Sunday, July 18, 2010


On Sat. July 17 I woke up at 7:00 with the church bells. I thought I would try to get to Santa Croce before I need to go to the train station. I headed out but it did not open til 9:30 and the train leaves at 11:27. So I shall leave Michelangelo, Dante (I believe) and Galileo's tombs for another time. I walked back to the hotel along the Arno to say bye to Florence.

Corrina loved it here and was having a tough time leaving. It was very emotional for her. So her and I walked back to the river and she had her time to take some photos and let go of Florence. We visited a bit with our hotelier and then got to the station too early, about an hour to wait and no seats. Little by little some of the other group members showed up. We became more concerned as it was near 11 and many were not there. Some took the bus and some used the taxi. The final group had our group tickets and they arrived about 11:22. We decided to board about 11:15 without them, taking a ticket inspector risk. However it was good that we did as then we got our seats and had places for most of our luggage. Some of the group did have to sit between the cars with their luggage to watch it and some missed out on the air conditioned cars. I was alright. I followed the lead of Marie, an independent European 18 year old. She has traveled a lot in Europe and knew her way around the train stations. So there we all were at 11:26 on board with our tickets. But no Yong, from our group. Where is he? The train left. Marie and I went through the cars again in search of everyone and checked the roll call. We sat down and many were upset. We tried to let them know that it will be alright, although stressful, Yong can still catch a train to Pisa in order to make the 4:00 flight to Amsterdam. We sat about three minuets and he comes rushing into our car, he had made it somehow! RELIEF. He thought the train left at 11:37 and thus he had to run along the platform when it was about to leave and hop on the first car and then run all the way through the entire train to our section at the back. Marie and I continued for the rest of the trip to be in charge of everyone's bags and head count. We have a couple of wondering souls in the group and one smoker so we made sure no one was left behind at all the check points. We arrived in Pisa three hours before the flight. You have to make a train change from the Florence train to the airport train and then find your departure terminal which we did not know. I had the group ticket this time and it was in Dutch but Merit, and Marie could translate it so I knew the airline and flight number. I spoke to a fellow from Birtish Airways as there was no way of knowing which check in counter was for which airline, until they showed up on the monitors above. We all wanted to check our luggage but had to wait till 2:00. So I and Marie took turns watching the pile of luggage as others went for a smoke or drink etc. There were no seats in this area of the airport. How tempting to go out and try to see the leaning tower. However with only an hour to check in I voiced the fact that it would not be enough time to comfortably be back on time. We all weighed our bags and many were over, including me by .4Kg. Some were 5Kg. over so to avoid fees I suggested that those who had lighter bags take on something from the heavy bags. Then we reweighed the bags and we were fine. Only a few were over a very little and they did not bother about it on check in. The carry on also was a concern for the signs clearly stated only one carry on and we assumed we could have two and a purse. We were lucky too, as the airline did not charge us even though their sign clearly stated that you had to pay for more than one carry on or leave the bag behind.

We managed to get everyone checked in and through security. Then Tatiana was called back as she had left her boarding pass at the check in gate. So I was becoming the mom, everyone check for your passports, have your boarding passes and picture id ready. Do you have your carry on? My own kids know the routine. The group was tired and grateful that I was helping them out. Then of course Tatiana left her carry on behind by my seat, so I took it to her and she was very thankful as we boarded the plane. On the plane Marie and I did another head count. Yes. We are on our way. The plane was 45 minutes late on departure. It is a two hour flight. In Amsterdam it went smooth as Marie has been in this airport several times and it is very well marked. Our luggage took a very long time to come. Students began checking other luggage belts and I assured them that our flight number was above the one we were at and that the bags would come. Finally they did and everyone cheered when they saw their bag. We were tired. I bought a sandwich on the plane as it was getting so late and I was suspicious that we would be moved about and not able to get a bit to eat until very late. This did turn out to be the case. We breezed through customs. And Pim (sp) was there to meet us. He was very welcoming and helpful. Yong was carrying luggage up and down steps and escalators twice, as he would do his own and then his cousin Yuki's as she is pregnant. Pim helped us take the train to Utrech and provided our tickets and keys. He got our tickets for bus 11 at the Utrecht Central Station and gave us maps to get to the dorm. Then he left us when the bus arrived. We managed with some help from a person on the bus to know to get off at the City Theater stop. We found our street as it is well marked and began to settle into our home. It was now 10:00. We had to eat supper. Allison is my room-mate and we had the bedding. Actually my name was on Pim's list to hand out the bedding so Marie announces to everyone that I am the mom now. So I am the dorm mom. Back to supper. Allison and I went out to look for a spot to eat. It was late and there are many bars along the street but not too many restaurants. We both loved the town. Allison's grandparents are from Holland and gave her a Dutch dictionary which she was proud to have along. We walked a lot and settled on a spot that was expensive but had a hamburger. It was good but late so we asked for the standard Canadian doggie bag and had it explained to us that this was not allowed. We did wrap the left overs in our napkin, however this is seen as bad manners. At the dorm I went to put the half burger into the fridge. I turned on the light and an oversized mouse, not rat, a mouse ran across the counter behind the microwave. I screamed loud as I was surprised to see a mouse, not because I am afraid of them. Allison heard me and came running. She too had a chance to see the mouse. Well, this is interesting. No food allowed out. I hope it does not have a path to our bed rooms. The dorm is like an apartment with three bedrooms for two persons each, a kitchen and two water closets and two showers. We have to provide everything even toilet paper. I wish that was in our notes.

You learn fast here to respect the cyclists as they have the right of way to cars and pedestrians. They have their own lanes on both sides of the street and their own set of traffic lights with a bike as the green symbol for go. The cars must yield when a green go bike light is on. The streets seemed empty compared to Utrecht. There were people enjoying a drink in the bars and on the decks. There is a bike shop on every block. Cuylar would think he was in Paradise here. Allison and I unpacked, made up our beds and went to sleep after midnight. I could not get the computer to work for some reason, but as you see it is fine today (Sun. 18).
I have a good feeling about Holland.

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