It was a dream come true: a 17-day trip to Europe with a girlfriend. We started planning a year ahead. Where to go, what to do, how to get there. Since this was our first time in Europe, we chose a Rick Steve’s Amsterdam to Rome tour that included castles. It proved to be the perfect choice. A history buff’s delight.

With his website loaded with travel tips, we felt confident that we could navigate our tour. It even included details about the type of walking to expect at each destination. So, of course, the most important purchase was walking shoes. 

With a size 11-1/2 narrow, the only store nearby that stocks my size is in Fort Worth, but that proved futile. After several unsuccessful purchases, and returns, I found the perfect shoe — Keens. Waterproof, cushy, comfy. I still wear them. 

Next, I needed quick-dry pants and shirts. Eddie Bauer offered numerous choices at a hefty price. Nevertheless, they are well-made and may even outlast me. Throw them in my coffin, Junior! 

Money! How much to bring? Where to exchange it? Notify credit card companies of my overseas plans. Cell phone plans to accommodate Europe? No problem. Put my phone in airplane mode and only use it with the hotel’s Wi-Fi. Many hotels, actually.

Bottom line? Pack light, forget the make-up, and enjoy! We did.

The day arrived. Dallas to London. Grab a quick lunch. Hop on the next plane to Amsterdam. While waiting to take off from London, Sherri whispered, “I hope some overweight person doesn’t sit next to me.” Soon a good-looking 20-something Italian man squeezed in next to her and plopped down. Instantly, Sherri blurted, “Oh! I am so glad you aren’t fat!” As she turned beet red, he announced, “We Europeans are not fat like the Americans.” 

We all laughed and settled in for our jaunt over the North Sea. 

Amsterdam! A city abuzz with bikes, canals, bridges, and tall, narrow buildings steeped in history. I loved it! Just lounging in an outdoor café soaking in the atmosphere inspired us. On our own until our tour gathered, we hired a guide for the Red Light District, the oldest part of the city filled with ... ah ... curiosities. Indeed educational! 

When parents walk their children to school in the Red Light District (Yes! Families live there!), the kids notice the women in the windows. “Mommy, why are those ladies in the window dressed in their swimming suits?” Every mother’s response? “They’re waiting for their ride to the beach.” Nothing to add here!

Longing for java? Don’t go to a coffee shop! What? At coffee shops, you buy marijuana for your smoking pleasure and goodies laced with the stuff. Not your thing? No worries. You can grab a cup of Joe at a café. I’m not making this up, folks. 

Houseboats lounged in the canals. Bikes whizzed by with men and woman dressed for the office or with kids and groceries. Whole parking ramps were devoted to bikes! Shops stuffed with cheese, chocolates and pickled herring drew us in. I feasted on this city replete with a rich history and fascinating architecture. Anne Franks’ hide-away alone left us speechless.  

Our Netherlands tour ended at an outdoor museum featuring life in a rural village from days bygone that included a windmill, paper mill, shops, sheep, pastures, towering trees, and the famous Dutch pancakes. Did you know the Dutch top their pancakes with anything from beef stew to spiced apples to syrup? What’s for dinner? Take your pick!

While our tour bus meandered down the fabled autobahn, my eyes drank in the hills rimmed with vineyards and decked with solar panels. My mind, already swimming from the richness of our Holland adventures, eagerly anticipated what awaited us in the Rhine River region.

Terri White is a veteran homeschool mom from the 80s and 90s and the founder/director of T.E.A.C.H. Cleburne. She can be reached at teachcleburne13@gmail.com.

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