Not Exactly on the Road Again
As nearly everyone who read my motorcycle adventure blogs in the past knows, this year’s daily missives will not involve a motorcycle. As I sit here writing the words you’re reading, I’m in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, polishing off a modest but savory bottle of French Grenache-Merlot, and anxiously anticipating the next 17 days that will see Marilyn and me sail on a Viking Cruise Lines long ship on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. It’s an appropriate way to celebrate our 50th anniversary later this year (though I still think a small bouquet of grocery-store flowers and a box of candy could have covered it and saved enough money to buy a new motorcycle in the process).
We left Maggie Valley yesterday at 6 a.m., caught a noon flight from Charlotte to Atlanta then climbed aboard a Delta Airbus 330 at 3:30 for an eight-hour flight to Amsterdam. That put us on the ground again at 11:30. Atlanta time. Of course Amsterdam was 6 hours later, and the sunrise was spectacular when we landed there at 5:30 a.m., having somehow misplaced the time when I normally would have been sleeping. But that’s OK; we got two hours of non-restful REM-sleep on a cold, noisy plane and we’re young and vigorous so we can easily handle missing a night of battery charging sleep.
We hoped to check in at our hotel by 10 a.m. or so, but they didn’t have a room ready for us, so we had them store our four bulging, over-packed bags and took off for a five-mile round-trip walk through Amsterdam to visit one of the premier museums in Europe: The Vincent Van Gogh Museum. On the way there we strolled through two lovely parks dodging lithe runners and hard-body bicyclists who believe the parks’ paths belong to them. Actually, they do, and walkers are expected to remain off the asphalt where the fleet of wheel and foot reign supreme. Not knowing the rules, we nearly got run down several times before, with a little encouragement from vocal Sunday athletes, we figured out where our place was in the pedestrian pecking order. Despite the dangers, we had a wonderful walk but quickly using up the two-hours of what little battery charge we banked on the plane ride across the Atlantic.
The parts of Amsterdam through which we perambulated on our way to Vincent’s art emporium were striking in their quaintness, their charm, their history, and their (over) abundance of bicycles. EVERYBODY in Amsterdam, it seems, travels on two mostly non-motorized wheels. Thousands of bicycles, many of them equipped with jury-rigged child and infant carriers, are locked to bike racks, trees, buildings and each other on every block we covered. Amsterdam must have the fittest, healthiest residents of any city in Europe.
After a brief wait in the queue to buy our €44 museum tickets, we reveled in the chance to see the greatest, most complete collection of Van Gogh paintings and drawings anywhere in the world. Hundreds of priceless artwork hangs on the wall of this modern museum dedicated to one of the great art pioneers of the late 19th century. Despite only producing art for a period of 10 years before he shot himself in the chest in the course of a mental breakdown and died, Van Gogh influenced the art world during his lifetime and for more than a century afterward. His craftsmanship with a bold brush, his eye for striking color combinations and his largely plebeian subject matter secured his title as a master artist. Seeing the works during today’s three-hour visit convinced me his acclaim was and is well given and deserved. Despite admonitions by the museum authorities NOT to take pictures in the museum, I managed to surreptitiously digitally capture a few, two of which I offer here:
Tired after almost no sleep and a five-mile urban hike, we arrived back at the hotel to find our room ready except for missing cushions on the sofa and a non-working USB port that was my only hope of charging four electronic devices. I’m making do with what power remains on my MacBook Pro, Marilyn doesn’t really need her phone, her iPad has enough juice to read e-mail and check FaceBook and my phone is currently at the front desk being charged at a working USB port.
Tomorrow we board the long ship Skirnir for our long-awaited cruise through the European heartland. I’m looking forward to a good night’s rest and to the delights that lay in store during the next two weeks. I’ll try to keep everyone informed of the celebratory events marking a half-century with a trouper who deserved better.
The wine bottle is now empty as is my well of travel wisdom. I’m going to bed.
I can’t wait to get on the River.