I've recently returned from a 2 1/2 week European vacation with my husband, Dave. We relied on two "Rick Steves" travel books (more on these later), some Scout hostels, and the Internet for planning. We traveled by train and foot (estimate 15-20 miles a day on those sore, abused tootsies!), back-packing our gear.

After two days of drawing on the paper placemats at restaurant, I stopped and picked up a sketch book. I had packed the watercolor supplies, but needed something for shorter periods. I've collected a lot more photos for future pictures, but here's some 'field' drawings done from restaurant tables, trains, stone pillars, boat,and other inconvienient places to work...

Following is a review of some of the places we stayed; and the good, bad, and the ugly.

In Haarlem, Netherlands, we arrived on Friday afternoon and spent our first night at the Hotel Amadeus (Grote Markt 10). We were in the top floor (garret!) over-looking the platz with the scenic view of a white tent and LARGE, inflated, purple cow; through the "ne" on the "Heineken" sign. Nice, clean, and the beer and onion soup in the restaurant below sure hit the spot after all the traveling. Email was available to notify the home-front of our safe arrival. I did a quick pencil drawing of a place kitty-corner on my placemat during a very good breakfast. If you go there, please let me know if they kept it!

We left Saturday for Antwerpen and stayed at Scoutel, Stoomstraat 3 . Although they are a Scout hostel, they will take in others to pay the bills. It's a short walk from the train station by all the diamond stores built into the stone bridge supporting the tracks. Cross under the span into an interesting community: Hassidic Jews in black, long overcoats, and negro Belgians in bright modern stuff and some African-style clothing as well. What a wonderful place to people watch. I played peek-a-boo with some young girls though our 2nd story window as they went by to synagogue. All they could say was "Hi", but the sight of me saying "Hi" back started them in giggling fits! Then they went and brought more over!

We walked out to find a friend of a friend (they'd moved); and would have enjoyed the surroundings more if we weren't constantly checking the ground for canine landmines. Along the way back, we passed several beautiful Art Deco townhouses.

Sunday, we went off in search of the "Vogelmarket" (Bird Market). After traipsing around a few kilometers by siting on the wrong church spire, we got there...part farmers' market; part flea market; and part garage sale. There really were birds: plain to exotic; as well as guinea pigs, rabbits; items to clean dust bunnies with; food; cloths; and 'antiques'. It was fascinating: you can spot a "snake oil" salesman even if you can't understand a word he's saying!

After trying to decipher lunch menus, we settled on a place with good food and, of couse, paper placemats. I think the waiter kept the drawing for a tip. He was really careful and concerned about my wet wine glass ring and plate marks.

This "b" was seen all around town as a metal plate, mostly red on white. It is the 'logo' of Brugge, Belgium.

We skirted the old ring wall, and I climbed into one of the working windmills. There are still 4 left, 2 were running that day.

This is a view out our B&B (run by Yvonne de Vriese, Predikherenstraat 40) window in Brugges.

We were served breakfast in our room! At one point, someone came to tidy our room while we were out and noticed my partially done picture. After that, I had to give progress reports at breakfasts, and whenever we went through the hall! We highly recommend this one as very clean, well equipped, comfortable and friendly.

The city is wonderful, but go during shoulder season as we did, as it is a tourist magnet. It drizzled a bit during most days on our trip, but was pleasant enough for walking. Well worth a day or two if you like old cities with scenic views every way you look. For the best overview, and a magnificent piece of machinery, climb up the carillion tower. It's worth the 360 steps. Play Quasimodo when the bells go off.

This is the horse fountain from the back alley where all the carriages congregate between wheeling "Mr. & Mrs. Kodak" around the straats. The lunch there was very good.

We tried to stay 2-3 days at each basic local, and take small train journeys into the surrounding areas. Dave had set up the 'legs' between major stops to be 1-2 hours, so travel time didn't cut into vacation time, but became a part of it...

I did another page of bits and pieces on a train...a Belgian conductor's hat; cows; different roofs and building pattern notes, etc. I gave up 'cause it just hurt my head!

The trains were all clean (well...maybe not all the WCs; and certainly not the stations...) and on time (with one exception).

Colmar, France. This is a partial view of the courtyard at the B&B; Maison Jund, 12 rue d l'Ange. We had a great mini-apartment, with a kitchenette. I sat out on the balcony and painted the picture. Mrs. Jund caught me and kept up on my progress. The building originated in 1200 +/-, and leaned every which way.

The Unterlinden Museum was indeed one of the highlights of the city. We spent a couple of hours looking at their collection, especially the altarpiece...get hold of Rick Steve's "France" and read his excellent synopsis.

We stopped overnight in Trier, Germany, founded 15 BC by the Romans, and full of 1500+ year old ruins to climb around. The place we stayed was the Kolpinghaus Warsberger Hof, Dietrichstrasse 3. The meals served in the restaurant they run were also excellent.

Frau Huhn's, the first place we TRIED to stay in Zell, Germany. The back yard rapidly turns into vertical vineyards. She was out early in the morning (hence the drawing while waiting on her porch). We then tried the other end of town, and I ended up on a bench facing this one on the right...right where the bike path entered Zell. I got lots of emphatic comments and grins. I only understood the latter! When the SECOND person ALSO wasn't home, Dave checked here. Herr Gunter Theisen, husband of the proprietess Gertrud (all these guest places seem to be run by the wives) had been watching me from the window...

This is the first street (Balduinstrasse 1) up from the Moselle, and all over town up the sides of buildings are the high water marks from years past. In 1993, the worst one, it reached into the second floor, up to the timbers...

Zell was reached by bus from the train station at Bullay. perhaps that's why we where about the only non-German tourists in town. It was the weekend, and Volk-trekkers in their knee-pants and bikers (pedal-pushers, and motorized) all came to town for the Schawarze Katz wine and the Oompah band.

We stopped for lunch across from the door on the left, and enjoyed the lovely weather and tried to eavedrop on the local beer-drinking and passerby heckling club. Unfortunately, they did not stay for a 4th round so I could finish this.

The 'dirigent' of the Orchestee Vereinigung der Stadt-Zell-Mossel e.V. was Haessler Hans Peter. He had a neat green coat emblazened with patches, red vest, and a slightly frazzled appearance. I drew this leaning against a column behind the band.

Dave enjoyed watching people react to my drawing, wherever we were.

Dave: "It was fascinating to catch the reactions of people as they came over to look at the drawings. At first, one would nonchalantly sneak a peak, and instantly turn away if I looked at them. After a while, they grew less timid and would get closer for a better view. When they recognized someone, they would hunt down a friend, tug on their sleeves, and drag them over, too.

The comments came fast and furious, too fast for my small German vocabulary. (I did catch a reference to one of the player's bald heads!).

When the band finished, several of my watchers went and snatched the players over to see what had transpired while their backs were turned!

One of the wine merchants offed us both a glass of wine for amusing the crowd. They set up on tables around this fountain, and use it to rinse out the glasses between drinks!

There's more!!!...on to the Rhine...

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