Thursday, December 21, 2017

Our 2017 Christmas Letter

   Volume  XLIV                                                                                                                     December 25, 2017
                                                                               Christmas 2017
Did you hear about the new book on anti-gravity?  Nobody can put it down?  Me either. I guess. I’ll   have to come up with something else to write about in year number forty-four. How about a serious recommendation for a book I really couldn’t put down.  Find and read a copy of Dan Rather’s What Unites Us.  No matter your political bent it offers a hopeful look at the future while not shirking the current divisiveness cursing our body politic.  I was most impressed by his declaration that the rise of the social media have killed the corrective nature of “curated knowledge” in our society. He also talks about the false belief that democracy means “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”  All I can say is that education has never been more important than it is right now.    
Taken on balance 2017 has been for us rather better than we probably deserve. We’ve  noticed that the best way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement. Also on the good side we spent the first part of last year in Tucson and are anticipating doing the same this coming year.  The desert is therapeutic for our aches and pains and the escape from snow, below zero cold, and ice seems worth the rent investment.  We kept pretty close to home during the spring and summer of 2017 while making plans for a river cruise on the Rhine and a trip to Helsinki in late September.  The cruise took us from Basel, Switzerland through France and Germany, to Amsterdam.  You can track the whole trip at my blog   Pull it up.  I think you will enjoy it.
From  Amsterdam we flew on to David and Lotta’s in Helsinki--timing  it to coincide with the birthdays of both granddaughters. The photo below hows us and Lotta’s parents at dinner in their new house in a Helsinki suburb called Espoo. 

 It is big enough to have a spare room so we were able to bunk with them for the first time in our five visits.  Here are two year old Selma and her five year old sister Frida.  To say that we had a grand time visiting and spoiling the two girls is a true understatement. 

Our son David continues to be employed by Kone (the Finnish elevator and escalator company) and his wife has now gone back to work at YLE (Finnish Public Radio.)

 Meanwhile back in this country the Senate has just passed a new tax law.  Pardon my cynicism but did you ever notice that if you put “The” and “IRS” together It spells THEIRS?
In Iowa our daughter Amy and her family continue to fight the good fight. They are all still coming to grips with the passing of Todd’s dad.  He is clearly missed.  Todd continues to work long hours and Amy is doing her best to serve the needs of her small charges. Elementary teaching has never been easy, but now with continued emphasis on testing and the rise of self defeating and conflicting administrative rules it may be lurching toward impossibility.  To add insult to injury the new tax bill will eliminate deductions for a teacher’s out of pocket purchases to supplement instruction. Hooray! Punish the giver. Wouldn’t it be nice if the middle class were given a chance to prove that money can’t make us happy? 

Grandson TJ  has shifted his base from Des Moines  to Cedar Rapids to continue work on his Paramedic degree. Here he is reading to some of Amy’s students in her classroom.  Second grandson Mikel completed the main teen age rite of passage and joined the ranks of licensed drivers. He played a lot of baseball this summer and just last week got his first deer while hunting with his dad and TJ.  His career plans are still uncertain. We like the fact that his grades are staying good and he is continuing his study of Spanish.  
I wish it was all sunshine and roses, but the paths are not always smooth for old folks. I have recently been diagnosed with a form of arthritis called Gout. The fact that I share the affliction with the noted English King Henry VIII does not make it more pleasant.  I have literally lost my grip and that is not a good thing if you love golf as much as I do. Luckily modern medicine can treat it.  I don’t mind the pills, but having  beer put off limits is tough for this long time Guinness lover.  This affliction will not keep me from passing on some irony about taxes and the recent spate of high profile alpha males sent into harassment limbo.  “Can you tell the difference between a man and a tax free bond?”  Sure! The bond matures!  
My good wife of now fifty eight years, Jan, continues to be the rock of the family.  Her latest health  screenings show her to be cancer free.  This leaves her more energy to devote to forwarding the cause of women in AAUW.  We both work with the Friends of the Warren County Library and at the Warren County Historical Museum (Jim remains on the Board).   We are now looking forward to a quiet holiday. Thanks to Amy and our grandsons, we have our Christmas lights shining and a tree (yes still a real one) decorated. Some of our packages to Finland have been mailed. We wish to you and yours the warmth of family presence and the good health to enjoy all the benefits of the season.  Remember we will be in Tucson for January, February,  and most of March before returning back in Monmouth.  Give us a buzz if you will be visiting the area. We’d love to see you. 

Contact us always at      Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

How Should You Travel? Plane, Train, Boat, Car or Coach!

What's Your Pleasure?




or Coach

My wife and I have done a fair amount of traveling.  We have taken land based group coach tours in  Europe, Japan, and the USA.  We have done extended independent European jaunts by rail.  We have traveled on water through the Alaskan Inside Passage aboard a full sized ocean liner and  hugged the Costa Rican coast down to and through the Panama Canal on a small ship.  We have also experienced river cruises on the Nile, the Danube, and the Rhine.  

As we look back on them it is clear that travel options are influenced by your age, health. work, family status, personal preferences, and above all your budget.  We know that older travelers often have more time and disposable income to spend on creature comforts than a college student with a backpack and a full plate of education loans. On the other hand If you are young, single, and healthy you can consider travel options that may not be open to a seventy year old retiree with bad knees and a heart condition.

So what are some of the pros and cons of different travel strokes for different folks?  Think about each of these questions as you consider your travel plans for next year.
   How much money can you afford to spend?  Ship cruising is not cheap in comparison to most land or rail tours.  However, when looking at cost, remember that land tours may not cover all meals or as much sightseeing or tips. Road Scholar tours are an interesting exception and  whether land or sea they build in all gratuities in their base price. That can make a major difference in hidden cost.  Land itineraries will be also be booking you into multiple hotels and though they may be of apparent equal quality there will be differences in rooms, locations, services, and staff.  Developing your own itinerary can often be the cheapest and most exciting way to travel, but it does add more uncertainty into the mix. The rule here is to look carefully at what is included and what is not in a price because the extras can mount up rapidly and make the more expensive offer a better buy.   

2.How much uncertainty and stress are you prepared to deal with when you travel?  All other things equal a cruise will produce the least stress.  All your meals will generally be included and their quality will be reliably good. Once you reach your cabin it becomes your hotel and it travels with you not the other way around. There is no packing or unpacking until you leave. Twenty four hours a day for the next week or two you have a private space to retreat to if you need some quiet time or extra rest.  You can decline to go on stated excursions and stay on board to lounge on deck or in any of the public spaces.  Experienced service is available day and night and all  your additional needs can be charged on one account payable at the end of the trip.   No fuss, no muss, and limited bother.  This does take out some of the sense of adventure and exploration that travel ought to bring to your life, but our experience tells us that age is a primary determining factor in how much more “adventure” you are willing to tolerate.  We bought a rail pass in the 1960’s and spent an entire summer roaming Europe spontaneously.  It was a blast and we still talk about the night we arrived with no reservations for the first time in Paris in a blinding rain storm only to find the Metro shut down and taxi lines hours long. Today we fully realize that even the best and most costly travel arrangements can go south in a hurry, but that doesn’t mean that we are eager to pre-build in the tensions associated with searching for a hotel after  dark in a town where you don’t speak the local language.
.  How much space do you need to keep from going bonkers?  On a ship your cabin will be small, but it is yours and in addition you have plenty of deck and lounge space to roam.  On a train your seat will be fairly roomy and you can get up easily to traverse the aisles or go to the bathroom. Traveling from place to place on a coach tour is an extension of getting to your starting point on an airplane. You will spend time in a narrow aisled space with a group of other people many of whom you will not know. Your fellow traveler’s warts will be more visible and getting away from them more difficult.  A coach will offer you a more restricted view of the scenery with smaller windows.  You may also have to jockey each day for a window seat.  And finally a bathroom, if available, will be one step above a porta-poddy.

4. How much of a photographer are you?  In your own vehicle you can stop to take pictures wherever it moves you.  A coach tour or a train generally stops only at prescribed points.  In between you must take photos on the move.  From experience I can tell you there is no such thing as a decent picture taken out of the small tinted window of a moving bus.  A train at least has bigger windows and you can move to between the cars so you can access both sides.  A ship doesn’t stop at your command either, but it does moves at a stately speed and you can take excellent photos from the decks without the interference of windows or reflections. Don’t get me wrong. On a cruise you will still be taken by coach on extra excursions or to drop-off points, but your time spent in transit on a restricted space conveyance will seldom be as much as on a land based tour.

5.How tolerant are you of older or younger people?  Leaving aside the specific choice of a targeted tour for families or for special interests, it is clear that cruising attracts an older clientele. The average age on our most recent river cruises was sixty and above.  We even met some folks in their eighties who were still going strong, but only occasionally anyone under forty.  Indeed,  some cruise lines will not even accept passage for children under 12 or 14.   Land tours tend to attract younger people with more of them still working as opposed to being retired. Again you will probably find few children on the average coach tour.  There is, of course, no real exclusivity on a train and you will find yourself interacting with all ages from infants to the elderly.      

6.How much company do you want?  Land tours are generally going to be limited in size to what can be held in a coach. Ships of course vary immensely in size.  Large cruise ships may hold as many as 3000 passengers and since they may be spending more time on open water with not much to see, they will be equipped to entertain you on board. There will be live shows,  movies,  casinos, swimming pools, climbing walls, saunas, fitness programs, educational and craft sessions, along with a wide variety of restaurants and food choices. Know that this kind of ship is like a small floating city and you will not get to know very many people while on board. There will often be already formed groups who are traveling and eating together. A solo traveler or couple you may feel more out of place on a large ship.  If anonymity is your bag, then definitely choose the megaliner.  A small coastal ship or  river cruise vessel will typically hold no more than 150 passengers and some canal tours may go as low as 10 to 20.  If you are the gregarious sort, you will definitely get to know more of your fellow passengers on the smaller ship or land tours.
   What other differences are there between a small and large ship?  Sailing on a river boat involves no worry about sea sickness or waves. You need not worry about cabin position on the ship.  Every movement is smooth; there is virtually no engine sound, and for the most part you will not even know you are moving.   On our Costa Rican Panama Canal trip in a small boat we did have some open ocean crossings and there was a night or two when we rocked and rolled a bit.   Other than that minor qualm, a small ship has the advantage of being able to port in smaller less crowded harbors or even anchor off shore while you have a snorkel or swim.  The larger ships must have bigger and often more crowded deep water anchors.  A further point about smaller ships is that there will be little difference on a given route in the general layout of a ship between competing cruise lines.  Most of the boats look pretty much the same. Their drafts must remain shallow and they all must fit in the locks that occur on a lot of the rivers.  They also must fit together for the double docking that must occur at many of the more popular sites. Going along with the size component is the simple fact that river cruise companies sell the destinations where you dock and not the entertainment opportunities on board while traveling. On a river cruise you can expect preparatory travel lectures, a small library, and a piano player in the cocktail lounge, but little other on board entertainment.

8. What are your food requirements or preferences?  On a ship, you will get elaborate, high quality, consistent food (and probably more of it than is good for you).   A land based tour is susceptible to more variation in quality and service as you will have most meals in different cities, different restaurants, served by different staff, and cooked by different chefs.  This also means that if you have special dietary requirements, you have a better chance of getting them served if you are eating in the same place most of the time.  Smaller ships generally accommodate everyone in one sitting in the dining room. Breakfast and lunch are often buffet style.  Dinner is served and more formal.  You will need to arrive at the stated time.  None of the three river cruises we have been on had assigned table spots or took reservations for tables. None had tables smaller than four or larger than eight.  Food on a train can be markedly inconsistent ranging from excellent to disgusting.  Coach tours will confine themselves to supplying you with snacks and water.       

9.What kind of service to you desire or require? On board a ship you will get to know and can count on young multi-lingual staff who will speak good English and will seem eager to assist at every turn.  Yes, they do want a tip at the end, but whether in the dining room, bar, or cabins the staff always performed admirably on all three of our cruises.   Again the land based tour will probably have more variations in service as you change hotels and restaurants. Most land tours will have at least one guide who travels with you and we have always found those individuals to be helpful and knowledgeable.  

10.  Most tour companies today, whether on land or sea, offer knowledgeable local guides when needed and accompanying travel directors.  If problems develop you will generally receive excellent help from these folks..  

I hope this discussion has helped you as you consider that next trip.  Let me know if I have missed a point or if you think I have unfairly characterized some of my points.   Happy traveling no matter what conveyance you use.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Five Entertaining Books for the Theatre Enthusiast This Christmas

A few weeks ago The Chicago Tribune had an article about gifts for theatre enthusiasts and I thought it might be helpful to add a few titles from my own list of entertaining mysteries with a theatrical bent. The first four feature some involvement with Shakespeare.   
  1. Let’s start with an all time absolute classic. Give your friend a copy of Josephine Tey’s 1951 The Daughter of Time.  It will suck you into “Richard III” as an ill detective seeks to solve the mystery of the murder of the young Princes right from his hospital bed.
  2. If your recipient likes stories of with a bit more color, adventure and romance, you might try gifting a different take on “Shakespeare In Love” with Faye Kellerman’s 1989 The Quality of Mercy.  It immerses you in the tale of a young Jewish girl out and about in Elizabethan England who meets up with none other than William S. himself.
  3. For lovers of the Bard’s birthplace, another classic that might make a good gift is Martha Grimess’ 1984 The Dirty Duck.  It has Superintendent Richard Jury discovering that Stratford-Upon Avon’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre’s stage is not the only place where murder is committed.  Only the truly initiated will know what the Dirty Duck refers to.    
  4. Is  the target of your gift  addicted to the East Coast? He or she might like to get his Shakespeare with a New Haven twist?  Consider sending William Martin’s 2003 Harvard Yard. Yes, it is another story of an undiscovered Shakespeare play, but this manuscript is buried in the bowels of our most eminent university’s library.  It will send the reader on a sweeping historical trip all the way from John Harvard’s journey to the colonies to Boston in the 1960’s.
  5. My final pick takes you away from Shakespeare and is more of an author recommendation. It will appeal to someone who loves London theatre and also relishes quirky sly English humor.  Give this person one or two of Christopher Fowler’s delightful series of mysteries,  which feature the lead detectives of the Peculiar Crimes Unit Arthur Bryant and John May.   Mr. Fowler knows London’s history like the back of his hand and 2003’s Full Dark House  takes you whirling back and forth from a present day murder to another one that occurred in a WWII London Theatre.   In 2011’s Memory of Blood the Unit takes on a murder in a locked room attended only by a puppet of Mr. Punch on the floor. Seventy-seven Clocks features a good deal of Gilbert and Sullivan lore along with a lot about the Savoy Theatre.  
I think all of these titles are still in print in some form or on Kindle.  Go to Ebay or Amazon and you will still have time to get them shipped to a theatre friend before the holidays are on you. Or you might want one or two for yourself.  Let me know if you want a longer list of books with theatre settings.  I’ll be happy to send it to you. 
Jim De Young

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Six Ways to Save Some Money on a River Cruise

River cruises are not cheap, yet my wife and I remain convinced (having just returned from a week on the Rhine) that taking your hotel with you and not having to unpack as you visit a whole series of fascinating ports of call is worth the extra dollars.  On the other hand, if your budget is not endless, you may be interested in keeping your costs as close to the minimum as possible.  Here are six simple suggestions for doing just that.

  1. Food on cruises is included, almost endless, and pretty uniformly excellent. Make all the meals they provide and resist eating in those neat little restaurants on shore no matter how appealing they might be.
  2. Beer and house wines are included at meals. You could even have champagne at breakfast if you wanted it.  Hard liquor and special wines are not included.  Nor are cocktails not at meal times.  Liquor bills can skyrocket on you easily.  Keep your bar tab under control.    
  3. Remember that a cruise ship is a floating hotel and it will have room service and even a refrigerator in your cabin filled with drinks and goodies. That luxury comes at a premium price and also adds cost to your tips.       
  4. Try to make do with the provided excursions. We did take one extra, but you can have a great time without doing the extra trips.  You can also choose an unguided jaunt when others are boarding a coach for an afternoon in another town.  We did that once too, and it turned out to be one of our most enjoyable experiences. And do not forget that a vacation is not supposed to exhaust you. There are times when your best option may be a nap or an afternoon in the lounge with a book.  
  5. Keep control of your souvenir and gift expenditures.  We have done a lot of traveling and all I can tell you is that a good deal of what you buy may end up in a box in the attic waiting for your kids to throw out.  If you need any souvenir Irish linen tea towels we have a drawer full—all like new.  
  6. A final way to save some money is to bite the bullet and book a lower priced cabin. There are no waves or seasick problems on a river boat so position on the ship is not critical.  All ship cabins, even the expensive ones, will be smaller than most hotel rooms.  Live with it.  Picture windows and balconies are lovely, but you need to remember that most of the time you are in your cabin, you are napping, changing clothes, taking a shower, or sleeping. These are not public performances; you are going to close the drapes anyway. When you wish a nice view you are only a few steps away from the lounges or the deck.  As a matter of fact we talked to two couples on our cruise who were not happy because they booked a more expensive balcony cabin and then found that when the boat was double parked their scenic view was a guy on another boat cutting his toenails.  Finally, if the weather is cool or rainy, you won’t be on your balcony anyway.        
We hope this might help you in making your choices.  

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Final Day in Amsterdam Museums and Bicycles

Here we are at the end of another European travel experience. I should begin by noting that booking an extra day or two at the beginning and end of your cruise is generally a win win if your finances can afford it. On the front end you are protecting against airline delays that might cause you to miss your boat. Second, an on time arrival gives you time to decompress from a long flight or to do some extra touring before you board your ship.  A day or two at the end allows for some extra sightseeing at your destination port plus a more relaxed trip to the airport for your flight home.

Our final day in Amsterdam started with a 9:00 AM entry ticket to the ultra-modern Van Gogh Museum.

There we re-visited the largest repository of Van Gogh paintings in the world.  They range from early drawings like this

to more familiar and highly colored work from his later periods.

A little after noon we left the museum and walked to the Amsterdam flat of some friends from our home town who were on an Associated Colleges of the Midwest  assignment during the fall semester.  They were living at the time in a long thin apartment that crawled along a third floor and was accessed by the ground floor entrance you can just see in the lower right of the photo below.    We had a typical Dutch repast with cheeses, sausage, crackers, bread, and veggies.  Oh, and did I mention wine.

Lots of good conversation about the benefits and challenges of living in a foreign land.

We didn't get back to our hotel until late afternoon and as we walked back from the tram stop along a major bike path, it did occur to me that I had not really commented on the bicycle bastion of the civilized world.  (Though Copenhagen may give Amsterdam a run for its money.)   Bicycles in the Netherlands come in infinite numbers and in all sizes and shapes.

Many have a rear slot for an extra rider.

Some prioritize infant comfort up front.

Then again it doesn't have to be an infant.


Yet when all is done, it is just the vast numbers of them that you remember.

Always be alert; they do not stop for pedestrians until they hit you. Our evening was completed by a nice dinner at a restaurant in one of the streets near the railroad station.

Early tomorrow morning we fly to Helsinki to spend some time with our son and his family who live there.

I hope you have enjoyed these posts that chronicle our trip down the Rhine. . If you have not done a cruise perhaps it will whet your appetite to try one.  If you have done this one, perhaps the daily posts will bring back some good memories.  You might also enjoy looking at my posts dealing with our Danube cruise from Budapest to Prague in 2015.  You can find those posts in the listings along the right side of the blog.

 Good night and a last look at Amsterdam as seen from our hotel window.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Rhine Cruise Day 8 Out of Dodge and into the Amsterdam Movenpick

The morning arrived.  We packed our PJ's and set our bags outside the door.  Then we headed upstairs for breakfast. Exiting the dining room we stopped at the cruise desk to check on any last minute bills.  All clear. 
The Movenpick Hotel, where we were booked for the next two nights. was perfectly visible from our ship. Promptly at 9:30 AM we boarded a coach for the three minute ride to the hotel.

At the check-in desk, of course, we were politely informed that no rooms were ready at that hour.  Luckily we knew the drill. No sense to kill the day sitting in the lobby waiting for a room to clear, so you check your bags and  get on with planning some more sightseeing. The hotel concierge desk came through immediately.  In about thirty minutes we had our bags checked, a public transport ticket, directions to the Rijksmuseum, and reservations for the next day to visit the Van Gogh Museum.  The No. 2 tram at the railway station would deposit us almost right to the door of the Riksmuseum.and off we went.

It had been some years since we had been there and we spent a delightful morning,  culminating with a tasty lunch in the museum cafe. Refreshed we then did some more gallery meandering. Old masters abound here in one of the finest galleries in all of Europe.

Some familiar from countless reproductions like Vermeer's Milkmaid

and some just plain delightful to look at.

While we were perusing this fine period pair,  I looked over my shoulder and 

there was a modern photoshoot going on near Rembrandt's famous Night Watch.

It was late afternoon by the time we got back to the hotel. Our room was waiting and our bags set just inside the door.  For an extra surprise we had not been there five minutes when the door opened and a couple waltzed in with their luggage. It seems they had just been assigned the same room. Lukily we were not in a state of dishabille and an emergency call sent the encroaching couple back down to the front desk to straighten things out. A few minutes later I decided I'd better go down personally and see that all was well. I stepped out of the room and for some reason thought I'd better try the door from the outside.  Yup, our original key card had stopped working. Leaving the wife on guard  I  headed for the elevator and quickly was able to get two new cards and a nice apology. With that I returned to the room. It was on the fifteenth floor and had a gorgeous view of the whole harbor and several parts of the city

 including our cruise ship that was still parked in its slip not far away and now loading up for a new trip upstream this time. .

River cruisers were not the only vessels in our view. These buggers are really big

Even bigger when you see them from the water level.

Total relaxation at last.  We settled for a nice dinner in the hotel dining room rather than trekking back downtown.

More Amsterdam tomorrow.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Rhine Cruise Day 7--Arrival in Amsterdam

By the morning of the seventh day the great god Avalon had created the world.  Oops, wrong book.  Let's adjust that to say that on the 7th morning Avalon's Tranquility II was safely birthed in Amsterdam for the formal day of our cruise.

It was grey and spitting rain as we proceeded down the quay to some smaller canal boats.They were covered so the rain was not an immediate issue,

 but photography through and amongst the dribbles produced some interesting effects.

Although the cloudy skies continued, shortly the rain diminished and the Amsterdam we remembered from our previous visits began to appear on all sides. Stately three and four story period buildings line the canals. Almost all are finely detailed and well kept.

We  motored  too fast past the famous Anne Frank House. All I got was a view of the canal. I hope you'll accept as a substitute two photos from our first visit to the house in 1963. At that time you just sort of walked in and wandered around; now it is a premier attraction that  needs reservations if you do not wish to wait in a long line.

We disembarked from our canal boat at a little dock near the Diamond Showrooms. We then had a choice to return by coach to the ship or walk with our guide. Since the rain had stopped we opted for the stroll and it did give us a better chance to know the city better.     

Our guide was eager to point out that when on the ground rather than the water you can stop a bit and savor the small scenes of local life. I like this shot because it does seem to capture the pace of  social interaction in so much of Europe.  The open air, good company, a cafe, and a beer,  Proast!

  We also got some insight into the liberal social scene in the Netherlands..

On a more serious note, our guide was able to direct our attention to  many of the small plaques scattered about  the cobblestones that reminded us of those who did not survive the Nazi extermination of the Jews. 

We walked by the painter Rembrandt's house.  Wish we'd had time to enter. Maybe tomorrow. 

One of our last stops before getting back to the ship was at Dam Square--the proverbial heart of Amsterdam.  It is the site of the country's main monument to World War II

On one side of the square is the Royal Palace with its high cupola where rich citizens could watch for the many ships entering and leaving the harbor. The Palace dates to the 17th century. It was once occupied by Louis Napoleon brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was reclaimed for the Dutch monarchy in the 19th century.

                     At the very top of the tower is  the symbol of of the city--a sailing ship in all its glory.

From there just a short walk back to the ship and a hurried lunch as we were scheduled to take a coach tour  out to the countryside to see some operating windmills.  Unfortunately it started with a double whammy.   A few more squalls moved in and that was followed by a dead calm.  The mills were elegant, but no wind no turn.

Inside this mill  we had a lecture on how they were using it today to grind pigments for artist's paints rather than for grain.

Sorry still no wind. The massive stones were not turning.   We headed back from the mills to see some of the other buildings in the  historical village called  Zaanse Schans,  There was a nice street of restored farm cottages. 


And not far along was the sign for that place no good historic Dutch village can be without--a Klompenmakerij  or a wooden shoe factory. 

  Almost immediately my wife and I we were reminded of our teaching stint at Hope College in good old Holland, Michigan some fifty years ago where Klompen dancing, wearing wooden shoes, and sweeping the streets were a part of the yearly Tulip Festival. The entrance to the factory took you first through a narrow hallway museum that showed  you various types of wooden shoes through history.

They even had a sequined version made specially for Michael Jackson

We rounded a corner and in the little factory proper we saw more sample shoes and the machinery used to make them.  Our young docent fastened some semi-formed blanks onto the old machines and flipped a switch.  

In a twinkling amid flying wood chips there appeared a wearable shoe.

          Today, the finished product is sanded smooth, painted, and decorated for the tourist trade.

By the time we fought our way out of the crowded  souvenir shop that took up the rest o the building, we were ready to head back to the parking lot and our coach. Had the weather been better this might have been a more satisfying excursion. It was pretty and the houses had charm, yet when all was said and done it didn't quite make it as an authentic trip into the countryside. So be warned that extra trips off your cruise ship are pricey and may be focused on getting more of your money through shopping than on their educational value.

Wait a minute.  A bit of a breeze has come up.  The mills are turning.  All is forgiven.

Back aboard we still had work to do. For the first time in seven days we had to get our suitcases packed.  They were to be picked up for transfer to our extra day hotel at  9:00AM  the following morning..

 Luckily it was a fine dinner with plenty of talk about the good times of the trip with a number of the folks that we had met during the week. Needless to say the wine flowed freely.  Too freely probably as I didn't seem to have taken any pictures.

Good night!  Watch!

Sorry had to sneak in a little inside joke.  Rembrandt now and forever.  More tomorrow.