Leave Aarhus late because of ice cream/Lars Jens Sandavolensen distraught over increase in windmill production taking energy out of the Earth's winds. Julie & Melissa trapped at home with no car. Need to eat. Stop at SportsCafe on way out of Aarhus, bodes foreign for the rest of trip. The entire sports cafe staff come out to explain that this is not really a cafe, but a sports betting place. Danes - you gotta love 'em. Suggest we go to the pizza kiosk next door. Saw first hand woman leaving baby in stroller outside.
On the motorveyen to Hamburg. Using her time wisely, Melissa has used the home computer to construct Danish language lessons. Willie does a great job navigating Hamburg. Stay at Best Western. Arguably the best decision of the trip since it supplied us with the booklet containing not only maps of the countries we would be seeing, but a listing of hotels throughout Europe (see Paris). Venture to a nice neighborhood German bar for food. Willie deftly orders off the German menu from the no English speaking waitress/bartender. Locals pleasantly surprised to see Americans. Runs to bank before dinner is served to get Deutschmarks as its a cash only establishment. Great meal and beers for $30.
Quick tour of city/Elbe River/Rat House. Setting up for a big festival. Looks like the architecture students are having a "build a building" contest near the river. It's not enough to make us stay so we get on the road again. Spy Peter (the downstairs neighbor) in his tiny Morris Minor in Hamburg. Realize he's following us, we get on the road to Amsterdam. Stopping in Onsnobruck, Germany for lunch. Can't quite describe the type of hip-euro cuisine but it was "fresh and good".
Willie expertly drives the Autobahn and then immediately enters Holland's Traffic Circle from Hell. Those Amsterdamers are crazy drivers (also see Paris); "Maybe a little too much time in the coffee shops," Willlie says as we go around for the third time. Make it to the Hotel Scherman across from Amsterdam's beautiful train station. Steep, narrow winding stairs up to the fifth floor bother Julie. Junkies outside bother everyone. Are reminded of Niels' top floor hotel room in Paris which had iron bars covering the windows and also displayed the sign "In case of fire, do not panic". Julie claims she has respiratory problems and at 5pm on Saturday in a crowded tourist city hosting a marathon we are determined to find another. Willie and Julie walk to the Tourist Bureau in the train station. Melissa stays to watch car. Peter drives by a couple of times but is thrown off by the hotel switch. Stay at the Apple Hotel in the museum district. Julie handles the steep stairs up to the third floor. As it turns out the Dutch tax property by the width so these are a rather normal occurrence. Even though the shower makes strange draining noises, our room has a quaint balcony. Quite a haven for smokers. And those wishing to catch a glimpse of puking tourists below.
Looking at the map and finding the traffic circle from hell, we are inspired to leave the car parked and maneuver the city's mass transit system which mainly consists of Trams running on rails through the city streets. (Willie insists and waves them to "Go around!" anytime we've blocked their path.) Buy a two day pass and get off at a busy stop. Stumble on Liedesplein or heaven. It's a cobblestone walking only narrow streets with restaurant after bar after coffee shop after restaurant after etc. After a good 30 minutes, we settle for Mykonos, Greek food. Free shot of ouzo. Willie's happy.
Pick up a Boom Chicago brochure which tells us where it's at. This is put out by former Second City sketch comedy members that enjoyed Amsterdam so much they decided to stay and perform, have now moved into their own space, publish a monthly newsletter and have a tv deal in the works. (It's the old heard it a million times "moved to Amsterdam, started a comedy troup, got a newsletter, a website and a tv deal get rich quick thing"). Arguably the second best brochure we've picked up to date.
Take the tram to heaven and stumble upon the Marathon. We're in time to see the race start. It's interesting to watch how the Dutch prepare for these types of events. They build a stage and then give a Brazilian aerobics instructor a microphone. For a good ten minutes, he pumps them up to some euro-techno music. Occasionally you'd hear snippets of English "You are soooo talented!" was our personal favorite. Kinda stuck with us throughout the trip. Go to Rookies' Coffee Shop and buy java for about $4. Julie inquires about purchasing a menu for an old work buddy. Nope, they only have one. Seems all the coffee shops have their own pcs now. Ah, the good old days.
Visit Anne Frank's house. Looks nice from the outside. (Line too long to wait.) From there we walk to the Flea Market. Melissa purchases an old map of Europe to frame our trip. Stumble upon another square. You've never seen so many people! And canals. Eat there at the Cafe Luxembourg. Watch girls sing and play the accordion.
Realize not only do the Dutch like ugly dogs but they take them everywhere. Of course Peter drives by a few times. Isn't he supposed to be studying? Make it to the RijksMuseum to see it close. Buy postcards of Night Watchman. Go to Red Light district. Maybe we could have spent more quality family time enjoying the hookers in the window, live sex shows, and shop after shop of pornography if it didn't smell so bad. We choose good wine and food and quickly trammed it to an Argentinean restaurant back at heaven. What is that sauce on the table?
Ending our stay in Amsterdam we feel compelled to tell all those Danes and Brits who asked "Why are you going to Amsterdam?" this "If you have to ask you will never figure it out."
Drive to Paris. Antwerpen traffic jam, lotsa trucks. What looks so easy on the map isn't. Where the hell are we going? Melissa throws the "Bad Paris" map on floor of car. Twice. With Julie's direction we finally get to the Opera and find way.
Paris in and of itself is a Traffic Circle from Hell. Willie uses his years of driving skills to cut off green cars the same color as the lovely thank you ASJ/Europcar Peugeot 406. Later we find this philosophy is practiced by most Europeans. Hotel located on Rue de Ancient Comedy. No stairs this time. Window opens out to a small garden which is in the process of being painted and also happens to be the middle of the lobby. Of course this is not an issue for a true nicotine addict. Taking off for Melissa's first walk on the Seine, we spy Peter's car smushed into a parking place. Poor Peter trying to keep up.
Buy two day Metro and bus pass. Julie's first subway ride to the Tour de Eiffel. Being the wusses that we are we made it to the 2nd level only. Of course it was very smoggy and going higher would have accomplished nothing. So we say. Started walking and saw Invalides and a guy on the street. Went to Rodin's Musee and husset and saw Il Penser and the guy from the street. He's a Mexican from Whittier, CA so we took each others pictures. Took Metro to Champs d'Elysees and then a bussen to l'Arc de Triumphe. Reenacted the kiss with Melissa directing and striving for perfection. Realize the French have dogs almost as well behaved as the Dane kids. Lunch at snooty sidewalk cafe - watching a commercial being filmed. Begins to rain so we go underground. Get off Metro. Melissa & Willie split up from Julie. Plan to meet back at the hotel in 15. All get lost. Brie and wine in the room. Melissa's happy. Believe Peter rappelled off side of building (car on back). Go to Art O'Leary's Irish pub for a couple of bieres and a soccer game. Notice the French always serve beer with a glass that coordinates with the label of beer you're drinking. Meet unemployed actor, Vincent. Julie knows where he works, says she loves their Skinny Cowboy jeans. Of course, they don't call them that in Paris. Vietnamese food. Julie's happy.
Toured the Louvre, but we missed a couple of rooms. Stop by snooty Willi's Wine Bar. Not worth staying. Got to Department stores by bus. Julie got her French napkins from a store with a dome more ornate than the Louvre. Lunch at cafe de long business lunch. Pacific Perfume store via bus. Metro breaks down or that's what we gather as the French run from the station. Finally make it to the Salvador Dali exhibit in non tourist area (Montmartre), or so we thought. Deepest Metro station in the world, but well painted endless circular stairwell. Stop for a beer.
Head for the Tourist Trap boat trip on the Seine. Metro breaks down again, so we walk and bus it. Boat ride with Hoboken chicks and kids that are definitely not Danish. Silently mouth obscenities to video cam operators. My, those boats have bright lights. Americans admit to Julie that Paris in prettier than Cincinnati. Take a cab ride to Champs-Elysees. Peter's driving around looking for us. All those disguises. Eat at a sidewalk cafe next to American Ambassador and slut wife. (Actually says to French waiter "Come on admit it. You're having a good time!" Is certain that '94 was a great year for wine worldwide. Prefers his red wine chilled. Orders some of that crem bruleeeee.) Waiter arrives with wine. Prepares to do the schtick and holds it out to Willie. He touches to make sure it's not cold. Make it back just in time before Metro closes.
Leaving Paris much easier than arrival, but still no piece de la cake. Belgium - bland.
Couldn't find Aachen. Zentrum signs have all been removed and we just lost interest. Ate at a nice hotel under the trees with waiters that could not understand English. This time Julie didn't say the word Nazi. Lost Peter - Frankfurt or Dusseldorf, we don't know.
Construction and traffic on Autobahn slowed us down ,so we bailed at Porta Westfalica to look for a quaint German hotel in the Spa district. Found it. The WaldHotel, complete with Internet cafe and no check in. Family owned and operated. Old keys and nice rooms. Had a beer with the philosophizing waiter who was welcomed to America by a bird shitting on him. Our souls are still in Amsterdam. Went to village for Greek food - help! Three Americanis. Once again ouzo. Willie's happy, especially since Melissa figured out what these round signs with "30" in them mean. Wine on the balcony after dinner.
Walk in woods and see German squirrels are red. Go to Wez, grocery store, and get Gummi hamburgers, cigarettes and wine. Melissa cuts swath across Europe. Stopped for bratwursts (not Neuremborg) and cheesecake on way. Julie finally decides to admit she's Danish to the Dansk border patrol. They don't buy it but we arrive safely. And Tom thought Melissa would be the one to get the group arrested. Beat Peter home.