 minute ferryride.  Although there are about 850 year round residents, the population more than doubles in the summer with vacationers.

 It is possible to walk the perimeter if the island to take in the beautiful views of the Casco Bay and the distant islands and lighthouse. But where’s the fun in that? Instead, we rented one of the many golf carts that can be seen crisscrossing the island.

We were able to visit all of the “top spots” recommended by the golf cart guy, including:


Jeff playong Cairn Jenga


a beach filled with cairns (piled up rock sculptures) and views of three different lighthouses,

 a trail through a swamp to a beaver pond/dam,

 a scenic road along the bay and a sandy beach dotted with sea glass (though not as fantastic as we can find at home) and mussel shells.


Building a cairn


Cairn Beach

Kiki LOVED riding around in the cart so much that I suggested that she take up golfing so that she can ride in a golf cart on a regular basis. When our time ran out, we extended another hour.  After turning in the cart, we had just enough time to use the restroom, fill up on (more) ice cream and then get back on the ferry (with 200 other people) back to downtown Portland. It was an interesting little place that reminded me very much of the little islands that I have visited near home (Blake, Lopez, Orcas, Vashon). Thanks for the recommendation, Vaughn Family.
When we got back to Portland, Jeff went back to the hotel to give he girls some pool time, while I set out to do some window shopping (alone time).

We reunited again for dinner in the hotel restaurant.


We found some whoopie pies!


Chocolate for Kiki


Chocolate Chip for Kai

After dinner, the girls and I decided that we needed to get ahold of one of the famous “whoopie pies” that we had heard were a “Maine treat.” The front desk suggested a take-out Italian restaurant for us to try just a few blocks from the hotel. Sweet success! We scored two traditional (chocolate cake with cream filling) and a chocolate chip whoopie pie for Kai.

We could sleep easy now for tomorrow we were off to New Hampshire and Vermont.

 Goodbye sweet salty ocean air. 😢

Day 9: Ogunquit to Portland, Maine


Marginal Way Footpath

After a quick continental breakfast at the hotel, we set out on foot to explore the Marginal Way Oceanview Path. The 1.25 mile footpath skirts the edge of the cliff between tiny Perkins Cove and the larger (yet still small) town of Ogunquit to the north. Although it was hot and humid, we really to enjoyed the expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean.


Ogunquit Beach


The big black clouds that were looming ahead released a downpour as soon as we reached Ogunquit, forcing us into another hasty restaurant choice. Caffe Prego, a little Italian restaurant, hit the spot and gave us reprieve from the rain. After the rain cleared up, we walked looped back around to our hotel and started our drive toward Portland, Maine.

I was curious about Kennebunkport knowing that the Bush family had a summer home there, so we meandered up the coast until we arrived in Kennebunkport. When I consulted TripAdvisor for points of interest, it suggested we take a scenic drive on Ocean Drive. As we were taking in the views, I remembered that I had read that the Bush Compound was viewable from the road somewhere in Kennebunkport. I suggested that Jeff pull over so I could look it up on the map. We just happened to pull over at the lookout point overlooking Walker Point where generations of the Bush family have spent their summers. It was pretty cool to get a peek into their lives.

Way Way Store

From Kennebunkport, we went further north to meet up with a colleague of Jeff’s that lives in Saco, Maine. We had a little time to spare, so we stopped by the Way Way Store to load up on “penny” candy (actually $6.95/lb.). The Way Way Store has been in Saco since 1927. It sells candy, ice cream and slightly used canoes. Cray cray.
In Saco we met up with Jeff’s work pal, Randy, and his lovely family. Jeff enjoyed catching up and we both enjoyed hearing about their recent trip to Europe. We got some great tips for things to around Portland. (Thanks to the Vaughn family!)


Portland waterfront


After arriving in Portland, we checked into the hotel. The kids and Jeff had some pool time while I tried to catch up on my blog. (I didn’t.)


Steamed lobster dinner


Clam chowder AND clam strips

In the evening, we walked into town to find Kai some “chowdah!”  Portland is the largest most populous city in Maine. It is said to have the most restaurants per capita of any city in the United States. For that reason, it was not difficult to stumble upon a restaurant with “chowder” in the title for yet another fantastic dinner. No dinner is complete without ice cream, so we went to the variety store for homemade ice cream to cap the night. I had “Maine Blueberry.” So good! *sigh*
Once we made it back to the hotel, we carried on with my children’s new HGTV addiction and watched several real estate flipping shows before finally pulling the plug on the TV around midnight to get a bit of rest.


Day Eight: Salem + Maine

This morning we drove 15 miles north to Salem, Massachusetts. Salem is most commonly known as the location of the witch trials of 1696. To prepare for the town we started reading Witches! The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem by Rosalyn Schanzer.

 As we drove into town, we stumbled upon the Salem Witch Museum, apparently Salem’s most popular witch museum. Although it was dated, it’s mannequin-like exhibits illustrated the facts we had learned from Schanzer’s book.

As we emerged from the museum, we came upon a surprise downpour. We quickly wandered through the town to find a restaurant to shelter us from the rain. After lunch, Jeff took Kiki to a haunted house (she begged to go!) while Kai and I explored further into town.

 Salem is a port town, that no doubt has some very interesting history, unfortunately it was all overshadowed by the witch trial events of 1696. Much of the town is very kitschy, dominated by modern day witch-types selling lots of crystals, herbs, velvet cloaks and the like. (I did not buy a crystal ball.)

Charter Street Burying Point


Part of the Salem with Trial Memorial

Kai and I stumbled upon the Salem Witch Trials Memorial ( next to Charter Street Burying Point. The memorial was erected to honor the 20 victims of the hysteria of this period and to remind us to not repeat the social injustices of the past.


Salem Whatf with Friendship

On the way out of town, we made a quick stop at the Salem maritime National Historic Site where I jumped out of the car and took a picture of the only three remaining wharves left out of the over 50 that lined the shore during the height of the shipping era.


House of Seven Gables

Not far down the shore we stumbled upon the House of Seven Gables, a 17th century ship captain’s home made famous by the 1851 Nathaniel Hawthorne romance novel of the same name. We skirted sound the fence and enjoyed the view from afar and then hit the road, bound for Maine.

A mere 70 miles north of Boston and we were in a the quaint town of Ogunquit, Maine. Ogunquit is an Abenaki word meaning “beautiful by the sea.”


Perkins Cove

After checking into our hotel and having a quick swim in the pool, we ventured into the tiny little community of Perkins Cove to find some dinner.


Lobster Roll and Seafood Chowder at the Lobster Shack

After filling up on lobster and chowder, we decided to take in a “cocktail cruise” on the local boat Finestkind. It was fabulous to cruise down the coast and look at some of the gigantic summer homes that dot the rocky Maine coast.


The girls are driving!

The girls got to go up to the bridge to drive the boat with the captain, while I stayed down below being reminded of how rough seas make me queasy. Luckily, I didn’t barf and we ended the day on a high note.

More of Maine to come.

Day Seven: Boston Part III 

After a nice long lie-in, paired with multiple episodes of The Real Estate Brothers, we hit Starbucks and then stopped hopped the T for a look at Cambridge and the Harvard campus.


John Harvard Statute

We got lucky and scored an excellent tour guide, Jake with “Hahvahd” tours ( @hahvahdtour). He showed us around campus and gave us some interesting facts on culture, history and traditions at Harvard. His commentary had the perfect blend of humor and history. If you ever find yourself in Cambridge, I highly recommend this hour long tour.


Shake Shack

After the tour we had a satisfying lunch at Shake Shack (@shakeshack). I had a black and white shake and a SmokeStack burger that was so delicious I might have to try to replicate it at home!


Memorial Hall Transcept

From lunch, we walked over to Harvard’s Memorial Hall, one of the most distinct building on campus. Jake had mentioned that it had the world’s largest collection of non-religious Tiffany glass. The building is in three segments. The northern portion, Annenburg Hall, flanked by walls of Tiffany glass, is a dining hall for Freshman. The southernmost portion, Sanders Theater, which seats 1166 and is known for its superior acoustics, has hosted many famous speakers yet is also a lecture hall for large entry level classes. We could only access the central hall, known as the Memorial Transept. It displays 28 white tablets commemorating the 136 Harvard men that died while fighting for the Union during the Civil War. Its large vaulted ceiling, walnut paneling, marble floors and gothic design are very reminiscent of Hogwarts.


Boston Tea Party Museum
Boston Tea Party Museum


After just scratching the surface at Harvard, we took the T two stops into Boston to see the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum. The Museum consists of two ships and interactive exhibit followed by a tea room and gift shop. It is staffed by costumed reenactors that made the experience come alive for all of us. Each of us were given a card that listed our name (the name of a real patriot) and how we contributed to the Revolution/Tea Party. After a brief introduction teaching us the events leading up to the Boston Tea Party, we were able to go on one of the ships for a tour and to toss some tea overboard. After the ship, our guide took us through an interactive exhibit that taught us about how the Boston Tea Party helped to spark the American Revolution. It was an excellent museum packed with information.


Seaweed Salad

After soaking in so many facts, we were all hungry so we got back on the T and rode over to Chinatown. We ducked into the first restaurant that we came upon, Montien, a Thai restaurant.


Make Way for Ducklings

After a light dinner, I wanted to see if we could find the Make Way For Ducklings statue in the Boston Public Garden, erected in honor of the book’s author Robert McCloskey. We found the statute and then wandered through the gardens visiting all of the sites that Mr. and Mrs. Mallard visited throughout the story, including looking at the infamous Swan boats. Kiki even came upon Mrs. mallard and her ducklings!

Our last stop of the day was the infamous George Washington statue on the west side of the park, which was conveniently located just a block away from the T stop which brought us back to our hotel in Cambridge.   We read Make Way for Ducklings and then went to bed.

George Washington Equestrian Statue


It’s been wicked pissah, Boston, but tomorrow we’re off to Salem to learn about the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

Day Six: Boston Part II

Day 6: Boston

We made all of the stops!

We set out today to finish the last two stops on the Freedom Trail. Both stops are on the same side of the river as our hotel, so we made a point of stopping at the playground (I saw from the train yesterday) so the girls could have some playtime. It was super hot even at ten o’clock in the morning, so the girls enjoyed skirting around the edges of the adjacent spray park, as well.
 We eventually found the signature red line of the Freedom Trail, so we followed it toward the Bunker Hill Monument, finding a popsicle truck on the route.
 Bunker Hill Monument is a 221-foot tall granite obelisk that was built to commemorate the Revolutionary War Battle of Bunker Hill, which took place in 1775. The monument has 294 steps to a viewpoint at the top.

Thankfully (really?), we were one degree from the NPS closing the monument due to the heat index. It was almost 90 degrees, but the ranger said it is typically 2 degrees warmer inside the monument. We made it to the top, although I did see my life flash before my eyes a few times. The only thing that keep me going was knowing that once I made it to the top, I could go back down again.


We followed up our tower climb with a visit to the accompanying museum across the street. I enjoyed the exhibits, including a battlefield diorama, but I also enjoyed that it was housed in the former Charlestown Public Library building.
From Bunker Hill, we followed the trail down to the Charlestown Navy Yard to see the USS Constitution.

Built in 1797, the USS Constitution, also referred to as “Old Ironsides,” is the world’s oldest commissioned war ship. That means the men and women that work aboard are active duty Navy sailors. Although it is currently in dry dock undergoing a two year renovation project, we were able to go aboard and look around the main deck.

There is a museum on the adjacent dock, unfortunately none of us had the patience to endure any museum time. We stopped in merely to use the head and get the girls some wicked naval tattoos.


Next, we walked down the pier to tour a World War II-era Destroyer, the USS Cassin Young followed by a quick lunch before we hailed a cab for a ride back to our hotel.

We watched HGTV for a few hours to unwind before taking a Duck Tour around Boston, including a short cruise on the Charles River.

After the Duck Tour, we took the T to the North End to try to find some Italian food for dinner.

 We took a stab in the dark and tried one of the first restaurants that we came upon, Fiorino. The lobby had a picture with the owner posing alongside Matt Damon (circa 1990-something), so it has to be good, right? Although Kiki refused to eat, Kai and I shared some delicious Chicken Saltimbuca while Jeff had Veal Parmigiana.

 For dessert, we tried to make a stop at the famous Mike’s Pastry for some cannoli. One look at the line (more like a mob) and we kept on down the block to Modern Pastry. We were able to find yummy Italian pastries for each of us to eat once we got back to the hotel.

It was another wicked good day in Boston.

Day Five: Boston

Day 5: Boston

Boston Cream!

After making a stop at Honey Dew Donuts we left the cape in our rear view mirror, bound for Boston.

Our room at Hotel Marlowe had a nice view of the Charles River

We were able to check into our Cambridge Hotel just before lunch. We unloaded our luggage, had a nice sit-down lunch and set out for the Freedom Trail!

The Freedom Trail is marked throughout Boston with a red brick line

The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile marked path that winds through Boston leading you to several historical sites. Our first stop was Boston Common, the oldest city park in the United States. During the Revolutionary War, the British used the area as an encampment.

Boston Common

Next up was the Massachusetts State House. Completed in 1798, and boasting a distinct gilded gold dome since 1874 Is the home of the state legislature and the office of the governor.

Massachusetts State House

One block away is the Park Street Church dating back to 1804.

Park Street Church

Adjacent to the church is the Granary Burying Ground one of Boston’s oldest cemeteries and the final resting place of many civil war patriots, including Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Paul Revere.

Paul Revere’s Grave

Our tour along the trail also included stops at:

King’s Chapel

Kings Chapel and Burying Ground – dating back to 1630, the burying ground is the oldest in the city of Boston. The adjoining chapel, completed in 1754, has an active Unitarian Congregation
Old South Meeting House – most famous for being the location where colonists met to organize the Boston Tea Party. It was the largest building in Boston at the time. Old State House – One of the oldest public buildings in the U.S., it was built, in 1713 and housed the state government until 1793

Old State House

Boston massacre site – directly in front of the Old State House, the site where British troops killed 5 civilians in 1770, fueling animosity toward Britain

Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall -built in 1742 to serve as a marketplace and meeting hall, it still serves as a marketplace most popular site for tourists in the city

Paul Revere House

Paul Revere House – built in 1680, occupied by Paul Revere from 1770-1800, the oldest house in downtown Boston

Old North Church

Old North Church – the site of the tower where the “one if by land, two if by sea” signal was sent in relation to the midnight ride of Paul Revere preceding the battles of Lexington and Concord.

I really enjoyed a demonstration of making drinking chocolate at Captain Jackson’s Colonial Chocolate adjacent to the church. There was also a fabulous printing press demonstration that I found particularly interesting because my great-grandfather was a printer in Worcester, Masachusetts. Apparently, printmaking was the second most popular profession (after farming) well into the 19th century.
Copps Hill Burying Ground – dating to 1659, the second oldest cemetery in Boston. It contains more than 1200 marked graves.

Some famous faces we saw along the way

Although we didn’t make it to all of the Freedom Trail sites, schlepping around the city in temperatures exceeding 80 degrees wore us out. We went back to the hotel for some much needed down time (in room happy hour, back to back episodes of Tiny House) followed by a light dinner and sleep.

Day Four: Chatham

Day Four: Chatham

We had a late start today, leaving the hotel after ten to get breakfast at IHOP in Hyannis. We followed up our meal with a rousing round of mini golf at Wild Animal Lagoon.

Wild Animal Lagoon Mini Golf

I wanted to see another lighthouse, so we drove down to Chatham on the “elbow” of the Cape. Chatham Light, established in 1808, was the second light to be built on Cape Cod. It was originally two towers, but one was moved north in 1923 to become Nauset Light. The adjacent home, originally constructed for the light keeper, now houses active duty Coast Guard personnel.

Chatham Lighthouse

Directly across the street is Chatham Light Beach. The parking lot only allowed us 30 minutes (perfect for me), so we walked out to the beach where I planted it in the sand and Jeff took the girls for a little beach stroll.

Monomoy Wildlife Refuge

South of the lighthouse and connected by a deceivingly tiny little road marked “no outlet” is Morris Island, part of which is part of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. Monomoy was established as a refuge for migratory birds in 1951, but boasts many kinds of wildlife, including horseshoe crab, deer, harbor seals, and gray seals. After crossing the small land bridge, the island opened up to a large residential area including two gated communities boasting large oceanfront homes with yachts anchored in adjacent Stage Harbor. We found a spot to park along the road to wonder down to the beach. On the ocean side of the road, we found an expansive salt water marsh, which was not conducive to walking. On the sheltered harbor side we found a sandy beach.

Sometimes you stumble upon the neatest things without ever expecting to find anything. As we wandered up to the sandy shore, Kiki discovered hundreds of tiny fiddler crabs. When they heard her coming, they all scuttled off to hide in the sea grass. It was quite a sight. We all enjoyed wading up the beach to watch more and more flee. The same beach had hundreds and hundreds of tiny little hermit crabs. Pretty neat.  

Fiddler Crab

After exploring the beach a while, we drove up to Main Street to find some sushi. The restaurant didn’t open until five, so we took some time to wander through the local shops until dinner. Bluefins Sushi & Sake bar did not disappoint. After dinner, we drove back to the hotel for a little unwinding at the pool. After a few hours of properly unwinding, we went into Hyannis in search of something “not sushi” for Kiki to eat.
 We were surprised that Hyannis had a pretty active nightlife. A lot of the shops were still open after 9 o’clock, allowing Kai to replace her blown out flip-flops and me to find an adorable little dress. Jeff found Kiki a hot dog, which she followed up with two slices of pizza. We closed out the night with some of the best ice cream in New England from Katie’s Homemade Ice Cream.

 Tomorrow we’re off to Boston!