Sunday, August 4, 2013

Baltic Cruise – Celebrity Constellation – July 19-31, 2013

Tuesday – July 16, 2013 – Travel Day

We are now in Terminal 5, Gate M8, awaiting boarding of KLM612 nonstop to Schipol Airport, Amsterdam.  Check-in was very fast - even though the kiosk didn’t work (couldn’t scan our passports) and we had to get in line (no one was in line).  Security also went very quickly and here we are in a gate area with its own coffee bar.  They are renovating this area of Terminal 5 so it’s a bit tight in the walkways. 

Our aircraft – a B747-400 – is at the gate.

20130716_KLM612 Pre-flight (Small)

KLM 612 Fueling and Loading Up

Boarding began right on time and, because we booked our overpriced premium “economy comfort” seats (17D/E), we boarded just after the elite passengers (an unexpected benefit).  The seats were in an area of two-seat configurations in the center section (no neighbors on the right side – the galley was behind the wall). The leg room was pretty good – maybe not 100 plus Euro good but good.  The plane, piloted by a female captain, took off right on time.  The flight – almost 8 hours and helped by a good tailwind – was quite smooth (only one short bout of minor chop). 

1641 hrs just crossed L Michigan (Small)

Passing over Lake Michigan

Our Kosher Meals were predictably disappointing but I ate some of it anyway,  Ellen tried the standard Pasta meal, also not so good.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 – En Route to Amsterdam

The flight is relatively short so the interval between dinner and breakfast is only about three hours – that makes it impossible to get any sleep.  The entertainment system on the plane was not the latest and greatest and, even with my spiffy NC headphones, the movie audio was difficult to hear.  I spent the night watching the flight progress and bits and pieces of various movies I’ve already seen.

The in-flight pictures were taken through a seat-less window.

Sunrise over Atlantic (Small)

Sunrise over the Atlantic

Over Ireland (Small)

Over Ireland

West coast England (Small)

Passing over West Coast of England

The plane came in over the North Sea and touched down smooth as silk (with all of the twists and turns on approach, I am pretty sure the pilot was flying the plan manually).  Passport control was not very crowded and our bags came out quickly. 

We bought two train tickets to Delft and two tickets from Delft to Amsterdam Centraal for tomorrow – total cost – 42 Euros. 

Schipol Train station (Small)

Schipol Train Station – Track Level

We usually stay in Amsterdam prior to a cruise from that city but this time we decided to spend most of the time in Delft, an historic city very close to Amsterdam.  I also found what sounded like a great hotel at a great price right on a canal.  We had pretty much walked the length and breadth of Amsterdam – we needed a new place to explore.

The train ride from Schipol (pronounced “Sipol”) to Delft took only about 30 minutes.  With a little help from friendly Dutch folks, we were pointed in the right direction to our hotel.  The only issue – three bags,  no lift, and about 50 stairs up and 50 stairs down to get across the tracks and to the station.  No heart attack.

July 17, 2013 – Delft, the Netherlands – Sunny - 80F

The Leeuwenbrug Hotel was about a 10 minute walk from the train station – we crossed over one canal

Grand Canal Delft (Small)

Grand Canal

and the hotel sat alongside the second canal. 

Leeuwenbrug Hotel Delft (Small)

Hotel Leeuwenbrug

The hotel name comes from “Lion Bridge” a bridge by the hotel with lion faces on the sides.

Ellen on leeuwenbrug bridge (Small)

Ellen on the “Lion Bridge”

We arrived about 8:30 AM at the hotel and check in was at 2 PM.  The clerk, while snippy at first, lightened up and offered us some water and coffee, which we drank at tables in front of the hotel and along the canal.  Having considerable time to kill, we decided to explore the historic city of Delft – home of the Royal Delft Porcelain Factory and the artist Vermeer.  Delft is a town of shops, canals, and churches. 

Right next door to the Leeuwenbrug Hotel was a Synagogue from 1862 – the building was restored in 1974 and purchased as a historical site in 1996.

Synagogue next to hotel (Small)

Synagogue next to hotel 1862 (Small)

Maria van Jessekerk from Markt (Small)

Maria van Jessekerk from Markt Square

It was so early that the shops were not even open and very few residents were wandering the streets. 

Trompet Straat (Small)

Trompet Straat

Many of the buildings – especially the churches – were from the 1500s and the 1600s.

    Maria van Jesse Kerk Delft (Small)

Oude Kerk msybe (Small)

Water Lillies Delft Canal (Small)

Canal and Lily Pads

  Ellen on bridge (Small)

Ellen on one of many bridges

There is the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and Oude Kerk (Old Church).  The Nieuwe Kerk was completed in 1496 (100 years to build) and is the burial place for the Princes of Orange including William the Silent.

The Oude Kerk dates back to 1246.

Neuiew Kerk Delft (Small)

Nieuwe Kerk

Town Hall Markt Square (Small)  

Town Hall – Markt Square (and the bicycles)

We walked for about two hours and then headed back to the hotel to hang out in the dining area until our room was ready.

 Floating restaurant (Small) 

Floating Restaurant

    20130717_Open for Business (Small)

Luck was on our side because as we walked in, the manager said our room, number 16, was ready. 

Room 16 Leeuwenbrug (Small)

Hi tech key (Small)

From Top: Room 16; Classic Room Key

It turned out to be a great room complete with shower and bath tub.  A view of the garden next door was also nice.  The room came with a little fan that turned out to be a mini-air cooler.  That little fan cooled off our entire room.

Portable Air Cooler (Small)

As is generally the case, we had difficulty finding a place for dinner.  During our walkabout, we had seen just about every restaurant in Delft.  We eventually settle on a restaurant advertising that it had the “beste sandwiches in Delft”.  Good enough for me. 

I had two personal pizzas and Ellen had a tuna sandwich.  The place was open air and hot due to the outside temperature. We were hungry and didn’t mind sweating a bit. The restaurant was severely “glove challenged” so we were gambling on this pre-cruise meal (as I write this several days later, I can report that we survived the experience).

We also bought a fruit filled pastry and ate in in the room.  We decided that we would not rush to Amsterdam tomorrow (we would run into the same problem checking in).  Instead, we would see more of Delft, have lunch, and catch a train between 2 and 3 PM.

We battled the jet lag until about 10 PM.

Pedometer: 6200 steps; 2.9 miles; 340 calories; 1:06

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