Our Barge and Bike tour - Week 1

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May 14th 2012
Published: May 19th 2012
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Elodie in AmsterdamElodie in AmsterdamElodie in Amsterdam

This is to be our home for the next 2 weeks.

Sunday 13th May 2012

Judy was up and about by 0500 and Rags followed about an hour later. The morning was spent organising our clothing so that we only had to take one suitcase with us on the barge, followed by tidying up the house.

We left at about midday, catching a tram to the Central Station from where we walked the kilometre or so to the dock area where the “Elodie” was moored. Here we caught up with several of the group, losing them again when we went for lunch.

Later, everyone else arrived and it didn't take long for us to settle into our cabins.

After meeting the crew, Michel the captain, Sander the chef and Nina our tour guide, we went for an 18km “shakedown” ride. This ride took us into the North Amsterdam area and we passed through Nieuwendam, the suburb where Rags was born. He was quite chuffed about being there. On our return we sat down to a delicious dinner. If this was any indication as to the quality of future meals we are in for a treat!

A walk around the city was taken to burn off the extra calories of the meal, we returning to many of the sites we explored on our conducted tour. Lots of laughs and fun had by all.

Monday 14th May 2012

Everyone seemed to have slept well, we both did even though we did wake up several times during the night because the bedcovers were too warm. Most of us were up and about before the 8am breakfast gong, after which we cut our own lunches before being re-introduced to our bikes. During breakfast the boat had continued on and we stopped in a quiet rural area.

The day was spent riding through villages, alongside canals, stopping at a castle for lunch, where Judy and several others did the tour of Den Haar castle. There was an exposition of wedding dresses from television personalities here as an added bonus and Judy declared none were as lovely as her new daughter-in-laws!

Continuing on, after riding over 45 kms we reached the town of Vianen. One couple had opted out at the lunch break, the wife not having ridden a bike for many years finding it too much. They caught a taxi to where the boat was
Rich people's house along the River VechtRich people's house along the River VechtRich people's house along the River Vecht

On Monday we started cycling from Breukelen and enjoyed seeing the mansions along the river.

We both cycled into town, both feeling we had done well. Judy felt that she had ridden with renewed vigour after the break at the castle. Rags joined the others for a well-deserved beer in one of the local bars whilst Judy went for a walk up the main street for a little more sightseeing and made a few little toiletries purchases.

Most of the group had a refreshing shower before pre-dinner drinks on the foredeck, then sitting down to another delicious dinner of vegetable soup, followed by salmon and finishing off with a fruit salad.

There was a little activity by some after dinner but the general consensus was that an early night was to be had, preparing for a big day tomorrow.

Tuesday 15th May 2012

We woke up to a very grey day, rain very likely. After breakfast all of us except for 5 “slampampers” lined up ready to go. (slampamper = weak person)

We rode off and wound our way through quaint villages and farms, eventually stopping at the lovely town of Schoonhoven.

This was a typical town with its cobbled streets, a church in the main
Entrance to Den Haar Castle near UtrechtEntrance to Den Haar Castle near UtrechtEntrance to Den Haar Castle near Utrecht

We saw this on the approach to Den Haar which is the largest and most luxurious castle of the Netherlands. It was completely restored and partially rebuilt in the late 19th century.
street, and of course, a canal. Here we first went for the obligatory cup of coffee, the waitress impressed with Rags' attempt of ordering a large black coffee.

From here we went to a shop where Ian and Kevin negotiated a sim card for their data, whilst Rags continued to a shop pointed out by Nina where he bought a decent rain jacket and a pair of ladies' tights.

Lunch was eaten in the town square, after which we continued on our way through several towns and farms. As we came into one town we stopped for a coffee or beer in a bar. No sooner had we settled in than the heavens opened, hail pounding down on the roof. Needless to say we stayed where we were.

When the rain stopped we left, making our way to the high speed ferry to Dordtrecht. A short ride through the town brought us to the canal where the “Elodie” was moored. So ended a 55kms ride. Judy welcomed Rags, but was surprised how dry he was. She had been for a walk through the town and had been caught in the storm whilst we were in the protection
Bedroom of the lady of the houseBedroom of the lady of the houseBedroom of the lady of the house

Both husband and wife had their own rooms. The wife was the one with the money which enabled the Baron Van Zuylen to spend millions on this ostentatious castle.
of the bar!

Another delicious meal followed, Smoked salmon and mozzarella terrine followed by pasta and chicken with pannacotta for desert. Wonderful!

A walk through the town, showing many of the quaint shops and buildings as well as a short history of the town compliments of Nina, helped us to digest our meal. We returned to the boat at about 2130 where we watched a short film on the production of Genever, prior to our visit tomorrow.

Several stayed up catching up on our diaries or attending to some business before we all headed for a deserved rest.

Wednesday 16th May 2012

The boat continued on after breakfast through the port of Rotterdam, stopping for a short time to refuel. At this stop we saw the fire brigade ( brandweer) have a mock up exercise of a vehicle going into the water. They had divers in drysuits to get the bodies out, they tried resuscitation on the dummies pulled out, and even involved Kevin who was taking photos. When they “asked' him as a bystander how many were in the car he said 4 even though he knew the exercise wanted him to say
Dutch clogsDutch clogsDutch clogs

These were a bit too big to walk away in - spotted in Delft.
2! They laughed with him and continued the exercise.

We stopped at Schiedam, the town Rags' mother was born, here we unloaded the bikes and set off. Our first stop was the Genever Museum but as you can see int he photo we did some sampling and gave the museum a miss. After this we walked through the main street, thinking about Rags mother who was born here. We wondered how she must have felt landing in Australia which is so different. We found a chocolate shop giving out samples so we had some tastes and then bought a chocolate lollipop each.

From here we rode through the picturesque streets until we ended up back through pastures again. We continued on for nearly 30 kms, ending up at our evening destination of Delf. Here we went for a short walk before entering a square with bars surrounding it. Some sat and had pre-dinner drink but Judy wandered on and looked at the lovely little town square and the little shops full of the blue and white Delft wear (or copies from China).

The evening meal was superb as usual with pumpkin soup and apple, rissotto, followed by
Delft BlueDelft BlueDelft Blue

A range of Delft ware available for purchase. This product is only available through the factory for personal or online shoppers.
tarte tatin. Everyone was too tired to go on the planned town walk so we all sat in he lounge doing our own thing.

Thursday 17th May 2012

Today we split into two groupas again, Judy joining the group that would walk and catch trams and trains to get to our destination. The first place we visited this morning was one of the two places still producing genuine Delft pottery. Here both groups caught up again. Here it was explained how the porcelain was poured into moulds, fired and then hand-painted before the final firing. The clay used comes from Cornwall this clay being white when fired, the Dutch clay, red. The Delft blue comes from the cobalt based paint, black when applied, blue when fired. All pieces are individually painted, no two exactly the same. They employ 18 painters, this being a life-long position for most.
From here we rode to Den Haag (The Hague) and stopped at a square for coffee. As we were leaving, Judy and her group arrived, they having come by tram. This square is near the Binnenhof, the parliamentary buildings of the Netherlands. Both groups had intended to visit a museum

This shows miniatures from the many famous buildings and structures around the Netherlands. Unfortunately, today was a holiday and it was packed to the brim with families.
here but found it was closed for renovations.

We continued on to just out of the centre, passing many different embassies and seeing much larger and affluent type housing, until we came to parkland in which is built the Madurodam. This is a large display where on can see the highlights of the Netherlands in minuature. There were models of the old buildings, the railway system, the canals, the airport, as well as interactive models for children. We only had an hour here, and as it was a public holiday it was difficult to move around and take it all in. It appeared to be great for children, but we took it as a bit of a tourist rip-off. Judy also arrived here but we didn't see each other.

Once out of the traffic near here we ended up on a cycle path which wove its way through the dunes near the sea for nearly 10 kms, ending at the seaside town of Katwijk. Here we stopped at a cafe on the beach for refreshments before walking onto the beach amongst the many warmly dressed locals there for the day. There were only a few hardy surfers in
Farewell to the non-ridersFarewell to the non-ridersFarewell to the non-riders

Rags sets off as those who have other plans for the day bid farewell.
the water, waiting for very small waves.

The day's 45kms cycle ended in the town of Leiden, an attractive town built around the old buildings and the canals. It is also home to the Netherlands oldest university, which we cycled past as we came in, and is home to about 20 000 students.

The boat was moored in a very scenic spot, just outside of the old Town Gate, and it was from here that about 10 of us joined Nina on a 2 hour walk around the town after dinner. This included a walk to the fort overlooking the town followed by a long walk around town. Besides seeing a large church from which some of the congregation became pilgrims on the Mayflower to America, we also walked down the street where Rembrandt (real name Rembrandt van Rijn) was born in 1606. It was about 2200 before we returned to the boat.

A long day for all and sleep was needed by most.

Friday 18th May 2012

Much like every other day we left the boat at 0900 (Judy joining the riders today after a rest day) and after some time we were riding through the “tulip fields”. We were very disappointed, this being one of the expected highlights of this trip. The tulip season had finished and instead of colourful fields of bulbs all we saw was green plants with the flower stems removed.

Keukenhof saved the day. This was a huge display of all sorts of flowers in a park with undercover displays of orchids at one and lilliums at another. The tulips in the open air were at their last stages of life, most wilting and only a few displays as they were at their peak. Even so, it was most impressive and must have been stunning at the peak.

On the way to Haarlem, another 20kms away, we rode through village after village along an interesting canal at one time stopping at a house where they sold smoked 'paling' (eel). Most of us bought some of this to eat with our afternoon drinks.

In fact we didn't wait until we reached the boat, stopping at a cafe next to a pumping museum. Here, with a beer, we sampled our purchases.

As some of use didn't feel like another museum and we were next

The beautiful canals in Schiedam where Rags' mother was born. His grandfatehr was in the shipbuilding industry here.
to the ferry we had to catch for the next part of our journey wwe decided to head for the Elodie.

So under the guidance of “Iron”,(the Dutch way of saying Ian) the newly named Dunno, and his trusty GPS, we found our way back to the boat in Haarlem.

Judy and Rags left the boat and walked around the town, taking in the old buildings, the magnificent cathedral in the centre, as well as the people and shops in the mall. This is certainly a place you could easily spend a few days.

Dinner was another great event, with lots of camaraderie as well as the good food making it another highlight.

For the next hour or so, people played with their photos, choosing highlights to make a display summarising the high points of the trip so far. Mark collated these into one presentation and included funny subtitles that made everyone laugh and laugh. We will all be on the look out for funny shots so we can have a repeat performance next week.

Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


Tasting the GeneverTasting the Genever
Tasting the Genever

Instead of visiting the Genever Museum in schiedam we went upstairs and had a little tasting. MMM, says Judy, you finish it Rags!
Beautiful university town of LeidenBeautiful university town of Leiden
Beautiful university town of Leiden

Leiden was full of life and we enjoyed walking through it with it's almost 2800 monuments and poetry from many countries written on the walls of buildings.
Double decker bike racksDouble decker bike racks
Double decker bike racks

The Dutch are serious about their cycling and there are many places where one can see multi-story bike parks. This is an example of a double tier bike parking system.
All sorts of flowers at KeukenhofAll sorts of flowers at Keukenhof
All sorts of flowers at Keukenhof

Where Keukenhof is situated now, was a hunting area in the 15th century. Herbs for the kitchen of the castle of Jacoba van Beieren were also collected here; hence the name Keukenhof.
Tulips at the Keukenhof.Tulips at the Keukenhof.
Tulips at the Keukenhof.

Keukenhof boast of being the most photographed place in the world and is 32 hectares. We had 2 and a half hours to walk around and we were "flowered out" by the time we came to leave.
Photographing the tulips and other flowers.Photographing the tulips and other flowers.
Photographing the tulips and other flowers.

We must have taken hundreds of photos as there were so many beautiful flowers at the flower show at Keukenhof.

In our bike gear outside Keukenhof.
Our lovely guide, NinaOur lovely guide, Nina
Our lovely guide, Nina

Every day someone who "slips up" is nominated to be queen of the day. Friday was Nina's turn. After the evening meal she took nominations and duly passed the crown on to Robyn.

19th May 2012

Lucky Weggs!!!
Looks and sounds just wonderful. Really enjoying reading all the details of your fantastic trip. Keep having a ball.
20th May 2012

Hello holland
Your photos bring back memories of my time in holland. Fortunately canals and tulips don't change over the too many years :) Looks like a wonderful holiday with plenty of exercise so keep on enjoying that delicious looking food! A lovely sunny 25 degree day here in Perth. Best wishes
20th May 2012

Looks like your cycling tour is going well. We will have more cycling in 2 days time in Yanshao, but for now, we are catching up with emails, the internet.. Roman's mobile phone is not working and nor is mine so we rely heavily on internet. So sad about Stephen. Love Lucy and Roman
21st May 2012

Thanks Lucy, we have been reading your blog too. Sounds like you are seeing lots of interesting sights. My phone isn\'t working either. So much for Vodafone Customer care! Rang them to check it would work and I think he disabled it!
21st May 2012

Looking Good
Greetings travellers it seems that all is well. In the main the weather seems to be favorable - well sunny at least if a little cool judging by your attire. Very picturesque. i am looking forward to seeing some photos of the living conditions on the barge. Rags appears to be in good form and I am sure he is very pleased to be riding. I hope your mending and getting stronger day by day. Stay safe.

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