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The Great Zo

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  1. Tuesday, July 16, 2019 Day 5: Old Birds and New Turbines This was my final day of wanderlusting my way around the Netherlands before the official TPR trip began. So, if you've been waiting for actual theme park content, it's coming soon. But first, one more day of sand dunes, wind turbines, gloomy skies, and airplanes. --- Despite the grey weather, I was in the mood to climb another dune, so I started the day in Katwijk -- a small coastal community just northwest of Leiden. Katwijk has easy access to an area of dunes that includes the second highest in the South Holland province -- a spot called Vlaggeduin. On the trail to Vlaggeduin, which is only about a 10-15 minute walk from easy public parking. Here's the side trail that heads up some stairs to the top of Vlaggeduin. The top is where that blue-and-white bunker-looking thing is. At the 117-foot tall summit. This is what mountain climbing looks like in the Netherlands. Vlaggeduin was originally thought to be the highest point in South Holland, but it's actually the second highest point. The highest point is ... in an amusement park? Yep. That's coming later. A pleasant view over the dunes to the North Sea. Katwijk is a coastal community -- much more quaint and relaxed than, say, Scheveningen. The white structure is the Katwijk lighthouse. Foreground: the Andreaskerk of Katwijk. Background: wind turbines far out in the sea. In the distance, you can see the skylines of Rotterdam... ...The Hague, at about 9 miles away... ...and Scheveningen. Yep, including a big Ferris wheel on a pier. I'm knot sure, but I think these are some very large ships. Katwijk isn't far from Schiphol, so there was plenty of plane traffic to watch. Here's a KLM A330 on its way in. Also enjoying the trail was this completely random collection of 10 dogs. --- After visiting the dunes of Katwijk, I drove well to the north for one more interesting look at the way water is controlled in the Netherlands. This observation tower is located along the Afsluitdijk -- a 20-mile long dam and causeway about 40 miles north of Amsterdam. The Afsluitdijk dam was built in the early 1930s as part of the Zuiderzee Works -- a huge system of dams, dikes, land reclamation, and water drainage projects in the northern part of the Netherlands. In this picture, the water to the left is the North Sea, and the water to the right is a lake called the IJsselmeer. Before the dam was built, the North Sea opened into the waters to the right -- an inlet originally known as the Zuiderzee. As with so many other places in the Netherlands, the inland areas along the Zuiderzee were prone to flooding. This dam essentially shut off the North Sea from the Zuiderzee, turning it into a freshwater lake, and reducing the risk of floods. Here's a view looking southwest, with the sea to the right, and the lake to the left. You can also see a statue of Cornelis Lely, the civil engineer who oversaw the Zuiderzee Works. A zoomed view of the above. The lake (IJsselmeer) averages a surface elevation of about 1 foot below sea level -- lower, of course, than the North Sea to the right. Looking northeast, with the sea to the left, and the lake to the right. In addition to being a huge flood control project, this is also an important road, connecting two otherwise separate regions of the Netherlands across a huge expanse of water. --- After crossing the Afsluitdijk, I continued onward to one of the smallest communities I would visit on the trip -- a place called Urk. This was the first thing I noticed upon arriving in Urk -- turbines after turbines after turbines. Most of these are part of the Windpark Noordoostpolder, one of the largest and most productive wind farms in the Netherlands. There are lots of turbines, and they are huge, and they loom on the horizon and move in unison in ways that look almost dystopian. But I can't keep talking about turbines forever, so why not tell you a bit about Urk? Urk was originally an island on the Zuiderzee / IJsselmeer, but during the middle part of the 20th century, the area surrounding Urk was reclaimed from the water. Reclaimed land in the Netherlands is known as a Polder, and this one is called the Noordoostpolder. While it connected Urk to the rest of the Netherlands physically, Urk retains some of its own characteristics from its days as an isolated island, and its residents even have their own distinct dialect of Dutch. Urk is a charming little waterfront community, one built on a history of maritime involvement. One key piece of evidence for that is the Urk Lighthouse. I managed to time my visit quite well, as the lighthouse was open for visitors! The vuurtoren is open! At a tower height of 61 feet (89 feet above water level) it's not a particularly tall lighthouse, but it's perfectly high enough for a good view over the flat landscape. I loved finding this inside the lighthouse museum -- a hand-written book of weather observations from the lighthouse keeper. The weather observation book was opened to a page from February 1953. Looks like observations were taken four times a day at 08, 12, 16, and 20 hours. Construction on the lighthouse tower began in 1844, so it's pretty old as far as lighthouses go. Watch your head on the way up. Just one more spiral staircase to the top. The fresnel lens at the top of the lighthouse. Stepping outside for some wide open views over Urk. A view of the beach to the north. A view of Urk to the east. A view of Urk's harbor to the south. Lots and lots of boats. Also, Shamu. A view southwest along the shore. A sailboat! More turbines! I don't think I've ever seen this many turbines before. Down from the lighthouse and walking through the Urk harbor. Here's a spot for some boat repair. Tons of boats in the harbor, many of which are likely for fishing, which is a large part of Urk's economy. On the plaza outside the Kerkje aan de Zee (Church on the Sea), which was built in 1786. As I mentioned before, Urk was once an island, and thus it's made up of ground that was always /naturally/ above sea level. It's since been connected to the mainland, but on reclaimed land that is largely at or below sea level. Thus, Urk remains the highest point on the Noordoostpolder, and in fact -- the highest point in the entire province of Flevoland. This totally nondescript spot in front of the Kerkje aan de Zee is the highest point in Flevoland, with an elevation of about 26 feet above sea level. That brings me to 3-out-of-12 for Dutch provincial high points. A nice way to end an early afternoon in Urk.
  2. Thanks for the comments! But to be honest, I wouldn't have been able to make it to even half of the places I wanted to go to without a car, at least not within a limited amount of time. The big cities are certainly accessible, but they were just one part of my itinerary. Part 5 (the last of the pre-TPR trip report segments) should be up early this coming week.
  3. I'm pretty sure this is it! Thanks for the info -- I was looking right at it and didn't even know.
  4. I spent the evening in a city called Leiden. Located about 10-15 miles northeast of The Hague, Leiden is the 20th largest city in the Netherlands, so it's considerably smaller than the last two big cities I visited on the trip. Leiden was a really pleasant place to walk around -- much more quiet and relaxed than any of the major downtowns, but just as scenic. I parked at a garage adjacent to the city's west gate, and then walked all the way through the city center to the east gate and back again. The whole thing was about 3 miles / 2 hours, followed by a stop for dinner on the way out. No hotel stories or pictures this time -- I stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn just outside of Leiden. Exciting, I know. Entering Leiden just like they did in the 1600s -- through the Morspoort. It slightly bothers me that this is just barely not quite centered correctly. Leiden is a city of canals, traditional Dutch architecture, and windmills. Here's one of two windmills in the city -- the Molen De Put. Here's how I described Leiden after visiting: all of Amsterdam's scenic canal atmosphere, and none of Amsterdam's "disgusting NYC plus weed" smells. The classic red-and-white Dutch window shutters. One of the trademarks you see around the country. A bridge over a boat near Leiden's main plaza. In the distance: the city's other windmill, the Molen De Valk. These old lift bridges are another common sight in Dutch cities. This one is called the Rembrandtbrug -- named after the famous painter, who was born in Leiden. Canals and boats and stuff. This bridge is a bit more modern... ...and this one is quite a bit older. This bridge -- the Koornbrug -- is maybe the most interesting in the city. It's not just a bridge -- there's a small pavilion / public space up on top. This gate kind of reminds me of the ones near the Binnenhof in The Hague. That gate leads to the Burcht -- one of Leiden's most important locations. The stairway leading up the hill to the Burcht. A little more about the Burcht -- a small castle-like fortification built near the city's geographic center, at the confluence of the Oude Rijn and the Nieuwe Rijn. The Burcht was built on a man-made mound that dates as far back as the 800s. The brick structure was built around 1150. The Burcht was never really used in any serious conflict, and it's been a public park since the 1600s. The inner courtyard of the Burcht has several large trees. You can climb a staircase to get to the upper level of the Burcht. It's one of the highest accessible spots in the very flat city, but because it's surrounded by trees, the views are mostly obstructed. A view southwest to Leiden's city hall. A view southeast to the Hooglandse Kerk, Leiden's largest church. An old/new contrast. On the right, the Marekirk, dating to the 17th century. On the left, one of the buildings of the University of Applied Sciences of Leiden. A flag in the wind. Heading east through the quiet streets of Leiden. In front of a small marina on the city's east end. The Schrijversbrug -- a road lift bridge just outside the east city gate. Leiden's east gate is called the Zijlpoort. Heading back west into the city. You can see the water level in the canal, but look at the marker on the wall. NAP (Normaal Amsterdams Peil) is essentially the Dutch equivalent of sea level -- meaning that the water level in the canal is probably a meter or two below. Walking past the Molen De Valk, which is also a windmill museum. Oh, just your usual evening canal excursion -- six guys and one minion. I'm sure this makes sense somehow. Stopping for dinner on the way out of Leiden at Oudt Leyden -- a Pannenkoekenhuys. Pannenkoeken is basically a Dutch culinary staple for tourists and locals alike. It's their take on a pancake, though it's probably more somewhere between a pancake and a crepe. They can be served flat (in which they'll cover your entire dinner plate and then some) or rolled up, and they can be topped or filled with just about anything. I went for the apple strudel pannenkoeken. It was like eating dessert for dinner. I'm on vacation. That's allowed. And that's it for the day!
  5. The Hague is the third-largest city in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. It's located very close to Rotterdam, and was an easy choice for my next place to visit. Here's what makes The Hague interesting -- while Amsterdam is well-known as the official capital of the Netherlands, almost all government functions are headquartered in The Hague instead. That includes the Dutch parliament (States General), the office of the King, and the Supreme Court -- in addition to most foreign embassies and many United Nations judicial functions. Den Haag -- as it is known in Dutch -- is a very dense city. To me, it felt like like sort of a blend of the modern downtown of Rotterdam and the older, classic architecture of Amsterdam. There's a bit of both! While The Hague was seriously damaged during World War II, many of the most important old buildings survived. Again, parking was no problem -- I found easy access to a garage not even a 10 minute walk from the historic city center. My walking tour of The Hague was about 6 miles, and a little over 4 hours long. A street scene in The Hague as my walking tour begins. The Dutch Coat of Arms on the gate... ...of the Paleis Noordeinde, the official working office of the King of the Netherlands. Outside of the Paleis Noordeinde, a statue of William of Orange. It's the oldest free-standing statue in The Hague. Spiraly-globe thing. Sorry, can't be historically/technically accurate with every caption. The Paleis Knueterdijk -- the home of the Dutch Council of State. The front of the Paleis Knueterdijk, which is just northwest of the Binnenhof. More foreshadowing! More HARDGAAN! Hout. Staal. Hardgaan. = Wood. Steel. Go fast. Approaching the Binnenhof -- the historic center of The Hague. This building across the water is the Mauritshuis -- a museum of Dutch paintings. Across the pond (the Hofvijver) is the Binnenhof, the large complex of government buildings at the center of the city. The Binnenhof was built primarily in the 1200s. It is very old. Across the Hofvijver, several other historic buildings -- including the Gevangenpoort, and in the distance, the tower of the Grote of Sint-Jacobskerk. Another view of the Binnenhof, and a contrast of the old and the new. The Hague's main business district is located very close to the city center, so modern skyscrapers and 13th century buildings can line up in the same photograph. On a plaza just west of the Binnenhof. This old medieval gate -- the Gevangenpoort -- was built in the 1400s. Another coat of arms above the Gevangenpoort. The Gevangenpoort is now a crime museum. Modern transportation! A monument to King William II -- and not the first statue of the guy that I'd come across. You may recall seeing a similar statue in my trip report segment from Luxembourg, where he was also the Grand Duke. Flags on the wall of the Hofvijver. Ooh look, a secret passage. Looking up! The Passage dates to the late 1800s -- a cornerstone inside the center area is engraved 1884. It was the first enclosed shopping plaza in the Netherlands. I like these open-air arcade passageway things, but I shouldn't act like they're all that special, because even Cleveland has one. You really don't have to walk far to get from the Binnenhof to the Passage to this very commercialized shopping area. This is why I came to The Hague -- to pimp up. The Nieuwe Kerk. Which was built in 1649. Because "new" in Europe isn't really new. Detail on the entrance of the Nieuwe Kerk. This is new-ish, though -- The Hague's city hall. It's a huge and very impressive building. Den Haag is the official name of the city. The Hague, in English, is actually a pretty poor translation. Looking up inside of The Hague's city hall. They had some kind of art / photography gallery on the main floor. The Hague's old city hall -- which appears at the end of this post -- is tiny. Sometimes, even in a historic city, you've gotta build new and large. This is an interesting statue. Not far from city hall is the former Netherlands Ministry of Justice building. Now headed back to the Binnenhof for a walk inside. This archway might date to 1899, but most of the buildings in the Binnenhof are far older. A walk through the main arch into the courtyard. The Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights) -- it looks like a church, but it's a big ceremonial government building. A golden statue of King William II atop the fountain. The walls of the inner courtyard of the Binnenhof. Arches and columns in the Binnenhof. Another view of the fountain. The King delivers a speech from the Ridderzaal once a year. The eastern gate on the way out of the Binnenhof. Though I couldn't tell you exactly where, the Dutch legislature (States General of the Netherlands) holds session inside the Binnenhof. Another view of the western Binnenhof gate from the other side. Heading west from the Binnenhof, the old and the new align. The Koninklijke Schouwburg -- the Royal Theater of The Hague. Obviously not a historic building, but this is the Supreme Court (Hoge Raad) of the Netherlands. Approaching the modern downtown area. A view of skyscrapers over a small canal. In the Koekamp park, there are deer. Lots of deer. Very peaceful deer. Deer of different colors. Deer with antlers. Koekamp is located very close to the Den Haag Centraal train station, so if you're stressed after a day of travel, you can always go walk through this park and watch a bunch of deer do absolutely nothing. Here's Den Haag Centraal -- the shorter of the two buildings. It's one of the /two/ main train stations in The Hague. Another stop on my Dutch food hall tour -- this is MingleMush. OK, I can't give good reviews to every place I go. Any food hall was going to be disappointing after Rotterdam's Markthal, but MingleMush was especially so. The assortment of vendors was decent, but half of them weren't open, and it was just past lunch time on a weekday. The place was not quite a ghost town, but it was not very busy. I had tacos. They were good, but not great. A fountain and some colorful art outside of MingleMush and Den Haag Centraal. More interesting art and modern buildings, as I make my way on a lengthy walk southeast from Den Haag Centraal. From here, I had to walk alongside this busy road on what I don't think was actually intended to be a sidewalk... ...but I reached an overlook platform with a view of The Hague's downtown core and the tracks heading into the train station. You'll notice the blue skies. I knew there would be a brief break in the clouds, and perhaps an opportunity to get a decent picture of the skyline that wasn't completely grey. I timed out my walking tour to get up to the overlook when the sun came out. It lasted all of 20 minutes. Looking east from the overlook. Another view of the train station, with one elevated platform. Many of these downtown buildings are Dutch federal government office buildings. The top of this building -- the Hoftoren -- is quite interesting. You could tell it was a busy station -- trains were coming in and out every couple of minutes. Leaving the viewing area and continuing southwest. Another view of downtown. Electrotechniek is a cool word. The tall building here is Het Strijkijzer (The Flatiron) -- or sometimes called de Haagse Toren (The Hague Tower). It has an observation deck up top, which was open six days a week. It was Monday, the one day it was not open. Oh well. The second main railway station in The Hague is Den Haag HS (Hollands Spoor). The two stations were built by competing companies. East-west lines terminate at Centraal Station, and north-south lines terminate here. Now heading north into a section of The Hague that looks a little more like Amsterdam. Canals and boats and bikes! I passed by an art/performance venue called The Grey Space. They had very weird things written on their five windows. I'm presuming they are supposed to be thoughtful, poetic, and artistic. I am posting all five of them because they amuse me. [gasps] [question everything] [poetry] [crushed] Heading further north. This part of The Hague had a lot of cultural diversity. It was interesting to walk through. Would you like to meet Haagse Harry? He's a character from a series of Dutch comic books. Haagse Harry has left us a gift. The Grote Markt, a busy outdoor dining area. Last stop in The Hague is the old city hall. This building dates to the 1500s. Most of the city hall functions have transferred over to the gigantic new building, but some ceremonial purposes are still held here.
  6. Monday, July 15, 2019 Day 4: The Deer of Den Haag, the Minions of Leiden My travels through the Netherlands continued in the western part of the country, with visits to The Hague and Leiden on the agenda. It was yet another day of almost completely cloudy, grey weather -- which sadly led me to cut out one of the planned destinations I had for this day of the trip. Scheveningen is the most popular beach resort in the Netherlands, complete with a huge hotels, tons of restaurants, miles of beachfront, and even a pier with a Ferris wheel. It's sort of the Dutch Santa Monica, and it's somewhere I'd been excited to go since I started planning things out. I just couldn't justify a half-day at the beach under such ugly weather (and photography) conditions. Scheveningen will remain high on my list of places to see on future European adventures. That still left me with another huge flood control project to visit, plus a major city and a smaller city, along with a slightly gentler pace than I'd been keeping the previous few days. --- On my way out of Rotterdam, my first destination was the Maeslantkering -- another huge Delta Works project. Rotterdam, as I mentioned in the last post, is a huge port city. The river that flows through Rotterdam -- the Nieuwe Maas -- continues west from downtown, eventually funneling into a large ship canal called the Nieuwe Waterweg. This waterway is usually completely open to the North Sea, and susceptible to flooding as far upstream as Rotterdam and beyond. How do you stop that from occurring? With a giant mechanical double-gate that can close off the entire waterway -- the Maeslantkering. How big is it? Each of the two gates is about 700 feet long. Together, they close off a canal over 1,200 feet wide. If you want to see an aerial view of what these two gates look like -- open and closed -- look here. Otherwise, enjoy my pictures from the ground after a quick visit outside the Maeslantkering visitor's center. Here's a panoramic shot of the northern Maeslantkering gate, taken from a small hill on the grounds of the visitor's center. If it's hard to get a sense of scale for just how big this is, check out the cars on the right side of the picture. Looking in a little closer at the hinge on the northern gate -- and you can see the southern gate behind it. When the water level rises to 3m above normal sea level, the two gate arms are floated and rotated out into the waterway. Once they're out in the canal, they are then filled with water, and they sink to the bottom of the canal -- closing off the waterway completely. The joints/hinges have a diameter of 10 meters, and they can move freely like any other type of ball-and-socket joint. Each gate weighs 6,800 tons. Obviously, there were no impediments to ship traffic during this relatively unremarkable July day. A view across the water to the southern gate. The Maeslantkering was built from 1991-1997. As best as I can tell, the Maeslantkering has only actually been closed /operationally/ twice -- during storms in November 2007 and January 2018. Obviously, the gates are tested more often than that. Some additional info about the Maeslantkering -- the largest movable storm surge barrier on the planet! A guy on a bike in the foreground, with a waterway and wind turbines in the background. This picture is very Dutch.
  7. Thank you! I didn't know anyone still dug into the old TRs, but it's appreciated. Oh, and based on that comment, you might enjoy the next TR segment. Should be up by the end of the weekend. I am perfectly OK with my trip reports being used as a means of distraction from actual boring real-world work.
  8. The various news articles have noted that before today's announcement, Apex tried -- unsuccessfully -- to find a buyer.
  9. That's exactly what I was hoping this place would somehow turn into. I guess it just wasn't going to happen, or a least not under the current ownership. I can't say that Indiana Beach was a great park, but it was a unique park, and honestly unlike any other I've visited. That counts for a lot. I'm sad I only went there once.
  10. I guess so! I've seen it elsewhere, too -- I almost stayed at a boat-turned-hotel in Gothenburg in 2016.
  11. I like Carowinds -- but if you're doing a solo trip with fast lane, even for a first time visitor, 7 hours should be enough. I presume you'll want to make time for photography, especially for Fury, but with the way they pump out trains even that should go pretty quickly. You'll want re-rides on Fury, Copperhead Strike, and Afterburn (and maybe Intimidator) but probably nothing else in the park. Plus, October gets you the fall colors in the mountains, and you know I'll vote for that.
  12. I arrived in Rotterdam in the mid-afternoon hours, driving into the center downtown after navigating my way around on the freeways and tunnels that circle the city. Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands, after Amsterdam. It's a very diverse and modern city, which is generally a good thing. The sad part is the realization of why Rotterdam is so modern compared to other big European cities -- it was almost completely destroyed by the Nazis during WWII. There isn't any good that can be said about that, but as the city was largely reconstructed in the post-WWII years, it has a much different feel than any of the other European cities I've visited. I'll share a little more about Rotterdam in the captions, but I want to go a little bit into the whole process of finding parking in European cities. It's one of the things I was worried about. In the US, every big city has easy access to a ton of giant parking garages, most of which are easy to find. As it turns out, Europe isn't much different. I do think that it would be hard to simply drive into a European city and hope to chance across a decent parking spot. Thankfully, I found it easy to plan out where I'd park ahead of time, sometimes even booking parking before arriving. Ultimately, I was able to drive right into (or to the edges of) any city I wanted to visit. As for the prices? They varied, but were generally similar to prices in the US. $15-$20 parking for a full day (or majority of a day) was common, but there were a few places where I parked for less than that. In Rotterdam, I parked in the Markthal parking garage, which is an underground garage right in the middle of downtown. Here's what it looks like! The spaces and lanes are certainly a little more narrow than in most garages in the US, but ultimately parking wasn't anything to fear at all. A very easy process in a very modern garage -- with the red/green lights above each space! The garage is under this building -- the Markthal (market hall), one of Rotterdam's main attractions. And oh, is it fantastic. By now you're getting used to my travel trademarks -- high points, beaches, airplanes, observation towers, city skylines, and (of course) theme parks. But I also love visiting food halls / market halls when I travel -- it's a trend that has grown so much in the past decade, and one that I really love. Rotterdam's Markthal is easily one of the best I've visited. First off, just look at the building! It's 131 feet tall, with residential/office space along the edges, but a giant hollowed-out middle that holds the main part of the hall. It's fairly new, too -- only opened in 2014. I skipped the wheel, but there's one of those if you're interested. The inside of Markthal -- with dozens of stalls and individual vendors, most (but not all) selling things to eat. There's a huge mural, designed by Arno Coenen, on the inside walls and the ceiling of the Markthal. It would be impossible to photograph the entire thing. You can enjoy the artwork while straining your neck as you wait for your dinner to be served! The huge windows on either end of the hall provide views out to the city. The parking garage and some other stores can be found down the escalators in the middle of the hall. You might even pass your time playing chess. I'm not sure how many vendors are inside of Markthal, but I'm guessing 25-35. Instead of one big meal, I tried a few different things -- croquettes, iberian ham, a falafel sandwich, and a coconut ball for dessert. Though Dutch was the language of choice, English was not a problem with any of the vendors, and many of them had signage up in English as well. I'm not sure that Markthal contains my favorite selection of vendors of any food hall I've been to -- although it's really close with a couple others -- but it's far and away the most interesting architecturally. Speaking of interesting buildings ... here's my hotel for the night. It's called the H2Otel. If this looks a bit strange for a hotel, yep, it is. The entire hotel was built out of five lash barges originally possessed by the US Army. They were parked in a canal in downtown Rotterdam and converted into a museum, and later into a hotel. This was another hotel that I booked just one day in advance, and was one of 2 or 3 I was seriously considering booking in Rotterdam. Ultimately, it was the least expensive of the three, but that's not why I chose it. It's a floating hotel! On a barge! Always go for the unique experience. A better view of the hotel from the side of the canal. The hotel has some parking spaces allotted in a nearby garage, but due to booking so late, they were already sold out. I just kept my car parked at the Markthal garage, which was only about a 7-8 minute walk from the hotel -- not bad except for the whole "suitcase on cobblestone streets" thing. Here's a view from my room -- looking out the porthole from my desk. So, after visiting Markthal and dropping things off in my hotel room, I set out for my walking tour of Rotterdam. It was a long one -- I estimate that I walked about 5 and a half miles in a few hours. One of the first things you notice in Rotterdam is the skyscrapers -- big, modern, artistic, colorful skyscrapers. Some really interesting building designs. It's a far cry from the historic look of central Amsterdam. This is the Witte Huis (White House) -- built in 1898, it was at one time the tallest skyscraper in Europe. It's one of the few buildings to survive the WWII attacks. Rotterdam is definitely near the top of the list for seeing weird architecture in Europe. The Cube Houses are one of the main attractions. These were designed by Piet Blom. Each cube is a residential living space. Wouldn't that be an odd place to live? Looking up through the cubes! Rotterdam's library is also interestingly designed. This looks a little more like classic Europe -- it's the Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk (St. Lawrence Church). It was built in the 1400s/1500s, and it's the only remaining structure from medieval Rotterdam. Somehow, it also survived the WWII bombings, though not without some damage that had to be repaired. Rotterdam's city hall (Stadhuis van Rotterdam) also survived the bombing. It's actually not all that old by European standards -- built in the 1910s. Would you like some of Rotterdam's finest Freshly-Backed Churros? Interesting buildings are just about everywhere in Rotterdam. Even the central station is awesome, with this bold, pointy design. These buildings near the central station are not only colorful, but quite reflective. Why use straight lines when you can be more creative? Even the churches are weird in Rotterdam -- this is Pauluskerk, located just south of the central station. This part of Rotterdam is very business-heavy, but with lots of restaurants and parkland that kept people milling around in the evening -- especially as the weather had improved quite a bit. This is a statue of Santa Claus holding a pine tree. At least, that's what sculptor Paul McCarthy wants us to believe. I am not so sure. A perusal of the internet indicates that there are tons of people questioning the proclivities of this version of Jolly Old Saint Nick. Use your imagination! Oh, Rotterdam. Interesting place. More random public art in Rotterdam! I got out of the roads and skyscrapers and took a walk through Het Park, a large green space in the southwestern section of central Rotterdam. I walked through Het Park so that I could get to my final destination of the day -- Euromast. I initially started thinking about doing a solo trip through the Netherlands while making my first visit to the country on the 2016 TPR trip. When the plans got serious, Euromast was the second destination I decided would be a must-visit. It's been on the agenda since the beginning! (the /first/ destination planned will come up on Day 5) Euromast, like most observation towers, is operated like an attraction -- with tickets, a gift shop, and your typical tourist trappings. Here's the entry area. Welkom! It's not just an observation tower -- there's also a restaurant, and even a hotel room! Heading up to the Panorama platform, 98 meters above the ground. If I ever get my Observation Tower Review* website off the ground, Euromast is going to rank very high. The main platform is completely open air, offering unobstructed views in all directions. The views themselves are awesome -- a major downtown, a huge port area, a river, a park, and the Dutch countryside beyond. It was inexpensive, it was uncrowded, and it was awesome. It even looks like it would be night photography friendly, with plenty of room to set up either full size tripods (on the ground) or mini tripods (on the railing). *not actually going to happen Looking west toward Delfshaven. Further west along the Nieuwe Maas -- a distributary river of the Rhine. A lock on a canal just below the Euromast. Looking north. The big building in the foreground is a hospital, and the northern end of downtown Rotterdam is just behind it. Several tall buildings in Rotterdam, near the central station. A wider view over downtown Rotterdam. Het Park is in the foreground. Like most European cities, Rotterdam was very walkable. That's good, because I walked all the way to the Euromast from downtown over there! The south end of downtown, and one particularly awesome bridge. The Erasmusbrug (Erasmus Bridge) is one of the main road connections through the south end of central Rotterdam. It was named after the famous philosopher -- Rotterdam's own Desiderius Erasmus. The Hotel New York is another famous old building in Rotterdam, built in what was once the office of Holland America Line. The SS Rotterdam, a ship built in 1959 for the Holland America Line, now in business as a luxury hotel. Boats on the river -- and the boat traffic is constant. When taken as a whole, the entire port area of Rotterdam (from downtown out through the seacoast) is the largest in all of Europe. Looking east up the Nieuwe Maas to another bridge. There's one more thing to see at the Euromast -- the Euroscoop. See the little cabin with windows going up the mast? It's a rotating observation vehicle that reaches a height of 185 meters -- quite a bit higher than the main observation platform. There's also narration that explains everything you're seeing. Normally, you'd think that something like this would be an upcharge, but this is Euromast, so it's included. Have I mentioned that Euromast is awesome? Here's a comparison of the views -- this picture of downtown is from the main observation level. This picture of downtown is from the top of the Euroscoop. It's a noticeable change in height. You do have to contend with shooting through glass, and since the cabin is rotating, shutter speed is also a concern. Still, for no additional cost, why not take the ride? Looking down at the main observation level from the top of the Euroscoop. The water is way, way down there. A quick picture of the Euromast restaurant level on the way out! I had about a 45-minute walk back to the hotel from Euromast, and followed the paths along the river to enjoy the views as the light began to fade. Boats and skyscrapers -- quite the scene. Getting closer to the Erasmusbrug. I really would have loved to do some night photography along the water, but the sun sets so darn late in Europe in the summer. I was already exhausted, and I don't think I could have stayed out another hour or two. So, as dusk began to fall, I returned to the H2Otel to finish out the night. Rotterdam is awesome, and I'd absolutely recommend it as a great #2 city to visit in the Netherlands after Amsterdam.
  13. Sunday, July 14, 2019 Day 3: Dunes, Dams, and Depraved Santas Now back in the Netherlands for the rest of the first phase of my trip, I headed west to the shoreline. I'd spend the first part of the day along the North Sea coast in the Zeeland province, visiting a small city, some large dunes, and one of the biggest flood control projects in the world. The second half of the day would be spent on a long walking tour through Rotterdam, one of the two large cities in the southwestern part of the Netherlands. I was excited to check out the amazing Markthal, and one of the first destinations I ever planned out for the trip: the Euromast. We'll start at the sea... Starting the morning on the pier in the small Dutch city of Vlissingen. Not-so-fun fact: the parking kiosks along the seaside road in Vlissingen do not take American credit cards. However, I found a nearby meter that accepted Euro coins! This was not exactly a "bring your sunscreen to the beach" type of day, but people were out enjoying their walks on the shoreline. Vlissingen is located where the Scheldt River flows into the North Sea, so it's a strategically important spot. Boat traffic is pretty busy in the waters off of Vlissingen. There's also a fortification near the pier -- the Keizersbolwerk! The Keizersbolwerk is quite old -- dating back to the 1500s. There's also a small museum within the casemates (De Kazematten). Vlissingen has a population of about 44,000 people, and all the architectural beauty you'd expect. The colorful buildings are awesome! A fair was set up in Vlissingen's main square! See, there's sorta-kinda theme park content in this post. It was early in the morning, so nothing was operating, but I got some pictures anyway. They had a Break Dance... ...a spot for a fully-licensed Avengers-themed Wipeout that didn't seem to exist... ...a Flying Jumbo, which is definitely not to be confused with Dumbo... ...a Thriller haunted dark ride, which may or may not be a credit... And the Virtual World 6D theater, which is disappointing only because they haven't yet upgraded to 7D. The background to the 6D theater ride is sure something to look at. Maybe if you're into robots... Anyway! Cannons along the harbor in Vlissingen. To anyone wondering if they'll have to plan ahead to find windmills on a vacation to the Netherlands: you don't. You can't go 5 kilometers without running into another one! Also, weird Dutch buildings. There will be more to come from Rotterdam. Some sections of the Dutch coastline are obvious vacation areas -- with tall condos/hotels along the shoreline. Vlissingen has a bit of that. I went a little further up the coast to Groot Valkenisse, a natural area with beaches and dunes and stuff -- you'll see in the coming pics. First, a big staircase, which certainly answers the question -- is there any real terrain in the stereotypically-flat Netherlands? The answer is yes! Here's the view down the other side of the stairway -- the beach of Groot Valkenisse on the North Sea. A view alongside the rather large dune looking north. So of course we're going to climb up there. There's a nice trail that runs the entire crest of the dune. Here's where the trail levels off at the dune's highest point. This is the summit of the Groot Valkenisse dune, and the highest point in the Zeeland province of the Netherlands. That's the second Dutch provincial high point of the trip! This dune reaches an elevation of 51 meters / 167 feet above the North Sea, so yeah, it's pretty high above the water. The view south. It's pretty impressive. Just wish the weather was a little better. The Netherlands may be famously pancake-flat, but this area does things differently. An odd view along the beach In beachfront areas in the Netherlands, you'll often see restaurants built right on the sand. Even on this chilly, windy, cloudy day, many of them appeared to be quite busy. Here's the view north from the high point. Even a few people actually getting in the water. More seaside trails and beachfront restaurants. This area would be absolutely beautiful -- and probably ridiculously crowded -- on a nice summer day. Some very large boats just off the coast. A comparison in size. Weird perspective tricks in this photo, as the large ship heads north past the beach. A little further up the coast is Westkapelle, another small seaside town. I climbed another dune, which I think is named Erica. I'm not sure why it's named Erica. The view from Erica! There's a Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue station here... ...and a pier... ...which was modestly busy with people fishing. A look over a pond on the other side of the dunes. This is the Vuurtoren 't Hoge Licht (Lighthouse High Light) in Westkapelle -- an old church tower that was turned into a lighthouse. It's open for visitors on certain days, but unfortunately, this was not one of those days. Dutch rooftop scenes (and another lighthouse) in Westkapelle. And, yep, another windmill. I'm pretty sure that nearly entire stretch of dunes from here to Vlissingen has hiking trails that run atop them. Sometimes, intentionally getting people in pictures can sort of add to the story of the day. These peoples' stories are various derivatives of "why is nothing biting?" The waterfront here isn't really a beach -- it's actually sort of a hard, bumpy, dark-colored rock. Fishing from the rocks as the waves crash in. Hope you and your bird friends enjoy the day. Last pic from Westkapelle is the Landingsmonument. "In memory of those of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines who died off these shores on 1st November 1944 whilst serving with landing craft of support squadron Eastern Flank." "4 Commando Brigade British Liberation Army Landed here on 1 Nov. 1944 to liberate the island" I left Westkapelle and did some more driving, heading further up the coast to de Baanjard -- a small community adjacent to both the North Sea and an inland body of water (Veerse Meer). On the calmer side, there were some novices... ...but out on the open waters, the kitesurfers were out in full force! So maybe this wasn't a classic beach day for most people... ...but the windy conditions were ideal for some! Off in the distance behind the kitesurfers is something I knew I wanted to see as soon as I planned to go to the Netherlands. But I'll get back to that in a minute. Wind energy of multiple types. Seriously, wind turbines are everywhere. (and I never did figure out what Bob is, so I should look) (ah, it's a campaign against drunk driving.) Another beach view... ...and more people out in the wind and cold (and yes, a little bit of rain). A distant view of that big huge group of kitesurfers from earlier. So, this is what I really wanted to see. It just looks like a big, strange bridge over the water, right? This is a section of the Oosterscheldekering -- the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier. The Oosterscheldekering is the largest of the Delta Works projects, the series of dams and surge barriers designed to protect the Netherlands from flooding. Here's a view from a little further north of a different section of the Oosterscheldekering. The whole point of the barrier is to keep the North Sea /out/ of the Netherlands. The Oosterscheldekering was officially opened in 1986. In normal conditions, the gates are open, but the whole thing can be shut off during storms to dam the North Sea from entering the protected areas behind. The 3-meter mark is an important one, as that's when all of the gates have to be completely shut. It looks like the sea was behaving properly while I was visiting. A closer view of one of the gates... ...and a look atop the bridge that crosses the northern segment of the Oosterscheldekering. When I was done seeing it, I got to drive over it. A little more info on the Oosterscheldekering! It's just such a massive project that I had to see for myself -- it really combines engineering, hydrology, oceanography, and weather all together. I find that kind of stuff fascinating.
  14. Ha! Well, maybe not, but this TR is going to have as many non-coaster segments as coaster segments! And it's really just a tiny little place, unremarkable by any other reason, but it was chosen since it's right at the tri-point of three of the countries who were most involved in the original version of the agreement. The piece of the Berlin Wall is not even 150 feet away from the plaza of flags. It's obviously meant as a point of comparison, and it's really effective. Yep. I don't think I'll ever have a shortage of places to go and things to see. Too bad, you're going to miss a lot of pictures of you. Always great to hear from you, Matt! Thanks for reading!
  15. The first half of the day was a whole bunch of small destinations. The second half of the day would focus on just one place -- a 3-hour 15-minute walking tour of Luxembourg City. I found easy parking in an underground garage just west of the city center, and then made my way into the capital. Here's the Pont Adolphe (Adolphe Bridge) -- one of the city's more recognizable landmarks. Across the bridge -- Luxembourg's Musée de la Banque (bank museum) is a cool old building. Road construction gets in the way of this shot, but this picture introduces how much parts of Luxembourg's street scene kind of look like Paris. Very similar architecture. I did come away thinking of Luxembourg like a mini-Paris, but with more terrain, and some old fortifications that are an integral part of the landscape of the city. Also, there are elephants. And this one seems to be into green energy. OK, I promised you a ride, and you're gonna get a ride! This is the City Skyliner, set up right in central Luxembourg. The City Skyliner, which is made by Mondial, is 81 meters / 266 feet tall. Pay no attention to the creepy looking storm cloud behind it. I think this is probably the first Mondial observation tower I've been on. It ran a pretty long cycle. The ride sign out front. They had a queue set up, but it was not overly busy, and no one was waiting for more than just the next cycle. I enjoyed my views over Luxembourg (and the Pont Adolphe) -- in part because I lucked out and found some sunlight in the breaks through the clouds. Across the bridge, this is the southern part of Luxembourg City, which I didn't get to explore. To the north of the tower, this is part of the main center of Luxembourg City. There's some modern development encroaching in... ...but overall, this is the most classic and tourist-centered part of the city. Off on the hill northeast of the city center, this is Luxembourg's newer business district, Kirchberg. A modern downtown, I suppose. I even got to do a bit of plane-spotting from the top of the tower, picking up this CargoLux 747-8 in its natural Luxembourgish habitat. The Cathedrale Notre Dame is Luxembourg's only cathedral, and it dates back to the 1600s. Looking down from the tower, this plaza holds the Monument of Remembrance (Monument du Souvenir), which is also known as... ...Gëlle Fra (Golden Lady). The monument is dedicated to soldiers from Luxembourg who were involved in WWI, WWII, and the Korean War. Just below the monument, marking one of the many fortified parts of the city, is the Place de la Constitution. From there, I got a quick lunch at a fast-casual build-a-bowl type place (not unlike you'd find here) and walked north into the city center... ...where I was shocked to find that in Luxembourg, Chi-Chi's still exists. On the Place d'Armes, one of the main squares of the city, I took in this view of the Cercle Municipal. Formerly a government building, it's now a convention / function facility. Behind me, a large municipal orchestral band played songs from famous Hollywood movies. A street scene in central Luxembourg city. Lots of shops, including some high-end retailers. Luxembourg's city hall (Hôtel de ville de Luxembourg) was undergoing some renovation. A large equestrian statue of William II, who was not only King of the Netherlands, but also the Grand Duke of Luxembourg! One thing that makes Luxembourg unique is that it's a Duchy -- and the head of state is a Grand Duke. This is the palace of the Grand Duke -- the Grand Ducal Palace (Palais grand-ducal). The coat of arms of Luxembourg on the Grand Ducal Palace. Luxembourg does have a democratic legislature -- the Chamber of Deputies. This is where they do their business. Leaving the central part of the city, I walked southeast toward the Cite Judiciaire, which is a complex of judicial buildings for the city of Luxembourg. I'm not sure what these vases are supposed to symbolize, but they are quite colorful. The Cite Judiciaire is situated on a high, narrow plateau called the Plateau Saint Esprit, many hundreds of feet above the rivers below. Though the Cite Judiciaire is mainly made up of modern buildings, it's built on top of an old citadel, with multiple levels and terraces -- each offering up different views. Below the Cite Judiciaire to the east is the Grund quarter of Luxembourg City. Looking northeast, with the Grund quarter below, and a steep cliff alongside to the left. Another view toward Kirchberg, the modern downtown area. One of Luxembourg's most important landmarks in Luxembourg City is the Bock casemates, which are just northeast of the Cite Judiciaire. Here's a distant view, with more to come later. A view over the steep cliff into the city. I thought the steep terrain helped give the city its character. I did not expect to find graffiti of one of the Toy Story squeeze toy aliens, but I did, so I'm sharing it. Here's the view from the bottom of the cliff, on a bridge over the Alzette River. The lighting wasn't great for this shot, but it's probably one of the city's most picturesque scenes. I am not sure what goes on in the Salon de Consommation. Perhaps it's exactly what I think it is? So, how do you get up and down from the Grund quarter to the rest of the city high above? See the tunnel up ahead? This tunnel -- which doubles as an art gallery -- leads to an elevator that was built into the cliffside. So no, I didn't have to walk up and down hundreds of feet of stairs. More views over the Grund from the Chemin de la Corniche. The Chemin de la Corniche is a road -- really, more of a walking path -- that hugs the cliffside above the Grund. It's basically like one long observation deck over the lower part of the city. It also offers up some great views over the Bock casemates! These outer fortifications are openly accessible, but the actual casemates -- the tunnels through the cliffside -- require a small admission fee. Unfortunately, due to time problems, I didn't actually go inside. I did get up on the outdoor viewing platforms atop the fortifications, enjoying some more views into the Grund. This is the Église Saint-Jean-du-Grund -- Church of Saint John in Grund. Looking down. Another view of the remarkable, very-very-very old architecture. ...and another look down at the Alzette. Yes, this stuff is historically important -- UNESCO said so. A view atop the bridge near the fortifications, and looking back into the city. That would finish up my tour of Luxembourg -- with a few spots I had to skip out on, but a feeling like I probably saw the best of the city. Luxembourg City isn't anywhere near as famous a destination as Paris or Amsterdam, but I really thought it was a neat place to visit. There's easily enough to do to spend a full day here -- probably two if you're into museums (which I am generally not). I left the casemates area, and walked back through the center of the city one more time. I got back to the parking garage to begin the long drive north, as I'd have to make it back to the Netherlands for the night. On my way north through Belgium, I passed the exit for Wavre. No stopping at Walibi for me this time. After a long drive, I arrived at my hotel in Ossendrecht, a city just over the Dutch border about 25 kilometers north of Antwerp. This was my spot for the night: the Grenshotel - Restaurant De Jonckheer. I neglected to take a picture of the front, so I'm borrowing this one from the hotel's website. Photo credit to them, not me. When I travel around the US, I plan things out on a map -- devising a route to visit certain places along the way from Point A to Point B. Since I have the flexibility to arrange my itinerary in any number of ways, I often do it on a day-by-day basis, which means that I frequently end up booking hotels just one night in advance. I find that pretty easy to do in the US, where you're never all that far from a freeway exit with a Hampton Inn or a Holiday Inn Express or a Country Inn & Suites. I also do a lot of opaque pricing, which gets me some cheap rates on decent hotels. So, I decided to try to apply the same strategy in Europe -- and it worked, but it was certainly more difficult. The biggest difference is that while chain hotels are absolutely everywhere in the US, that's not the case in Europe, especially in rural areas. It's much more common to find small, independent hotels, and that brings about some challenges. Examples: 1) Since chains are basically not a thing outside of the big cities, opaque pricing is also basically not a thing outside of the big cities. My only success with that was for a hotel in downtown Stockholm. 2) Most hotels noted that they were good with English, but I ran across a few that weren't. Some had websites and booking forms that were only in the native language. 3) A lot of the smaller hotels had designated check-in times. I found many that only allowed check-in until maybe 6PM or 8PM. That's a big concern, since I usually prefer to arrive at a hotel after I'm done with my day -- sometimes as late as 10 or 11. 4) In addition to planning out where to stay, planning out where to /park/ was also something I needed to consider. Some had free public parking nearby, including the first two here. Others, especially in cities, required figuring out the location of the nearest public garage -- or even booking a spot in the garage in advance. Nonetheless, I made it work! The Berliner Hof in St. Vith was booked a few days ahead, but I found De Jonckheer just the night before, and most of the rest on the trip were booked just a night or two in advance. I used a combination of Google Maps and various hotel aggregator websites to make my picks. The one thing I was very pleasantly surprised about was hotel pricing. Sure, I was fine with taking small rooms built for solo travelers (which you don't really find in the US) but I was generally paying under $100 a night with just a couple exceptions. Your average exurban Hampton in the US runs well more than that! The last picture for this day is the view from my room at De Jonckheer. This place was a combination restaurant / hotel that really felt like a guesthouse -- my room was on the second floor directly above the restaurant. Yes, check-in was a little more traditional than the last place, but that's fine -- and the restaurant served up a pretty good free breakfast, too. Just another slightly-different experience from what I'm used to.
  16. Saturday, July 13, 2019 Day 2: Luxembourg from Top to Bottom My first thought upon waking up in Europe for the first time on the trip was something like "wait, did yesterday actually happen?" My second thought, as I exited the Berliner Hof hotel and walked out to my car, was "gee, I hope the tire is still inflated." The car was fine, and I made my way out for another long day of travel -- this time focused in the small nation of Luxembourg. I have to be honest -- this was, by far, my toughest day of the trip in terms of time management. In other words, I planned it out like an idiot, and had too much on the agenda that had to be cut out. This day also involved quite a bit of driving, as I'd head south along basically the entire eastern border of Luxembourg, before ending the night by driving all the way back north into the Netherlands. I skipped some smaller destinations without much heartache, but I had hoped to spend a couple hours in Dinant, a remarkable Belgian city with a citadel high on a cliff. Dinant got cut out entirely, which is disappointing. After this day of the trip, I learned to adjust my timing and planning, and managed it a bit better from that point forward. Part of arranging this kind of trip is figuring out where I'm staying the night, and at the end of this TR segment I'll get a little more into how I went about picking hotels! Oh, and while I said there'd be no theme park content for a while, this segment does actually include a ride! But first, the geography nerdity continues... Nope, the car isn't broken down again. I'm parked roadside along the German border, about as far east as you can go in Belgium, once again in the middle of nowhere. Why? Because this forested area (a flat hill known as Iverst) is the second highest point in the country. Actually, between this and the highest point, it's almost too close to call -- at least until a modern air-based survey is completed. And if you think that's really nerdy, please consider I'd soon be traveling with a group of people who'd find themselves riding a powered dragon kiddie coaster for imaginary internet points. From there, I headed south and picked up Country Credit #4 on the trip -- Luxembourg! Why did I want to visit Luxembourg? I think it all goes back to some time in grade school, when I first learned that Luxembourg existed. I was fascinated by how small it was, and by its funny-sounding name. Who knew that one day I'd actually visit? Could it be -- more high-pointing? Yes indeed, this hill -- known as Kneiff -- is the highest point in Luxembourg. Two national high points in two days. Kneiff is in the far northern portion of Luxembourg, very close to the border with Belgium. Here's the view. Isn't it exciting? Things sprouting up from the ground in Luxembourg. More things sprouting up from the ground in Luxembourg. ...and just because it was nearby, another "second place" high point. This is called Buurgplaatz, and unfortunately, the tower is closed. A cool sign at Buurgplaatz, explaining how the US Infantry liberated both the highest and lowest points in Luxembourg within a few days of each other during WWII. That's not just a neat piece of history, it's also a spoiler for later in this post. A sign that indicates -- erroneously -- that Buurgplaatz is the highest point in Luxembourg. Oh well. Installed by Luxembourg's Administration de la Gestion de l'Eau / Service Hydrométrie, this is the official Buurgplaatz weather station. Great for checking in on conditions at such lofty altitudes. The view from Buurgplaatz. Again, terribly exciting. My next destination was a low spot in northeast Luxembourg, near the Our River. This is the Europadenkmal, a monument commemorating the goals for a unified Europe. Along the Our River is another national triple-point -- this time, between Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg. There's even a bridge that goes right across it, and connects to a larger trail system. Can't actually stand right at the the triple point unless you feel like getting wet... ...and I did not, so here's the view looking right down at it. It's where this tiny stream comes into the river from the right (west). You can even see two of the boundary markers in this picture. As I headed further south through Luxembourg, I stopped at this overlook tower just northwest of Vianden. The tower is built into the side of a large dam, which stands pretty high above the surrounding landscape. A view over the Bassins Supérieurs reservoir. I presume this reservoir is a big part of the water supply for this area of Luxembourg. Looking back down at the parking lot, with a small cafe just across the street. And now, coming into Vianden for the highlight of the first part of the day... Vianden Castle! (Yes, it looks like Hogwarts, let's just get that out there now...) Vianden Castle dates back to the 10th century, though it's been heavily restored -- to some extent in the 1800s but primarily in the last 50 years. One of the bigger casualties to my poor time management was that I didn't actually have time to go /inside/ of Vianden Castle. I think getting to see it from the outside was worth it, so I'm glad I visited, but paying to go in and tour the inside would have taken a couple hours that I just didn't have available. I did have enough time, though, to hike this trail up a nearby hillside... ...to get up high above the commune of Vianden... ...and enjoy some views from /above/ the castle! Vianden is somewhat of a tourist town, and looks like a place that wouldn't be bad to spend a day. Like many municipalities in this area of Europe, it's a very narrow settlement, built within a river valley. Here's a bridge over the Our river in Vianden. It's the same river I crossed at the Germany/Belgium/Luxembourg triple point just a couple hours prior, but it's bigger here! A closer look at Vianden Castle. Towers... ...steeples... ...and passageways and stairways along the outside. Now I'm getting kind of mad that I didn't have time to explore it. The hill I hiked up has a restaurant up at the top, which is a pretty common thing in Europe -- even for hills and mountains where there isn't any vehicular transportation available. This hill /sort of/ had vehicular transportation available -- you can see the chair lift in one of the previous pictures. Continuing south from Vianden, my next stop was the town of Wasserbillig. Remember the thing about how the US liberated the highest and lowest points in Luxembourg? Well, here's the lowest point in the country. This is where the Sauer River (left) flows into the Moselle River (right). All the land across both rivers is in Germany, but the little point here is Luxembourg's lowest spot. A view along the Moselle, standing at the lowest (dry) point in Luxembourg. Luxembourg is the only country I've visited both the highest and lowest point of. An international car ferry on the Moselle, traversing from Wasserbillig, Luxembourg... ...to Oberbillig, Germany. Not sure why, but Wasserbillig has this giant map of Luxembourg along the riverfront, and I thought it looked cool. I continued south some more, following the Moselle River on the Luxembourg border. This area is very scenic, with high hills on the side of the river, vineyards all over the place, and several other small pseudo-resort cities and towns. After a little more driving, I arrived at the furthest southeast commune in Luxembourg -- Schengen! You may have heard of Schengen, and there's a big reason for that. Here's a sign I found with a bit of history on the role of Luxembourg and Schengen in multi-national cooperation across Europe. Of course, the biggest thing to come out of Schengen is the Schengen Agreement, which was signed here in this small town. If you enjoy being able to travel through Europe without border checks, as I greatly do, you've got Schengen to thank for it! They even have a museum to help document and preserve the importance of the agreement. Outside the museum is Place de Etoiles -- a plaza with flags of all the Schengen countries. I saw people posing for pictures by certain flags, so I do think this place gets visitors from all over Europe. I guess this is Schengen art. Nearby in Schengen -- a couple pieces of the Berlin Wall. It's kind of an interesting commemoration, since the Schengen Agreement and the Berlin Wall are basically antithetical. Another Schengen scene -- a dam on the Moselle below the hilly terrain. I left Schengen and drove across the Moselle River, which put me in Germany. From there, I drove not even a mile south, arriving at a turn-off next to this small replica of the Eiffel Tower. It's ... not as tall as the real thing. But, with my arrival in Apach, France, I claimed my fifth country of the trip. The actual triple point between France/Luxembourg/Germany is out in the middle of the Moselle River, so there's no way to get near it outside of using a boat. This marker commemorates the spot -- though it's about 1,000 feet away in reality. Also commemorating the triple point? A tri-national mini library. Based upon my GPS track, and assuming Google Earth has the border placed correctly, I spent all of 10 minutes in France -- never more than about 80 feet from the border. Hey, it counts.
  17. Second question first -- I booked a car in the compact class, but didn't request a specific make/model. I don't think that Audi is one of the regular base-level options, though -- they made it sound like they were out of compact cars from lower-end makes, and that I was being upgraded for free just because the Audi is what they had available in the size I requested. The rental process is definitely a little bit different, so I'll try to explain how I went about doing it. In the US, I always book directly through the rental agencies, and usually with discounts I find through a website called AutoSlash. I don't buy any of the insurance, because I'm covered through a combination of my regular auto insurance and my credit card -- as most people in the US would be. In Europe, I found it more complicated to try to book directly through the rental companies, so I used a third party (AutoEurope) that simplified the process. AutoEurope is an aggregator, sort of like Priceline, but specialized for the European car rental market. They aren't the only one, but they're the one I used. From what I could tell, their prices were just as good (if not better) than booking directly. Since my insurance does not cover European car rentals or any damage that might occur, I opted to buy full coverage in advance through AutoEurope. Both of my rentals on this trip were 5 days long, and I think the full coverage added about $100-$150 US to the price. This helped me avoid the stress of getting a hard up-sell at the rental desk, and also helped me avoid the stress of worrying about them finding a tiny nick or bump on the car. In Europe, they were very thorough checking the car over after return -- much more so than in the states. But if they'd found anything, I wouldn't have been liable for it. If you are planning to drive across a national boundary, you have to declare that in advance -- preferrably at the time of booking. There will likely be a small extra fee for it, but that way you'll be covered if something goes wrong while you're outside of the country you rented the car in. My story is proof that these things occur! Oh, and this seems obvious, but unless you can drive a stick you'd better make sure you book an automatic -- and they are indeed more expensive. I'll get more into my experience driving around Europe later on, but I'll say that many of the things I was worried about -- narrow roads, difficulty finding parking, challenges of driving in cities -- were nowhere near as bad as I'd expected. With that said, the one place I wouldn't have wanted to drive in is central Amsterdam. Not only is it insanely busy, but there's no need for a car there. I did visit Amsterdam, but during the TPR portion of the trip, after I'd returned the car. I have yet to experience the "getting around by train" version of Europe, but the way I travel really needs a car to make it work. To be honest, the drama of trying to make sure you get to trains on time is drama I'd prefer not to have to worry about! As for the hotel, yeah, I loved it! I seriously wish there were more places like that. I had one other hotel later in the trip with self-service check-in, but it was a drawn-out process on a computer screen, and no better than just dealing with a desk clerk.
  18. Those trains in general are just bad, and the restraints make them so much worse. It's bad enough to kind of turn me off on any of the recent Premier coasters. Are they worse than B&M vests, though? Hmm... I mean, that should happen as soon as Vekoma has their next two-for-one sale on Roller Skaters, right?
  19. Me too! Too bad the author gets behind sometimes. Thanks -- I always try to have an eye out for the little details, and really, anything that's just different from what we're used to here. And I had some trepidation about driving over there, but for the most part (this big issue aside) it went quite well. I'll share a little more on the subject in a future post. Same. And coming soon: Storm clouds rolling behind B&M wing coasters! Karma is not transatlantic, apparently.
  20. Friday, July 12, 2019 Day 1: Stormed in Maastricht, Screwed in Belgium What better to do upon arrival in Europe, having just lost 6 hours on an overnight time change, and exhausted anyway coming off a set of midnight shifts? How about renting a car and immediately driving two hours south on an unfamiliar road system in bad weather? The first day of travel brought me to Limburg, the southeastern-most of the 12 provinces of the Netherlands. I visited the provincial capital of Maastricht, before turning my attention to some Dutch and Belgian geographic points of interest. It quickly became one of the weirdest travel days I've experienced, but I'll let the photo captions tell the story. The first thing I see upon looking out the window above European waters is what I'm just going to assume is some kind of pirate vessel overtaking a larger ship. At least that's the version in my head. The Dutch shoreline awaits. Roads I'd soon be driving on. On the ground at Schiphol. Oh, we'd grow to hate Schiphol by the end of the trip, but at this early stage it was still on my good side. Heck, when I won the lottery and got selected for a secondary luggage screening by the Dutch police or whoever, they were at least polite as they looked through my stuff to make sure I wasn't doing anything suspicious. (I'm 2 for 2 on getting doubly-screened upon arrival in Europe...) The car rental process was a little more complicated than I'm used to in the states, and I found it beneficial to do two things. 1) Go through a third party -- I used AutoEurope. 2) Pay for all the insurance stuff up-front, so they don't try to hose you down at the counter. In the US, you can get away with just declining everything, but that's a riskier proposition overseas. Here's my ride for the next 5 days -- an Audi Q2. Getting on the Dutch freeways and driving off felt kind of strange at first, but I got used to it fairly quickly. I prefer self-navigating while driving in the states, but I learned to trust the on-board navigation system here. I arrived in Maastricht! ...and I was immediately doused in a thunderstorm. Oh, how fitting. So, while the lightning struck outside, I took refuge inside of With Love Burrito -- a Chipotle-ish spot on the city's main square. I have no idea if this is normal for The Netherlands, but I ordered a medium spice level, and it was too hot to finish. Ouch. ...and the rest of the spice levels and sauce names are too funny not to share. This was a cool scene -- a gigantic old Dominican church has been de-religioned and turned into a bookstore (Selexyz Dominicanen). Enjoy the architecture while browsing for a novel, or having a drink at the cafe. It's a neat way to re-purpose a cool building. A stage was set up for a concert, soon to be performed, by the famed André Rieu. He's clearly a really big deal in Maastricht. On the city's walk of fame is this guy. Yes, this guy. Apparently, he even appears on stage with André Rieu sometimes! And if you're reading this and you're too young to remember Mambo No. 5, bless your heart. Trying not to lose sight of the fact that I've been roaming Europe for all of a few hours, and just soaking in the different scenery. One thing you learn quickly about cities in Europe -- the churches often have tall towers, and those towers are frequently accessible to the public. See the big red one? That's Sint-Janskerk, and the tower is open. To get to the top, you have to climb a 200+ step spiral staircase, and it's ridiculously steep and narrow. About halfway up is a small art gallery. I think this is Simba? At the top of Sint-Janskerk. The passageways at the top are narrow and fenced, but with cut-out holes big enough to fit a camera lens. Some views over Maastricht. The stage is about set for André Rieu. Something kind of hypnotic about this picture of the seating area -- and yes, every attendee gets what I presume is an André Rieu-branded bottle of water. More views over the city. Maastricht is about as far south as you can go in the Netherlands, and it's certainly the furthest south of the country's larger cities. It's got its fair share of old architecture, but there's some new to go along with it. Cobblestone streets are common in Europe. They look great, though they're a bit tricky to walk on at times. This is De Bisschopsmolen! A water mill that has been operational since the middle ages. It makes me think of the Frontier Trail at Cedar Point. More old stuff -- walls and fortifications on the south end of the city. Another view in Maastricht. Lots of Dutch cities have extravagant gates on the edges, such as the Helpoort here, which dates to 1229. Cannons and stuff. Maastricht is on the Meuse River. It's cloudy and ugly outside -- which, to be honest, is going to be kind of a theme of the first 5 days of this trip. I got rained on three times in Maastricht, all in the span of about two hours. But, with more thunderstorms coming in, I tried to pick up the pace a bit. Another view over the Meuse. A symmetrical shot of a bridge on the Meuse. Kind of impressed by whoever got the graffiti at the top of the bridge. Another old portal/gate thing on the edge of the river. Cafes and restaurants, not doing much outside business thanks to the weather. It's very common to see boats passing by with the owners' cars on top of them. That's not something I really see in the US. More passing boats in Maastricht. This is a cool arch bridge. This is a cool statue thing. Looking north on the Meuse, a view of a different side of Maastricht. Before I departed Maastricht, I made my first grocery store visit, and found myself in Stroopwafel heaven. ...and on my way out of the parking garage, it's absolutely pouring yet again, extending the dampness of my day a little longer. As the storm began to break, I made my next stop at an interesting geographic two-for-one. These flags represent the countries of The Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany -- which all come together at the furthest southeast point in The Netherlands. The observation tower in the background was closed, but the real purpose for my visit was right in front of me. This monument marks Vaalserberg, the highest point in the mainland Netherlands, and the highest point in the province of Limburg, at about 322 meters above sea level. Credit granted for Netherlands Provincial Highpoint #1! It's not /technically/ the highest point in all of The Netherlands, thanks to some of their islands in the Caribbean. (the dirty little secret is that the actual high point is down this path a ways, but who's paying that much attention?) Oh, and there's a distant view of one of those storms that got me earlier. The second point of geographic interest is this monument, which marks the exact triple point between Belgium, Germany, and The Netherlands. So, that brings me to a total of three countries visited so far in Europe. From there, I drove south into Belgium, and that's when things started to go awry... I arrived at my next stop, in a remote area of eastern Belgium, a long ways from anywhere. This place is called Signal de Botrange. Signal de Botrange is the highest point in all of Belgium, at about 694 meters above sea level. My first legit national high point. See the little hill behind the stone marker? Apparently, Belgium was embarrassed that their high point reached "only" 694 meters. So, they built a hill and a staircase... ...and called it 700. That's cheating. You can't do that. A view from the high point. See my little white vehicle? Yeah, it's disabled. We've got some problems. About a minute or so before I arrived at Signal de Botrange, my tire pressure light came on. I pulled into the lot, realizing that it was past 7PM and I was about a million miles from anywhere. I was hoping I'd find that the tire was just a little low. No such luck. I got out of the car and immediately heard an audible hissing sound coming from the left front tire. It didn't take me long to find the reason -- a screw had punctured the tread, and it was losing air fast. I didn't really have much of a choice but to call the rental company to get their roadside assistance -- which first required me learning how to dial a phone number in Belgium. My phone data wasn't working great, but I was able to use my hiking GPS to give the guy on the phone my exact location. From there, I had to wait about 90 minutes for help to arrive. An older Belgian gentleman pulled in with his bright yellow service truck, and it was clear he knew very little English, and I knew very little of any of the languages spoken in this corner of Belgium. Oh, but he knew one English phrase. I showed him the tire, and his immediate response was "OH S***!" I was expecting him to declare the car undriveable, but he did not. He pumped it full of air, and directed me as best he could to follow him. I did so -- choosing to trust this guy I'd never met, in an unfamiliar country, and not really having any clue where we'd end up. After about 15 minutes of driving, we pulled into his shop -- which seemed to be even further into the middle of nowhere. Like, outside of the work he was doing, the soundtrack to the evening was mooing cows. He took off the tire. I snapped this picture to remember the moment. There's his service truck! As it turns out, the tire was punctured by not one but TWO screws. I think that realization provided the one time that this guy and I connected. As it turns out, laughter at misfortune is universal. So, I'll give this gentleman a lot of credit -- he repaired the tire and it held up for the rest of the next 5 days. He charged me 25 Euros, though I'm not exactly what for, and then gave me the two screws to keep as a souvenir. I figured out my location and plotted my path toward my final destination for the night, arriving a couple hours later than I'd hoped. This was my hotel in the Belgian city of St. Vith (Sankt Vith). I've never been at a hotel like this before, but I loved it. I booked online and received a code via email. I opened the door to the entryway, punched the code into the panel on the wall on the left, and a slot opened up -- with my room key inside. There's no clerk and no front desk. It's the quickest check-in I've ever had. St. Vith is a very small municipality in the tiny German-speaking section of eastern Belgium. It's way off the beaten path, but worked as a stop-over for my plans the next day. Tired, but wanting to get out and de-stress after the tire incident, I wandered into the city's main square -- where, uh, something was going on. Yep, it's Friday night, and St. Vith is throwing a full-on party. While a DJ played a set from the stage, hundreds of people gathered around. Food trucks were set up (I got a nice pulled pork sandwich) as well as drink tents. The music was varied, but I distinctly remember taking one of these pictures during a spin of the /explicit/ version of DMX's "Party Up (Up in Here)". Yep, I'm tired as hell, and I'm ending my night at a Belgian dance party. What a start.
  21. Thursday, July 11, 2019 Day 0: A Canadian Departure Booking round-trip airfare across the Atlantic is a tricky thing when you're flying in and out of two different airports, and those two airports are hubs for members of different airline alliances. I was heading into Amsterdam at the start of the trip, which is a hub for KLM and its SkyTeam partners. I was departing from Munich at the end, which is a hub for Lufthansa and Star Alliance. To keep costs down, I'd have to book flights on the same alliance on both legs -- but which to choose? Ultimately, Star Alliance made the most sense, which enabled me to take Lufthansa and United on the way home from Germany. That left me with just one good option for the first leg of the trip -- an Air Canada flight from Toronto to Amsterdam. I'll spare you all the awful story of spending hours on hold with United because they were too stupid to actually send my reservation number to Air Canada, resulting in my tickets being cancelled over and over again. Almost a year since that debacle, I still haven't forgiven United for it. On to the pics for this time-change-shortened day in the air. This trip begins where the 2014 TPR US trip also began -- at the Cincinnati airport. Which is in Kentucky. Amazon is taking over. Insert some sort of condescending joke about Allegiant here. Fun fact: this plane had just come in from Paris. Less fun fact: I did not go to Paris on this trip. Mr. Redlegs is honestly kind of creepy. My flight to Toronto was on-time, and hey, Air Canada was a new airline credit. Caught my plane on the way in for a picture. A farewell to Cincinnati. Blue tarps and felled trees mark the path of an EF4 tornado that hit Dayton, Ohio, in May 2019. A very big deal, but I won't get into the rest of that here. It's one of my trip reports, so there will be cloud pictures on occasion. Arrival in Toronto. -.-- -.-- --.. (rest in peace, Neil Peart) So, I arrived in Toronto, promptly missed my turn to skip customs, and exited the secured area like a chump. Thankfully, the security lines were short, and within 10 minutes I was riding on what has to be one of the fastest moving walkways in all of existence. I guess this is art! The International Pier at the Toronto airport was extremely crowded, with lots of European flights about to make their departures. I thought it would be very American of me to have a burger for my last meal before leaving the continent. It was a rather pathetic burger, and I am disappointed in my selection. Big plane eat little plane. Lots of Canadian airplanes in Toronto. This one counts as foreshadowing. This one is my actual airplane. Next stop: The Netherlands! On-time to Amsterdam. New plane credit: a Boeing 777-300ER. ...and I had an entire row to myself! Not just the three seats next to me, but all ten! That's like hitting the jackpot on a long-haul. The sun set. I tried to sleep. I was mostly unsuccessful. Oh well. Onward to Europe.
  22. CONTENTS: Day 0: A Canadian Departure (Page 1) Day 1: Stormed in Maastricht, Screwed in Belgium (Page 1) Day 2: Luxembourg from Top to Bottom (Page 1) Day 3: Dunes, Dams, and Depraved Santas (Page 2) Day 4: The Deer of Den Haag, the Minions of Leiden (Page 2) Day 5: Old Birds and New Turbines (Page 2) Day 6: Bobbejaanland (Page 3) Day 7/8: Efteling pt 1: Around the Park (Page 3) Day 7/8: Efteling pt 2: Showtime (Page 4) Day 9: Toverland (Page 4) Day ???: Amsterdam-dam-dam-dam (Page 4) Day 10: Walibi Holland (Page 5) Day 11 pt 1: Drievliet (Page 6) Day 11 pt 2: Duinrell (Page 6) Day 11 pt 3: Rhymes With Schiphol (Page 6) Day 12: Energylandia (Page 7) Day 13 pt 1: Legendia (Page 8) Day 13 pt 2: Poland, Continued (Page 9) Day 14: Rhymes With Schiphol Part II (Page 9) Day 15 pt 1: Liseberg (Page 9) Day 15 pt 2: Liseberg Backstage (Page 10) --2016 Retro TR: Liseberg: The Kanonen Era (Page 10) --2016 Retro TR: Gothenburg: Shelter Where Available (Page 10) Day 16: Kolmården (Page 10) Day 17: Gröna Lund (coming soon...) --------------------------------- In July and August of 2019, I joined TPR on a big huge trip across Europe. You've probably already read some stories from our journeys, in TRs by Chuck, Larry, A.J., and Erik. Now, better late than never, I might as well get started on my own. This might have been my most complicated vacation ever -- 12 countries, 12 theme parks, 9 flights, 4 currencies, and 2 rental cars, all on a continent that isn't my own. And yet, those are the things that made the trip such an experience. I travel around the US a lot and frequently go to out-of-the-way destinations, and my biggest goal for this Europe trip was to do the same thing overseas. Sure, I visited Amsterdam, Helsinki, and Munich, but I also visited St. Vith, Vlissingen, Sigmaringen and Soelden. Never heard of those places? You'll learn about them in this thread, eventually. I wouldn't be surprised if it takes me a year or two to finish this TR, but this is my big project now, regardless of any 2020 travel -- so I'll get there at some point. I organized the trip so that I'd have multiple days to do my own travel both before and after the official TPR trip. So, it will be a few updates before I get to any theme park content, which will begin with Day 6 at Bobbejaanland. Oh, and since I never did a TR or posted any pictures from the 2016 TPR Europe trip, I might just find an excuse to include some of the best of those in here too. That's enough of an intro. Onward to the misadventures.
  23. There are so many different ways to cross through the mountains. I've gone through Independence Pass, Loveland Pass, RMNP, and the stretch through the interior of Park County on the way to Colorado Springs. They're all fantastic in different ways.
  24. 1. How many parks did you visit in 2019? Fifteen 2. Best new-for-2019 (or new-to-you-in-2019) ride? Untamed (Walibi Holland) 3. Name the first 3 coasters that come to mind. Millennium Force, Linnunrata eXtra, Teddy Bear 4. What was the best flat ride you rode in 2019? Eclipse (Grona Lund) 5. What is your favorite RMC under 130 feet? Medusa Steel Coaster, according to my rankings, but I wonder if Untamed should be higher... 6. What was the last Premier coaster that you rode? Electric Eel at SWSD in September 2018. Huh. Did I really go through all of 2019 without riding a single Premier coaster? 7. Name a park you've been to that you're already planning to revisit. BGT 8. What is your home park and how many times did you visit in 2019? Kings Island or Cedar Point. Combined in 2019: zero. 9. What park are you most looking forward to visiting in 2020? Haven't decided yet. 10. Kennywood or Dollywood? Pick one When in doubt, pick the one with good ops over the one with crappy ops. Dollywood. 11. What ride/coaster disappointed you the most in 2019? Helix. Still love it, but was broken most of the day, and shuffly/rattly when it was running. 12. You're at Great Adventure. You play that racist-ish gong game and win a one hour ERT session for you and your friends on ONE coaster of your choice. But damn! El Toro, Kingda Ka and Nitro are all down! So you ride... The Tivoli with the 70-car trains 13. What is the last coaster that changed your top 10? Untamed (Walibi Holland) 14. Most recent park food you ate. A roast beef sandwich at Glenwood Caverns 15. What park do you wish was your home park? Europa or Epcot or SDC or Knoebels or anywhere with better restaurants than this stupid middle-of-nowhere city in Ohio 16. What 2020 attraction do you have the biggest boner for? Iron Gwazi 17. What park will you visit next? Undecided 18. Favorite breakfast before a day at a park? Holiday Inn Express cinnamon rolls 19. Cedar Fair park you visited most recently? Knott's 20. Was it awesome? It was. 21. Skyrush or Candymonium? Skyrush ... why are we even asking this? 22. What 2 overseas parks do you want to visit the most? Just gonna throw in for both Tokyo Disney parks to make it easy. 23. The best B&M coaster you rode in 2019 was? Baron 1898 24. What is the saddest/dirtiest credit whore thing you've ever done? Acquiring the Little Titans credit at Mt Olympus in exchange for also having to do multiple rides on Hades 360 25. Last time you bought fast pass? I usually let those in charge take care of such things, so the last time I purchased one on my own was probably a 2015 trip to Cedar Point 26. What was the longest you waited for a ride/coaster in 2019? 30-40 minutes for the mediocre Eurofighter at Duinrell. 27. What season passes/membership do you currently have? None. 28. If you could go to a park with anyone on this forum for a day who would it be and to what park? I'd take DBru to Beech Bend in 2014 so we can try to be the lucky ones who broke the incredibly sketchy kiddie dragon coaster 29. Battle of the Busch 2020: Iron Gwazi or Pantheon - which would you rather ride? Iron Gwazi 30. Most times you've ridden one coaster (rough estimate or exact if you're a super nerd) Something like 60-ish laps on Racer at Kings Island for Coasting for Kids several years ago 31. Congrats! You just won passes to spend A WEEK at the park of your choice! Dorney Park or Valley Fair? Pick one and why. I guess I'll take ValleyFair since I've never been there, but if this is the prize in a contest, I'm not entering the contest. 32. Talk about a park food that knocked your socks off I'm gonna be nice. Everything I ate at Energylandia was well above average. I was impressed. Let's not discuss anything else about that place. 33. Pick one: Kumba or Montu Montu. 34. What are your three least favorite woodies? Let's go all-time: Bandit, Son of Beast, Robin Hood. Two of the three no longer exist. 35. Best sweet snack at a park (degree of difficulty: not Dollywoods cinnamon bread) Silver Dollar City's cinnamon bread. Shut up, I'm following the rules as they are written. 36. Kings Island is on the phone and they want you to decide what is going in the old Vortex spot. What do you add? A bigger, longer, but still just as intense/snappy version of Lech Coaster. Yep, time to replace an Arrow with a Vekoma. 37. What roller coaster currently sits at the top of your bucketlist? (degree of difficulty: NOT a new-for-2020 ride) Superman at SFNE, not because I necessarily think it'll be my new favorite, but because I've been hearing about it forever and still haven't been there. 38. Name 3 parks you want to visit in the next 3 years. Lagoon, SFNE, CGA. 39. Name 3 other forum members you hope fill this out. No. 40. Show us how cool you are by posting a picture of yourself on a coaster or in front of coaster. No one's ever mistaken me for being cool.
  25. Before I get into a few other things we did, here are three things we didn't do, but are worth mentioning: 1) Glenwood Hot Springs Pool -- one of the city's main attractions, a pool fed by the springs right in the middle of the city. I do have one picture of this place below. 2) Iron Mountain Hot Springs -- another hot springs resort area, this one has lots of different pools with different minerals and temperatures. 3) Johnson Park Mini Golf -- we tried to go here, but it not open mid-week. Unfortunate. From the outside it looked kind of quirky and Knoebels-esque. Alright, back to the pictures. We did a short hike up to Linwood Cemetery, which is on a hill in the southeast part of the city. Why would we hike up a hill to visit a cemetery? Because it has some famous graves. The grave of Kid Curry, an outlaw who was part of Butch Cassidy's gang. The star attraction -- Doc Holliday! Everyone's heard of this guy. People even left him some gold coins and a pack of cards as a tribute. There's just one problem. As it turns out, nobody knows for sure where he's actually buried. The gravestone is just a guess! I feel kind of cheated. There are some other ... interesting headstones in the cemetery. "Died together in a mine accident" isn't a common inscription... Yikes! OK, we need some happier photos. How about the view from the cemetery? Yep, some more views of Glenwood Caverns. The gondolas were stopped two-by-two at the end of the day. The main building at Glenwood Caverns. A view of the cliffside attractions. Zoomed in a bit! Another angle from further down... ...and one more shot from back in the city. This little spot of "rapids" (if you can call it that) is called Glenwood Whitewater Park, and is said to be a fun spot to watch the kayakers and rafters head down the Colorado. We were probably there too late in the day to see any. Here's a dinner recommendation in downtown Glenwood Springs -- Masala & Curry, a great Indian/Nepalese restaurant. Given how busy the place was, we aren't the first ones to discover how good it is. A night view of downtown Glenwood Springs. A pedestrian bridge over the Colorado River. Here's the famous Hot Springs pool, which had quite a few people swimming in it, despite the fact that the temperatures were quickly dropping into the 40s. A long-exposure view east on I-70. After the Hanging Lake hike, instead of taking I-70 back east, we took a more roundabout route through Aspen and up Independence Pass. There are lots of scenic spots along the way. This one is called Weller Lake. This one is the Devil's Punchbowl. Mostly above treeline, here's the road heading up to Independence Pass. At the pass -- 12,095 feet above sea level. A view from Independence Pass. The roads to get up here are a bit narrow and curvy at times, with steep drops off to the side, so if you're a nervous driver you may want to stick to I-70. Feeling reflective. Last stop for the evening (and as far as I'll go with this trip report) is Leadville, Colorado -- at over 10kft, it's the highest incorporated city in the US. There's really nothing to do in Leadville except say you've been there. Usually that's good enough for me. Some stunning sunset colors to close this out. Hope you enjoyed the TR.
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