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Published: September 20th 2011
Obligatory windmill photo Goedemorgen, Hoe maakt u het? (Dutch - Good Morning, how are you?)
Just outside Schoonhoven. Sorry no clog photos.
We have arrived in Amsterdam to start our quick visit of Holland for one week. We have rented a gorgeous apartment privately which is handily located 800m from central station but tucked away from the main thoroughfares. Also it is located on the fringe of the red light district so plenty to see if you know what I mean.
We arrived at apartment at 10.30pm after our flight and quick train trip from airport so we just crashed for the night.
Day 1 (Fri 16 Sept) was beautiful and sunny** (we love that) so we hit the canals for couple of hours in what amounted to nearly our private tour as we opted for an ‘Eco’ completely open air boats so not many folks taking that option – It was spectacular to gently float along both tiny and larger canals that have formed the back bone of Amsterdam’s economic growth since the early late 1500’s onwards as a nation of trading goods from all over the globe. This is also witnessed by the cuisines here, there is no true Dutch
Return to roots..
Aunt Tiny, Uncle Jos, Cousin Marianne, Michele and Uncle Bas. Bas's house in Schoonhoven.
cuisine with exception of some special unique dishes, but plenty of Indonesian, Thai, Indian, Japanese, South American, Italian, French, Mediterranean, you name it.
A real quirky thing that was fascinating to see were some of the houses on the canal which are largely converted shipping warehouses titling on slight angles, left or right, and also towards the street as a result of either a) poor construction (approx. 400 years ago) so not sure what the warranty arrangements are on those or burden of proof; b) some opportune builders creating some extra width at the top of their building by building with slight slant away from adjacent building or c) they have built them slighting facing down to allow ease to move goods/furniture up by pulleys/cranes from the streets below.
The number of bicycles here blows me away, everyone is riding so they don’t need to exercise by running on treadmills or hitting the pavement, they just ride everywhere or walk. In fact the Dutch government has imposed considerable taxes on buying a motor vehicle that it is very expensive to own a car in Netherlands than anywhere else in Europe.
Dave took some great photos of the tilting houses
and sights from our canal adventure. I also was reminded by my Uncle Bas that my mother, Kiki used to be a guide on the Amsterdam canal tour in the early 1960s. I would love to post a photo of her then leaning over one of the boats as it is a beautiful photo of her but we don’t have the digital image of it.
**FYI – Summer in Holland like UK (worst in 18+ years) has been non-existent based on feedback from our tour guide, maybe 5 sunny days+ in July/August and not much else in between. They have especially missed warm summer nights to sit outside for dinner and drinks. His comment “Well summer has been good if you like rain”.
Had an Indian meal at the ‘Memories of India’, found it easily on the street with the flashing neon palm tree but that aside the food was very pleasant.
Sat 17 September
A sunny start to the day with afternoon storms and rain.
Robbo walked over to the ‘NYC central park’ equivalent in heart of Amsterdam, ‘Vondelpark’ to go for jog/walk.
With the rain dictating our plans, we visited the Van Gogh museum.
Where it all began...
Elshof family home - Schoonhoven
The exhibition was brilliant, I’d been completely naïve at to the range of paintings that this artist had done, we know the famous sunflowers and of course the self portrait but this exhibition which holds the largest collection of his paintings, drawings and letters, presents chronologically the styles of paintings he did and at which locations including Paris, Arles – Provence, Hague and so on. Fascinating as well, on the audio guide there were extracts of his letters between his brother, Theo and also other artists about his feelings particularly when he was fighting his own demons.
We walked home and then had a lovely Italian meal near our apartment, Gusto. Dave ordered the specialty pasta of the house, well quite a production with a huge round of cheese on a trolley, approx. the diameter of a bicycle wheel being brought to our table, the centre had been hollowed out from melting the cheese with flaming cognac. The staff melt the cheese then add the already cooked pasta, swirl it about to make it very ‘cheesy’ then twirl back up and plate up. Dave was in heaven with his Pasta Parmigiano dish.
For dessert, I introduced Dave to Dutch
licorice, Drop, it is very chewy/hard and salty flavour. He didn’t care for it too much but I LOVE IT. But there was something typically Dutch that Dave liked which was the Hagelslag that is either chocolate sprinkles or fairy coloured fruity flavoured sprinkles thrown over bread and butter. This stuff is an obsession for the Dutch, they eat it by the bucket load, estimated the Dutch consume 14 million kilos each year on 850 million slices of bread. It amounts to a welcome bit of silliness and fun for your breakfast!!.
Sun 18 September – we rented a car to visit my relatives in Schoonhoven today. So that part of booking car online very simple, the challenges then lay with getting out of the city as it was the annual Amsterdam to Rotterdam running race so major roads were closed nearby. Our trusty GPS was still able to get us out of the pinch with some hasty adjustments by Dave.
The drive to Schoonhoven was great, the roads are in such great condition and on either side of the local roads are bike and walking/running tracks, also in brilliant condition. We stopped in for a quick walk around
Amsterdam Car Park
Thousands of bikes. Preferred mode of transport in Holland.
the centre of Schoonhoven, lovely historical feel with cobble stones and myriad of churches, silver jewelers (it is famous for silver craftsmanship) and lovely old shops plus we feel over laughing, an Irish pub, The Limerick. We were walking around the church and adjacent park and stumbled upon the burial plots which Dave spotted where my grandparents (Oma and Opa) were laid to rest.
We visited my Uncle Bas who is living now in my grandparents’ house. My last visit to the house was 27 years ago, 1984, with Adaiha and Kiki. I thought the GPS was not right when we pulled up to the address as there are now houses built all along the road where previously it was all farm land with only 3 houses in total.
We had a lovely afternoon of chatting with Uncle Bas, along with my other uncle and his wife, Jos and Tiny and one of my cousins, Marianne. Marianne has been with her husband Hans, to Nepal, India & Tibet many times, where we’re about to go so was sharing some suggestions and insights of her many visits to this part of the world. Marianne also took Dave and I
One of the many many canals in Amsterdam.
for a quick tour de jour of Schoonhoven to point out some unique family related sites including City Hall where many of my relatives have been married, the spot where Opa (my grandfather) went off the road on his Harley Davidson, the original house where my mother and her siblings grew up (all 10 of them). We loved it.
Drove home excited after our adventure, I cooked a little meal in our very well appointed kitchen.
Mon 19 September
Sunny all day so we rented bikes and burned around Amsterdam including Vondel-park, Rembrandt-park and the little local streets of the city. No dramas and no accidents for Captain Slow (that’s Robbo).
I just loved it and the flow of so many bikes in different directions mixed with some cars, trucks and trams reminded me of being quite similar to riding our scooters in Bali, and somehow it all works. No one appears to be too grumpy if you make a hiccup (or at least no one yelled or told us off, maybe under their breaths they were cursing us).
We had a delicious Thai meal at the "Thai Bird" restaurant near our apartment.
This is our final full day of Amsterdam and the close of our European adventures.
We did some final errands and then went to visit the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art. It was brilliant and Dave shot some great images of some very creative artists.
We had a lovely meal at the "Keuken Van 1870", a rustic dutch restaurant.
Tot ziens Goodbye & here are 3 kisses** from us
XXX – you will see the triple X sign or emblem everywhere in Amsterdam as it forms part of the city’s crest, specifically the Saint Andrew’s Crosses. Funnily it also represents 'exotica'
**Also the Dutch like to give you 3 kisses but they are ‘air’ kisses, the lips should not touch the other person’s cheek.
Also Netherlands legalized gay marriage in 2001 so would the rest of the world catch up please!!!
Wed 21 September – BIG transfer day today.
We packed up early and headed to airport by train for three (3) flights* to reach our final destination Kathmandu, Nepal.
We saw on the news that there was an earthquake that has stuck in both Nepal and India, measuring 6.8 on the
Richter scale. Our prayers and thoughts go to those who are coming to terms with damage and how it will impact them during the days ahead. Our tour operator has confirmed to us that our trek is not impacted by this event so ‘here we come’.
p.s. we may be offline for our time in Nepal as limited power & internet access where we are going. We can be
Hugs & kisses xx
*The playlist is Amsterdam to Helsinki (Finland); then Delhi (India) and finally Kathmandu so for the next 30 hours+ we'll be confined to airport terminals minus fresh air.
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