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Trip Report Amsterdam, Rovinj & Pazin in Istria

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Our trip this year was one week in Amsterdam and 2 weeks in Istria. First installment will be Amsterdam (hopefully that will prompt a swift finish to my report on the other two stops).

Hubs and I traveled by ourselves this year. We are two boomers that could be retired but haven't yet. These pesky jobs do provide that much needed $$$$ for fun travel and the nearly year long planning of each trip always give us something fun to look forward to.

Since there is no real direct flight to Croatia it made sense to shake off the jet lag in Amsterdam. We are glad we did, what a wonderful place to visit. We could return many more times as there was much we didn't see.

The Van Gogh does not take reservations in August so we decided against that museum this trip. The Rijksmuseum is Awesome and we definitely did not have enough time there. Reservations make so much sense for the Ann Frank House, very easy to procure online ahead of time

We found Amsterdam a very easy city to navigate. The public transportation is wonderful. We did not do any bike riding-we are not avid riders at home and felt like it would be a death wish to attempt biking here. That said the bicycles were never a problem.

It was not difficult to do the "Rick Steves Walks" for various sites in Amsterdam using our phones.

We took the Hungry Birds food tour http://www.hungrybirds.nl/ and highly recommend!

The food, wine, beer and service just about everywhere was wonderful.

Feel free to email us with any questions, always happy to try and help as we rely on trip reports, etc. for travel info.

First rental http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p1356886 Awesome place-quiet-in a neighborhood-easy access to public transportation-terrific landlord-well appointed & clean

Caution-long report because I guess that is how I do them ;)

So here is Installment #1-Wonderful Amsterdam

8/25-8/26/15 Tuesday/Wednesday

"There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it."
~ Charles Dudley Warner

Travel day has finally arrived! We did Uber (what a fabulous service) to the bus stop at Goerke's Corners where we caught the Coach USA bus (always on time) to O’Hare in Chicago. The ride to airport was as smooth as silk.

The security line at O’Hare was ridiculous! Amazingly we did have time for a small bite and drink before we boarded. Flight to and from Amsterdam was on KLM. Our seats were very nice (upgraded to “premium economy seating”) just the two of us and plenty of leg room with a bulkhead in front of us. It was the storage space for extra carry-on bags passengers may have and pillows & blankets so it didn’t pose any problems for us. First class was just 2 rows beyond this spot. The crew was awesome, supper was good and the flight very smooth. We both were able to rest a bit. We landed to a gray morning, gathered our luggage, found a taxi and as these taxi drivers do, he zoomed us to our place-also he was nice enough to call ahead and let Rene, the landlord, know we were on our way.

The place is perfect, a studio with a kitchen up two steps and a toilet room to one side and huge bathroom with a shower and sauna on the other side (we never used the sauna). He had wine, bread, cheese, sausage, a few eggs, jam, butter and milk in the fridge for us. Very nice. The garden area is lovely. We go through a gated “drive” and down to our place so it feels extremely secure (although the quiet neighborhood itself is very safe).

The kitchen is the basement or lower to original house, lower ceiling and posts securing the ceiling. The studio itself is an addition. The main house is hundreds of years old, the façade being renovated about 150+ years ago. It was very well appointed and we had everything we needed for the entire stay.

Since we arrived so early, we freshened and then headed out. The bus stop is about a quarter of a mile away so we walked there and caught the bus to Central Station, where we bought our bus passes for the week. We walked from the station to get a feel for the town.

We stopped at Club Cinema Café and Tom had a few beers and I had a wine (just off the 2nd ring). We took the Lovers Boat tour which was pleasant (little ear buds that gave to tour in English-were synced up nicely). After the tour we stopped at the American Hotel for a beer & water (fancy bottle-they say it is their “own”-probably tap in the fancy bottle). Really this stop was facilitated by my urgent need for the potty.

We headed back to our place and after freshening up again we went up the block a few doors to one of the local places recommended by Rene, Groeten uit De Ruimte.

This is a small, simple place with tables inside and outside but since it had rained earlier the chairs and tables were all quite wet. We did opt to eat inside. The eclectic inside was also a vinyl record shop and they spun the tunes from that collection for everyone's listening pleasure. The waiter was a very amicable young man. The theme tonight (which changes by allowing local chefs/cooks to spend a night making their specialties) was Afghan. All was delish. Tom was also really enjoying his beer and I enjoyed the house wine as well.

It is nice to have a short commute home and we both tried to get a good nights sleep. The bed was comfortable but both of us seemed to be quite restless.

8/27/15-Thursday

“Art holds fast when all else is lost.”
~German Proverb

Today we wake to rain and a forecast that says the rain will last all day. Plan change, we had our Rijksmuseum’s tickets pre-purchased and had planned to do this on Monday but opted to do today.

We had a slow start but found the museum with no trouble. My oh my what a lovely place. One could spend days here! We like to linger at different things and we like to try to stay together, getting separated is stressful since we haven’t activated the cell phone yet. My only complaint would be the font size on the descriptions. These old eyes need a bigger font! But the Rijks is a must for sure.

We stayed until closing time (5 seems way too early for this to close) and then strolled a bit. The rain was off and on, one minute pouring, the next just a mist. We stopped at the Hans & Grietje bar and had a few drinks and some appetizers (bitterballen {dutch deep fried meatballs}, olives and some chips with a sauce). Really hit the spot. While here we also enjoyed the American music piped in.

We walked around a bit more marveling at the bicycles, tall, tippy buildings and lovely canals. We then stopped at a place called Pakhuis http://eetcafehetpakhuis.nl/ Our meals here were very good. Tom had the schnitzel with mushrooms sauce and the broccoli soup. I had the onion soup and a special salad that was yummy-greens, sweet potatoes, walnuts, etc. already dressed, but not overdressed. We both thoroughly enjoyed this meal. We had wine and beer with our meals and then each had a coffee that we took outside and enjoyed at the outdoor tables under a nice canopy. It was damp and chilly but a nice conclusion to a great meal. Service was wonderful here.

Getting home was no problem and we felt very safe walking the few blocks from the bus. Another rather restless night for the both of us.

8/28/15-Friday

“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”
~Chinese proverb

We awake to a simply lovely, sunny day. We start off with a breakfast made from the offerings left for us by the landlord. Breakfast outside and almost 3 pots (coffee press) of coffee. Lingering in the morning is definitely one of the perks of vacation.

Today we are heading out to Zaans Schans. We get that bus quite near the other stops. However our GBV passes do not work on this bus, so it was $5 each for the one way (at least that is what we thought-we really don’t know). We paid the $10 but on the way home the bus driver said $2.50 each….Probably our fault for misunderstanding. We must have purchased round trip tickets on the way out there. Oh well.

Zaans Schans was lovely though and the day was a good one for this tour. We walked around and through the windmills that were open and a few shops. Many opportunities for pictures. They also snap your photo when you cross over the little foot bridge-touristy but we did purchase the pictures (you find your picture on the wall on the way out). We had a few drinks at the little outdoor café and a small sausage & olive plate (enough to tide us over for the ride home). The bees here were out of control! We walked around a bit more and then headed back.

After resting for awhile we decided to head out. There is a walkway near our place that is supposed to take you to the ferry, so while we had no intention of going to the ferry, we headed out on it. It is a bike path and the bikes rule here. The area for walkers is minute! There was a bar of sorts we saw along the way but we missed the road hubs thought would get us over and near a place we were going to check out for dinner. We ended up walking all the way to the main road, which actually was above. There we veered off to follow it back towards our place. Here I would say we walked through an area I would not want to walk through at night. But we did get ourselves up and back to the bus route road and we decided to try the Thai restaurant (Pasoek) that Rene had recommended.

The restaurant was another good choice, very friendly service and meals we both enjoyed. We each had an appetizer- Tom had the Thaise Kipsate (satay) and I had the Loempia Tjee (spring rolls)-and they were wonderful. For our main Tom had #39-Paneng Kai (chicken with curry, coconut & vegetables) and I had #36-Kai Met Ma Mong (cashew chicken). We had fried rice in place of rice on one of the entrees and 2 beers and one wine, total E41,30. Very lovely service and meal. The restaurant was a hopping place too. Our waitress perfectly timed our meal as well.

We decided to stop up the block from our place for a nightcap outside. Tom had a coffee and I had a glass of wine. The full moon was spectacular and lit up the entire sky. What a pleasant way to end a good day!

Tonight I read several chapters and I as well as Tom finally felt like we slept like babies.

8/29/15-Saturday

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
~Anne Frank

We start out the same, coffee and an assessment of what the weather will be. I made a little breakfast for us and then we decided it was nice enough to do the Rick Steves Red Light District walk.

The buses and trams are very easy to navigate and we get to the area with little trouble. We had a drink and some fries (the fries here are to die for) in Dam Square (Euro Pub) before we headed out to walk. We synced up our phones and then took the walk. The area was bustling with revelers and many young men. I am not sure how I feel about prostitution. They use the same argument for the drugs…ambivalent I guess is my position. However I would not be happy if our daughters or granddaughters (or sons or grandsons for that matter) decided this was a good career path.

We strolled around a bit, stopped naturally for a beer and wine and then decided to head to the area of the Ann Frank house as we had reservations at 6:30. The line was around the block. We went across the canal and had a few drinks until it was time to enter.

It really pays to pre-purchase tickets for this. You bypass the long lines and walk right in at your allotted time. There is a very nice 30 minute tutorial given and then you walk through. It is haunting and certainly history that must be preserved so people do not forget. As the narrator said, Ann was but one of thousands, her diary simply related her story to us.

Our plan for supper was Café DeReiger in Jordaan. We had a wine and beer with our meal, an appetizer of buffalo mozzarella, the spare ribs and the lamb, all were very delicious. The service was quite disjointed though and I really don’t know if we ever knew who was actually supposed to be taking care of us (or if anyone there knew who was taking care of us). The place was really hopping and oysters appeared to be the favorites for most.

We opted for two Baileys outside and even that transaction was disjointed. Total bill was 70.50E. The evening was beautiful though and the area quite settled down by the time we finished our dinner. We had no troubles getting home and sleep was no longer alluding us.

8/30/15-Sunday

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
~Virginia Woolf

Today is the Hungry Birds Street Food Tour http://www.hungrybirds.nl/ so we opt for just morning coffee as we will be grazing our way through the rest of the morning and in to the afternoon.

We met at the designated spot (everyone including guide is on time). Our guide is Rachel but the owner Zosia is also along. What a fabulous tour this was. And weather wise we could not have had a better day. A perfect for walking, there were 9 stops on this Sunday tour.

First stop was a yogurt shop. http://yoghurtbarn.nl/ Here we sat upstairs at tables all ready for us and we were given the choice of hot chocolate (which we had-very good) or tea or coffee and then a lovely cup of yogurt with fresh fruit. Darling little place with a friendly staff.

Second stop was Warong Marlon
https://citymaps.com/v/nl/no/amsterdam/warung-marlon/5994c6d8-11eb-49c5-ad71-8ad5ebe28f81
Listed as a take-away place, here we tasted Chicken Satay. There was plenty to taste and it was very good. This was a very small place, friendly with a small area for us to taste test the yummy satay.

Third stop was The Klaver 4 http://www.lunchcafe-klaver4.nl/ this was a sit down lunch stop with free cookies at the table. The décor was delightful and eclectic. Service was very good; waters refilled, cookie jars checked often, lunch served effortlessly and used plates taken away in a timely manner. Our lunch was a fabulous pea soup and “pancake” with bacon and syrup. Very enjoyable.

Fourth stop was the cheese and wine shop Kaashuis Tromp
http://www.kaashuistromp.nl/amsterdam-utrechtsestraat/
Here we taste tested wine and cheese along with some bread. Very animated “host” in a lovely and clean shop. Visually this shop was a dream, just the kind of place one wants to seek out when traveling. You just wanted to grab a bottle of wine, brick of cheese and loaf of bread and go off on a picnic!!

Fifth stop was a street vendor selling the infamous herring. http://www.utrechtsestraat.amsterdam/?p=184
Most of the group were takers. We like herring so did enjoy it. We did not do the long piece down our throat though ;) The area around this booth was simply lovely and a great spot for snapping many photos.

Sixth stop was for the Dutch kroket at Eetsalon Van Dobbe
http://www.eetsalonvandobben.nl/
Once again, exuberant staff eager to show us a good time. There are stools that surround the small ledge type counters. Rachel and Zosia have a wonderful relationship with these shops and truly do engage with everyone.

Seventh stop was another street front for fries. http://vleminckxdesausmeester.nl/
There was never not a line at this place. The fries were very good but I do not remember the different sauces that we had. We ate as we strolled along, the fries come in a paper cone.

Eighth stop was a cookie shop. http://vanstapele.com/eng.php
One kind of cookie and a special little drawer for little ones to pick a prize from (nice touch). A tiny little shop that smells like heaven, she also sells coffee (and tea?) but we did not have beverages here. We walked while enjoying our cookie.

The ninth and final stop was a traditional brown bar, Café Hoppe http://www.worldsbestbars.com/bar/amsterdam/damplatz/cafe-hoppe
Once again a very animated bartender. Some tried the traditional shot (hands behind their back and sipping the full to the top shot glass) and others had either wine, beer or water. A pleasant end to a very full tour.

Throughout the walking tour Zosia and Rachel kept everyone together and entertained. The walk was not overly strenuous and we got to see some very pleasant sites along the way. Highly recommend this as a fun thing to do.

After we parted ways we stopped for another wine and beer and then headed back to our place. We chilled for a bit and then decided to just go up the block for a light evening meal.

Tonight the stoker was going and music was playing as folks were enjoying the sauna down below. We had Pupusas (Salvadorian corn cakes filled with cheese) served with pickled vegetables. They were already out of the Honduran black bean soup but we were not starving so that was fine. We ate outside and after our meal we enjoyed a scrabble came with a few more drinks. Tom creamed me this round. All in all a wonderful conclusion to a wonderful day.

Back to our place and then the skies opened and the storms came. I think they roared through the night.

8/31/15-Monday

“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.”
~Steven Wright

They had called for rain all day but at about noon the sun peeked out through the clouds. We took the bus, then the tram to the Royal Palace square. It still was a bit chilly so we stopped for a coffee at an outdoor café in the square. The crazy bells at the Royal Palace clanged for about 20 minutes. Then we were off with our umbrellas to do the Rick Steves Jordaan walk

This particular walk was pretty good. We stopped for drinks at a little place that had outdoor seating, Assaggi.
http://en.iens.nl/restaurant/23879/amsterdam-assaggi
We were only going to have drinks but they served a lovely little tapenade with cheese, sausage and bread so we hung around for several drinks. Friendly service and very quaint street. There was an adorable vintage clothing shop right across the street from the restaurant. Pleasant little lollygag.

We caught the bus home and almost as soon as we got in the door the rains came! Perfect weather for a nap. We didn’t plan on venturing far this evening because the weather is still threatening. We opted to return to the Thai place several blocks away and again had a simply delightful meal with terrific service.

A very slow stroll home, a little TV, a little reading and off to sleep. A week goes by so quickly, tomorrow is a travel day.

9/1/15-Tuesday

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”
~John Steinbeck

We pack up and clean up the last of our groceries. Our landlord will keep our bags until we return from our little day journey and then he will get us a cab to the airport.

We caught the bus and hopped off at the flower market (how can you not visit the flower market when in Amsterdam). We strolled through and admired the various flowers, the lovely bonsai along with the tulips. Here we purchased a nice print to frame when we get home.

Back on the bus we go looking for Reynders brown café. Eventually we find it among many other cafes. The tender was friendly and gave us a little history lesson about the place (originally a stable outside the city walls-1750ish). We enjoyed a few drinks along with some fries (the fries are so good here). It was chilly and overcast but the rain was staying away so we sat outside. We got back to our place with no problems and Rene got us a cab to the airport.

We are to fly out on Croatian Air. It was quiet at the airport this afternoon. Once we finally saw the plane (about the time we should have been departing) they were first disembarking….. Then we saw the crews go on to presumably clean and down below we watched them load the luggage. At least we did see our luggage get on. This particular flight was going to Pula and then on to Dubrovnik I believe. The really, really loud and obnoxious young folks were getting off in Pula though as some big rock concert was going on. I was hoping they wouldn’t be over served……For this short flight I put my earphones on and silenced them all. We were in the last row, aisle seats across from each other. Really nice because they offloaded front and back 

Once we finally arrived to the little airport all was quiet. Quiet at the closed car rental counter we were supposed to get our car at…..not good. We didn’t have the correct arrival time listed to begin with (all that planning-what an important detail to miss!) but we were at least an hour and a half later than we should have arrived anyway. Super helpful airport staff helped us reach the rental company and we got someone that would come back and get us our car for a fee. Another helpful staff member at the airport helped us call our landlord via Skype on our computer. Our innkeeper assured us the late arrival was no problem, they would be waiting for us.

Once we got the car the fellow that got us all situated had us follow him to the entrance of the highway (since it was really dark out) that would take us to Apartment Nimcevic. The ride there was not bad, our GPS got us to their gate and true to their word, they were up waiting for us at the door and a nice ice cold big beer and bottled water were in the fridge of the spotless apartment. Not a bad way to end a stressful day or to start stage two of our adventure.

Stay tuned for Installment II-Rovinj Croatia……

  • Report Abuse

    Really enjoying this report -- isn't Amsterdam the best! The street food tour you did sounds amazing -- I loved the herring too during my visit (though I can see how it wouldn't be for everyone!) :)

    I also enjoy how you start each day with a quote -- nice touch! :)

    Looking forward to hearing about Croatia!

  • Report Abuse

    Loved your report as well! We are going in June and Have been agonizing over whether to book the hungry birds city or market tour. The market tour appears to be located in the de Pjip area and as it will essentially be our first full day there, seems a good way to learn about the city as well .
    Looks like you did the City tour and enjoyed! Wish you had done both so I could compare the two- your descriptions were so excellent ! Would love to know if any others have tried the Market tour.
    I hope the rest of your trip was wonderful!

  • Report Abuse

    Following is the Istria portion (for me, a mere 4 1/2 months, not too bad)....I will be posting this separately as well. We cannot recommend the Hungry Birds tour enough, it was one of the highlights of Amsterdam. Yes, Amsterdam is a lovely, vibrant city!

    And now, on to Istria-Warning, wordy and long, feel free to email us with any questions about anything. Enjoy!

    9/2/15-Wednesday
    “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”
    ~Seneca

    After a very good nights sleep we have a slow rise. We make a large pot of coffee and each of us enjoy a nice long warm shower. We settled up with the landlord and then headed out for a few groceries. There is a market nearby and as it turned out we stopped here several times.

    We dropped off the bounty and then headed in to town. One of the more difficult things about the money here is you are never really given much small change (cripes with Euros it seems we always have pockets full of change). So right off the bat when we got in to town we didn’t have change for the parking machine that spits out tickets (the machine does not take bills). Some kind stranger gave us enough to at least park legally while we went to get some change.

    We stopped at Sorriso Pizzeria-Pecenjarnica for a drink or two and ended up having a pizza as well. Best pizza we had on the entire trip as it turned out. Our waiter was a really nice guy (probably the owner). And go figure, when we went to pay him we did not have enough small bills/change, only large bills, which he could not make change for. Yikes, just a small amount (equivalent I would guess to a dollar) but then we also had no money for a tip. Okay, okay he said.

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g303833-d4582020-Reviews-Sorriso_Restaurant-Rovinj_Istria.html

    We left to go find the place to “register” our car/license and pay for a few more hours of parking. We did locate the little office that allowed us to pay for parking and then we found a place to get some change. When we returned to the restaurant to pay our shortage and give him a tip he was surprised and grateful. Such a yummy pizza and so kind to tell us not to worry, how could we not return and settle up properly? For some reason we did not make it back here, wish we would have, it was a nice place, great outdoor seating as well as indoor and the menu looked interesting. Recommend a visit if you are in the area!

    We strolled around the water and up the narrow little streets, snapping photos of doorways, windows and laundry flitting in the wind. What a lovely little harbor. It was quite hot and sunny so I purchased a nice big brimmed hat to keep the sunlight at bay. We stopped a few times for wine and beer and to people watch.

    Back to our place that has a lovely outdoor (covered) balcony for some down time. Nice area to air out clothing with an ironing board, full size iron and drying rack. There was no laundry here but we could wash out undies, etc. while in the shower and then hang out here to dry no matter the weather.

    We opted to go to Pineta for supper, a place not to far from where we are staying. http://pineta.incroatia.info/en/index.html
    It was nice enough to eat outside and that is what we did. We had a very good dinner and with wonderful service. 2 wines, 1 beer, soup, njoki, a fillet, scampi and a dessert to share. The dessert was pretty so-so but overall everything was lovely. 422 Kuna with a 50 Kuna tip. Perfect end to a very nice day.

    9/3/15-Thursday
    “In still moments by the sea life seems large-drawn and simple. It is there we can see into ourselves.”
    ~Rolf Edberg

    Today we have a tour of Rovinj set up with Tours By Locals-Matt was our guide. Highly recommend this tour. He was knowledgeable and personable. He also made several recommendations that we took him up on.

    After meeting at the Casa Blanc Bar we walked a bit on the walk along the sea, through the market, through the “gate”, all the while getting a little history. We then walked up towards the church, Saint Euphemia Cathedral. There we marveled at the fabulous stained glass. At the end of the tour we had a drink with Matt, planned on the meeting place for our next tour with him in Pula and then parted ways.

    We went over to the Delfin Tour booth and made arrangements to take the next one out. While we waited we went over to the restaurant (Balbi) that Matt recommended. We both loved our entrees and wish we would have come back for dinner here. It was early afternoon so quiet at the restaurant but service was very nice. It was a gorgeous day, a little breezy but really lovely nonetheless. We relaxed with our drinks for a bit, then strolled awhile afterward, killing time before the tour.

    Back to the boat launch we took the Panorama of the Islands tour. It was a pleasant journey and just 150 Kuna for the two of us. Second stop was a little silly, but we enjoyed our time out over the water. You were able to stretch your legs or walk up some very steep stairs for something at the top. We chose to stay put.

    Once back to Rovinj we went up the street a bit, about a block from the place we had lunch, to Pian del Forno. We sat outside and while there they must have set up almost 7 more tables outside. We had pizza and truth be told it was so-so-the pizza was not golden & creamy as advertised; it was burnt on the bottom and the cheese rather clumpy. We were sorry we didn’t just go back to Balbi.

    We retrieved our car (about 50 Kuna to park all day) and then headed back to our place. Pleasant nightcap on the balcony and a little bit of housekeeping and then it was off to bed.

    9/4/15-Friday
    “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
    ~J.R.R. Tolkien

    We start out with coffee on the deck and telephoned to reserve an English tour on the island (Brijuni). We then headed out to Fazana, a pleasant and easy drive. We found a place to park the car and then roamed around the waterfront area for a bit. We stopped at a nice little place (annoyed I didn’t note the place), had a wonderful waiter (Giovanni) and enjoyed a little cheese and sausage platter with bread and olives on the side. Yum.

    We took the ferry to the Brijuni Island where we had our English tour. I would say it was roughly a 4 ½ hours tour, although much was self directed as you walked in the museum and the grounds in between as well as the little train through the areas where the animals are. We enjoyed it, the area is lovely and we had great weather for this outdoor activity. The ferry ride back was uneventful.

    As is our vacation modus operandi we have some down time on the balcony, a few cocktails, a little housekeeping and then decide to head out for dinner.

    We headed toward Flengi for some suckling pig. The restaurants have their spits near the road so they can flag you down to stop and dine at their establishment. We ended up at Speranza and enjoyed our meal outside. We naturally had a wine and a beer, Tom had beef & noodle soup and I had cucumbers {just a bit of vinegar, large bowl, probably a whole cucumber}. Next course was Spaghetti Bolognese for me and spaghetti alla carbonara for hubs and then we shared a plate of suckling pig with French fries (oh these European fries are to die for!!). Our server was a lovely young woman and our entire experience here was great.

    It was a winding ride back home with a lot of lightening but no rain. It remained breezy most of the night. We had to hook the inside shutters to keep them from banging around. Sleeping was good though. The sea air along with the fabulous meal really tuckered us out. We slept like babes.

    9/5/15-Saturday
    "Kilometers are shorter than miles. Save gas, take your next trip in kilometers.”
    ~George Carlin

    Our plan today is to head north. We took the A9-oh boy what a slow, slow, slow ride, back ups for miles as it finally gets to one lane to pay, then more back ups for the final 1.7 km before we finally can exit. All the while dark threatening skies with pouring rain. By the time we got to our first stop, Savudrija, the rain had stopped and the blue sky was peeking through the clouds.

    We started with a nice light lunch at Restoran Lanterna, outdoor seating with a beautiful view of the water. 2 wines, 2 beers, a salad, some bread and sardines, with a cover charge it was 90kn. We then struck out, walked a bit along the water and then to the lighthouse. There was a campground there too with quite a bit of activity. We then headed out to Buje.

    Once we got to town we stopped for a beer and wine at pizzeria S. Leonardo, at the corner of Giuseppe Garabaldi & Villa. Then we trekked around and headed for St Servulus church. The church was closed (something we found in almost all the villages we visited) but the tower was open. So for 20kn we walked up to the top for some magnificent views and great photo shots of the bells!

    We then headed to Novigrad. Since it was Saturday we did of course come across a wedding in the Sts Pelagius & Maximus’ Parish Church. We walked along the water for a bit and then stopped for a wine and beer at Konoba Tabasco. They had a wonderful offering but it was more than we wanted for supper this evening so we ventured out again, enjoying the little town. We had noted while at the water’s edge that a good storm was brewing and finally it came. We ended up ducking in to a little alley-way pizza place (Europa) that had covered outdoor seating and split a pizza and then each had a dessert. It was a pleasant little supper and by the time we were ready to leave the rain had let up. We had an uneventful ride back to our place.

    9/6/16-Sunday
    "Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe."
    ~Anatole France

    We start slowly with coffee on the balcony, plotting our route to Porec today, with various site stops along the way. It is a beautiful weather day today and as we head out the drive is quite pleasant. We marvel at the red dirt and the gorgeous olive trees surrounded by ancient looking stone fences.

    Our first stop is Monkodonja, the hill fort occupied about 1800–1200 BC during the Bronze Age, not far out of the town of Rovinj. It was quiet with just one other couple walking around this open air “museum”. It was very well marked with English being one of the languages in the signage and one could take all the time they needed.

    It was then on to Sveti Lovreč, one the best preserved medieval fortified towns in Istria, named after the small church St. Lawrence built in the 8th century on the town graveyard located outside the town. Since it was Sunday, almost everything was closed. We stopped at a little outside bar and had a few drinks and then walked around a bit, taking photos at every turn. A theme is emerging in all these towns. Ruins everywhere. Since this area was not touched by the recent war these ruins are more likely just abandoned places, some that according to what is written, really fell into disrepair under the rule of fascist government. At the end of World War II, Sv.Lovreč became a part of the former Yugoslavia (and Socialist rule-not known for their upkeep and appreciation of history) and today’s Republic of Croatia.

    Then on to Porec. We parked and then headed to the city center. We decided to have a lunch at Café Central and while it was a touch windy outside we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch under the canopy on the sidewalk. Our waiters were very friendly and begged us to “take them to America in our suitcases”. Food here was traditional Croatian fare.

    We walked around, did a little window shopping and ended up at the water. We decided to take a ride on the “Yellow Submarine” glass bottom boat. What a rip off, don’t waste your time or money on this! While they were friendly you saw nothing and being inside the hot bottom, well, avoid at all costs. We paid for parking and then headed back home. We stopped at a look-out along the way, one of the roadside areas that people were selling honey, oil, etc., and walked up the stairs to catch the awesome views. We cracked up at the sign of a stick figure with a big red X through it. He was urinating so we assumed it meant don’t pee off the top of the look-out.

    We stopped at the grocery store, picked up a few things and then were surprised with a little plate of wonderful home made treats by our inn keeper. Yummy fudge and 4 pieces of delicious coffee cake, how nice is that?? We rested up a bit and then decided to just go back to Pineta for supper. Again we sat outside and had wonderful service. A great salad but the worst pizza of our trip. Luckily the wine and beer was terrific!


    9/7/16-Monday
    "The ancient Romans believed that the empire would last forever, so they built things to last a long, long time."
    ~Author Unknown

    We wake to a day that is quite windy and much cooler than it has been although it is not unpleasant weather for the tour we have in Pula with Matt the same guide we had for Rovinj. The ride there was wonderful with no problems-awesome scenery and interesting conversation with Matt. Pula is known for its mild climate and smooth sea as well as its very well preserved Roman Amphitheatre. The city has a long tradition of winemaking, fishing, shipbuilding as well as tourism.

    Our first stop in Pula was naturally the Roman centerpiece. What remains is still quite glorious. There Matt gave us some history as well as what goes on there now. We were sorry there wasn’t a concert we could have arranged for in this venue while here. I’ll bet they are terrific. The underground is equally as fascinating! The jugs for oil under the Amphitheatre were very well preserved. Having a guide for this was so worthwhile.

    From here we walked around town, stopping at the Temple of Augustus, a well-preserved Roman temple dedicated to the first Roman emperor, Augustus. It is thought to have been built during the emperor's lifetime at some point between 2 BC and his death in AD 14 according to Wikipedia. That is old! It was however almost destroyed during World War II and rebuilt in 1947 (so well-preserved may not be an accurate description…). We then wandered over to see the floor mosaic “The Punishment of Dirce” dating possibly from the 3rd century. Amazing this was found after the World War II bombings, under existing buildings. Very well preserved and beautiful. From there it was to the “Golden Gate” which was erected between the years 29 and 27 BC by the Sergi family, in honor of three members of the family who held important positions in Pula at that time. According to the Pula Tourist site “this triumphal arch leaned against the city gate Porta Aurea thus called because of its richly ornamented arch or gilded elements. The gate and wall were pulled down in the beginning of the 19th century as a result of the city expansion outside the city walls. As the eastern side was not visible it has remained for the most part un-carved, while the western, town side is richly decorated. Today numerous cultural performances, theatrical and musical, are held on the square next to the Arch. The adjacent street is a shopping area.”

    We stopped and had a farewell drink with Matt at the Bounty Pub just off the center square. It was a lively area and a nice end to our visit with Matt. He was staying in Pula to meet a friend so we were traveling back home on our own. From there we retrieved our car and headed back to Rovinj. On the way we stopped at an olive oil estate, Chiavalon. Since we had not set anything up we were lucky enough to find the owner there and while we didn’t get a tour we did chat for a bit and bought two bottles of oil, one for us and one as a gift. This olive oil was delicious. This is a working grove, tractor parked out back and healthy trees all lined up in that lovely red soil.

    We stopped at Vodnjan and found there was no flurry of activity here at all mid afternoon. We had a drink and then walked to the Church of St. Blaise. We were able to peek inside the tower but not go up to the top. The buildings themselves though offered many photo opportunities, great windows and doors and a wide variety of architectural styles along with narrow walkways with clotheslines swinging in the breeze and tunneled entrances from street to street. Also many slumbering kitty-cats, little bundles of fur I find impossible to resist photographing .

    From there we stopped at Park Kazuna (a theme park they called it). An interesting display of the Kazun, buildings or shelters dry built with stone gathered while clearing the land for farming or cultivation, really predominate in the Mediterranean areas (called different things in different areas). This display was nicely done, showing the various stages of construction as well other examples to be found in this particular area.

    On to Bale, another sleepy town. We parked and came across some folks selling honey at their doorstep. Several kitchen chairs with neighbors visiting while they hawked their wares, clearly a mom and pop operation however they did have a honey sign hanging permanently above the doorway. (It is very good too, we are still enjoying it.) From there we strolled the streets, looked in to the Holy Spirit Church, built in the 15th century and wound our way around some of the narrow streets in search of the place we had decided to have supper at, Kod Kancelira, Ul. Istarska 3.

    They did have seating in front outside but also seating in the rear, through the restaurant, on a back outdoor patio which was enclosed. While it was a bit chilly outside we were comfortable and really enjoyed our meal here. Service was very good. I have pictures of our meal (mine was gnocchi with beef) and Tom’s looked like a stew with a side plate of possibly potatoes….can’t find receipt so don’t know the cost. I know we were glad we stopped here.

    On to home where we have to think about cleaning up our place and packing up and heading to our next rental in Pazin. We found Apartment Nimcevic to be a nicely located place for what we had planned for this area. The balcony was wonderful, the place well appointed and Spotless. Plenty of hot water, comfortable bed, nice fridge, coffee maker, nice living room, parking inside the gate and of course the huge balcony with sun awnings we could pull down-Highly Recommend. There was a grocery store nearby as well as an ATM and banks and plenty of restaurants and places to have a drink. The area was very walk able however we really didn’t do much walking around here as our treks were normally quite a ways away.

    9/8/15-Tuesday
    "Who lives sees much. Who travels sees more."
    ~Author Unknown

    We load up the car and say our good byes. We stopped up the street at the coffee shop next to the grocery store before we hit the road. It would be a leisurely ride.

    Once we got to Pazin we drove around a bit to get our bearings and then stopped for a drink at a jazz bar that had outdoor seating in the back. They did not offer food here so we ventured out to find somewhere for a bite to eat. We ended up at Peperone Pizzaria right in town. We sat in the little courtyard area across the street from the restaurant and Tom had a burger and French fries and me a chicken wrap-both very good. It was a nice little place with great service. There was a patron their with a small dog that seemed to think it was the resident guard dog protecting the turf. Poor little black kitty-cat couldn’t get near to anyone for a handout, that pup was not having any of it. I managed to snap a dejected black cat face . And of course, American music piped out of the restaurant and to the patio. After lunch we headed over to our rental, Apartment Diana.

    The daughter Diana was the only one at home when we arrived so she got us situated in the apartment that is above their home. Large place, 3 bedrooms (we only used the one and as a courtesy didn’t bother with the other bedrooms), a dining room, small kitchen (almost galley-like but not open on either end or one end, open in the middle), a huge living room and front balcony and little upper back porch as well as a small side balcony for hanging the laundry. We actually didn’t take advantage of the outdoor space here as much as at our other places but it is nice to have nonetheless.

    Once settled in we headed out to the TI, picked up a city map and then over to the ethnographic museum. It isn’t a huge museum but it was not expensive and they did have some nice displays. The little courtyard had some iron sculptures that were well done too. Here in this area we found most churches really were not open. We saw a lot of church exteriors but not as many interiors. It was luck in most cases that got us in to see the interiors.

    We stopped at the local Lidol grocery store, picked up some essentials and then headed back to our place for some down time. Once we got there Zeljko & Diana came up with a huge bowl of fruit for us, some from their garden, some from the grocer. We visited for a little while and then after a rest decided to head out for some supper.

    The evening was quite chilly so we decided to sit indoors. The place was busy but our service was good as was the food. Naturally there was a beer and a wine…..Tom had a beef dish and I had pork medallions and we shared a dish of rice. We even had a strudel with a dish of ice cream and coffee for dessert. This meal was at Hotel Lovac and cost 273kn.

    9/9/15-Wednesday
    "But the beauty is in the walking – we are betrayed by destinations."
    ~Gwyn Thomas

    Today after some housekeeping we head out to do the Pazinska Jama walk, an extremely effortless walk in a pretty area with plenty of fauna and good signage to let you know what you are seeing. It is a very windy and chilly day but the walk is really covered from the high winds so it was pleasant. We stopped at the Hotel Lovec afterward and had a wine, beer and some fries (European fries are just to die for). We did sit outside here but it was almost too cold for outside seating, not especially pleasant.

    We then headed to Gracisce. The ride was, as have all of the road trips so far, a pleasant and uneventful one. On our way in to town we stopped at Koquelicot Wines. They do have a tasting room and we did some tasting and ended up buying a bottle of wine which we later gifted to our landlord. The vintner was friendly and the place was inviting. Once in town our first stop was St. Vitus Parish Church and the graveyard. Not sure if it says something about our character but hubs and I are simply drawn to cemeteries and stones or markers. This one had some awesome stones with the skull and cross bone motif. We then went to St. Eufemije and also the ancient Church of the Mother of God on the square. Naturally all were closed. But we were able to watch a roofer tackle a repair on one of those tile roofs, quite interesting as well as watch backyard chickens frolic. Another glorious town for photographing doorways and snapshots to everyday life….laundry, chickens, flowers…..

    It was then on to Pican. They have a nice “town gate” that you walk through (car left in parking area below). This was another really sleepy town and of course the church, Church of St. Michael, was not open. We did find many ruins in this town, much like several other towns we have seen. And sadly by now these churches are all beginning to blend together (and we still have 4 more days to go of looking at churches).

    Travel seems to have caught up with us as today we are tired. We returned to our place for some down time. Once we headed out we found 2 of the places we had thought about for supper were closed so we decided to just have supper again at the Hotel Lovec. Gnocchi, Stroganof, 2 soups along with our usual cocktails, yum, it was a good supper although we didn’t find our table/booth that comfortable. But service and food was good and our day ended on a nice note.

    9/10/15-Thursday
    “People who love to eat are always the best people.”
    ~Julia Child

    We had a nice breakfast out on the front balcony, did some housekeeping and paid some bills (isn’t the internet just the greatest thing ever???). Today the plan is to head towards Beram as well as the Festini-Zminj caves. So after a relaxing morning with coffee, treats and fruit we headed out. Driving from Pazin to Beram was simply breathtaking (one of the photos we stopped to take is now on the wall, 8x10 in black and white-trees that meet over the road). First stop was the confraternity church of Sveta Marija na Škrilinah, near the town of Beram. The church contains the famous “frescos of Vincent from Kastav, and numerous Croatian Glagolitic graffitis”. We were very lucky today as there was a docent there, collecting an admission fee and telling a little bit about the very well preserved frescos. We were glad we hit this one right although our little Missy (GPS) did not like the route we were taking to get…she showed us in the weeds and off the road.

    We stopped at another church that was actually open but I do not have good notes on that one. After that we stopped at Konoba Vela Vrata and had a few drinks and made reservations for tonight. We also picked up a few souvenirs in town here, although this is really a very small town with nothing really going on at all.

    Then it was on to Zminj. We had a few drinks at the Mad Caffe Bar and then on to the caves. There we had another drink (me coffee this time as I was a little chilly-hubs beer) while waiting for the “tour”. The cave was a small one but the young guide a nice one that answered questions and was happy to take everyone’s picture. She also pointed out (laser pointer) the resident bats in the cave.

    Once we got back home our landlord asked if we would like to join them for an aperitif which of course we did. This was some home made hooch, very good, by his grandfather. We asked if they would join us for dinner and so he called and changed the reservations from 2 people to 6 (their 2 children joined us as well). Zeljko took care of ordering the meal, seeing to it that it was family style so we could have a bit of everything. We also had mushroom soup. There was a huge salad to pass, 2 large pasta dishes, 2 large meat and potato dishes as well as plenty of bread and of course water and 3 carafes of wine. Spectacular service and delicious meal with wonderful company and great conversation. 800kn plus 200kn tip, we treated. They only agreed to let us treat if we would have dinner in their home on Sunday. Seemed like a pretty fair deal to us!

    9/11/15-Friday
    "The rewards of the journey far outweigh the risk of leaving the harbor."
    ~Author Unknown

    Today we are going to get on the ferry and venture to the Cres Island via the ferry. We arrived just as the full ferry was getting ready to push off so as they do we left our car in line, purchased a ticket (do not know if they offer round trip, didn’t even think about it until our return trip) and then jaunted up to the little café for a wine and beer as we waited. The day is stacking up to be a nice one indeed. Had to move out of the sun because it was so warm.

    Once it was loading time we got on the boat with no trouble and went up top to enjoy the ride across. Once on the island we decided to skip Cres city and drive to Lubenice. This was a harrowing drive, stacked rock walls line the roads (which are not very wide) although the sea views from the village are awesome and they have 2 city gates.

    Then on to Valun. Here you park and walk down (18 percent grade) to the harbor area. We found the ancient tablet and then had a drink at one of the seaside bars. Naturally when you walk down you have to walk back up…
    Our ride back to the ferry was without incident and as luck would have it we found ourselves perfectly in queue for embarking on the ferry.

    We stopped at a place on the way home, Konoba Stare Staze. We were seated right away and service started out wonderfully. Our first wine, the soup (leek & potato-oh yum), the pasta (me Pljukanci, hubs-Njoki Boskar) and the meat (me steak, hubs Cutlet) all came out as they should and were cooked to perfection. And then our waiter simply disappeared. We really were never able to even flag anyone else down as there were not many people around. Finally we got up and went to the patio area outside and Tom went to find someone to at least get us our bill. Our waiter was rounded up and he apologized up and down. He had a crazed bride-to-be on his hands (whose wedding was going to be the following day) and he got caught up resolving her issues. We understood and he offered us a drink on the house so I had a wine and hubs a water.

    It was very dark now and our little Missy really took us home via the back roads. Luckily not much traffic and we did get home with no troubles at all.

    As always on this 9/11 anniversary we say our thanks to be able to be free to travel, our thanks to the brave young and women that so willing serve, as well as prayers for them and their families and of course a prayer for the families touched by the horrible events of 9/11. We never take this for granted. We are always touched by the wonderful people we meet when we travel and we hope we always represent our country in a positive light.

    9/12/15-Saturday
    "There is a comfortable feeling in small towns. It is salubrious."
    ~Andie MacDowell

    Our days always start out so wonderfully, coffee and little treats out on the balcony while we take in the everyday sounds in the neighborhood. Today we have 5 villages on our list but will only make 4 of them, one being Buzet for the “Truffle Festival”. We do not have any trouble with the roads in the area and our GPS really does a great job getting us to our destinations.

    Stop #1 was Draguc. There was major road/sewer construction going on and we had to park almost outside of the little town alongside the entry road. We walked through the sleepy town and only saw 4 people and 2 other tourists. Here our notes said we could get the key for the church but alas, the gal at the restaurant had no key and the church was not open today. We had a wine, beer & sandwich here and met up with a friendly cat that just wanted to sit next to hubs, photos are so funny! The panorama views from the area were lovely.

    Stop #2-long ride (passing through Buzet) to Hum. You park outside the town but the walk is simply a few steps-really only 2 streets. Said to be built by giants it is billed as the worlds smallest town. And it is small. But it is a very well preserved as are the town walls. A room alongside a shop is called the museum….small is the theme here. The small church to the left of the entry had scaffolding inside with a young woman that was working on cleaning up the frescos. What an undertaking! The bell tower as the main church was not open.

    Stop #3-As we headed to Roc we did pass the stone sculptures with the glagolitic alphabet symbols. It was a beautifully sunny day and the skis were filled with hang gliders, up quite high, floating through the air. We parked at the big town gates and walked from there. The young girl at the TI took us to two churches-Church of St. Anthony and Church of St. Rock and she was a wealth of information. The frescos were quite nice, especially so at St. Rock where they have uncovered layers…frescos hundreds of years apart. We really enjoyed this stop. Afterward we stopped at a little outdoor café for a wine and beer were we watched all the town kitty-cats enjoying siesta in every other door way and window well.

    Stop #4-back to Buzet as there is supposed to be a festival that starts later in the day. Some booths were set up but they really were for children (puppet shows, magicians, etc.) and there were families with their children there. None of the real food booths were up and running yet. This festival was sort of at the foot of the city. We walked up to the town, which was pretty quiet. There were stands up but they were not open. Several restaurants were open and did have plenty of customers but the streets themselves did not have much activity. We walked back down and stopped for a drink. It really did seem to us not much was going to happen until much later and so we opted to leave. Normally we love these local little fairs but this one just didn’t seem to be organized at the time we were there. One of the things we did do here which we most assuredly do not recommend was take the little tourist train. Oh my, what a rip off! He went in a circle outside of any area that could remotely be considered interesting, actually on the highway at one point. To say this was a pointless journey that we actually paid for is an understatement.

    We had Salz on our list but we didn’t make it there. We headed back towards our place and stopped at a pizza place, Rotonda, in Lindar. We looked for a few places we had on our list in this area but this was the only one that appeared open. It was up the stairs (bar down below) and we sat outside on the balcony. Our view was the most magnificent sunset ever. We had a lovely meal here and it was a pleasant end to our day.

    9/13/15-Sunday
    “Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”
    ~Anita Desai

    Today we are heading out to a couple of hill towns. First stop was Vizinada. Another very sleepy little town where none of the churches were open (this has been the case in many, many of the towns). Beware of a character named Sandy. We inadvertently got caught up with him along with another tourist and it wasn’t until we were almost to a church that it became clear this guy was really not a good Samaritan trying to help us get in a church. He wanted money and hounded us all the way to our car. It was almost frightening.

    Next stop was medieval Motovun. The weather was nice but a bit overcast. You really park outside the city but we didn’t have to walk to far up and through the town walls to the city. We walked around a bit and then opted for a nice lunch in a place that had outside seating. A small door off the stone street and up the stairs to a lovely terrace that faced the hills. As has been the case, awesome service, delicious food and wonderful wine and beer accented with views to die for.

    On to Oprtalj, another very sleepy little ancient town. Remnants of the defense walls are sparse. The town offered many photo ops with lovely doorways and windows but there was not much else here. It looked like it wanted to rain but the weather held out for us. Naturally we stopped for a drink before we headed back home. Our landlord has invited us to dinner in their home tonight, a home cooked Istrian meal.

    Our meal started out with some nice wine and a Greek salad. Then there were the skewers of chicken and little sausages along with yummy potatoes and then of course the Istiran pasta followed by strudel. Oh my, too much food, all so good, along with interesting conversation and an evening finish with his fathers home made aperitif. I’ve said it a hundred times, this is why we travel. So much to learn from meeting new people and also a window to see that you have so much in common. Truly a very satisfying evening.

    9/14/15-Monday
    “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
    ~Henry Miller

    The forecast for today was initially lousy but turned out to be okay, just really windy. We headed out to Svetvincenat. Sadly neither the church or the castle were open for visitors. We had a hot chocolate at an outdoor café after walking around the town and snapping photos. We then headed to Tinjan.

    Tinjan turned out to be another very sleepy little town. We did stop at the tavern Djidji and had a drink before we walked around a bit. We did get to the round table under the hackberry trees (Zupan’s table) and enjoyed the hilltop views from there. Our notes said there was a restaurant at this site but there was not. Sadly we did not find any Pršut, the dry cured meat they are known for, here.

    We then headed to Salez….the pillar of shame. For some reason hubs thought it was important to get me there???? The church nearby was not open and other than the pillar, not much here.

    The plan now was to stop for something to eat and we did find a little place along the road, Old River Grill. There was indoor seating and covered outdoor seating so we sat outside. Our meal here was pleasant as was the service. The highlight was the guest with her pet pig. The little oinker toddled around the entire place checking out the floor, the people sitting and the servers bringing out the food. But his human mom did seem to have him under control. He did pose for pictures .

    9/15/15-Tuesday
    "If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why oh why can't I?"
    ~E.Y. Harburg

    Today is a travel day, we have to drive to Pula, drop the car and catch a flight to Amsterdam. Our morning is consumed with packing properly to make things easy when we get to Amsterdam as we are staying overnight and will fly home on Wednesday, direct flight to Chicago.

    The ride to the airport and the dropping off of the car was pretty seamless. We had a coffee at the little cafeteria outside and then stopped for a drink on the inside bar. The flight was on time and my notes about the flight are pretty bare so I guess it was uneventful. Once in Amsterdam we walked through the airport to the spot noted as the shuttle pick up for the Hyatt Place hotel. We barely waited minutes and then out in to the very cold and windy weather, off to the hotel.

    Our room was satisfactory, comfy bed, large shower, very clean and the windows wonderful, when closed you heard no street noise at all and it was on a busy street. After freshening up we went down to the restaurant. It was really quite chaotic and since no one ever really came around we got up and went over to the little bar inside the hotel. Friendly service here we struck up a conversation with a lady there on business. She suggested a restaurant not to far away so we had the concierge arrange for a taxi.

    Den Burgh http://www.restaurantdenburgh.nl/en/ was her recommendation and it did not disappoint. We had a bottle of water, each had a glass of Malbec, a small plate of bread and tapenade and the lamb special for hubs and duck for me and an apple crisp with ice cream for dessert, 76.45E. Our service was fabulous and food presentation delightful. We both thoroughly enjoyed our evening here, a simply perfect, relaxing end to an awesome vacation. Footnote here, the restroom was also amazing. Clean and well appointed, they had designer soap and real towels, you took your own and you were the only one to use it. Very impressive.

    The hostess was happy to get us a cab back to the hotel. We checked with the concierge regarding the shuttle to the airport and then began our final packing-tomorrow we return home.

    9/16/15-Wednesday
    “There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror.”
    ~Orson Welles

    Up early and packed to travel we went down for breakfast. The food area was much nicer in the morning. Not chaotic at all, the aroma of fresh coffee, pleasant servers and plenty of them and a well appointed buffet made for a leisurely breakfast. We lollygagged over our juice and coffee and then gathered up our gear and headed out on the shuttle to the airport.

    The weather was not very pleasant but it didn’t effect the flight take off time or the flight home. Once again we had the same great seats going home as we had heading over. The noise cancelling earphones with the iPod and the nook make the travel over the pond not too bad. The staff on board was wonderful as well. Arrival in Chicago and the ridiculous cattle line for reentry….same as always. We lucked out with the Coach USA bus arriving almost 15 minutes after we got to the stop. Once we got to the park and ride a call to Uber got us a ride home in less than 10 minutes. Boom, just like that, perfect vacation is over. That said, there is no place like home and we are happy to lay our weary bodies down in our own bed. I return to work on Thursday and on Thursday hubs begins to plan our next adventure  That will be Vienna for a week and two weeks in Slovakia same time next year. And now that I have completed my report I can begin the planning with him.

    Notes & Observations-
    Istria is lovely as are the people there.
    We found many churches were not open and it was very hit and miss for someone to be around to let you in.
    Food and drinks were really a bargain and almost everywhere absolutely delish-true in Istria as well as Amsterdam.
    The overall feel was wonderfully laid back, perfect for vacationing.
    A guide is worth it!
    Driving was very easy and the GPS very useful.

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    Luvtoroam,

    Thanks for the trip report. I am starting to plan a trip that starts with a few days in Amsterdam, which will be a first for me. Your rental property looked lovely. I don't think I will be able to do an entire week in Amsterdam. Would you say it was conveniently located enough for a shorter visit?

    My main goal for Amsterdam is the Van Gogh museum. #1 bucket list item! Probably will also want to visit the Riks museum, Joordan, and wander the canals a bit. How fun that you did the Hungry Birds tour. I will definitely consider that! I did one in Portland, OR and loved it.

    Thanks in advance for your comments and answers to my questions.

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    We were happy to not be right downtown so found our place wonderful. Just a few blocks to the bus stop it worked for us, plus we loved the quirky little restaurant up the block. We were so bummed to not make it to the Van Gogh, When are you planning to visit? Safe travels!

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    rialtogrl-Is that an Italian handle ;)? Love Italy! We have found referencing these reports is something we really do a lot! And often going back and reading the report along with our hundreds of pictures takes us back and we get to enjoy all over again. So worth the effort. Amazing at our age what we don't remember if we don't write it down.....

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    Glad you continued this -- from one writer of lengthy trip reports to another, I've enjoyed reading it! :) It seems like you did some great research to really acquaint yourself with this part of the world and its villages before visiting it.

    Your description of Pula was fabulous. Sounds like a fascinating place and I am officially adding it to my list of places to visit! :)

    Also, love your approach to travel with lots of walking and regular stops for a snack and to people watch! :)

    Dayle -- re your questions on Amsterdam, book your tickets to those museums in advance -- the lines can be horrible!

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    Thanks for the really great detailed report luvtoroam! So few Fodorites do them any more.....

    You rental did look very comfortable.

    Yes, definitely planning to book the museums ahead. I don't like lines.

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    Plan plenty of time at the Rijksmuseum, we sort of short-changed ourselves there. Yes we purchased our tickets to the Ann Frank (specific day and time), the Rijksmuseum, open ended but walk right in on the day you choose and of course the Hungry Birds was a specific tour, date and time-all from the comfort of our home before we left for our vacation. The summer months we could not reserve the Van Gogh as they do not offer that option. You will love Amsterdam!

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