Off I go...

I am scribbling a few lines to hold the nerves at bay as I prepare to squish a week’s worth of black clothing into a suitcase, and head off to Amsterdam.  My ship awaits me, and 148 other travelers. The blessing for me and my knee is that we will unpack once, because I am prepared for any emergency.  My electronics and pharmacy may weigh more than my clothes.  I have the goods to hand wash my clothing and spray away the wrinkles.  Then I can blog about it for ChicagoNow. We have been assured that there is wireless service on the river, but it is often interrupted by the locks.  I will try to post some pictures and thoughts, but I cannot sacrifice my “now” in Holland and Belgium for ChicagoNow.  But I will try to take you all with me.

This group of travelers has a history before me.  My sister has a gaggle of friends in the Detroit area;  they developed a practice of going on an adventure every other year.  Spring break was chosen for the convenience of the teachers.  Eight years ago, my friend Bonnie and I annexed ourselves to the Detroit group, and headed to Rome.   My friend Alberta has made the last two trips, and the three of us will head to Amsterdam together.  We have missed the trips to Paris, the South of France and London, so some independent study will have to fill in the blanks. 
 Jen lights candle for mom.jpg        CIMG0556.JPG
Jenny always lights candles for Mom and Dad- the picture at the right is Salzburg- we were ready for the weather, and God provided snow.  
My first trip was a 9 day hip-hop across Italy.  It rained- every day.  I took my rain spotted glasses off on Day One in Rome, and they fell from my raincoat pocket.  I was Mrs. Magoo for the Vatican, the museums, and most of Roman history.  When we moved to Florence, I was able to enjoy David’s legendary beauty because he was so damn big- but the Uffizi was a blur.  We did the Venice canals in the rain with disinterested gondoliers talking on cell phones- no doubt commenting about the idiocy of American tourists.  Even the pigeons had fled St. Mark’s square.  We dried out with $15.00 bellinis at Harry’s Bar.  We forced ourselves to try every flavor of gelato, despite the cold temperatures.  My spare glasses and I were reunited in time for me to enjoy the watermarks on our hotel lobby.  All of our lungs were infused with mold when we returned, and we took to our beds.  It was a rough way to break in my new passport.  Janet Dahl, international jet setter. open water, typical weather.jpg
This was as good as our weather got.  

Since my inaugural European adventure, we have been to Spain, Austria and the Czech Republic.  We have been amazed by mosques, flamenco dancers, art and cathedrals.  We have seen St. Catherine of Sienna’s face encased in glass. (ick) We traveled through a concentration camp at Terezin, and were changed.  We heard Mozart played by Viennese musicians and were captivated.  
Two years ago,  my sisters, Judy and Marie,  jumped aboard; we made memories that are indelible.  The Joliats on the Charles bridge in Prague?  Priceless.  And over-photographed.  CIMG1133.JPG
front to back:  Jenny, Judy, Marie and me on the Charles Bridge in Prague
This time, we are a small group of 8- two sisters are tethered to their native habitats.  There’s always 2012.  The world awaits, and there is so much of it to see.  
As always, I am leaving a Spring in Chicago for a wet and cool 8 days.  My Kindle is chock full of reading material, my luggage is stuffed. (yet I bought a scale to ensure that I remain below 50 pounds.  The current converter alone weighs a pound!)  I will not be cold; I bought a clearance coat from Land’s End that is parrot green, hooded, insulated and has zippered pockets.  I will be able to ride atop our low slung boat, snapping pictures of Windmills, tulips and castles.  I will hike through Bruges and Brussels, and if my resolve remains strong, I will not buy wooden shoes or copious amounts of lace.  Belgium chocolate- that is another story.  I have an assortment of knee braces, an ice bag and heat wraps.  I refuse to say no to any adventure- after all, my left knee is being replaced: I do not need to baby it.  If I get lost, I have loaded GPS apps in my phone.  The green coat should serve as a beacon, and an antidote to the pervasive black we all wear to disguise road grime.   I packed extra glasses. I don’t want to miss a thing.
After an overnight flight, I will move onto the Amadagio for my Tulip Time cruise.  I will share a room with Jenny, which I did for 18 formative years.  We are used to navigating 170 square feet with congeniality..unless my clothes cross over to her side of the closet.  Then we may have a sister war.  I bought a book light, because earlier sister wars were fought over my habit of reading in bed.  I think that is all behind us- but I do not want to take a chance.  
Steve will be fine- after all, he has the company of the dogs, and his daily podcast.  The White Sox open next week, and the Hawks are limping along to the playoffs.  It appears that he will enjoy temperatures 20 degrees warmer than I, and drier days.  I expect he will miss me very rarely.  
For me, the days will blur together,  and castles will become less important than company. Wine is included with meals, and this may make our group a loss leader for the tour company.  It may also result in free entertainment for our fellow passengers. I pray that there is never a cry of “Jan overboard!”.   Our initial challenge is to keep away (or gravitate to?) the space cakes and magic bars.  Our kids warned us!  We arrive at 9:00 am, but we cannot get on the boat until 3:00 pm.   We have Anne Frank’s hiding place and the Van Gogh museum penciled in for our initial foray.  I think those are best viewed clear eyed.  
Off I go, armed with waterproof everything, two cameras and a computer to bring you along.  Let’s hope that the journey is rich in memories and poor in misadventure.  Even misery is bearable when shared, but let’s not go there. Cross your fingers that all goes well.  

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