(*I thought it was inanimate [a mannequin])
So, here's the beginning of our trip.
I pulled the kids out of school a little early, like JUST before lunch. They were both wired for sound, and SO ready to leave (I'm sure their teachers were ready for their spinny-buzzy selves to be gone, too). Ken was working from home, and was putting out a bunch of fires that left him still working at 12:15 when Toni came to take us to the airport. We ended up leaving a little later, but that was fine, as things in SFO were like clockwork. I was impressed. Some guy came up to help us, ran all our passports through a little machine, commented on how LIGHT we were packing (we each had only one suitcase, and the kids' suitcases were all carry-on sized), and then we were let loose in the airport to kill 2 hours.
Kelly had her special traveling hair-do going on.
And the kids had fun going back and forth on the moving walkways.
The plane was pretty fancy. A TV screen for each seat, and little remote controls that doubled as game controllers for a few rudimentary games, too. We watched some movies, and had our dinner, and then when things quieted down, I told Kelly to sleep, and she did! I was so sure that she'd be too excited to sleep, but she wasn't. Ken was in charge of the boys, who were far less malleable than their sister, so they just watched movies, and drank sodas, and you can imagine how well rested they were when we got to Amsterdam, and had to hit the ground running. About 3 hours before the end of the flight, the dry air got to Nate, and he sprouted the Mother of All Nosebleeds in the plane, and spent the rest of the day with a blood-soaked t-shirt and sweatshirt.
After wandering around in the airport for a bit, looking every bit like the lost tourists that we were, we finally found a locker, dumped the carry-on luggage, and headed out of the airport to see a bit of Amsterdam. The airport is about 30 minutes from downtown, so we hopped on a train (outside of my comfort zone, but it was the first of many 'adventures' that I'd live through for the sake of the kids) and crossed our fingers that it was taking us into Amsterdam Centraal and not out to Brussels or something.
Wonder of wonders! We made it into Amsterdam, and tumbled off the train with the rest of the commuters, right around lunch time. Across the canal from the train station was a very convenient tourist station, which offered Canal Boat cruises. Hey! It was out of the rain and cold, and we got to sit down (Skip was already whining about how cold and tired he was - Gee, I wonder why!?)
There was much construction going on. The train station is behind that billboard, and the Canal Boat is right behind the kids. We were just waiting in line to get on the boat. It's about 5C, and threatening rain, at this point.
Ooh, here's a better photo of our Canal Boat.
We piled onto the Canal Boat, and got a table all together. Skip put his head down nearly immediately, and that's the last we heard from him. It's a lovely tour, and I highly recommend it. You get a good look at MUCH of Amsterdam, and you're sheltered. I would've had some great photos except that the windows were streaked with rain.
The Dutch have it right; Look at the great museum!
Oh yeah, and there was also this little place called "The Ann Frank House". But the line-ups were thick and deep, and went around the block. There was no line-up at the Museum of Bags and Purses.
We even got to see a wedding!
After the boat tour, we still had a few hours to kill, so we walked around in Amsterdam. Did we have a map? Of course not! We'd just wander around, and follow the crowds, and hope we could get back to the train station with a minimum of fuss.
We were crossing the street with a crowd, when I first started smelling something strange. Yup. The guy in front of us was smoking a joint as he walked along. Yup, that's a joint in his right hand.
And Ken wanted to grab a coffee, but every time I'd find a coffee-shop, it would say "No admittance to anyone under the age of 18", which seemed a little strict just for coffee. That is, until Ken said "Why do you keep coming here? A cafe is for coffee. A 'coffeeshop' is for drugs". Yeah, you could've told me that a bit earlier, dude.
And that's when it started to hail. And that's when I noticed the first Police Van. And then another. And another. And then there were 5 police on horseback. And I'm thinking "What a secure place I am walking around in!" And then I saw the crowds. There was some big, ANGRY demonstration happening in the town center, and we were walking straight for it. Yikes!
I thought maybe I should duck into this place, to avoid the crowds:
But instead, we went a little more low-key.
And so help me, I couldn't resist, but I started reciting the Cheese Emporium sketch from Monty Python. I blame the sleep-deprivation.
Kelly was freezing, so we sprung for a little flappy-eared knit hat souvenir. And look at the cute little matching scooter she found!
It was getting colder and wetter, and Skip was whining louder and louder, so I thought "Let's get out of here, ok?" so we decided to head back towards the train station. We wanted to avoid the big loud demonstration with all the police, so we made this circuitous route that sort of looked like the direction of where we needed to go. We had just turned a corner by a church (closed), when I realized that ALL the houses had these neon lights over the doors, and over the front windows. And all the neon was red.
Except that we didn't quite realize what had happened, and we were wandering around (the crowds had thinned out a bit. That was a plus). I noticed a shop window up ahead must have been some Dutch version of Victoria's Secret, or something, and I was just thinking how very non-Holllywood the mannequins were. Why, that mannequin wearing the red thong and black bustier looked almost wrinkled and worn...
And then the mannequin winked at us. And waggled a pair of handcuffs off her pinky finger.
And the B-movie voice-over in my head shrieked "It's.... ALIVE!!!!!"
And just like that, Ken was commanding "Kids, follow me, we're going to go find the train station" and he took off at a jog down the nearest alley that didn't have any lights over any of the doors, and we came out behind the police station, a few blocks from the train station, feeling really very silly.
And then, when we were back on the main drag, Nate spotted a little duck by the canal, and ran for it, and ended up doing a very spectacular face plant. Little old ladies were stopping with tissues, because the blood was something else. It was really just a nose bleed, and a chin scrape, but it sobered him up, and he still had the scabs at the end of the trip...
Eek! I'm supposed to have gotten him from school 5 minutes ago. This whole 'getting back into a routine' is going to clobber me. More entries later.