Published: May 18th 2008May 18th 2008
For the carnival is over and we must say goodbye!!!
We are sitting in Changi Airport at Singapore after a pretty reasonable flight from Amsterdam enroute to Brisbane (after a five hour layover!!). Thought it was an opportune time to post our last blog for our trip and let you know a bit about our last few days O/S.
We had our last morning in Croatia having breakfast at our very nice hotel and another great feast was provided by our very gracious hosts. We had planned to leave relatively early to make sure we could find the airport at Zagreb without stressing about running out of time, take the rent a car back and make our flight.
We had found the directions to the motorway the previous day so getting from the hotel to the motorway was not a problem for us, the main issue was being able to make sure we could get the right motorway connections to get to the airport. I spent, I would guestimate, a good half an hour trying to find out from the hotel manager if that was possible but she insisted in trying to explain how to
get to the motorway from the hotel and the more I tried to explain that we already knew that the more determined to make sure she could draw the most detailed maps and give the most precise verbal instructions (all in Croatian of course).
The issue was finally settled when she rang her daughter who arrived some time later and fortunately spoke perfect English. Now we had the right info and could settle back and get organised. We told our hosts that we would be happy to write a little entry in Trip Advisor, extolling the virtues of this fine establishment and much to Debsy’s delight, she loaded up a nice big selection of Samobor sweet delights for Debs and a bag of fruit for the girls.
We made it to the airport without a glitch and spent a bit of time waiting around before we could check in, narrowly avoiding having our bags checked all the way through to Brisbane. Once we went through the departure gate and customs it was time for the girls to browse around the duty free shop and have a bit of a dream about all the nice things to buy.
The flight to Paris was about two hours and from there we had to make our way from our entrance terminal, across Charles De Gaulle Airport to Terminal F2. The airport has undergone major size upgrades and it is now an incredibly modern and incredibly busy airport as you could imagine. Our connection flight to Amsterdam was quite quick and we arrived at Amsterdam about 5.40 to be met by Patrick.
It was so good to see him again and we were grateful of the lift, even if it meant trying to squeeze a watermelon into a matchbox as far as the size of our luggage and the size of his car was concerned. In reality, it wasn’t that bad and we were home to his and Loes’s apartment in quick time, very easily settling into a beer and some munchies. Patrick and Loes had been keeping track of our trip via the blogs and so they were well up to speed as to where we had been and what we had been doing. Originally Patrick and Loes had planned to join us on the boat for a few days but unfortunately due to work and real estate selling
Outside Anne Frank House
The front of the building does not depict the original house, it is the facade of the museum to protect the original.
commitments they were unable to do so. Patrick and Loes are selling their apartment and the real estate agents had arranged 8 inspections for the day after we arrived, the first arriving about 9.30 in the morning!!!
We had another brilliant night courtesy of Patrick and Loes’s great Dutch hospitality, having dinner and drinks at home. It was really nice to sit down to a home cooked meal after being on the go for so long. We also contacted Allard and Inga that night and they very kindly offered to come into Amsterdam to see us again before we left home. Whilst we would have absolutely loved to have gone out to their home to see / stay with them, we just did not have the time; this trip anyway. We really appreciated their offer as it is a long way for them to come into town, especially after working all day and then having to get back home and arrange work / school the next day.
Patrick and Loes had also gone to a lot of trouble to buy us some little memoirs of our visit to them and we are taking home some very traditional gifts
of clogs and a very unusual tasting type of liquorice called droop, pronounced drrop (forgive my incorrect spelling and pronunciation ‘dutchies’). Patrick and Loes are incredibly kind, caring and thoughtful people and you would think we had them stay for a year at our place rather than a couple of days.
Next morning we were all up pretty early making sure we cleared out all of our luggage to the next door neighbours to make sure the unit looked spick and speck before the first inspection. It brought back all those fairly recent memories of our own house inspections when we were selling Diggers. We headed off to town on the tram with our map, tram tickets and tourist destination selections all carefully prepared courtesy of Patrick and Loes.
We jumped on the tram to head into town, only to stop a few minutes later due to a very verbal dispute between two tram travellers. Not quite sure what it was all about but we waited and waited until the tram security guards arrived, started to talk to the two recalcitrant passengers and then one of them took off and ran away into the surrounding streets.
we continued now. The other passengers, who had become increasingly impatient with the imbeciles who had started to fight, were settling down, obviously keen to get to work or wherever else they were planning on going.
We got into town, had some brekkie at a little bakery and then headed off to the Anne Frank House. Forgive me for telling you how to suck eggs if you already know the story but very briefly, the Anne Frank House is where Anne Frank and her family hid for two years before being captured by the Nazi’s and shipped off to the Nazi Concentration Camps. Her Diary is an internationally renowned book and it obviously tells her story, thoughts and dreams while she was cocooned in a small annexe behind a factory in the heart of Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. We spent about two hours in the house which is a National / International memorial to her life, the life of her family and the oppression of Jewish people by the German Forces during World War II.
To say it was an incredibly moving experience does not do justice to how powerful this place is. We bought copies of
the book for each of the girls and we hope that they remember all the so very important past, current and future meanings the writings of this little girl may have on their lives.
From there we took our time to wander around this beautiful city. The thing that strikes me most about Amsterdam is the number of people riding very old fashioned push bikes. There are a bit over 700,000 inhabitants of Amsterdam and over 600,000 pushbikes and on any time of the day, each and everyone of them seems to be in use!!! The canals are lined with incredibly beautiful old buildings that have been transformed into wonderfully renovated apartments or trendy businesses. Amsterdam is a wonderful hotch potch of different races and there is a very cool, buzzy, relaxed, tolerant and carefree atmosphere that oozes everywhere, along with the pungent smell of burning hashish coming out of the doors of some very relaxed looking coffee shops!!
Walking around and taking in the sights is such an easy and totally enjoyable thing to do and we had no difficulty in reaching the next suggested place on the itinerary carefully planned by Patrick and Loes. It is
colloquially called ‘Our Lord in the Attic’. In the 17th Century, the Protestants controlled Amsterdam and whilst they tolerated Catholics, they would not let them attend Church Services in Churches that were open and available to the Catholic Public.
The ingenious parishioners then proceeded to build their own church in the attics of three houses that were joined together. From the outside, all you saw was the normal looking structure of houses so common in Amsterdam but once you went inside and walked up the internal stairs you came into an amazing Catholic Church complete with it’s magnificent alter, organ and balconies. Quite small compared to most other Churches we’ve seen this trip but equally impressive.
The Church still operates, no longer in secrecy, and special services are conducted there at various times of the year. It is also a place that Dutch people are able to be married and I think that Patrick and Loes would very much love to have their wedding there. I cannot blame them as it is a truly wonderful place. The museum displays a wonderful array of church relics and ornaments, original art pieces and furniture, all hundreds of years old and
all in pristine condition. The thing that we found quite amusing is that to reach the church, we walked right through the heart of the red light district, and that’s another story!!!
We left the Church and took our time, having a coffee and a drink, sitting beside the canals, watching the myriad of different types of canal boats making their way around the canals that make up so much of the city. As we had arranged to meet Allard and Inga and their children for dinner that night, along with Patrick and Loes, we had no intentions of burning the kids out walking for miles and trying to see all the sights that Amsterdam has to offer.
We took it pretty easy waiting around for Inga to arrive by train and Allard and the children to arrive by ferry from across the harbour and as soon as we caught up again it was like we hadn’t seen them for months, even though it had only been a couple of days.
We headed for a bar and, just like on the boat, started to have a couple of beers, and waited for Patrick and Loes who arrived
Look out Lloyd Mason
shortly after. You could not wipe the smiles off Patrick and Loes’s faces as it appears that the first people to inspect the house in the morning had made an offer that was most acceptable to their selling intentions.
After we had a few celebratory drinks, Patrick took me for a bit of a burn around town on the back of his scooter, taking in the architectural and cultural sights from the back of a speeding scooter was a very different perspective indeed. One of the sights I saw briefly confused me a little - I found the use of live lingerie models instead of plastic ones, sitting behind little glass windows very strange indeed!!
Patrick had made a booking at a very nice Dutch restaurant and we dined on traditional delicacies such as salted herrings, pickled herrings and sour cabbage amongst other really beautiful food. The dreaded time came to be and we had to say goodbye once again to the Krijt family, as upsetting as it was, I think we were all grateful to have been able to spend a bit more time together.
Inga text us later to say that they had missed their
ferry, had to take another one that left them some miles from their car and Allard had to jog to the car and by the time he picked them up they didn’t get home till about 2.00am. We felt really bad that they had so much trouble getting home but we really appreciated the chance to see them again.
One of the huge highlights of the trip for the girls has been the opportunity to have a ride on Patrick’s scooter and it was Layni’s go first so after we said a very sad and sorry goodbye to the Krijts. Patrick took Layni for a very exciting trip around the streets and canals of Amsterdam by night. I don’t think I have ever seen her so excited to be able to do something like this and it was really kind of Patrick to do that for her.
We caught a tram home with Loes and we stayed up for a while continuing to catch up and talk about future travel plans. We also made tentative plans for the next day as they had taken the day off work to spend some more time with them. After a rather
late night we had a bit of a sleep in the next morning. We had a huge Dutch breakfast and enjoyed the new sensation of fresh mint leaves steeped in boiling water. A very basic, but delicious herbal infusion.
The raw mince meat mixed with spices was also great, especially coupled with the Samobor mustard we brought them as a little gift from our time in Croatia. I think Patrick and Loes enjoyed the flavour of the mustard more than the Croatian grappa and Samobor Bermet wine we also bought them!!!
We spent a few hours talking and having coffee and then Patrick, Loes, Debs and I went into town to check out their new apartment they have bought and are moving into next month. The girls stayed at the apartment taking in a movie on the big screen and generally having a bit of a veg out.
Patrick and Loes new home is a stunning, brand new three bedroom apartment right in town and it is really brilliant. I am sure they are going to have a sensational time moving in and adding their stamp to the place. It is literally only minutes bike / walk
from the very heart of Amsterdam and it really is a case of location, location, location.
We continued our tour around town, showing Debs places that Patrick had shown me the night before on the scooter (the good places that is). We went for arvo’s of small Dutch pancakes and some coffee before going to Patrick’s brother and sister in law’s apartment a short distance away. We met Inga, Patrick’s sister who had lived for a short time in Australia.
An incredibly nice lady and she and her husband, Patrick’s brother Maurice and their two young children are hoping to come to Australia in a couple of years. Invitations were immediately extended for them to come and stay with us should they come over and we chatted about her time in Oz. Stunning apartment, beautifully renovated and it reminded us a wee bit of the beautiful terrace homes of Paddington in Sydney.
We left there and made our way home, being dropped off halfway and walking back through the streets of Amsterdam and also through a beautiful pedestrian / cycle only park full of huge green trees, lakes, parkland and cycle / walking / running paths, again
the similarities of Sydney were brought to the fore, this time Centennial Park.
After we got home we chilled for an hour or so (i.e. Alsy and Loes had a little nana nap) and then we went to a local Tapas bar for a new taste sensation. Patrick took Layni for another spin around town on the scooter and the rest of us walked to the restaurant. Whilst we knew about Tapas Bars, none of our family had ever been to one. Great place, crowded to the max and super atmosphere and food. The owner was pretty well known to Patrick and Loes and he very kindly gave a bottle of wine to celebrate the visit of the Aussies.
It was Nikki’s turn to see the sights of Amsterdam by night courtesy of Patrick’s fantastic Amsterdam scooter tours and she squealed with excitement as they took off toward the centre of town. Nikki, like Layni, had the time of her life on the back of the bike. We had seen one particular model of a scooter called a Mojito and whilst I am not all that keen on motorbikes (Am I Richard and Jules???) I must say, the
idea of whipping around town on one of these has a whole lot of appeal. Layni is super keen on the idea so we will see. That night Patrick and Loes gave us a game called Halle Galle which is a type of card game that you have to hit a bell in the middle of the table when certain combinations of cards are revealed. It is an absolute hoot and we played for hours before we were able to finally convince the girls to go to bed.
Saturday morning was time for a bit more sleep in as the weather was cold and wet. Another casual, relaxed but well stocked breakfast buffet meant most of the mid morning was spent munching and chatting. Later in the afternoon we went into the Hard Rock Café - Amsterdam, a place that Nikki had been particularly keen to visit as it is high on the ‘cool place to have been’ list. We had a bite to eat there and grabbed some memorabilia and then caught the tram back to the apartment for a final pack.
Off to Schipol Airport and some last minute shopping and a call to the Krijts
to say goodbye, for this trip anyway. Our Dutch hosts have been exceptionally kind to us and we are so grateful for the hospitality and generosity we have been shown. Patrick and Loes may well come back to Australia and even if they don’t come down under, I think there is a very good chance we will also be spending some more time with them in some other part of the world.
The KLM staff were very kind in booking our seats which meant that in a row of three, the middle seat was kept free so after the obligatory movie or two, a bite to eat, the girls were able to stretch right out and slept for hours on the way to Singapore. We were particularly amused to see the in-flight screen details just before take off advising that the airport was between 1 and 2 metres UNDER sea level. We were not aware until told by our hosts that most, if not all of the western part of Amsterdam was a metre under sea level - we thought global warming was an issue for us!!!.
We made it into Changi Airport and made new seat reservations
A nicer family you would never meet.
and now we have a few hours to wait before we board for our final leg of the flight home. To all of our new found friends, thank you for the opportunity of sharing a part of our life with you, even though it was very brief at times. We have a bucket of photographs and memories (sorry Jim Croce for stealing your words) that we hope will remain with us forever. To all of our friends at home, the reality is, we also treasure the fact that we are soon going home to some of the most beautiful people one could ever ask to have as friends, especially those friends who have kept in touch, expressed their feelings to us and made us feel very special indeed.
Overall the this trip has been one of the most enjoyable trips I have ever had and the five weeks on the boat was the best five weeks of my life. I am coming home with new found love and respect for each member of my family both as individuals and as a family unit. There can be nothing more important, nor more special than to take the time to listen
to your children, to get to really know them and be able to really learn from them. I have been blessed to have had this opportunity in such a concentrated form, in such an incredibly wonderful environment and for that, I will be eternally grateful to Debs, Nikki and Layni for allowing me this indulgence to live one of my very special dreams; it really has enhanced my understanding and love of the meaning of life.
There are more photos below