It's interesting how things just "come together" sometimes! Duane and I just spent an AWESOME long Thanksgiving weekend in Dusseldorf, and it's mainly because of the IB conference that I attended in June (see July 2nd, 2007 entry).
At that conference, I met Susie. We hit it off RIGHT AWAY, and by the end of the two day training, she'd invited Duane and me to stay with her and her partner Daan in Dusseldorf. I'd told her at the conference that we were coming to Germany for the Christmas Markets, and that, at that point, we weren't sure where in Germany we'd be flying to. It turned out that Northwest was JUST starting non-stop service from the Twin Cities to Dusseldorf, AND to make it even MORE "come-together-y", the in-flight magazine had an article entitled "Three Days in Dusseldorf", as we were flying back from the conference. It just seemed "meant to be".
Turns out it WAS! We had SUCH an awesome time! Susie and Daan have become INSTANT dear friends, and we're already talking about meeting up in Paris or London again sometime in the "not too distant future" to hang out again. It was amazing how easily we all hit it off...and how quickly! After we'd been there for a few hours, Duane said that he kept expecting Susie and me to pull out pictures from when we were in high school together, or from the trips our families took together when we were growing up. Certainly not typical of people who met and sat next to each other at a workshop a few months earlier.
So...here are the "specifics" of the trip:
We flew BUSINESS CLASS to Amsterdam on Tuesday night after working all day, and arrived Wednesday morning (I think... I totally lost track of time...it was like a 27 hour ordeal to get to them, involving the flight to Amsterdam, a train to Utrect (Netherlands), an express train to Dusseldorf, then the U79 tram to Wittlaer, the suburb in which they live). By the time we got there, I was ready to BURN the clothes that I'd been wearing all that time!!
Daan was waiting for us when we got there, and we went to pick Susie up at school. We drove to Kaiserswerth, the town between their house and Susie's school, and toured their main street. It looked very Dutch to me, and was VERY quaint. There was a cool old castle from the 1100's. We couldn't get onto the grounds, but it was beautiful, even from behind the fence. We had our first authentic German food at a great little pub/restaurant near the tram stop.
Thanksgiving day, we went back to Kaiserswerth in the morning, to see things in the daylight, and eat German pastries (yum!), and then took the tram downtown to the Dusseldorf Christmas Market near the "Ko", which is the main "ritzy" area of the city (designer shops, huge department stores, the "merman" statue, etc.). The Christmas markets were AWESOME, and we found some fun stuff to buy. We also had "gluwein"...a hot, spiced red wine...YUM! Had a late lunch at a pub with a pig on the marquee (no IDEA what it was called, but the food was GREAT!), and then headed back to Wittlaer to regroup.
Friday, we went to an apple farm near their house, shopped at a COOL grocery store (Duane and I LOVE going to grocery stores in different places...I know...kind of odd, but it's COOL to see different products that you can't get here, and check out what they sell in different places...and to compare prices...$12.00/lb. for green peppers??!!).
After errands, Daan drove us all to Valkenburg, the Netherlands, to go to another Christmas market. This one was along the corridors and passageways of an old limestone cave/quarry system that has been there for hundreds of years. It was REALLY cool. As you wound your way down through the tunnels, stalls and booths were set up along the sides selling everything from purses and scarves, to ornaments. There was even a booth that sold trinkets and doo dads from Mexico! In the central part of the caves/tunnels, there was even a multi-level cafe/bar set up. OF COURSE, I had to have more "gluwein"!!
After the underground market, we drove to Maastricht, which is Daans hometown. It's a REALLY cool old city (I think one of the oldest in the Netherlands). We had dinner at De Lanteern, one of Daan's favorite places to eat, and across the street from an AMAZING old cathedral (one of three that we saw that night as we walked around after dinner). We're going to try to get back there again someday so that Daan can show us around.
They were setting up for THEIR Christmas market while we were walking around, and had a HUGE ferris wheel in the middle of all of it...MANY stories tall. It reminded me of the London Eye, but not QUITE so gigantic. One of the things I REALLY want to go back and see is an old church that had been converted into a HUGE bookstore. The tombs and headstones are still in the floor, and the pulpit area has been converted into a coffee shop! We could only look in the window, but it looked AMAZING! The main streets were also FULL of cool stores that we want to check out (although we'll skip the Claire's Boutique (just like the ones we have in the malls here), and other American imports!)(although the "croquette sandwiches" at THEIR McDonald's looked QUITE intriguing!).
We flew out the next day (BUSINESS CLASS again!), and, after RUNNING to get through customs and re-entering security and RUNNING through the Detroit airport, JUST made our connecting flight (actually the one BEFORE the one we planned to take, saving us an hour of sitting around in Detroit, hoping to get back to the cities)(since the flight was full).
AWESOME trip...AMAZING new friends...FABULOUS memories! Germany (and Daan and Susie!) rock! Having people who KNOW the area, and how things work, makes travelling SO much more fun. We saw and did things that we wouldn't even have known about, had we not had Susie and Daan to show them to us.
Hope YOUR Thanksgiving weekend was amazing as well!
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