Subject: travel log part 3

>From Holland, we move on to Germany.

We took the I.C.E. train from A'dam to Cologne (Koln). WOW! It's so very clean and roomy. We prefer it over the Thalys. The Rhine was flooded as was the Mosel. We made a trip down the Rhine Road by car and just barely made it. We ate in a lovely restaurant across from the famous Loreli rock. Great food exceeded only by the view from the picture windows. Because the Rhine was so flooded, we were unable to take a river boat tour. While this was disappointing, seeing the vineyards along the Rhine that were almost perpendicular was really unbelievable. Made me appreciate the wine all the more

Of course, we visited the famous Cologne Cathedral. Amazing. The thing I find so unbelievable is all these historical buildings that were NOT destroyed by bombing in WWII. Of course, the acid rain is destroying what the bombs missed. There is much around the city to see, but due to the Rhine flooding, we were not able to visit many things including the chocolate factory. It was impossible to drive along the Rhine there as well. The road was under water.

We did not stay in Cologne proper. We actually stayed in a little town called Bergheim about thirty minutes outside the city. There is a great store there named Koch + Design Haus. The owner is Barbara Engelhard. Very friendly lady and her shop is filled with wonderful kitchen things. Wander in if you find yourself there - you won't be disappointed.

We were not in Germany long before moving on to Liege, Belgium

We stayed with friends in Liege. We rode the Thalys to Paris from Liege and stayed over one night there in the Hotel Lafayette. It was a nice hotel. The hugest surprise was the shopping mall under the Louvre!

No boat tours were operating on the Seine as it was flooded like everything else and the boats could not clear the bridges. The sidewalk along the Seine was under water so that was out too, but, from the top of the Eiffel Tower, we saw everything. There was nothing in Paris we did not see! That night, we just happened to drive by the Tower as the lights were twinkling as they do only on the hour. What a sight! Another tip: if you want to go to the Moulin Rouge, better go with a group holding reservations in advance - otherwise, you won't get in. We had a great time in Paris and I don't think there is anything I can tell you about that beautiful city you haven't already read right here on the Zine. I will add that should you hire a cab for a tour of the city by night, try and be very warm and friendly and you will be rewarded by a like response. We learned so much from the lady cab driver we lucked out with. She was actually from Africa. She sounded like syrup when she spoke. Her French was beautiful. We asked her to speak in her native tongue of Swahili and she told us that it was very fast, but she did it none the less. It was no faster - and actually sounded like slow motion (we didn't tell her that, though). It was incredible. She also told us a lot of behind the scenes things about the City of Lights as well as about her family. That was great fun. She did say that she did not take fares after 10p.m. because it was too dangerous. We were her last. Meanwhile, back to Liege. If you've not been there, it is certainly a lovely place.

This part of our trip is much faster as it was almost at the end. We rode the train back to Holland right into Schiphol! It was very convenient. We had purchased these tickets upon our arrival there three weeks before.

Back in London, we visited the Crown Jewels one more time - and that was incredible as always! I never am able to view it with my mouth closed. I ride the moving side walk around and around at least 4 times! We have a good friend that works in the Jewel House and she took us behind the scenes there. She told us about each piece of the collection - and each one certainly has a story. When there, we encourage you to ask any one of the wonderful employees to tell you the history behind each one of the elaborate items. For instance, the King was planning a trip to India back in the 40's +/- and he didn't have the appropriate crown. England could not afford to put all the necessary jewels in it so those were provided by India. When the crown was returned, India kept the precious stones and England replaced them with paste. There is much more to the story, but you will have to ask when you are there. My favorite piece in the jewels is the diminutive crown that Queen Victoria wore. We really enjoyed the Tower, but one must stay for the entire day to enjoy all the sights there. Be sure and take the Beefeater's Tour. Those guys are a stitch! We enjoyed that thoroughly. There is also a dining hall there where you can have breakfast and lunch. It is expensive to get into the Tower, but you get your money's worth. I might add here that because of my asthma I could not easily do all the stairs. Because I am not in a wheelchair, I look perfectly healthy. At one point, I was having trouble but wanted to see the upstairs portion of the White Tower. I simply stepped over to the nearest employee, explained my problem and he very kindly took us a back way to avoid the stairs and told the person upstairs we were coming and to help me. Don't hesitate to do the same as I found these people to be more than kind and courteous. The place I had the WORST problems was at Schiphol, early boarding, and the contract ground crew representing British Air. I will add, though, a customer representative phoned me a couple weeks after our return in response to a gripe card I filled out at the insistence of the head flight attendant (I STILL want to call them stewardesses!). Be aware. She advised me that in the future, I should make all arrangements through their Medical people. They are prepared to deal with special travelers, she said.

To sum up, anytime you have the chance to stay with families, that is the best possible way to experience a country as you get a genuine taste of real life rather than the tourist side.

Sara Wetegrove Corpus Christ Texas.