WHO: Amy Battis, 36, and her sister, Abby Battis, 32, both of Beverly
WHERE: The Netherlands
WHEN: A week in April
WHY: "I chose Amsterdam because of the museums," Abby said. "I love van Gogh, and we have a quest to see all 34 Vermeers. It's been a dream of mine to go there."
ABBY'S CHOICE: Abby got to choose the destination because Amy has traveled Europe extensively and Abby hadn't left the country. "Up until four years ago I was petrified of flying," Abby said. "I just couldn't do it. Then I took a trip to Arizona. But I knew that if I wanted to really accomplish something, I had to leave American soil. The joke was that I'd become a resident of Amsterdam because I'd never come back." She was rewarded for her bravery when the sisters were bumped up to first class going over.
HOME BASE: They spent the week at the Hotel Zandbergen in Amsterdam. "It was an unbelievably quiet location and Tram No. 2 runs right there," Amy said. "We could be anywhere in the city in less than 10 minutes."
ON THE GOGH: Their first stop was the Van Gogh Museum. "I couldn't even get over the fact that I'd landed in Europe, let alone that I was going to the Van Gogh ," Abby said. She was especially affected by the sorrowful "Wheatfield With Crows," one of the artist's final paintings. "But what really got me was the fact that they had three images of him on the wall, and the last was his headstone."
MUSEUM MANIA: They saw several paintings by Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Mauritshuis in The Hague. "We've also seen them in New York, so we're about halfway there," Amy said. At one point they unexpectedly found themselves face to face with "Girl With a Pearl Earring" and gasped. They also enjoyed seeing Rembrandt masterpieces, especially "The Night Watch, " which they saw later as a three-dimensional bronze sculpture in Rembrandt Square.
DAY TRIPPING: Outings included visits to Delft, Haarlem, and even to Cologne, Germany. Their favorite spots were the open-air museum of Zaanse Schans, where they were enchanted by the working windmills, and the Keukenhof gardens, where Dutch bulb growers show off more than 7 million tulips, hyacinth s, and other flowers every spring. "We expected to be there an hour or two because neither of us are flower people," Amy said. "But by the end of the day, we'd left no corner of that park unturned. The colors -- I can't even begin to tell you."
DUTCH TREATS: "We ate extremely well," Amy said. "We had stamppot, which is mashed potatos and sausage -- very hearty, maybe not so healthy. We liked the sausages a lot. We tried pea soup everywhere. And we both did the herring," she said, referring to the Dutch tradition of swallowing the whole fish raw. "We loved the poffertjes, like little pancakes. But the winner was the frikandel," she said of the traditional fried sausage whose ingredients are a bit vague.
NEW HORIZONS: Abby braved the flight back and didn't become a resident of Amsterdam. She's already planning her next trip across the pond.