Part II - London
Part III - Liverpool
Roll up, Roll up for the Mystery Tour!!!!!!
At the airport in New York, we were greeted warmly by our host Charles F. Rosenay!!!, while the Chicago group was met with a smile by the co-host Daniel Levine. Beatles fans were flying from all over the country! We received our laminated ID badges and our tickets to ride. On the plane, the pilot even welcomed our group!
We flew to London first then on to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. We were met by our tour guide Rene van Haarlem, publisher and editor of Beatles Unlimited magazine, which was the sister magazine to Good Day Sunshine while GDS was still around. It was Rene who had helped with the Hamburg MMTour a few years ago.
We checked in to our hotel, which overlooked the Amstel River. We freshened up and took a leisurely canal trip, following the path that The Beatles (with fill-in drummer Jimmy Nichol) took in 1964. As you travel along the river you have buildings to your right and left. "British Export," the fabulous young Beatles tribute band from Chicago that was with us for the whole trip, joined us on the canal trip with instruments to provide some background music. We had a sing-along as we made our way down the calm waters, and day turned into night. The band's bassist Paul provided the sweet lead vocals. The canal trip was lovely. Afterwards, some of us broke off from the group and went to the Hard Rock Cafe while the more adventurous and curious went to Amsterdam's infamous red light district. There, you see women in storefronts (yes, prostitution is legal), all-night restaurants and pubs, and coffee shops where marijuana smoking is legal. From what we understand, nobody from the tour did anything except check this all out for educational and informative purposes.
Our first morning started off with breakfast. We headed out as a group on our coach for the Beatle sites of the city. On board, Rene showed us some very rare videos of The Beatles in Holland. It featured The Beatles arrival in Holland, their press conference at the airport, their drive to their hotel, another short interview, their canal trip (it's a hoot watching them wave to the thousands
of fans who congregated along the Amstel River to catch a peak at the boys in their prime) and then into a sedan. In the interview portion, Paul humorously denies being lefty and adds, "...it's done with mirrors." Jimmy Nichol confesses that he doubts he'll continue on as the band's drummer, "...it depends on Ringo's health." The video concludes with The Beatles entering their concert venue in Blokker with some live footage. This was a great example of foreshadowing, because soon we would be visiting Blokker. Our only non-Beatle sightseeing stop was ideal for any tourist. Out in the countryside, we took photos in front of scenic windmills. We saw a wooden shoe factory, cheese factory, museums and gift shops. We took some group photos with windmills in the background.
It was then on to a city called Blokker, where The Beatles performed in front of 6,000 Dutch fans in a huge warehouse. There is a monument on the corner of the street where the warehouse is located. It is quite an honor for both The Beatles and the city! The monument is pink and white and looks like a record sleeve. It has "The Beatles in Blokker" with their likenesses, and replicas of Vox speakers.We than went to the actual place where the boys performed. The group's anticipation built as we stood waiting outside the warehouse, but they were preparing some surprises for us.
The place is still a working food distribution warehouse, and one of managers invited us in and showed us around. We started with what used to be the dressing rooms (now offices), and then he presented us with some gifts: a set of pictures of the Beatles at this place: entering the venue, relaxing in the dressing room and performing onstage. We then entered the area where they staged the concert. It still has high ceilings, but is now filled with floor-to-ceiling shelves of food and merchandise. Overą
At this point we were given more gifts: souvenir CDs made exclusively for our visit. The music was secondary. It contained Tony Sheridan tracks, but the photo represented The Beatles appearance at Blokker. What a great treat, a surprise, and a memento to keep forever. As if this weren't all enough, they ushered us into the cafeteria where we were all treated to coffee and sponge cake. Congratulations to Rene for arranging this exclusive visit.We left the warehouse with smiles galore, and took numerous photos of The Beatles in Blokker monument. Many of us had never heard of Blokker before, none of us will ever forget it!
We then drove along the beautiful countryside to our next destination, the Oosterbeek
War Cemetery. This is where The Beatles posed on the way to Hamburg in front of the monument reading "Their Name Liveth For Evermore." How amazingly prophetic! It is much cleaner and well-kept than that rare, historic picture would have led you to believe. It is quite a pretty and peaceful place. It was so sad to see headstones of far too many young men from their teens to mid-twenties, who lost their lives in World War Two. Someone on our tour worded it perfectly:
"We came to see a Beatles landmark, but we left with a lot more."
Very touching. It was then on to another nearby town called Arnhem. In this shopping district, Rene researched and found the music store where John Lennon stole the harmonica used on "Love me Do." It's in the exact same location, and it was pre-arranged for the shop to have a supply of harmonicas on hand, accompanied by store certificates of authenticities (receipts), showing that the harmonicas were actually bought at the place where Lennon stole his. Pretty cool. We bought one to give as a gift to Frank, who portrays John in British Export. We would've stolen it, but that just wouldn't have been right!
Arnhem, by the way, is minutes away from the historic war bridge depicted in the film "A Bridge Too Far."We weren't done touring! Our next stop was the glorious
Concertgebouw, mentioned by Paul in the Wings classic song "Rockshow." I thought it was a made-up name or a made-up place. We broke up into smaller groups, and professional guides escorted us through the glorious concert hall. Paul played here Aug 20, 1972. Rene was at that historic concert, and we discovered that he was also a young lad who attended the Blokker concert. The hall of the Concertgebouw is very posh, with red velvet seats and a long staircase that leads right to the stage. One of the couples traveling with us decided to attend a symphony
performance at the hall that evening! We went into the dressing rooms, went backstage and loved every second of it. We came home with souvenir programs from the hall. Then we broke off again into smaller groups. Some of us went out to dinner and some went with Rene to see some more sites. We saw the outside of the Van Gogh museum (Paul once got a private tour of this place) and other historic landmarks. That night was the event we had all been waiting for... the re-creation of John & Yoko's "Bed In" at the
Amsterdam Hilton. We wentup to the very exclusive John and Yoko honeymoon suite, where we took endless photos of our "John" (Frank from "British Export") sharing the bed, and a Yoko wig, with members of our tour group. Most of the women tried on the wig for the picture (as did some of the men), but it was tour member Linda Gregg who played the part of Yoko for the "press conference" as conducted by tour host Danny Levine. It was too funny!!! I had my tape player all ready and no tape for it. "John" was hysterical with his Lennonesque answers, while Yoko sat by silently. Tour members Douglas and Suzanne were the photojournalists. I bet they took 50 rolls of photos. We sang, "Give Peace a Chance," and others. Some members of our group sneaked out to do some partying in the Hilton's outdoor lobby bar, but the rest of us stayed in the suite getting to know each other better. One of us (I cannot tell who it was) wound up in the suite's lavish bathtub.
The next day I got up early for breakfast and went with my new friend Joanne to see Anne Frank's house. We saw the small spaces where she and her family had to hide from the Nazis. I can't imagine the fear they must have felt. To our surprise, Charles and Rene arrived at the Ann Frank House at just about the same time. We then took a walk back to the hotel and along the way did a little shopping. The group assembled outside the hotel, bid farewell to the Amstel River, our new Dutch friends and the city of Amsterdam.