Friday, November 8, 2019

All aboard a British train, with a long, proud history of riding the rails

All aboard! North Yorkshire Moors Railway pulls out of the station with a full complement of passengers. 
York's National Railway Museum has won national awards
for its expansive telling of the country's rail history.

MERRY OLDE ENGLAND NURTURES A DEEP AFFECTION FOR RAIL TRAVEL

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

TRAINS ARE as much a part of English life today as ships were centuries ago.
The National Railway Museum in York is the largest and most expansive
in the country, known for its variety, welcoming layout and detailed exhibits. 
We recently explored several rail venues in Northeast England and are anxious to expand our rail travel to other parts of the United Kingdom. Since the country's first steam locomotives chugged out of Stockton and Darlington in 1825, that pastoral corner of England has held rail travel close to its heart. People in all parts of the UK enjoy relaxing, soaking up views. Nowhere is the rail experience more rewarding than in the North York Moors.
With lovely scenery, a beverage and perhaps a pleasant lunch, tea or dinner, train travel here combines three things the British love: countryside, history and sharing a bite, a cuppa or a pint.
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway offers splendid scenery
and a chance to relax and visit over a beverage or snack.
QUEENS, SOLDIERS and school children enjoyed rail travel dating back to the golden age of steam. We began our "train fix" with a history lesson at York's fine National Railway Museum, part of the extensive Science Museum Group. Admission is by donation and upon entering the expansive halls, wonders unfold: iconic locomotives, Queen Victoria's plush car, a detailed rail ambulance which saved lives during wartime, a magical mail car with a
Eurail pass beckons
fascinating film of workers tossing and collecting bags of post from moving trains. The Royal Scotsman, Orient Express --  trains, from antique to sleek-contemporary.
BRITISH RAIL travel, much like train travel in the U.S., developed during the railway boom of the 1840s, with dozens of competing companies.  Through the 19th and early 20th centuries, these consolidated or were bought up
Miss Eastwood serves beverages
aboard an old-fashioned steam train.
by competitors until only a few companies remained.
One enterprise that flourishes is the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. We joined 100-plus fellow train lovers for a pleasant journey from Whitby to Pickering.  Our hosts, John and Sue, arranged the trip -- she dropped us off via auto and John joined us in our red velvet car. We traveled through lush woodlands and picturesque villages, much as they were 100 years ago. We visited, relaxed and sipped beverages served by a smiling stewardess then Sue kindly met us to motor us home.
We've trained around the UK through England, Scotland and Wales in past visits, and recommend it for its "no hassle" ease, speed and convenience.
As passengers departed their trains in York, we headed
for ours, in a lovely car taking us to London for six days. 
 SINCE THEY
 "do the driving," rail travel is a stress-free, comfortable way to travel, even on short notice.  A spontaneous trip can easily be arranged. Visiting BritRail's website is a good place to start.  You'll find passes for extended travel, sleeping cars and even package tours.
The expansive BritRail train system offers a variety of
excellent passes to suit every desire for travel in the UK.
This trip, we experienced only a small part of BritRail's destination bonanza. Our York-London trip was a comfy two-hour journey to central London, then just a 10-minute taxi to our hotel.
THOUSANDS MAKE use of BritRail passes for the flexibility in using the UK's expansive national rail network to historic places. All major cities are served, including London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Brighton, Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham and many more.    Here are a few of the impressive variety of passes BritRail offers:
Cookie and Keller visit York's famous Rail Museum which
features all manner of train-related transportation, antique
to contemporary.  The museum asks only a donation.
BritRail England Pass - travel the whole of England.
BritRail London Plus Pass - travel Southeast England to Stratford Upon Avon, Bristol, Bath and Cambridge.
BritRail Spirit of Scotland Pass- travel all over Scotland including ferry routes to the islands.
BritRail Central Scotland Pass - travel between Glasgow and Edinburgh via historical towns such as Stirling, Linlithgow and Dunblane.
BritRail Scottish Highlands Pass - travel around the Scottish Highlands by rail with some ferry routes.
BritRail Southwest Pass - travel from London (including busy Heathrow Airport) to Southwest England, to visit  the beaches of Cornwall or have a cream tea in Devon.
  TO GET YOU in a train state of mind, the York museum is planning fun holiday displays, including one featuring the original Stephenson's Rocket, which changed rail travel in 1829.  Another exhibit features "The Age of Innovation" when vicars, lace-makers and miners brought their own miniature locomotives to life.
We recommend rail travel over renting a car in Britain, particularly for our fellow Yanks. To avoid driving "the wrong side of the road," why not ride the rails instead?
nymr.co.uk;  railwaymuseum.org.uk; britrail.com

Bruce Keller, aka "Keller" and Christene "Cookie" Meyers
on board the Madaket, on a cruise around Humboldt Bay.



UP NEXT: Did you know that there exists in  northern California, the country's oldest still operational ferry boat.  The Madaket proudly patrols the waters of Humboldt Bay, with a skipper who knows her business and shares information about the wildlife, economy, waterways, history and purpose of the charming ferry, which among other attributes boasts the smallest licensed bar in the state.  More next week.  Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn, laugh and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, nature, the arts, family and more:  www.whereiscookie.com  Please share the links and tell your friends. We have a global readership of which we are very proud.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Theater thrives as San Diego playhouses harvest autumn treasures


"Cambodian  Rock Band" is like no other musical. The writers of this column saw it recently at Oregon 
Shakespeare Festival. The fine production comes to LJPH.
-- photo courtesy Oregon Shakespeare Festival 
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
and courtesy theaters' marketing depts

FROM THE groundbreaking rock musical about a father and daughter and a southeast Asian band, to classic comedy by Neil Simon, a romantic adventure, a musical romance, historical drama and a stockingful of holiday shows, theater lovers can see a new production or two each week through year's end -- and be delighted with the mix.
 Jamie and Cathy are played with finesse by Michael
 Louis Cusimano and and Racquel Williams in Cygnet's
 "The Last  Five Years," on tap through Nov. 17.
CYGNET THEATRE. "The Last Five Years." Through Nov. 17. Billed as "an emotionally powerful and intimate musical" always energetic Cygnet features this charmer about two struggling New Yorkers in their twenties -- a novelist and actress -- who fall in and out of love over half a decade. With catchy solo turns, the music and lyrics showcase Jamie and Cathy as their relationship deepens and changes, and they face challenge both to the relationship and their individual desires.  Then Cygnet's always charming holiday musical tradition, "A Christmas Carol" with Sean Murray's clever adaptation. It runs Nov. 27-Dec. 29.  cygnettheatre.com
Award winning internationally
acclaimed David Sedaris' witty
"The Santaland Diaries" comes to
Diversionary Theatre.
DIVERSIONARY THEATRE. "The Santaland Diaries."  This small, mind-challenging company presents a work written by comic and essayist David Sedaris.  His humorous account of a stint working as a Christmas elf in "Santaland" at Macy's department store is a sure holiday spirit pleaser. Sedaris first read the essay on National Public Radio's Morning Edition during the 1992 holidays and the story of the very unmerry elf has become a sardonic holiday classic. Diversionary continues its excellent tradition of LGBT work. Nov. 21-Dec. 22. diversionary.org
The approach to La Jolla Playhouse in evening.
"Cambodian Rock Band" promises to delight opening soon.
 La JOLLA PLAYHOUSE. "Cambodian Rock Band" Nov. 12-Dec. 15. We recently saw and loved this innovative production at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It is absolutely ground-breaking, touching, mesmerizing. Epic in its sweep, it is both play and rock concert, thrusting us into the life of a young woman with a mission: to discover family history from 30 years earlier. She knew little about her musician father who fled Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge's brutal assault on the land, its artists and thinkers. A gifted cast performs a mix of contemporary Dengue Fever hits and Cambodian oldies.
A stellar ensemble presents "Ring Around the Moon"
at Lamb's Players Theatre. A lively holiday show follows. 
 The San Diego connection is playwright Lauren Yee, UC San Diego alum, who brilliantly brings the Cambodian rock scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s to life. We're excited to see it again, a masterful story about the power of survival, family loyalty and enduring music. lajollaplayhouse.org
LAMB'S PLAYERS THEATRE: "Ring Around the Moon." Christopher Fry’s 1950 adaptation  of Jean Anouilh's "Invitation to the Castle." A romantic adventure about love, identity and money, it's winning praise for its lovely staging, strong ensemble work and light-hearted comedy.  Through Nov. 17.  Then the popular and always unique "Lamb's Festival of Christmas" runs Dec. 5-29. lambsplayers.org


Lisel Gorell-Getz as Mags, 
and Debra Wanger as Liz at Moxie.
MOXIE THEATRE: "Handbagged." Through Nov. 17. This ground-breaking company presents works by and about interesting women in a mission to showcase diverse and honest looks at the female gender. "Handbagged" features two characters, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ("Mags") and Queen Elizabeth II ("Liz,") with their older and younger versions played by four talented actors. The title references the handbags of the two same-age women who ruled with purses over their wrists. The play explores who really had the upper hand behind closed palace doors. It's winning raves. moxietheatre.com
New Village Arts' intimate space is a perfect venue for
an imaginative production of "Around the World in 80 Days."
NEW VILLAGE ARTS. "Around the World In 80 Days." Nov. 8-Dec. 22  The classic tale gets a new twist with original music as the mysterious, wealthy, lonely Victorian Phileas Fogg determines to circumnavigate the world in 80 days. On this belief, he has wagered his  fortune. Will bandits, buffalo, chivalry, an unreliable but faithful valet, and unrelenting inspector from Scotland Yard keep him from his impossible task? We follow Fogg and his eccentric companions aboard steamships, locomotives, and pachyderms as they learn about love, themselves, and the unanticipated.  With original pirate rock ‘n roll music by The Shantyannes.  newvillagearts.org
  Lenny Wolpe, as Willie Clark and James Sutorius as Al Lewis are 
  endearing and delightful in "The Sunshine Boys," extended to Nov. 24.
NORTHCOAST REPERTORY THEATRE: "The Sunshine Boys," is winning raves for its delightful rendition of Neil Simon's beloved comedy, the story of two cranky old actors who reunite for a final hurrah. North Coast Rep's ambitious artistic director David Ellenstein crafts a varied lineup for the theater's 38th season which opened with "Amadeus" and includes a Harold Pinter classic. The intimate house offers not a single bad seat and this production promises laughs and a perhaps a tear with the smile. northcoastrep.org  

"A Christmas Story" promises to delight, based on
the popular movie (seen here), at San Diego
Musical Theatre, with an ambitious season.
SAN DIEGO MUSICAL THEATRE: "A Christmas Story" runs Nov. 29-Dec. 29 after SDMT's sold-out production of "Man of LaMancha" with Robert J. Townsend a moving Don Quixote. The lively holiday show is based on the delightful movie by the same name, about family, a coveted gift ("you'll shoot your eye out") and growing up. The ambitious SDMT season includes the romantic comedy, "She
Loves Me," Tony winning "Rent," always winning "Little Shop
of Horrors" and more. Erin and Gary Lewis founded
the enterprise in 2006. It has a loyal following for its
widely varied repertoire. sdmt.org 

SAN DIEGO REPERTORY THEATRE: "Hold These Truths"
Ryun Yu plays all 37 characters in an emotionally
charged production, "Hold These Truths" at SD Rep. 
Nov. 14-Dec. 8. One-man tour de force starring Ryun Yu in a work written by Jeanne Sakata. The story tells of a Japanese-American man who spent 50 years trying to avenge the injustice done to Americans of Japanese ancestry after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The actor plays all 37 characters in what promises the Rep's usual electric, thought-provoking theatrical experience. It comes on the heels of a brilliant comedy, "Bad Hombres, Good Wives." sdrep.org
WELK THEATRE. 
Welk Resort's always popular holiday show opens
Nov. 22, a family musical entertainment.
  "The Addams Family." Through Nov. 10. New musical comedy, with fun twists but loosely based on the TV show.  Campy action and a veteran cast. "Welkhome Home Nov. 22-Dec. 29 promises swinging sounds of traditional songs, contemporary work and a perfect family entertainment. Then the Broadway classic, “A Chorus Line” is up Jan. 10-March 22. This is one of the writer's "Top 10" Broadway shows, a concept musical about Broadway dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line. Don't neglect the resort's excellent tribute shows. welkresorts.com

Train passengers arrive from many UK cities in York. 
UP NEXT: Train, train, train...... England style.  Come with us to trace the evolution of rail travel as transportation evolved from stagecoach to trains. We ride the rails, old and new, as Cookie and Keller  explore the United Kingdom's long love affair with rail travel.  We take you to York's fabulous Railroad Museum, then catch a vintage steam train for a delightful 90-minute journey. Next, we go inside the beautiful Orient Express cars when rail travel was elegant and try a Britrail pass to London and more.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel look at travel, the arts, nature and family.

























Friday, October 25, 2019

Rijsttafel anyone? Dutch specialty nods to Indonesian connection

As artfully designed Blue Pepper opens for the evening, Cookie pauses with staff to survey the Amsterdam restaurant.

Awaiting the first course at Blue Pepper, Cookie smiles.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

IF YOU DESIRE a truly memorable dinner while visiting Amsterdam -- one that will linger long in the memory, with smells, tastes and colors you recall for years --  choose a rijsttafel feast at Blue Pepper Restaurant.
I've been a fan of this complex and satisfying dish since the late 1960s when as young adventure seekers, my teen-aged girlfriends and I ordered rijsttafel at a small Indonesian restaurant in Amsterdam.
Delicately cooked scallop with a tasty orange sauce: delicious.

Our eyes widened as dish after dish arrived at our table, magnificent meats, fish, vegetables, chicken, pickles, skewers of delicacies all seasoned with an amalgam of spices we struggled to identify.
Since then, I've spent more than a half-century sampling rijsttafel wherever and whenever I can, even enticing a dear friend of Dutch and Indonesian heritage to invite us to rijsttafel at her home.
She did! Thank you, Ragna, and your excellent mama.  You two fine cooks worked  for several days on the meal and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
THE MEAL is often served with beer, but Blue Pepper offers the courses with interesting wine pairings, which I sampled. (My husband savored a fruity but not too sweet non-alcoholic specialty drink).  Several non-alcoholic beers would also pair nicely with the feast, which includes rice if you like.
A trio of satay -- each different, and each in its own sauce --
is a must at Blue Pepper, where subtlety, variety, flavor reign.
Rijsttafel is spelled several ways. (This one most common.)

A delightful specialty drink can be served
with or without alcohol. The libation's
quality matches that of the fine food.
THE TASTY DISHES that comprise a rijsttafel meal have been around hundreds of years in Indonesia.  The Dutch brought the dish to Europe in the 1600s, when they were a significant presence in the region. In fact, the Dutch ruled in Indonesia from 1602 to 1945, almost 350 years, most of the time referring to it as the East Indies.
Wonderfully attentive service from waiter
Terenzio Gnoni is part of Blue Pepper's charm.
The name, “rijsttafel” is Dutch in origin and means literally “rice table.” Dutch plantation owners liked the array of dishes and desired to sample a mix of them at one sitting.  In restaurants or at a large catered party, guests often find rijsttafel on a buffet or the center of the table and are not expected to sample every offering.  Blue Pepper kicks it up a notch, serving the meal in small appealing courses.  We sampled a six-part extravaganza ranging from tender succulent scallops with macadamia nuts and orange, to scrumptious deep-fried eggplant, a marvelous jack fruit and peanut satay with soy and lime and a medley of pickles, prawns, steamed vegetables and a dessert both scrumptious and pretty.
Dessert for the birthday boy.  Keller's dessert
medley was a beautifully arranged boat of
delicacies -- chocolate, berries, petit fours.
THERE ARE dozens of offerings and Blue Pepper's knowledgeable and friendly waiters will help you narrow the field based on your preferences. Our delightful waiter, Terenzio, patiently and with aplomb offered personal  recommendations: a pulled-goose fried spring roll with a fragrant cloves and cinnamon sauce; a refreshing fruit dish of pineapple, mango and cucumber with a tasty sauce; a spicy guinea-fowl curry unlike anything we'd sampled in other rifsttafel haunts.
IF YOU want to learn a few words before you select your meal, bone up on these: ayam means chicken; ikan means fish; daging means meat; sayur means veggies with broth and maybe a bit of meat; sate is barbecued meat or fish on skewers; sambal goreng is spicy vegetables; sambal goreng kering is spicy and stands alone; sambal is a chili condiment (go easy!) and rudjak is fresh fruit with spicy sweet sauce. We recommend the fried side dishes, goreng, and don't be shy to try a zingy pickled veggie relish, acar. Krupuk (with a long u) is a deep fried chip similar to India's papadum.
Blue Pepper's delightful menu is served both in a beautifully designed
Amsterdam restaurant and in a canal cruise, served tableside.
Since Amsterdam is built on canals, the Blue Pepper's candlelight dinner cruise is another option, a wonderfully decadent way to gild the lily. Combine fine dining with some of the world's most varied waterways with rijstaffel, champagnes and wines served at your table.
 WHY NOT experience both the canal cruise and the restaurant.  If you come to Blue Pepper and dine early or late, (avoiding the busy 6:30-9 p.m. when it is packed,) you'll enjoy a welcome prosecco or signature cocktail on the house.
We've tried a half-dozen other restaurants serving unique Indonesian food in Amsterdam, but none compare to the flair, quality and detail of  Blue Pepper.
 restaurantbluepepper.com



Daniel Ramos, Jose Bales, Salomon Maya in "Bad Hombres,
Good Wives" encounter one another at San Diego Repertory Theatre. 
UP NEXT We'll be back to Europe for more adventure soon -- in the English countryside, aboard British trains and into northern Europe and the Baltic. But first, a segue: come with us to southern California where our San Diego theater season is heating up for an autumn bonanza of comedy, drama, spoofs and more. We'll preview a few of our favorites in what looks to be a stellar line-up of quality work. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fun, fresh look at travel, the arts, nature, romance, food, family and more.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Eating Europe: Munch your way through history with fun food, guides

Trained historians and knowledgeable graduate students and professionals lead interested tourists to a series of both well
   known and undiscovered food and beverage haunts in "Eating Europe," located in a growing number of European cities. Here Alexander Nallin shares facts, fun and fanciful stories with a group of international foodies and tourists in London.  

Photographer Bruce Keller, left, and Cookie (Christene
Meyers) sample fish and chips at Poppies, a legendary
London eatery where Poppie himself sometimes appears. 

FOOD, FUN, HISTORY ON THE ROAD THROUGH GREAT CITIES IN  'EATING EUROPE' AND DELIGHTFUL TOURS


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

COMBINE TWO favorite past times: sampling food and soaking up history in a new city.
Delicious cheeses from various European countries were offered at one stop.

What do you call it?  "Eating Europe."
The delightful brainchild was designed to bring great cities to life through a combined experience of cultural immersion and culinary sampling, two mainstays in a visit anywhere.
Guides are carefully chosen to have an interest in both the city's history and the foods served in all types of pubs, eateries, shops, bistros, cafes and more. The food stops are thoughtfully chosen to illustrate variety in each city.
OUR GUIDE, Alexander, brought London's east end to life, regaling us with anecdotes and insights into kings, queens, scoundrels, lords, ladies and ladies of the evening.
We began our combined gastronomic-history adventure near one of London's oldest and best known pubs, "Ten Bells."  There, in 1881, Jack the Ripper hung out and lured his victims, all prostitutes, to their grim deaths.
The tour was capped with a tasty
wedge of rich chocolate pie
served with cream and tea. 
London's restaurants, pubs and cafes serve up a medley,
here a sandwich from Beigel Bake, a legendary restaurant is
typical of Eating Europe's varied haunts: quality, history, fun.
Our seven tasty and filling treat stops offered a pleasant mix, from a melt-in-the-mouth bacon sandwich, to a satisfying warm bread and butter pudding, nicely varied cheese plate, delicious fish and chips, a spicy curry trio, bagel with tender brisket and a wedge of sinfully delicious chocolate pie served with clotted cream and steaming Earl Grey tea.


Eating Europe guide Alexander takes ten foodies and culture
 buffs through London's engaging and varied east end. The
tour included schools, churches, businesses, charities and
of course the food stops. Alex's stories enhanced the dining.

OUR DINING companions were an interesting, international mix of professionals, students, retired folks, and a pair of honeymooners, celebrating their recent wedding in Ireland.
We agreed that all the samplings were delightful
and the itinerary well conceived. The order of the dishes fell comfortably into Alexander's lively comments.  His scope ranged from the city's Roman days, when the first villas were constructed, to Henry VIII stories -- he built a military camp here -- to modern times and the neighborhoods' gentrification.
Fabulous lamb curry was served along with a vegetarian 
offering and chicken dish at one of Eating Europe's nine 
East London food stops on colorful Brick Lane.
 .
Through Alexander, east London came to life -- it's his stomping ground -- and his free-wheeling commentary about theater, soup kitchens, churches, schools and neighborhoods was engaging. His territory is indeed rich with history.
SINCE 2013, more than 25,000 guests have sampled  Londo's Eating Europe tour. The fun walking-eating tours have been sampled by more than 150,000 people in the program's other cities. (Amsterdam's is on a canal boat!! Next for us.)
We couldn't see everything in this huge London region known for its ethnic variety and tapestry of cultures. But we got a time-travel sampling, admiring trendy new neighborhoods, lively street art, brick offices, churches and an occasional mansion built in the silk trade's glory days.
BETWEEN BITES, and cuisine-based conversation over four hours, we enjoyed historic architecture, artful graffiti and Alexander's well told tales. Brisk walking between samples helped us feel less like gourmands and more like gourmets as we visited 
The murals off Brick Lane are part of the tour's fun.
markets, shops, bakeries, pubs and restaurants, usually meeting  the owners or managers, which added to the experience.
We were happy to find the streets uncrowded as we explored hidden alleys, listening to the history of each eatery. One legendary restaurant is famous for its bone marrow, tripe and "nose to tail" eating. We learned that our beloved "bagel" is really spelled "beigel" as Beigel Bake illustrated. Fabulous.
The immersive Eating Europe concept was developed to combine fun dining with a city's traditions and culture. As promised, this was delivered with flair, obvious through Alexander's passion for the city in which he lives. He shared history, architecture, ethnicity
The beauty, art and variety of European bars and eateries
makes the immersive Eating Europe tours a hit.
in a nuanced educated but not preachy fashion.
The food-walking combo makes an enjoyable way to experience a new neighborhood.
Eating Europe blends fun dining with
 lively history in European cities,
with a focus on meeting "food folks."
EATING EUROPE is now in nine cities: Rome, Florence, London, Amsterdam, Prague, Naples, Lisbon, Strasbourg and Paris. Expansion is underway so check out the website for updates on new cities.
Thumbs up, tummies happy, for this marvelous eat-walk-smile touring venture. eatingeurope.com

UP
Come with us next week to sample rijsttafel, as Cookie is about to,
first in line at Amsterdam's popular Blue Pepper Restaurant.
NEXT:
While we're on the subject of great eating, come with us to sample rijsttafel, that magnificent Indonesian invention which originated in Southeast Asia and spread to Holland. The colorful meal is savored slowly and consists of a selection of spiced rice dishes and succulent small plates. It crossed the seas to the Netherlands because of the long interest of Dutch sailing and enterprise in Indonesia and is considered a specialty dish in Amsterdam. No place makes it better than Blue Pepper Restaurant.  Come enjoy a look at the history and appeal of this intriguing and complex culinary invention. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a fresh spin on travel, nature, the arts, family and more.

Friday, October 11, 2019

John and Yoko's peaceful Dutch 'Love In' remembered 50 years later

Remembering the days of yore, Christene "Cookie" Meyers checks out the John and Yoko suite at Amsterdam Hilton. 

BEATLES FANS VISIT FAMOUS HOTEL SUITE REMEMBERED FOR 1969 "BED IN"

The hotel is a smart, stylish property and the suite pays homage to
the famous couple's peaceful protest there 50 years ago.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

"You may say I'm a dreamer,
But I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us,
And the world will live as one."
-- from 'Imagine', on its 48th anniversary
Stylish architecture and plush amenities are offered
for those who wish to pay $2,000-plus a night.

WE ALL REMEMBER the photos.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono in bed, surrounded by flowers, signs and musical instruments.
It was 1969 and the Vietnam War was raging.
The famous couple staged two week-long Bed-Ins for Peace, one at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and one at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.
We visited the first hotel on a recent trip to the Netherlands, spending a week in this quiet, peaceful corner of Amsterdam.
"Peaceful" is the key word here for the two hotel visits were intended to be nonviolent protests against wars and experimental tests of new ways to promote peace.
Our host for a tour of the famous suite was the hotel's delightful public relations specialist, Anastasija, who is too young to remember the time in which the non-violent events occurred.
Photographer Eric Koch faked a press card to gain
entrance to the famous "Bed In" and the couple
preferred his photos to others taken that week.
She smiled as she told the stories, though, including comments from journalists covering the event. "They remarked that the two were welcoming to visitors and the press, but that the room began to smell a bit toward the end of the week. As part of the protest, they did not bathe."
The Amsterdam property has enlarged the original John and Yoko room into a small suite which is in high demand at $2,090 a night (1899 Euros). The guestbook boasts signatures of happy couples from Japan to Australia, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. The couple had recently married in Gibraltar and many honeymooners stay there now.
Bruce Keller and Christene Meyers in the John and Yoko
suite, Amsterdam Hilton, overlooking a lovely canal.
THE BATHROOM  of 50 years ago was not as plush as today's expanded room with its large oval bathtub, separate walk-in shower, plush bathrobes and slippers, plus other VIP amenities.
  The idea for the 1969 event derived from the era's popular "sit ins" when protesters seated themselves in front of or inside an establishment until they were evicted, arrested, or had their demands met.
THERE ARE IRONIES and anecdotes to the famous visit.  The Hilton was not the first choice of the couple, but accepted their reservation knowing that the visit might attract international attention.  "We have certainly benefited from the event," Anastasija commented. And, she agreed, the other Dutch hotel which declined to host the couple has probably had regrets.
A sketch made by the pair is now used in advertising the suite which is tastefully decorated
with John and Yoko memorabilia. Among the nostalgic objects are a copy of one of his guitars, many photographs, sketches and notebooks.
A stroll from the hotel takes the tourist past lovely canals and many bikers.
We loved the location of the hotel, a 10-minute walk from  Holland's fabled Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Vondelpark.
If the couple had been hungry they could have feasted at Roberto's, 
or sipped a cocktail at the Half Moon Lounge, an inviting garden terrace with splendid canal views in a luxurious residential area.
INSTEAD, they ate little and when they did, it was a few spoonsful of cold Campbell's soup.
What did the peace-in teach us? Most believe it had little effect on the war, but its artistic contribution lives on.
Says one scholar of the period, "The idea that sitting in bed for a week might have caused Richard Nixon to revise his foreign policy looks a tad hopeful, to say the least."


London's Eating Europe tour offered a delightful
 mix of tastings from spicy curry to sticky pudding
 and fish and chips served in newspaper.
NEXT UP: Next time in Europe, try a delightful "taste and tour" opportunity.  We just did in London and happily recommend Eating Europe Food Tours now in many European cities.  The innovative concept combines eating and touring -- fine food at several stops with lively, expert guides sharing best-kept food and drink secrets with a learned nod to history. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a unique view of travel, the arts, nature, family, food and more.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Appealing Amsterdam: Something for everyone in a lively Dutch city

The canals of Amsterdam are legendary, and much loved and used by tourists and residents alike.

SOPHISTICATED, EXCITING AMSTERDAM: CANALS, HISTORY, MUSEUMS, WINDMILLS, BIKES, FINE FOOD 


The colorful De Kat  Paint Mill of 1782, is one of the joys of a trip to
Zaanse Schans in The Netherlands, near Amsterdam and the oldest
and best preserved windmill area of the world.
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

AMSTERDAM is a city of many moods.  It is vibrant and varied, rowdy and rustic, cosmopolitan and contemplative, accepting and non-judgmental.
It is a delightful city to visit and be part of, if only for a few sunny, fun-filled days.
Our recent of many visits was  memorable because autumn was just coming to the Netherlands. We relished the crisp air, evening breezes and changing colors.
A few sights are on everyone's play list: the famous "museum pair" -- the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum and the house where the young Jewish diarist Anne Frank hid during WWII.
The iamsterdam offices offer several varieties of the excellent
card for one, two, three or four day access and savings.
TO NAVIGATE this beautiful city efficiently and economically, we highly recommend the "iamsterdam city card" which saved us more than 50 euros at a variety of  attractions and on the city's fine public transport system.  We didn't begin to touch the range of 70-plus museums, but in earlier visits toured Rembrandt's house, the world class Maritime Museum and the Frank family's touching upstairs apartment where two families hid until they were outed just before the ending of World War II.
Italian born Sergio gave us a lively and brisk three-hour walking tour of
Amsterdam, from the canals and shopping to the Red Light District.
The card also helps take advantage of Amsterdam's excellent bus and tram system and discounts at many shops, restaurants and more. iamsterdam offers convenient offices and pick-up centers for the one, two, three or four day passes. We picked ours up at Schiphol Airport before heading to our hotel, the Amsterdam Hilton.
AMSTERDAM IS a great walking city, but beware of the bikes which come zipping by at often alarming speeds. Bikes rule, too, so look before you begin crossing a street.
Walking in the famed Red Light
District of Amsterdam is safe.
Keller and Cookie relax at the Amsterdam Hilton.
We always take a walking tour in a city, no matter how many times we've been.  This time, we tried and enthusiastically recommend "Freedam Tours," which navigate the city on foot with lively, educated guides.  Ours was Sergio, Italian born and engaging.  He proudly showed us old Amsterdam, its famous coffee shops, historic buildings and his old neighborhood, the Red Light District. "Please treat them with respect."
We saw several of the women in their windows, and Sergio smiled as we admired windows of beautiful cheeses, souvenirs and pastries.  Cannabis is legal in Amsterdam, but it must be
Amsterdam's legendary coffee shops
serve a cannabis inspired menu. 
bought from certified distributors. We took my late mother to a coffee shop 10 years ago where we all chill out and passed a few pleasant hours. Most look like sophisticated bistros. Cannabis can be purchased, along with special brownies, cookies and hashish.
 A pretty little Dutch girl smiles for the photographer from
one of the country's many clean, efficient buses and trams.


THE NETHERLANDS is at the center of northwestern European commerce, home to people from 200 countries with an average life expectancy of 80. Only 17 million live in all of Holland, around three million people in the greater Amsterdam area and eight million in its four major cities.  Amsterdam is the official capital of the Netherlands according to the country's constitution.  But most Dutch consider The Hague the capital, since both the States General and Executive Branch have been situated there since 1588.
A visit to the Anne Frank House is a
moving experience, even multiple times. 
Amsterdam has a long, proud and colorful history dating back to 1275 when it was founded as a fishing village on the Amstel River. The name "Amstelledamme" occurs for the first time in a toll concession of Floris V, Count of Holland, dated Oct. 27, 1275.
 Besides cheese, clogs, canals and bikes, Amsterdam is known for its flat landscape, spring tulips and the world's best preserved windmills.
We took a day trip to Zaanse Schans, a vibrant working community dating to 18th Century Amsterdam.
 A canal trip is the best way to admire Amsterdam's graceful historic buildings, museums, bars and coffee shops.
The Van Gogh Museum is a high-tech institution with
beautiful displays and many of the artist's paintings.
Art is everywhere in the
parks of Amsterdam.
We were also thrilled with the location of our hotel, the lovely Hilton Amsterdam, in a beautiful neighborhood between the museum district and the Station Zuid business district. (More next week on the hotel's famous John and Yoko Suite, which we enjoyed. The couple staged its famous "Bed-in for Peace" at the hotel in 1969.  )

 www.iamsterdam.com; wwww.zaanschemolen.nl; www.freedamtours.com; www.vangoghmuseum.com



UP NEXT: Fifty years ago, John and Yoko Ono staged a  memorable "Love In" also referred to as a "Peace In" and "Bed In" in Amsterdam's Hilton Hotel.  Today, their suite is a popular honeymoon get-away enjoyed by Beatles fans from all over the world.  We visit, too, and take you there. Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us Fridays for a fresh take on travel, the arts, nature, family and more. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fun, fresh look at travel, the arts, nature, romance, food, family and more. Check out:  whereiscookie.com, which has an international following.