I thought I would take a break from my usual financial meanderings and write about a recent trip my wife and I took to Spain. Like most Brits we craved for a bit of winter sun and the recent weather in the UK pretty much pushed us onto a plane without too much resistance.
Of course us Brits love Spain due to its close proximity and abundance of English speaking residents especially in the South. However we had a hankering for something that got us close to the warmer parts but not the “bucket and spade brigade”.
After a little internet searching we came across a rented villa, not through a major company but privately. Modern looking, private pool, all mod cons and a view to die for. I was a little hesitant at having to drive 45 minutes from Malaga Airport up the coast and into the hills but in fact the drive was so easy on one straight road I had nothing to fear.
We landed at Malaga around 2pm (a most sensible time to fly), collected our rental car from underneath Malaga Airport (one of Malaga Airports biggest selling points) and by 4pm was sitting on the villa balcony comfortably warm holding a nice glass of chilled wine.
The villa we rented was perched on a sloping hillside just outside a delightful village called Alcaucin, described as a “chocolate box” village and certainly lived up to its reputation. Below was Lake Vinuela a beautiful blue ocean tucked between the rolling hills. We already felt relaxed.
Amsterdam, Holland, is a popular destination for euro-travelers. Amsterdam offers a diverse set of attractions for the modern tourist, ranging from museums that house the work of such painters as Van Gogh and Rembrandt, to the house of Ann Frank during WWII. For the more mature traveler, there is the famous Amsterdam red light district, which is a tourist attraction on its own.
Although Amsterdam does have its red light district, that should not distract from the beauty of the city for family vacation. Explore Amsterdam on foot, on a bike, or on a boat. People are friendly and the city is safe, and most people know English well, so do strike a conversation with the locals. For shopping, don’t forget the Waterlloplein flea market and then let the fragrance of flowers lead you to the floating flower market, which is amazing.
How to get around?
Bicycles are the most practical means of getting around Amsterdam but it is also an excellent city to explore by foot. Although you can easily get lost in Amsterdam, where the ancient streets and alleys are like a puzzle, if you are getting lost, this is the place to do it at!
Anne Frank House
Ann Frank House is an amazing museum that has a story attached to it. The museum is located at the center of Amsterdam, twenty minutes from the Central Station. Visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is a moving experience for everyone. Visitors can see the very room in which Anne wrote most of her diary and, although the Nazis stripped the house after her arrest, audiovisual presentations show what the rooms would have looked like at that time. The original version of the diary can be seen at the museum. The original building, the Opekta warehouse, was preserved, while a next door building was modernized and converted into offices and cafes for the museum.
Margarete Steiff’s sewing hobby turned into a major German toy company. The popularity of a U.S. President helped launch her ‘Teddy Bear’ into the arms of children around the world.
Steiff is an international toy company known for its quality and premium prices. The company’s specialization of animal-themed toys came from its founder, Margarete Steiff. She began sewing elephant pin-cushions for friends, but noticed how they delighted children as play toys. Other stuffed animals transformed this famous German’s hobby into a company in the late 1800’s.
Theodore Roosevelt, America’s 26th President, was already a war hero and legend in 1902 when his presidential hunting party wounded a young bear in Mississippi. Roosevelt ordered a mercy killing. While the bear had just killed a hunting dog, a political cartoonist drew the President sitting with a cute toy bear. Within a year the world was demanding ‘Teddy Bears.’
Many companies jumped into making the toy, but Steiff already produced bears. Margaret’s nephew, Richard, repositioned Steiff bears into high quality Teddy Bears. They sold nearly a million in 1907 and Theodore Roosevelt’s mascot remains the $100 million private company’s leading product. The original Steiff Teddy Bears are antiques. In 1994 one drew $170,000 at a Japanese auction.
When traveling in Germany between Stuttgart and Munich on the autobahn, stop by Glengen, just north of Ulm in the Swabian foothills. You will find the company headquarters, which employs 1,000 with offices around the world.
Tour the Margarete Steiff Museum, a magical place filled with her stuffed toys. Save some Euros for a genuine Steiff Teddy Bear, a German souvenir you can snuggle.