Monday, April 4, 2011

Whitmer Family Vacay Pt. 1: A Rough Start

Hi all. Sorry for my silence the last couple of weeks, but I've been frolicking around Europe with my family in tow. It was a lot of fun, but I am now thoroughly exhausted and glad to have a little downtime and a little time to update you all on my recent adventures. This will come in multiple installments, I think.

As I mentioned in the title, things got off to kind of a rough start when my family arrived 2 weeks ago. They were supposed to arrive around 7am on the 23rd, but because of multiple flight delays and missed connections, they didn't get in until about 3pm. I met them at the airport and we got our rental car and headed to a hotel in Brussels where my mom had made reservations for us to spend the night. I had originally planned not to meet them until the weekend in Amsterdam, but about 2 weeks before their arrival I decided I would take a few days off work in order to be with them the whole time. So my mom had originally made this hotel reservation for three people, instead of all four of us, but she called Expedia about a week and half before their scheduled arrival to change the reservation. They put her on hold while they called the hotel, and when they came back on the line they told her that everything was set and that the reservation was changed to four people. Well, we arrived at the hotel, and the woman at the reception desk only spoke French. No big deal. So I told her our last name and she said (in French of course), "Ok, it's for three people." "No," I told her, "it's for four people. We changed the reservation and Expedia approved it." "Well," she said, "They never informed us of the change, so it's for 3 people." Since Mom had been on the phone when Expedia called the hotel, we knew this wasn't true. Trying to be patient, I asked if we could simply have a cot or a roll-away bed and pay the difference for the fourth person. "No," she told me, "it's not possible. All of our rooms are full and all of our roll-away beds are being used." I could see the reservation book in front of her on the desk, and this also appeared not to be true. I asked if someone could just sleep on the floor or share the existing beds. Nope, not possible. "So there's absolutely NO WAY you can accommodate us?" I asked. "No," she told me, with a little more attitude than I thought was appropriate, even by European standards. "Well, then we will need to cancel our reservation and have our money refunded," I said. "No, it's done, I can't refund your money," she told me. What?! Now I am angry. "So you refuse to allow all of us to stay here, but you also refuse to refund our money?" "Yep, those are the rules," she said, in an incredibly flippant tone. Meanwhile, I am communicating all of this to my mom in English and she is starting to panic. She tries to speak to the woman in English and the woman basically tells her to talk to the hand. So, despite my best efforts, I lose my cool, tell the woman quite succinctly to shove the rules up her ass, and we leave. Not knowing where else to go and not wanting to pay for another hotel, we decide to just drive and hour and a half back to my house and start out from there in the morning. As of right now, Expedia is still trying to get my parents' money back from the hotel, and I have become convinced, after my last two trips there, that Brussels is the worst city ever.

So we came back to Valenciennes for the night and set out for Antwerp in the morning. After a few navigational issues with our GPS, we ended up having a very lovely afternoon in the city. Since Antwerp is the diamond capital of the world, my parents surprised us by telling us they wanted to buy each of us (my sister and me) a nice piece of jewelry. Allison found something almost immediately: a beautiful pearl and diamond ring. Jewelry has never really been my thing, and I really struggled to find something I really liked, so in the end I got a nice Swatch watch and a very nice leather messenger bag in Paris, at the end of our trip. I am quite happy :-).

After Antwerp we headed up to Amsterdam, and (thankfully) checked into our hotel without a problem. We had a blast in Amsterdam. We walked all over the city, took a boat tour of the canals, visited the Anne Frank house and the Heineken Brewery, and did a side trip to Keukenhof Tulip Gardens in Lisse and the Delft pottery factory (for Mom) in Delft. My parents also went to the Rijksmusem, a museum of Dutch art, while Allison and I went shopping. My dad has decided he would like to retire to Amsterdam. I'm not sure if he has convinced Mom yet, but he's working on it, haha.

And I think that will conclude the first installment, but I'll leave you with some pictures. Next up: Valenciennes and possibly Normandy.

Tulips at Keukenhof

Mom and Dad at Keukenhof

Allison and I enjoy a night out in Amsterdam

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