European Vistas Day 2: When strangers turn into friends

Still in Amsterdam

It’s an early start for a packed second day spending a little more time in the Netherlands before heading off to Germany, but I’m ready for it because I’ve finally had some solid sleep and feel fantastic!

We boarded the bus and headed to Clara Maria clog shop and cheese farm. This place was adorable! We got a fun demonstration of clog-making in which one of my tour mates was able to assist in because it was her birthday, as well as an overview of the cheese-making process.  

Claria Maria clogs

The cutest little clogs!

This particular farm specialized in Goudas and after getting to taste every flavor they sell in their shop, we were able to buy whatever we wanted. I bought a couple of small wheels of cheese and a tiny pair of clogs with my name engraved on them. The mini-clogs would make a really cute souvenir item for couples as well, to get each of their names engraved on a shoe as a keepsake.

The farm also had some gigantic clogs and a small windmill for photo ops, which we all took advantage of. During the downtime outside of the farm, while we were waiting for the rest of the group to finish up shopping, I was able to chat with some people I hadn’t yet talked to on the trip. At this point, one of the things I really liked about choosing to meet up with a group on a travel trip is that all of the activities means you can easily talk to other people about the things you’re doing on the trip — there was not having to reach for conversation starters!

After the clog and cheese farm experience, we made a quick photo stop at the Riekermolen windmill.

Riekermolen
Riekermolen

Rhine Valley

After the shop, it was time to board the bus again and head to Germany. This was going to be a solid four-hour drive, and it was at this point that I, again, regretted missing out on the Red Light District tour because I’d have a lot of time today to have been able to sleep an extra few hours on the bus.

River cruise on the Rhine
River cruise on the Rhine

After a brief stop at the Hotel Rheinlust in Boppard to get our room keys (seriously, real keys — large, antique keys that we would have to pay for if we lost) and to drop off our luggage, we headed off for a Rhine boat cruise. This cruise was not as exciting as the Amsterdam cruise. I don’t know if it was because it was the second cruise we’d been on, or if the scenery just wasn’t as good in comparison, but I thought it was just so-so.

At the end of the cruise though, we stopped at Vineum in Boppard for a wine “tasting” and that’s when we REALLY got to know each other. It was not so much of a tasting as it was just drinking full glasses of wine, which was fine by me! I quickly made friends with a guy who didn’t drink so I had double the amount. I happen to be a fan of a good Riesling, and we were in Germany, so I bought a couple of bottles to take home. Vineum also ships their wines worldwide, so more than a few people ordered cases to send home.

New tour friends

After the wine tasting, we had some free time before dinner to hang out in the green space by the river in front of our hotel, and I got to know pretty much everyone I hadn’t talked to by that point! A couple of people shared their bottles of wine they just purchased, and we just chatted and laughed by the river for a couple hours. I’m sure we were getting pretty loud in our giddy, intoxicated state, but no one complained.

Dinnertime rolled around and it was a nice buffet-style meal with, of course, more wine! It was a leisurely meal, and a great chance to get to know some of the rest of the group better. We had dinner in what looked like a conference center lobby, with tables and chairs set up for a dinner setting around a stage area.

After dinner was karaoke, which was the perfect activity for a group of fifty people who had been drinking for the past 3 + hours! Lots of fun, and there was some unexpected musical talent that was quickly discovered. After karaoke was some dancing, most notably to Macarena (which I couldn’t do in the ‘90s and found out I still can’t do correctly even now) and Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You. For some reason, it struck me as really funny that songs that are so popular in the US could be just as popular worldwide.

Hotel Rheinlust
Hotel Rheinlust

Back in the room at Hotel Rheinlust, I realize how spartan the room is. I mean, it was comfortable, but there were no extras of anything. There was one pillow, a sheet with no blanket on the bed, one towel, and one water cup. Also, the room was tiny and the room I had just had a twin bed. It sufficed for a trip like this, in which we were only in our rooms to sleep at night and get ready in the morning, but it was not the type of hotel you’d want to spend time lounging around the room in. On the positive side, the hotel was right in front of the board walk, which had many sitting areas and benches along the river, so, even if you had time to kill at some point, you could spend it outside instead of in the room.

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