ADVENTURES IN IRELAND AND THE NETHERLANDS IN APRIL OF 2011
During my Spring Break from teaching psychology at Whittier College, I visited my daughter in Ireland, as I had done last year. She is teaching at the University College Cork. But this time I brought my sister with me since she had never been to Europe before. I also left three days earlier the Break since I would only miss one class and had arranged to have a colleague give her guest lecture in Introductory Psychology two weeks earlier than usual.
We spent a week in Ireland, driving around Dingle Peninsula and listening to music in Cork. We then spent three days sightseeing and clubbing in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where we had our connecting flight back to Los Angeles. An unexpected adventure included my backpack catching on fire!
I wrote the following on my netbook computer during the trip, so it is richer in detail than most of my previous travelogues. I have posted 50 photos of Ireland and Amsterdam at the website http://IrelandAndAmsterdam2011.shutterfly.com/pictures/8
TRAVELING TO IRELAND
Our plane left LAX about 6 PM on Wednesday March 23 and arrived at Heathrow Airport in London about 11 AM the next day. We had paid extra to have bulkhead seats so we had plenty of leg room, since my long legs do not fit in a normal economy seat. We landed in London about 11 AM, and our flight to Cork didnÕt leave until 2 PM so we had time to look at shops and eat lunch. Fortunately, we had been able to check our bags all the way through, even though the flights were booked separately, so we didnÕt have to retrieve our bags and recheck them in London. But we still had to go through passport and security checks twice to make our connection.
We arrived at the airport in Cork after 3, and my daughter met us there. I rented a car because my daughter wanted to get out of town after being cooped up with her broken arm for five months. She had fallen while hiking. The bottom break was now healed, but the top break was still healing. She finally was able to move her thumb indicating that the damaged nerve was healing too.
It was weird driving on the left side of the street, with the steering wheel on the right side and the gearshift lever on the left. This was the first time I had driven a car on the left even though I had been in Ireland, England, Japan, and other countries with driving like that before. I had quickly learned to look both ways before crossing the street in any country so I wouldnÕt be looking the wrong way.
With my daughter as navigator I drove us to her house and parked on the street. You have to pay to park on any street in Cork during the day, so my daughter had bought a parking card that you scratch the date and time on, so I could leave the car there while we got ready in the morning. my daughter shares a three-story town house with a colleague from the university, so each of them has a floor with a bedroom and a study.
After taking a nap, we walked downtown and ate dinner at an Indian restaurant. We went to an art center, where my daughterÕs Shape Note community group was singing. Shape Note singing is a tradition from the US South in which the shape of the notes indicates the pitch for people who canÕt read music. My daughter taught an ensemble on it at the university, and it was so popular that her students, joined by others in the community, continued doing it weekly after the class was over. She also organized the first international conference on Shape Note Singing in Ireland last month. The group Thursday night included some of her students as well as community members. Her students took turns leading the group. Afterward we went to bed early to catch up on sleep.
DRIVING TO DINGLE
Friday morning we drove west toward Dingle peninsula, one of five mountainous peninsulas jutting into the Atlantic Ocean from southwest Ireland. We stopped for breakfast in Macroom, about an hour from Cork. We then drove on to Killarney, where we went to the Killarney National Park, which has a large stone manor house. From the house we walked along a lake about 30 minutes to a beautiful waterfall. From there we took a Ņjaunt,Ó in a topless buggy pulled by a horse, back to the manor house and over to an old abbey built in the 1400s that was burned by Cromwell, so it had walls but no roof. We ate dinner at a seafood restaurant, and stayed in a Guest House, which served us a traditional Irish Breakfast, consisting of ham, sausage, black pudding (made of pork blood and grain), eggs, mushrooms, and tomato.
Saturday we drove along the south coast of the peninsula. The road was just wide enough for two cars with no shoulder, so I had to be careful to stay far enough left but not too far. Many roads had no shoulder, with a rock wall or shrubs with branches that could scratch the car. It took a while to be able to judge where the car was on the road, since I am used to judging on the right instead of the left. We stopped at Inch, which has a wide sand bar jutting perpendicular into the ocean with waves on the right and beautiful mountains beyond the end of the sand bar on the next peninsula. My daughter enjoyed just being outside in nature. We were lucky that it wasnÕt raining, but the wind was cold.
We drove on to Dingle, where we checked into a guesthouse on the top of a hill above town with a beautiful view of the ocean from our room. We ate lunch in town, and then drove a few kilometers east of town up to Connor Pass for a spectacular view of ocean bays on both sides of the peninsula. Road signs and the car speedometer are in kilometers, which are .6 of a mile, so a speed of 100 km/hour is 60 mph, and 60 km/hour is 48 mph. I kept converting km/hour to mph in my head as I watched the speedometer.
My daughter was tired so she stayed at the guesthouse while my sister and I drove past Ventry a few km west to visit a museum with Celtic and Prehistoric artifacts. It had some Celtic ornaments and prehistoric bronze tools, as well as a huge mastodon skull with five foot tusks. Further west were the ruins of the Dunbeg promontory fort, with trenches and walls of stacked rocks, dating from 800 BC. It had a great view of the sheared rocks on the ocean cliffs below. Back in Dingle we explored the harbor area, which had fishing boats, pubs, and tourist shops.
We relaxed in our room for a couple of hours, enjoying the ocean view from our room, and I caught up with my email. I had brought my netbook computer and the guest house had wifi. We then went to a pub for dinner and listened to Trad (traditional Irish music). When we went to bed we set our watches an hour ahead, since Ireland changed to daylight savings time a couple weeks later than the US did.
Sunday morning we had a delightful breakfast with omelets, pancakes, and scones. We skipped the black pudding! We wanted to take a harbor cruise, but those were not offered until April. So we took a boat trip to see the lone dolphin that had lived in the bay for the past 28 years. We cruised around the bay for an hour and a half, looking for the dolphin, and saw it several times. I was able to get a picture of it, which is difficult since it usually goes beneath the waves by the time the shutter opens. The sun was shining, although the shore was a little hazy, and there was a very cold wind. I couldnÕt operate my camera wearing my mittens, so my hands were cold when I was taking pictures!
EXPLORING MORE OF THE PENINSULA
After lunch of prawn and crab salads and smoked salmon, we went back to the guesthouse so my daughter could rest for an hour. The healing process makes her tire easily, and her arm had started hurting on the boat. Then we drove west along Slea Head Drive to Ventry. I hadnÕt recognized the town the day before since the town signs were only in Irish (from ancient Gaelic). There are regions of Ireland where the people only speak Irish, and to live there you must pass a language test. Irish is taught in the schools along with English all over Ireland and usually the street signs are in both Irish and English.
We found the road that led down to the beach at Ventry and walked along it. But we couldnÕt see the mountains on the next peninsula due to the haze. We drove past the fort at Dunbeg to Fahan where we saw some of the beehive huts. These are stone dwellings made of stacked rocks in the shape of a beehive, a style ranging from 3100 BC to the 12th century. Further around the end of the peninsula we saw spectacular cliffs facing Blasket Islands, and stopped at a viewpoint where we saw guys surfing in the cold waves.
On the northern end of the peninsula we stopped to see the ruins of an ancient monastery at a site called Reask. It was built of stacked rocks, with a squire oratory and several beehive huts, thought to be used from the 5th or 6th century until the 9th or 10th century. A few km farther was the Gallarus oratory, built of stacked rocks with a rectangular base and curved walls that formed a peak. It was still standing and waterproof without mortar after 1200 years.
A few more km was our last stop, at the ruins of Kilmakedar Church, dating from the 12th century, which had walls but no roof. Inside was a stone carved with the Latin alphabet, and outside was a stone with Ogham slashes, which are ancient Celtic writing. The cemetery next to it had many Celtic crosses, which have a circle around the crossed bars. From there it was only a short ride back to Dingle.
After letting my daughter rest for an hour, we had dinner at one of the few restaurants open on a Sunday evening, and then went back to the guesthouse to relax before bed.
RETURNING TO CORK
Monday morning we checked out of the guesthouse and went to the town center to see a dozen stained glass windows in the chapel of a former convent. They were by a famous stained-glass artist, Harry Clarke, and were more vivid and lifelike than usual. We then drove north across the peninsula to the north side where we walked along a beach, before heading east then south toward Cork.
We stopped for lunch in Killarney, and then took side roads to the town of Blarney to see the castle that was built in 1446. It is famous for a stone on top of the castle that tourists often kiss, thinking it will give them eloquence of speech, since Cormac MacCarthy who built the castle was known for flattery and persuasion. He is said to be the source of the expression that someone is full of blarney. Due to the similarity of sounds, I wonder if balonie is a variant of blarney, and if that is why people say bull in b.s. instead of cow or some other animal. We didnÕt kiss the blarney stone. I had read in a guidebook that locals like to pee on it!
After buying some groceries while we still had the car, we unloaded everything at my daughterÕs house, and my sister and I returned the car to the airport. Then we took a taxi back to the house, where we ate dinner. Afterward we used Skype to call my wife on her computer (for free), and my mother and my brother on their phones (for 2.3 cents per minute). By then everyone was ready for bed!
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE CORK
Tuesday morning after breakfast we took a bus down the hill, across the city center, and out just beyond the University College Cork. My daughter teaches ethnomusicology (music of cultures around the world) at UCC, but the music department is up on a hill above the main campus in an old monastery. We walked through a park along the river eat of the university to the Cork Public Museum. In addition to exhibits on the history of the city, it had an exhibit of films from the early 1900s by Mitchell & Kenyon. They would film people leaving churches and other places, and then show these Ņlocal filmsÓ to the people in them for a fee. The films provide a history of what people wore by social class, since those attending one church were wealthier than those attending another church that was filmed.
We walked through the university, stopping to see the stones with Ogham writing (spelled Ogam in ancient Irish) in the portico of the North Wing of the main quadrangle. I had seen them on my first trip to Ireland in 2006 before my daughter moved here, and again last year when I visited my daughter during my Spring Break. The Ogham letters are written with slashes carved on rock. Each letter consists of 1 to 4 slashes that are either to the left of a vertical line, to the right of the line, or centered across the line. They date from the 5th to about the 7th century, and were decoded in modern times from writings in both Ogham and Latin. That is similar to the Rosetta stone that was used to decode Egyptian hieroglyphs since it had hieroglyphs, Coptic, and Greek.
Across from the quadrangle we saw the Boole Library, named after the university's mathematician George Boole who invented Boolean algebra in 1840. It provides rules for math using only the binary numbers 0 and 1 and is the basis for computer processing, in which information is stored using magnetized states pointing up or down. In binary code, each digit represents a power of 2, so 10=2, 100=4, and 1000=8. I learned about this when I took a computer-programming course my senior year in college!
We walked by the old chapel and the modern student union and on to the city center, where we had lunch in a cafˇ overlooking one of the two branches of the River Lee that surround the city center. We bought some tea that Pam wanted at a specialty shop, a few items at a health foods store, and fresh food at the English Market, a huge building that has rows of stalls with meat, fish, vegetables, cheese, bread, olives, and other wonderful foods.
BUTTER AND THE ECONOMY
My daughter took a bus home to rest, while my sister and I walked up a hill to see the Butter Museum. We learned that dairy products have long been an important part of IrelandÕs economy. Centuries ago, kings and their warriors would raid cattle from their enemies. Wealth was measured in number of cows owned, and local kings who had led more raids had more prestige.
Up until the 20th century, farmerÕs wives would make butter at home and sell butter and eggs to make money. They milked the cows, separated the cream from the whey, and churned the cream to make butter. The butter was pressed to remove moisture so it wouldnÕt grow bacteria, and salt was added to absorb moisture and act as a preservative. It was felt that this was womenÕs work, and women could better conjure the magic that turned the cream into butter. There were many beliefs about things that could keep the cream from ŅbreakingÓ including witchcraft, and various things that could avoid witchcraft such as using certain woods for the churn or putting a horseshoe under it.
By the 1950s farmers formed co-operatives with machinery in creameries for greater efficiency. Women worked in the creameries, which gave them employment. But the sellers would compete with each other for the lowest prices, so in the 1960s the government created a dairy board to consolidate the marketing of butter, and created the Kerry Gold brand. Television ads promoted it in England first, then in ninety countries worldwide, and it was very successful. This led to increased milk production and the exporting of a greater variety of dairy products. When Ireland joined the European Union in 1973, this provided guaranteed prices and markets for Irish dairy products.
MORE ACTIVITIES IN CORK
My sister and I decided to walk back to my daughterÕs house instead of taking the bus, but it was a longer walk than we anticipated and mostly uphill! I helped my daughter make some low-fat cookies, since cooking with one hand is challenging. The cookies turned out more like cake than cookies, but they tasted good anyway! I caught up on email and wrote about Monday and TuesdayÕs adventures on my netbook computer until dinnertime.
After dinner, my sister and I walked down the hill to a couple of pubs to listen to Trad. The first place had lively music played by a guitar, banjo, two violins, and an Irish flute. The second had less lively music played by a guitar, concertina, and two Irish flutes. The Irish flute has a mouthpiece on the side like other flutes, but is black like a clarinet and sometimes has keys instead of just holes. The concertina is like a small accordion but is hexagonal in shape. I had taken weekly accordion lessons when I was 8-12 years old, riding a bus alone downtown in Portland, Oregon. It gave me the confidence to travel places by myself.
Wednesday morning we took a bus downtown, then walked west up the hill to the music building. We saw My daughterÕs office, which has a great view, a seminar room where she often teaches, and the Javanese Gamelan ensemble room with its various metallophones, xylophones, drums, and gongs. We then walked further up the hill to tour the old city gaol (jail). The first part of the building was built in 1824, with additions over the years, and the jail was in use until 1923.
Many were in jail for petty crimes such as stealing food or clothing, or for prostitution or drunkenness. Punishment often included solitary confinement that sometimes drove prisoners mad. Lashing was common, and one of the rooms depicted a nine-year old boy being lashed. Jail conditions were similar in other countries at that time. During the Irish rebellion against British rule in 1921-23, the jail was overcrowded with political prisoners before it was closed.
We had lunch at a restaurant nearby, and then took a taxi out to the hospital for my daughterÕs appointment with her orthopedist. He said that her arm bone felt solid, and that she should wear her cast outside for protection, but she doesnÕt need to wear it inside so she can build up strength in her hand and arm. She had changed to a removable neoprene cast with metal stays after three months in a plaster cast. He also said that it was okay for her to travel. She has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to do research in Finland, which she wanted to do in the fall, and a Madam Curie award to spend two years at Cambridge University in England.
We took a bus back to my daughterÕs house and ordered Thai food from a restaurant that delivers, and then walked down the hill to attend a play called ŅRelatively SpeakingÓ by Alan Ayckbourn. It was a funny play about mistaken identities, involving a man, his girlfriend, her previous older partner who was married and whom the man thought was her father, and the previous partnerÕs wife. It reminded me of plays by Oscar Wilde. The program said that the author had written 75 plays, but I had never heard of his plays before.
After the play we went to a pub to listen to Trad, which was played by a violin, two Irish flutes, and a Uilleann (elbow) bagpipe that has a bellows pumped by the elbow. The talking was so loud it was hard to hear the music! It was raining so we took a taxi back.
Thursday morning we walked to the city center and visited the Crawford Art Museum. It had some nice copies of Greek and Roman statues, along with paintings by Irish artists from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. It had a special exhibit called Altered Images in which other artists had made three-dimensional versions of various paintings so that blind persons could feel the painting.
We explored various shops then ate lunch at the English Garden. We walked back to my daughterÕs house, and called a cab for the airport. After 35 minutes and three phone calls to the taxi company, we gave up and hailed a cab on the street. But we were in plenty of time for our plane to Amsterdam since the Cork airport is small and it took little time to go through security.
ARRIVAL IN AMSTERDAM
When we arrived in Amsterdam, we took a train to the Central Station, then a tram to Leidseplein, and walked a few blocks to a youth hostel. I had booked a single room with a bathroom. The room we were assigned smelled of fresh paint, so we asked to be moved to another room. My sister had never stayed in a youth hostel before, and was surprised that there were no towels, which we bought at the reception desk. Usually youth hostels have mainly college students, with some high school students and some older persons. But when we arrived, there was a large group of junior high students in the lobby and lounge area, who were very noisy. Fortunately, they didnÕt stay long!
The youth hostel had discount tickets for a canal boat ride and the major museums, which we bought. We borrowed an adapter plug so my sister could use her hair dryer and I could recharge my computer, camera battery, and cellphone. I had brought my US phone (to connect with my wife when we return to LAX), and my European phone that uses a prepaid SIM card (since my US phone does not work in Europe). I had brought a plug adaptor for Ireland (which has two horizontal prongs plus a square ground prong like in the UK) but forgot to bring an adaptor for continental Europe (which uses two round prongs). In the past I had to bring a converter to change 240 volts used in Europe to 110 volts used in the US, but now all of the electronics I carry can use either 240 or 110 volts.
After leaving our bags in our room, we explored the side streets around Leidesplein, which have many restaurants and bars. There werenÕt very many people on the streets on a Thursday evening, since it wasnÕt tourist season and there was a cold wind. I stepped into one place that had a crowd, and it turned out to be a coffee shop with the smell of marijuana in the air. There are coffee shops that sell marijuana legally in Amsterdam. But that wasnÕt what I was looking for!
I heard dance music coming from a bar, and found that it had a small dance floor with a few people dancing, so my sister and I started to dance. As usual, my energetic dance moves (along with my age) attracted attention, and we immediately had rapport with those dancing, and others joined us on the dance floor too. But after an hour, more people started dancing who were smoking, and we couldnÕt stand the smoke so we reluctantly left. We stopped by another bar that had dance music, but it was crowded and there was no room to dance!
SIGHTSEEING IN AMSTERDAM
Friday morning after breakfast at the youth hostel, we went on a 75-minute canal tour. The central city has about 8 canals in concentric half circles, which are connected by about 8 other canals like spokes of a wheel, plus there are additional canals in the harbor. Altogether there are 160 canal segments, with 252 bridges. Many canals are lined with old multi-story townhouses. They typically have a beam extending from the roof with a hook that was originally used to haul up provisions from the canal, and now is used to haul up furniture. The townhouses on the canal are one of the things that I remembered from my visit to Amsterdam in 1967 when I was a graduate student traveling around Europe by train. Some of the buildings in the city are built on pilings, which used to be made of wood but are now made of concrete.
In addition to canals, Amsterdam has bicycle paths everywhere. Bikes are parked along the streets and in parking lots for bikes at major intersections. There are many more bikes parked than cars. The bike paths are paved in red and are located between the sidewalk and the street about the same level as the sidewalk. So when you cross the street you need to watch out that a fast-moving bicycle does not hit you before you get to the sidewalk. You also need to watch out for trams and buses, since they go all over the city!
We then walked to the Rijksmuseum (national museum) that was nearby. The main building was being renovated, so there were only exhibits in the adjacent building. It had some of my favorite Dutch painters, including Rembrandt with his wonderful use of contrasting light and dark, and Vermeer and others with scenes of daily life.
A few blocks away was the Heineken Experience, located in a former brewery. It told about the history of the company, which was founded in1865 by a 22 year old, and led by four generations of family members. It had demonstrations of how beer was made by college students, and of course a tasting room at the end of the tour. Heineken is one of my favorite beers, the one I usually drink when I have one or two beers at a dance club.
WOMEN IN WINDOWS WITH RED LIGHTS
After a large lunch, we took a tram downtown to see the famous red light strict, which still has women sitting in front of windows, even in the daytime. I read that the women pay 100-150 Euros a day to rent the window, and can earn 600 Euros a day (a Euro is now worth about $1.40). They charge about 50 Euros for 15 minutes of sex, so have about a dozen customers per day. The area also has many coffee shops selling marijuana, as well as shops selling condoms, sexy clothing, and related items, and a few live sex shows as well. There were many people exploring the area, especially young men. The only other place that I know has women sitting in windows is Hamberg, Germany, if they still do it.
MORE ACTIVITIES IN AMSTERDAM
We wanted to go to a play, but the plays were in Dutch, so we went to Boom Chicago, which is a comedy improv show in English by Americans living in Amsterdam. It was fun. Nearby were three bars with small dance floors, including the one we enjoyed the previous night. We danced in two of them, and had a beer at the third. Again we had great rapport with other dancers. One told me that he wanted to be like me when he was my age. I get that comment often when clubbing. My reply is Ņkeep dancing!Ó
Saturday morning after breakfast at the hostel, we walked to the Van Gogh museum. It tells about his life and the development of his painting style, with illustrative works of painters who influenced him and were influenced by him. He was born in 1853, but didnÕt become an artist until age 27 after feeling he was a failure at other jobs. He admired the work of Millet who painted peasant people, and wanted to depict the lives of these hard-working people. He was influenced by French Impressionist painters, who liberated him from conventional painting, and by Japanese woodcuts, which he sometimes imitated in his own style.
Van Gogh tried to establish an artistsÕ community, but got into an argument with his friend Gauguin, threatened him with a knife, then in a fit of rage cut off part of his own ear. He was depressed, and was later determined to have had epilepsy. He entered an insane asylum, where he continued to paint, but was bored. After his release, he felt that he was losing his artistic ability, and shot himself at age 37. During his ten years as a painter he made over 800 paintings, of which the museum has 200, but the importance of his work was only begun to be appreciated before his death.
My sister wanted to see the famous tulips of Holland, and so we took a tram, train, and bus following directions from a hostel staff member. We ended up at Keukenhof, a sort of theme park about flowers. Although the fields outside the park were not in bloom yet except for daffodils, inside the park there were many beds of tulips that had been grown in a greenhouse. There also were several pavilions with food and flowers, as well as an old windmill, and an additional greenhouse with orchids. Holland ships flower bulbs all over the world. The day was partly sunny which made it a better day to see all the beautiful flowers, after the clouds and cold wind in Amsterdam the previous few days.
ASKING FOR RECOMMENDATIONS
When I was in Amsterdam as a graduate student in 1967, there were many Indonesian restaurants serving Rijstafel (rice table). You are served rice and small bowls containing meats, vegetables, and other condiments. I asked a hostel staff about it, and he said there was a great Indonesian restaurant a few tram stops away. It was very crowded so we had to wait 45 minutes to be seated, but the food was very good. The Rijstafel was very expensive (it had been cheap before) so we ordered Rames, which was a similar collection of meats and vegetables served with rice on a single plate.
We wanted to listen to live music and explore other dance clubs, so I had asked the youth hostel staff for recommendations, and compared that with listings online, recommendations in my LetÕs Go guidebook, and listings in an events brochure at the hostel. The first live music place was supposed to have blues music, but had a rock band that didnÕt sound very interesting. The second live music place had jazz, which I like, but my sister wanted something different that night. The first dance club recommended was closed, the second had a sold-out rock concert, and the third had a cover charge of 16 Euros!
So we went back to the place we had gone the previous two nights where there was no cover charge. It was very crowded, so my sister just relaxed while I danced. The plaza outside was very crowded too, as were most of the streets around Leidseplein, after being nearly empty on Thursday and somewhat crowded on Friday. It was raining when we walked back to the hostel after being warm that afternoon.
Sunday morning we took a tram to Spui square where there is an art market on Sundays. There was an artist who did line drawings that almost looked like photographs, and another that made small sculptures of street scenes that I liked.
BACKPACK CATCHING ON FIRE
Next to the square was an inner courtyard called Begijnhof that has housed the Beguines since the 14th century. They are lay Catholic women who do good deeds, but do not want to take the vows of nuns. After Amsterdam became Protestant in 1578, Catholics were not allowed to worship for more than two hundred years, so the Beguines secretly held services in two houses, which are still a chapel today. Since it was Sunday, there was a Catholic Mass in French. We sat down in the last row to listen to the choir sing, and the small backpack that I was still wearing caught on fire from the votive candles on the table behind the row. Someone behind quickly put the fire out, but it left a four-inch hole in the outer pocket of my backpack. Fortunately it only melted a one inch black patch onto the bottom back of my black fleece vest, which isnÕt very visible, and damaged nothing else inside.
In the middle of the courtyard was a church built in 1419 that originally was Catholic, but was confiscated by the city and given to the English-speaking Protestants in 1607. Since it was Sunday, there was a Scottish Presbyterian service in English, with no votive candles.
Next-door was the Amsterdam Historical Museum, which we explored. It had exhibits on various topics in various parts of what was originally a Civic Orphanage. The topics included population growth, housing, canal building, sewers (to keep sewage out of the canals), ships, world trade, and others. But while the individual sections were somewhat interesting, there was no historical narrative to put it all in perspective. For example, one section talked about what happened after the French left, but it didn't explain when the French came or why. Later I realized that it must have been Napoleon.
We had lunch at a cafˇ next to a small canal, and then wandered around the streets looking at buildings and people. We walked along Kalverstraat, a pedestrian street with many clothing stores, and were surprised that the street was full of people on a Sunday afternoon. We ended up at Rembrandt Square, which has a large statue of Rembrandt, and found that it also had a Sunday art market. I was only impressed with the paintings of one artist who was from Russia.
As we walked along a canal, we saw a poster advertising a Cinderella ballet with music by Prokofiev that sounded interesting. We walked back to the youth hostel so I could look it up online. Unfortunately, it was sold out for that night. On the way back, we watched a Copoeira group from Brazil perform in Leidseplein. It's a martial art in the form of a dance, with kicks from handstands, that was developed by slaves from Africa who were not allowed to practice martial arts.
I told the hostel staff that we had liked the Indonesian restaurant he had recommended, and asked if he could recommend another restaurant. He suggested a place that served Dutch food. He also recommended another venue with live music. At the restaurant we both ordered a traditional Dutch dish of carrots and onions with "mash" and beef. We each were served a large mound of mashed potatoes with sliced carrots and onions mixed in, topped with tender beef chunks and gravy. It was the most mashed potatoes that I had ever eaten, but it was good! I wanted to try a Dutch dessert too, and ordered cream pudding with berries, which was a white pudding thickened with gelatin with a sprig of small translucent berries as a garnish.
The music venue was a jazz bar, which had a group with a sax, drums, and two guitars. They were very good. The bar just had Amstel on tap so I decided to try it, but it wasnÕt nearly as good as Heineken. Instead of going to a dance club afterward, we went back to the hostel to sleep so we could get up early to go to the airport.
TRIP BACK TO LOS ANGELES
Monday morning we took a tram to Central Station and a train to the airport. It took less time that I expected, so we were there three hours early. But that enabled both of us to get bulkhead seating on our flight from Amsterdam to Washington DC, and exit row seating for our second flight from Washington DC to Los Angeles, which I couldnÕt reserve ahead. I was surprised that we didnÕt go through a security check on our way to the boarding gate in Amsterdam, just passport control. But at the gate we went through more rigorous security before boarding the plane. Everyone walked through a full body scanner and had a pat down as well. Flights from London or Amsterdam to the US have been targets of terrorist attempts in the past that fortunately have been foiled.
In Washington, DC we had to retrieve our bags and go through customs before returning the bags for our flight to LA. When we went through security, there were dogs sniffing luggage for drugs and food. A security guard called my sister aside, since the dog smelled something in her purse. When the guard found nothing, she explained that she had had fruit in her purse, but we had eaten it on the plane! Since the flight from DC to LA was a domestic flight, we didnÕt have to go through customs in LA. Back home I went to bed at 11 PM, which was 8 AM Amsterdam time, and woke up at 3 AM which was noon Amsterdam time, still tired but unable to sleep more.
POSTSCRIPT ABOUT MONEY
I used to use travelerÕs checks, which were a hassle to change into the local currency, which was different in every country. Now many countries in the European Union use the Euro. And there are ATM machines in many places in the world, where you can withdraw local currency from your checking account using a debit card (for a fee, of course), at any time. And many merchants worldwide now take Visa and MasterCard, whereas previously only a few took American Express. However, I learned on this trip that many merchants now use portable charge machines that require you to use a PIN code with your credit card instead of writing your signature. Since I didnÕt remember the PIN for my credit card, I have been using my debit card as if it were a credit card since I know the PIN for it.
POSTSCRIPT ABOUT ABC INTERVIEW
The day before I left for Ireland, I was interviewed by ABC Good Morning America. I was asked about a website that matches potential dating partners using a computer to compare facial measurements. I said that my research indicates that matching on attitudes and values, as well as on intelligence, is more important than matching on appearance. The segment was supposed to air on Thursday, but was pre-empted by Liz Taylor's death. When it was finally shown, it omitted my interview. Instead, the segment talked about the matching of various celebrities. It reminded me that the show's producers are entertainers seeking titillation, not journalists seeking truth.