We have lots of gadgets that need power. Most of them plug in to charge. Computers, phones, cameras (future post coming on all the “gear” we’ve packed). Instead of a whole bunch of plug adapters, before we left on this field trip we bought two universal power strips.
One of our travel power strips
Each of the power strips has a two prong Euro-style plug that goes into the wall. This is the type of plug that is used in most of Europe, South America and Asia (you can see the various plug types here. Ours is compatible with sockets C,E, and F). There are three outlets on the power strip, each of which can take just about any kind of plug. If you are curious, I bought them here.
I love these things. They are compact and allow you to plug three things into one outlet with no plug adapters. You can even let that British guy with the goofy plug charge his phone too! We’ve found that when traveling, resources like power outlets are often shared, so this can be a real bonus.
When we checked out of our hotel in Brussels, somehow I managed to leave both of our universal power strips in our hotel room. Bummer. When we got to Switzerland, we had no way to plug anything in and the only plug adapter we could find was a round thing that didn’t accommodate our MacBook chargers, phone chargers, Kindle chargers, or camera charger. We had only one thing that would plug into the adapter- a cable for another of our camera chargers. On one end of the cable is the US style two prong plug. On the other end is a what I’ve heard called a “chinese 8” or “figure 8” plug:
Figure 8 plug
I realized that the figure 8 plug looked a lot like the custom plugs on the end of the expensive Apple extension cables. So, I popped the plug portion off the “brick” on the MacBook charger and sure enough, the standard figure 8 plug slid right in!
Switzerland adapter, camera charger cord, MacBook power supply.
We now had power for the computer, and we could use the USB ports on the computer to charge our phones! Yay!
I subsequently found a Swiss power cord with a figure 8 output, so we could plug the other computer in too, without the need for a power adapter. I thought this was a great discovery, as the Swiss cord was only about $6. Cheaper and better than a plug adapter! I have a feeling I’ll be doing the same thing in the future in other countries.
Anyway, when Mila broke her arm and we decided that we would be going back to Amsterdam for a while, I ordered two more of the power strips and had them shipped to me poste restante at the Amsterdam main Post Office.
What is poste restante you ask? Much more common in years or even centuries past, poste restante, or general delivery is a service where the post office receives mail on behalf of someone and holds it until they come to claim it. In this case when I placed the order online, I simply entered the shipping address as my name, poste restante, and the address of the main post office:
GPO Singel 250-sous (basement)
Yesterday, I could see from the online tracking that the package had arrived, so I went to the Post Office, showed them my passport and picked up my package. Nice, huh?
Not all countries still use the poste restante system, but many do. It’s a nice travel secret to know!
At the hospital in Amsterdam. Cast has just been removed.
Hmm…. there is something missing in this photo…
Yesterday we paid a visit to the Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis, our friendly neighborhood hospital. Good news! As you can see from the photos above, Mila got her cast removed. Yay! She now has a sling and instructions to start using the arm (but not yet lifting) and work on regaining range of motion for the elbow joint. In a few weeks she should have full rage of motion and can begin to use it more and more for lifting and other resistance activities. We’re holding off on the arm wrestling for now though.
Here’s a video update we recorded back on the 14th when we were at Camping Disentis, before we did the zip line, and before we went to Chur where Mila broke her arm.
Obviously our plans changed a little bit after we recorded this. We would have posted this when we recorded it or soon after, but we didn’t have a good internet connection until we landed here in the Amsterdam apartment a few days ago.
So, in the spirit of better late than never, here it is
Today was Jette’s 10th birthday and it was a good one!
Our recent posts have been “catch up” posts about things we did days or weeks ago.
Today’s post is actually about today. Well, last night and today.
Last night was our first night in our Amsterdam apartment (and our third night in a real bed since the trip began!). With a kitchen at hand, Jette cooked us all a nice dinner of grilled Salmon, pasta and broccoli.
Parmesan going into the pasta
The pasta is ready
The chef likes pasta, that’s for sure! The salmon was perfect too. Good job chef Jette!
When she awoke this morning there was a birthday message waiting for her on a decorated table.
A birthday message
And ten balloons. We had fun with the balloons. There might have been a balloon fight in bed as we blew them up. And a couple games of balloon volleyball. Then we got our clothes on and the camera came out.
The birthday girl.
Posing for photos with 10 balloons.
Jumping for joy.
We ventured out to Bedford Stuyvesant. No, we did’t head “home” to NYC, it’s one of the new cafes that has popped up in the neighborhood since the last time we were here. It’s a cute spot with a comfy, funky vibe. The weather was cool and there was a light sprinkle of rain.
Bed-Stuy, Amsterdam style.
The birthday girl got the groovy hanging rattan chair.
Enjoying a green smoothie.
We stopped by the park on the way to the tram.
Indonesian themed park.
Our East Amsterdam neighborhood is called Indische Buurt and many of the streets are named after the Indonesian cities and islands of the old Dutch “East Indies.” The park has an Indonesian theme too, with hand carved animals native to the islands – Komodo Dragons, Crocodiles, Tigers. It is an ethnic neighborhood that is quickly gentrifying. At this moment in time, it feels a bit like the old East Village or Lower East Side.
We hopped on Tram 14 and went across town to La Perla one of our favorites spots in the Jordaan neighborhood, for an early lunch. Jette had specifically requested their tomato, basil, buffalo mozzarella sandwich as her birthday meal. While on the tram, both the rain and wind picked up. We hung our wet coats on the rack in the corner and enjoyed a delicious lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in Amsterdam.
A birthday tomato basil, mozzarella sandwich. And a hot chocolate!
Mila trying to eat pizza euro-style (knife and fork). Not so easy with a cast.
Best salad in Amsterdam. And the bread is awesome too.
When you’re 10 you can flip your hair and pose with attitude.
In the candy store Het Oud-Hollandsch Snoepwinkeltje.
Despite the howling wind and blowing rain, we walked down the the “9 Streets” neighborhood where we spent hours window shopping. We bought a few things too.
We joked that the coldest winter ever was a summer in Amsterdam. The temperature was in the 50’s and the wind was quite strong and gusty. Mila and Jette popped into a store along one of the canals by Westerkerk. There was commotion across the canal and I walked across the street to see what it was about. A huge, old tree had fallen in the wind and was blocking the street and tram tracks. As I walked back across the street and into the store, I heard a huge CRACK! behind me. The big tree right next to me had succumbed to the wind, cracked at the trunk and fallen too!
This big tree fell victim to the wind just as I walked past.
We spent hours on the town, but only snapped a few shots while out in the wet, windy weather.
Have raincoat, will travel. Notice how much the old building in the background is leaning!
We took a quick coffee break to warm up and dry off.
Coffee and mint tea break.
Because of the wind and downed trees, the trams weren’t running, so we started the long walk towards home. We stopped for frites along Damrak. That’s OK for dinner on your birthday, right?!
Frites in the rain. (Frites are pomme frites, french fries, or freedom fries depending on your dialect 🙂
We realized that the busses were running, so we walked up to Prins Hendrikkade and found one of the stops for Bus 22. This is what it looked like:
Another downed tree at the bus stop.
The bus came.
Back at our apartment, none of the trees had fallen, but there were small branches and leaves everywhere.
Lots of leaves and branches on the ground from the storm.
We saw the news online and learned that this was the worst July storm in recorded history for Amsterdam. Here’s how a Reuters news story described the day:
One person was killed as the most severe July storm ever recorded in the Netherlands swept across the country on Saturday, delaying flights and disrupting road and rail traffic.
Dozens of flights were delayed at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and authorities warned traveler’s not to take to the road as gale-force winds and rain lashed the country, prompting the meteorological service to issue a “Code Red” warning.
No trains were running at Amsterdam Central Station, and trams were halted across the city. Roads were blocked by fallen trees in many places around the low-lying country.
A motorist was killed in the eastern province of Gelderland when a tree fell on his car, and there were reports of people being injured in several cities.
With gusts of up to 121 kmh in coastal regions, it was the most violent July storm in the Netherlands since records began in 1901.
By the time we got home the skies had cleared and the wind was dying down. Somehow we still had energy for the playground at the park our apartment faces.
See-saw or catapult?
We also realized that Jette hadn’t made a wish and blown out candles. It was already 8 p.m. so a cake was out the question, but there was that new little ice cream shop in the neighborhood…
Bike and ice cream. What could be better?
Ijs van Oost – Ice cream in the East (East part of town or neighborhood)
The nice man behind the counter gave a TRIPLE scoop when he heard it was Jette’s birthday.
Ten years old!
Here’s to hoping all our wishes come true.
After the birthday ice cream, it was back home, with a half-hour stop at the park to get in a little gymnastics.
Another post about our time in Disentis a couple weeks ago… Still playing catch up on blog posts!
Sometime around the beginning of the trip Jette said that she wanted to go on a zip line for her birthday. As luck would have it, we noticed that there was a clip of a zip line in the Camping Disentis promotional video:
We enquired about it, the owner of the campground made a phone call, and we had a zip line session booked. It was 10 days before her birthday, but hey, for a random zip line discovery in a foreign country, you can’t get much closer than that, right?!
To get there we were told (at least as best we could understand with our limited German) to exit the camp, turn left and go up the mountain through four tunnels. At the exit of the 4th tunnel, on the right side we would see some stairs…
So we hopped on our bikes and rode/walked up, up, up… It was all uphill and it was endless. Up the mountain on the narrow, winding mountain highway and through the tunnels. We rode a little, but mostly walked our bikes along the edge of the narrow mountain road.
Hey mister! Please don’t fall to your death.
One of the tunnels was under construction. The girders you can see in the photo above are on the edge of a cliff and below there is a sheer drop. It would be the end for anyone who lost their footing. None of the workers wore safety harnesses or were attached to lines. These guys are human mountain goats.
In the tunnel
Thankfully, a sidewalk
One of the tunnels was 500 meters long! Just getting there was a challenge for us.
Sure enough, at the end of the 4th tunnel, we were greeted by Kim, a muscular man with sun bleached hair and a friendly, weathered smile standing by the edge of the road. It was quite a surprise and seemed quite random as there were no buildings, just a little sidewalk area off to the side of the road at the tunnel entrance. If you were going to cast a mountaineer for a movie, you could find no better person thank Kim.
Note the rope bridge in the background of the photo above. This is one of the bridges that you had to cross to get back after doing the zip line. The zip line itself runs from the upper left of the photo to well below the lower right of the photo. To access the climbing and zip line areas you must climb the rock face in front of our bikes.
We were given harnesses and helmets and joined a group of Swiss Scouts (boys and girls, age 12 to maybe 16) for a brief orientation.
Each harness had a tether with two carabiners. Wherever there were lines marked red and white, we were to clip in using both carabiners, each clipped onto the line in opposing directions. There were iron rods, bent into “”U” shapes and hammered into the stone to act as steps. Lines indicating that you should clip in were marked with red and white tape. We clipped in and climbed the steps. When our progress was blocked by an anchor on the line, we unclipped and reclipped, first one carabiner and then the other – so we were always secured by at least one of the carabiners at the end our our harness tether. After the orientation, each person, regardless of age, was responsible for his or her own safety and that of their climbing mates. There were two staff members in the area, but generally speaking, after orientation, you were on your own.
None of our photos even begin to do it justice or suggest the scale of the scene, but the zip line ran at a steep angle across a rocky gorge with a river at it’s base. There were a variety of cable bridges spanning the gorge at various heights and angles – these were the only way to get back once you had crossed on the zip line. None of them had stable footing. Steps were fashioned from pieces of wood hung from cables with no horizontal support, so they swung in the wind and underfoot. Crossing them was like stepping from one crooked swing to another. We were clipped in to a cable above, so a fall would not be a fatal fall of 20 or 50 or 100 feet to the rocks of the river below. A misstep and a fall would leave you dangling by your harness tether and require that you pull yourself up the cable, regain your place on the bridge, and finish the crossing.
The easiest cable bridge and the roadway
The zip line and some of the bridges
The end of the zip line and the easy bridge back
In the photo above, the small blue pad on the face of the cliff is the only thing between you and splat should the zip line equipment or its operator fail. The wooden platform where the two people in white shirts are standing is the place where, after your zip line session, you can elevate yourself to unclip from the zip line. After that you are on your own getting back. You can scale the rocks to the right and cross the “easy” bridge, or climb the rocks and a series of wooden structures and iron steps in the cliff face to get to other more difficult bridges.
Another view of the zip line
Our intrepid zip liners getting ready for the plunge!
Before we did the zip line across the gorge, we did a little rock climbing.
Jette begins her ascent
Getting close to the top.
Then it was time for the zip line. I went first, followed by Jette and then Mila. The scariest part is the initial jump off the cliff at the beginning. There is 6 or 8 feet of shallow drop before the sheer drop of the cliff face and there was enough give in the cable and length to the tether that my feet dragged ground momentarily before I was fully over the edge, giving strength to the question, “Is this thing going to hold?!”
Jette was next and she was all smiles on the way down.
Made it! At the bottom of the zip line.
Heading up to the easy bridge.
Clipping in at the foot of the bridge
Another view of the easy bridge. It looks low from this angle, but in some places it is quite a long drop to the river below.
The end of the easy bridge and the beginning of the wall climb.
We don’t have any photos that really capture it, but the bridge crossings and climbs back up were challenging. It can be a bit nerve wracking watching your almost-ten-year-old un-clip and re-clip to get around an anchor bolt on a vertical rock wall 100 feet above a stone filled, rushing river!
The videos make the bridge crossings look easy. They were harder than they looked!
Jette is amazing. She met the physical challenges as well as the physiological ones. Even as we ran out of energy, she was very careful with each of the dozens clip-outs and clip-ins as we climbed and traversed the bridges. As we climbed, we talked about how fatigue can lead to mistakes. She consistently mindful and made no mistakes. I on the other hand had to re-clip twice after failing to get one of my carabiners properly secured on a cable.
After riding/walking up the mountain, two zip line sessions, bridge crossings, and climbs back up, we were totally exhausted.
Yawn! We’re worn out.
Thank goodness camp was down the mountain…and they served ice cream!