Saturday, December 10, 2016

Living Dutch art

Stop at the Rijksmuseum to admire masterpieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer or head to a street market (markt) to buy tulips.

I was able to stand inside the Nightwatch painting, created as sculptures in Rembrants Plein Amsterdam. I discovered this living art when I walked from the tram stop to my hotel, The Waldorf Astoria. There are many other hotels near the Rembrandt's square. The N H hotel has a view of this sculpture. NH Hotels are quite a big, “mid-priced” brand, in Europe. They have 400 hotels in 30 countries offering free Wi-Fi  me in nightwatch

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas in Europe

Amsterdam is beautifully lit up with Christmas lights during the Light Festival. I make sure that I am in Holland on the 5th of December every year for the wonderful celebrations with family. In the USA, there are no businesses open on Christmas day and then we hit the store sales the day after, but in England, Xmas extends to “Boxing Day”. Over the past few centuries, servants served the gentry, then on the 26th December, they boxed up the leftovers and took them to their relatives for their day off.
In Holland and in Germany, the “second Christmas Day” is a time to treat your family to dine in a restaurant. I had a wonderful breakfast at my hotel, the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam. Librije's Zusies is a Michelin star Restaurant at the Waldorf, with delightful cuisine, so I may take the family there as a treat.

The legend of the kindly Pope’s representative, (The Bishop) arriving, is played out with much pageantry in Holland to this day. Sinterklaas arrives annually on a Saturday at the end of November. This event is broadcast on national Television, each year he arrives at a different city by boat.

I traveled to Amsterdam with some friends from America and enjoyed their astonishment at seeing Santa’s helpers because he is always accompanied by 2 fake black moors! They are both named “zwarte Piet”( Translated is: “black Peter”). Though there have been some racist accusations, so this year I have seen some Purple Piete and they don’t call them zwarte anymore, just “Piete” Pity, because it made Dutch children look fondly on black people. Though, I have to admit, it is the strangest thing to see 2 grown men in tights with black makeup covering their faces! Well worth hopping on a KLM flight to cross the pond to experience a Dutch Christmas, if you can keep a straight face.

Children place one of their shoes in front of the fireplace (or heater). Inside the shoe, they place a carrot (for his horse), and a list of desired gifts that they hope will appear on December 5. Did you notice that I said that in Holland St. Nic delivers the gifts on Dec 5th and not on Dec 25 as he does in other parts of the world and that he has a horse in the Netherlands whereas he needs reindeer to travel globally~ Germany is also a delightful country to visit at Christmas time. I love the schönen Christmas Markets! #SantaClaus and the Hotel Palace in Berlin's city center/Kurfuerstendamm with a nice, SPA + indoor pool. The Palace is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World Group.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Grand old Royal Hotel


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Hotel van Oranje, is a grand old hotel, the Autograph Collection® is only 25 minutes away from Amsterdam. on the Koningin Wilhelmina Boulevard 20 Noordwijk. This grandly named Boulevard is fitting for this majestically, ostentatious hotel. Prior to WW2, during Queen Wilhelmina’s reign, it was a glamourous place. This is its greatest charm, nonetheless, the management and polite doorman added to a delightful stay.

TWP_20150206_14_51_49_Prohe 'Imperial Bar' is also appropriately named for the bygone era. The hotel has an entertaining place to eat in the summer, called the Beachclub O. providing private terraces, facing the North Sea. Hotel van Oranje is centrally located convenient to visit Keukenhof tulips, the world's largest flower show.

Now that Starwood Hotels and Marriott have joined to become the world’s largest hotel company, this is one of the gems that you can receive Elite perks at. As a Marriott Rewards Platinum Elite member, I receive free breakfast at all of the Brands properties and I was delighted to partake of the sumptuous spread, buffet complete with champagne. As you can imaging, this lavish meal attracts many cheerful guests, so we were delighted to linger over breakfast while enjoying the beach view.

The Spa and Sauna facilities, make a wonderful retreat. I enjoyed the warm pool and children love Europe's biggest indoor wave pool with brightly colored blue and red lighting changing every few minutes. This give the swimming pool a carnival style sensation.

As I mentioned, it is entertaining in summer, but I also enjoy the less crowded time of the year when it is cooler and a brisk walk on the beach side of the Promenade, encountered a plaque honoring Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers, for his Expedition in to space. I am proud to have met Andre when he was at NASA in Texas, so it was a delight to discover this Plaque.

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

New ways to use miles at Airports

Now you can use your United miles to purchase TSA Pre✓ to get through airport security faster. Though I found the TSA line longer than the regular line at security, last time I was at the airport. United will let you use your miles for a code that covers the cost of the application fee for TSA Pre, this will last you for 5 years.It is a time saver to not have to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts or light jackets.tsaPre

The Premier program (the "MileagePlus Program"), has just released this new way to use your miles at the airport, but I noticed another way to use your miles at the airport in New York. I was able to order a bite to eat on an iPad at dining tables near my gate.


Use your miles to book Hotel stays at brand-name hotels and resorts or use your miles to buy eGift cards and certificates for thousands of restaurants
or to pay for food and beverages at select Newark Airport restaurants.

Newark Airport restaurants, let you use your miles to pay to eat at some restaurants and bars in Newark Terminal C.
to dine or have a drink at a participating venues. The cuisines from well-known chefs, where you can use miles include:

Abruzzo Italian Steakhouse, Gate C70
Caps Beer Garden, Gate C124
Vanguard Kitchen, Gate C100 - Upscale American
Flora Café, Gates C112 and C133 – Mediterranean
Nonna's Meatball Kitchen, Gate C124
Oeno Wine Bar, Gate C73
Origami, Gate C120 – Sushi
Proof, Gate C102 - Tavern food and whiskey
Salumeria Prima, Gate C84
Riviera, Gate C91 – French
Saison, Gate C120 – French
Vesper Tavern, Gate C82

Beginning October 6, you will be able to book customized multi-city award travel on United is also streamlining their fee structure for changing or canceling award flights, so stay posted.

Also new, is onboard Wi-Fi, for 10,000 miles ,  stay connected at 35,000 feet for 300 miles. The most popular use of miles is to get free flights and there are many ways for MileagePlus members to upgrade to premium cabins, but if you don’t want to save up miles for a free flight, you may find this attractive.

Just a word of caution, if you buy Wi-fi, don’t fall asleep! Jeremy slept while he was charged $1,171 on Singaproe Airlines!


Friday, July 15, 2016

An excursion in to the desert and back in time.

Visiting the ancient Persian Ruins are the closest I will ever get to Irsnip_20160715071500an, so I was curious to see them even though they were destroyed by many earthquakes. Turkmenistan is fascinating but the hottest country I have ever visited, especially in the desert. I was told that they have cold and dry winters, though this was no consolation in that poorly air-conditioned environment. My hotel in Ashgabat, could not be called luxurious by any stretch of the imagination. . If there happens to be a next visit, I would choose the best hotel in the Capital, the Sofitel.

Turkmenistan is bordered by Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and the Caspian Sea. The country became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991, then a dictator took over until sc00ba215301his death in 2006. He bizarrely renamed Monday after himself and erected a 49 foot high gold statue in the capital that rotated throughout the day to face the sun.

I enjoyed visiting the farmers market to buy some fruit, but more so to see the floral headscarf's worn by the women. The soil is extensively irrigated, so Turkmenistan is a major global producers of cotton. They also have an oil and gas industry .


The capital city Ashgabat was almost totally destroyed by a 1948 earthquake. The rebuilt Soviet style large grey concrete buildings are evidence that the Russians tried to re-settle their people there to dilute and suppress the Primordial Muslim community. It is one of the oldest inhabited areas on earth and I imagine that some of the people that I saw were a thousand years old, (judging by their costumes.) The exotic clothing worn by the Turkmen. (not in Turkey) in particular.clip_image002

We had a driver take us out in to the desert to Dekhistan, the lost city of the Silk Road. It’s remote 10th century ruins make an intriguing excursion because you don’t encounter many tourists. Near the city of Mary are the ruins of the ancient Persian town of Merv. With over 4,000 years of history, this is the oldest and best preserved oasis city on the Silk with camel