May 9 and 10

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May 9

Our day began with a canal cruise through the older parts of the city. We sat in a glass-covered boat and it got quite warm. The guide had a quiet, monotonous voice and we all kept drifting off to sleep. We were surprised at how dirty Amsterdam is. There was trash, mostly cigarette butts, all over with a lot of debris floating in the canals. After the canal cruise, Tony and I walked down one of the main streets to find the famous flower market. We noticed that the Dutch truly are tall people, and everyone smokes. At the flower market they sold many varieties of tulip bulbs as well as grow-your-own marijuana kits.  After lunch we took another tour to see the countryside at Zaanse Schans. Bill and Jenny took the other available excursion to Volendam. Our bus broke down on the way, and we waited half an hour for a new bus. Then we were on our way again to an historic area that featured working windmills. We climbed very steep ladders to the top of the windmill where they grind paint pigments and then followed our guide to a cheese factory and a wooden shoe-making demonstration. Afterwards, we went to the gift shop to purchase some Dutch chocolate to take home. The entire Zaanse Schans site seemed quite congested with tourists to us, but the guide, a very tall Dutch woman, said it is usually much busier. We made our way through the crowds to get ice cream bars before it was time to board the bus to return to the boat. That evening we skipped the optional tour of Amsterdam’s Red Light District to finish packing and turn in early before our long trip home. We slept well, dreaming of one of the best trips we have ever taken.

May 10

During our bus ride to the airport the next morning we drove through a newer part of Amsterdam where we could see some very modern-looking buildings. At the airport Tony and Jenny worked hard to get our Value Added Tax refunded while I spent our remaining euros in the duty-free store. As we went through security with a large group of Americans, the agent spoke English to everyone ahead of me. When I stepped up to the counter, he switched to Dutch. I finally said that I do not speak Dutch, and he looked up at me in surprise. “You look very Dutch!” he said, “and I just assumed.” Maybe I have some Dutch genetic material lurking in my heritage. After I, too, cleared security, we boarded the plane and took off for home. I think we all wished we could have stayed on the boat for the return trip up the River Rhine.