Finally it was time to meet up with my 96 year old grandmother who had been the impetus for me to travel to the Netherlands at this time. Gathered in the park with two of my aunts, three cousins (and Rogier!) and three nephews, it felt like an old fashioned family gathering and my grandmother was glowing, soaking it all up.
On the way back, Lief and I stopped by the house that my grandfather built and where they lived for at least 50 years. Right at the river 'Rijn', her rows of Hydrangeas still gloriously flowering.
My last morning was spent visiting Amersfoort to have coffee with my friend Linda with whom I studied Communication Studies in Utrecht and her partner Max. What trikes me of these visits with old friends like Judy and Linda; it doesn't seem to matter how much time passes - ten, twenty years - it still is as easy as if we had seen each other last month. It is bitter sweet though, as these visits always end up feeling too short when one lives so far away.
Lief and Kiki spent the afternoon on the boat, and we all joined them for a swim and last dinner on the boat. We have been so very lucky with the beautiful weather during our time here!
We feel so very blessed and grateful to have been so warmly welcomed in the sweet home of Judy, Gerrit Jan, Ted, Eva and Kiki. They gifted us with a chance to experience what it can be like to live a beautiful, active and joyous life in the Netherlands. This sure is an experience of a lifetime for the both of us, but especially Lief. We are both sad to leave, we have had so much fun. I literally haven't laughed so much in quite a while! Love you Judy.
A gorgeous sunset at Schiphol airport framed our last night on Dutch soil. I shall create a separate blog about our journey home, for those who might contemplate getting on a plane this summer...
The last day of our bike trip was a shorter day. With the wind in our backs we pretty much flew the last 38km from Nieuwkoop to Amsterdam. We arrived early afternoon at Hotel Atlas where we dropped off our bikes and headed back to Nederhorst den Berg with plenty of time for Lief to get ready for the soccer tournament which started in the evening.
Lief was able to join Ted's team (Judy's eldest son). He had worried a bit about his soccer performance in advance, but there was no need to worry. He was able to keep up with everyone and everyone thought he was close to 18 years old like Ted. They played 2 games of 25 minutes each on Friday night and 4 games on Saturday.
There were close to 30 teams in total, both men's teams and women's teams, so it was a very busy tournament. Lief and I were mightily impressed with everything. Not only with the amount of teams and games, but also with everything that was organized at the soccer club; from the fun dance party after the games on Friday evening, to the food stands, music throughout and Photo Booth.
Thanks to Ted and Gerrit Jan for organizing Lief could play such an active part in the tournament! It was an experience of a lifetime, though Lief would sure like to make it a regular experience!
Rotterdam - Gouda - Alphen - Nieuwkoop
Since we hadn't made it to Kinderdijk, we made sure to pass by two windmills, the 'Ster' (1829) and the 'Lelie' (1777) in Rotterdam. These 'snuifmolens' (snuff mills) still grind spices and make tobacco.
From here we pushed on and biked hard through more fields to get to Gouda, about 25km from Rotterdam. Today is a big day and more rain is coming...
Gouda is a beautiful city. I had never been to the 'Kaasmarkt', the traditional cheese market, but we were lucky for Thursday is the market day. The gorgeous historical town hall greeted us. The many food stalls have many traditional foods for sale, like 'stroop wafels', 'broodje haring' (herring sandwich), 'oliebollen' (doughnuts without a hole in the centre) and 'appel beignets' (apple fritters). Traditionally oliebollen are only to be found in December, around Christmas and New Years, but Lief got to taste some again.
Sure enough, after an early lunch the weather started to change. Dark clouds showed up, and we biked as fast as we could through fields and narrow paths to Alphen aan den Rijn, for a cup of tea with my uncle and aunt.
Onwards! We managed to stay dry and beat the rain this time, arriving at our hotel Zuideinde in Nieuwkoop just before the heavy rain started again...
Next: Last day, back to Amsterdam...
Delft - Rotterdam (+ Ridderkerk)
The road from Delft to Rotterdam, only 18km, took us through more flat fields and waterways. The only rise in the road usually comes when one has to cross a canal or waterway or has to get up to a dyke. So hills are not the issue when biking in the Netherlands, it's the wind... for one is so exposed biking through these open fields or along water ways, as we experienced the day before on the long route from Leiden to Delft... Thankfully it wasn't too windy this day, but it was the warmest day at 27 degrees C.
Rotterdam is very different city, compared to Amsterdam, Leiden, Delft. It has many modern buildings, with an emphasis on art and architecture. So much of the old city was bombed during WWII that hardly any historical buildings are left along the canals. One of the more recent structures is the Market Hall, which was completed in 2014. The inside has many food stalls, but what struck me most is ceiling which boasts the largest artwork I have ever seen called 'Horn of Plenty'.
In the middle of the market we hit the jackpot! We found gold, the real deal: authentic Portuguese Pastel de Nata's!!! Crispy, creamy, delicious... Merging memories of our bike trip in Portugal with new memories of our current trip. Wishing Sol and Tracy could be here to have a 'Compal' fruit juice and a Pastel de Nata...
Another cool building is the Depot of the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, where "visitors can see the result of 173 years of collecting. More than 151,000 objects housed together, arranged in fourteen storage compartments with five different climates." Along the same road, we found 'Sylvette', a large 'concrete sgraffito' sculpture made by Picasso and sculptor Carl Nester in 1954.
I wish we would have had an extra day here, so we could have actually visited some of the musea.
After a little break at our floating H2otel, we hopped back on the bike around 6:30pm to go to Unesco World Heritage site Kinderdijk. We biked over the Erasmus bridge, past the Feijenoord soccer stadium on to Ridderkerk where we stopped for dinner. It was the only place we could find along the way and turned out to be a fancy Tapas place; unlimited small bites were served two at a time. By the time we were finished with dinner the last ferry to Kinderdijk had come and gone and we had to race to catch the last 'fast ferry' back to Rotterdam.
Indeed a super fast ferry and a beautiful sunset light invited us to take many pictures of Rotterdam's bridges instead of the hoped for Polaroids of Kinderdijk's Windmills...
Next up: Day 6: Rotterdam - Gouda - Alphen - Nieuwkoop
Delft has three large churches in the old centre. Lief wondered why three... The 'Nieuwe Kerk' (New Church) is the most famous for it has "Nearly all the members of the Dutch Royal House are buried in this church. The most famous grave is that of our “Father of the Fatherland”: William of Orange (William the Silent)."
Then there is the 'Oude Kerk' (Old Church), which is also nicknamed 'Tipsy John', for it leans heavily to one side. This church has also famous historical people buried in the crypt, such as the painter Johannes Vermeer
The third church is the Maria van Jesse Church and has two towers, which is unusual for a church.
Lief took his Polaroid out to capture the Nieuwe Kerk:
The photoshoot continued at unique Delft Blue pillars, Lief spotted the exact place where "Ludolph van Ceulen used Archimedes’ methods and extended them, producing a 35 digit approximation of Pi and took 25 years of calculations which were done by hand."
We did visit Delft in 2012 and Lief still has memories of our time there. Of the church on big market, of having hot chocolate at 'Het Konings Huys' and of the house above the candy store with the red front. It's still red, but no candy store unfortunately.
Next up Day 5: Onwards to Rotterdam and Kinderdijk
Upon leaving Noordwijk, we biked past 'Grand Hotel Huis der Duin', where my grandmother loved to sit in the sun and watch the sea, while my grandfather would usually continue to create flower bouquets in his store during the day and join her in the evening.
This morning the bike path led us through sunny hilly dunes to Katwijk, passing wild roses, shrubs and wild flowers. But when one is biking with Lief one does not have time to stop and take pictures (sorry John and Jennifer!). I have to take quick snapshots while biking to keep up with my long legged speedy teenage son...
We biked past a curious looking building, which turned out to be a 'Kalkoven' (lime kiln) built in 1934, apparently the last one in South Holland. The 23 metre high kiln would burn shells at 1100 degrees Celsius to create the lime, which was an ingredient used to create cement. This practice goes back as early as the 13th century.
This day we aimed to be at Leiden around lunchtime, so Lief could go for a haircut. Leiden is a beautiful city and feels very cosy. If I could choose a place to study, I think I would prefer Leiden over Utrecht where I studied well over 25 years ago now, eek! Here are some impressions:
Lief went to a traditional barber, though it turned out a little too short for his liking...
Ok, we'll be honest. The second part of the day was hard and long. We biked along the very long canal 'Vliet', which took us from Leiden south all the way into Delft. It was a beautiful road with old mansions, but we had a strong headwind all the way, making the 22km very long.... Thankfully there was an home made ice cream place along the way to take a break and recharge.
Late afternoon we arrived in Delft. See next post for some impressions from our time there.
Zaandam - Haarlem - Zandvoort - Noortwijk
Today we have a 45km bike ride, which we broke up in three sections. The first part took us 18km from Zaandam to Haarlem. The second part was a short 10km ride from Haarlem to Zandvoort, which took us to the coast. The last part along the coast from Zandvoort to Noordwijk was another 17km.
There was rain in the forecast for the afternoon, which was supposed to start around 3:30pm, so we aimed to be in Noordwijk by then. An early rise, well early for a 15-year old, had us have breakfast by 9am (ha!) and off we went to Haarlem, through fields and little towns, past mansions, estates and beautiful houses. We had stayed in Haarlem during our year long trip in 2012 and Lief still remembered the 'Grote Markt' (Big Market square) with the Saint Bavo cathedral, 'Vleeshal' (meat market) and town hall.
After a short coffee and smoothie break we continued our way to Zandvoort. We wanted to beat the rain and had wanted to have a quick lunch. Unfortunately it took forever for lunch to arrive. But looking at the special Dutch rain weather app we still had an hour before the rain would start, which would be enough to get to Noordwijk if we pushed hard. As we stood at the beach we saw the clouds coming from the south... wondering if we would make it in time.
Pretty quick we had to put our rain coats on. We started to push our bikes harder. Yet we could not beat the quickly approaching rain. This wasn't just your average rain, this came down like buckets of hail, the wind picked up and thunder started. Head down we quickly became soaking wet head to toe, literally.
In the middle of nowhere a collection of stores showed up, with a little shed right at the path. Thankfully the doors were open and we huddled inside for shelter while thunder and rain raged on. Huge puddles accumulated quickly. The rain would not let up, we were getting cold, so we decided to push on. We arrived at our hotel dripping wet; I left quite the puddle of water at the reception desk in Noordwijk...
After showering and some dry clothes, the weather changed miraculously. To our surprise the clouds disappeared completely and the sun came out. All of a sudden we went from a cold and stormy Autumn afternoon to a warm Summer evening...
We strolled along the boulevard to find a place to eat. After checking the many menus along the path, we decided on Nomade Beach House. It turned to be a great choice with delicious fresh food and chill music. My cool dude partner made sure our Cadillac was waiting for us after dinner.
Lief brought his Polaroid camera on the trip. The deserted beach called for some contemplative posing.
Grateful for the unexpected turn in weather, we did get to experience Noordwijk at its very best!
Amsterdam - Monnickendam - Zaandam
Thanks to Gerrit Jan we found out about the 'Knooppunten' system for bikers and hikers. The whole country is full of these 'Knot points', connecting towns together along dedicated bike paths, leading one along the more quiet and scenic routes. It's blowing our minds how many routes one can plan through this country:
For our first true biking day (since yesterday was just arrival in Amsterdam), we decided to make a detour to Monnickendam, instead of heading straight to Zaandam. According to the 'app' it would be 20.3km from the Vondelpark.
We enjoyed biking through the streets of Amsterdam, it took us past the Westerkerk and the Anne Frank House, and to my favourite homemade apple pie place (Tracy, do you recall sitting outside with the boys in 2012?). This time we did not stop but kept going to the ferry, which scooted us across for free to North Amsterdam.
The landscape quickly changed as soon as we were on the other side. We biked for quite a ways along 'Noordhollandsch Kanaal' until a little 'pontje' (ferry) took us across so we could continue to 'Broek in Waterline', where a bight yellow canoe made us feel at home. The town has a beautiful collection of old style Dutch homes. We pushed on until we were in Monnickendam where had a delicious lunch at the "de Waegh". A plein air painter was making progress on the bridge and had quite a few passerby's look over his shoulder.
The afternoon took us from Monnickendam to Zaandam:
We had to take another 'pontje' to get across the canal again and off we were along wide fields and along waters filled with waterlilies.
We arrived in Zaandam and found our funky looking hotel quite easily. It's rather sticking out... If anyone needs a place to stay in Zaandam, we can recommend the unique Inntel Hotel...
According to e-architect.com: "The hotel is unique, familiar yet original and idiosyncratic. It is a design that could be realised only in Zaandam but at the same time transcends and reinvigorates local tradition. It was, moreover, specifically tailored to this site. ‘The Blue House’, inspired by the work Claude Monet painted at Zaandam in 1871, is the ultimate attention-grabber."
The stunning sunset from the Mosterd Room was an additional bonus...
This was a great first biking day! We loved the sights of North Holland, and the weather was so pleasant too.
For previous posts, please scroll down. Next up: Zaandam to Noordwijk...
Lief and I booked a 7 day bike tour with Eigen-wijze Reizen, a Dutch tour company that organizes both biking and hiking holidays for people throughout Europe.
We decided on 'Hollandse Hoogtepunten' which will take us from Amsterdam to Zaandam, Noordwijk, Delft, Rotterdam and Nieuwkoop back to Amsterdam. The company booked the hotels, gave us the routes, organized the bike rentals and even transports our luggage from hotel to hotel!
After watching some of the soccer games at the tournament in Nederhorst den Berg, we took the train and metro to our first hotel of the bike tour. Hotel Atlas is located right next to the Vondelpark and is almost an identical building that I used to work at when I lived in Amsterdam.
Dropping off bags, we quickly headed out for a walk through the park and dinner at super loud 'No Rules' cafe restaurant located below what used to be Vertigo, a popular art film house:
After dinner we went for a stroll through the fancy fashion district and most expensive stores in Amsterdam: the P.C. Hooftstraat. Lief had his eye on a cool black motor. Our walk continued to the Rijksmuseum; Lief was impressed with the size of this museum. Unfortunately it was closed by the time we arrived.
We continued towards the Leidse Plein, passing Paradiso; a famous club where I used to go with friends to dance till late in the night. This evening already had a line up.
Crossing the canals (Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht) we ended up at the flower market (closed at this hour), when it started to rain 'pijpenstelen', which translates something like 'it rains cats and dogs'. Taking shelter in one of the market stalls we decided to head back to the Leidseplein. We warmed ourselves with tea and Dutch apple pie at the beautiful Stadsschouwburg theatre of Amsterdam. It kept raining, so a movie seemed to be the best way to end this full day.
We will actually start biking tomorrow, from Amsterdam, via Monnickendam to Zaandam. Stay tuned for more, and scroll down for previous posts.
Our time with our friends flew by with an evening of 'Suppen' (Stand Up Paddleboard) on the 'Spiegelplas', a visit to Amsterdam and a day at the soccer field of V.V. Nederhorst.
The Spiegelplas is just down the street from where our friends live and after blowing up the 'SUPs' Lief and Judy's daughter Kiki took off on the lake. Judy, Gerrit Jan and I opted for a refreshing swim in the lake after a warm day on the bike to Hilversum and back.
The next day Lief and the two Kiki's went for the afternoon to Amsterdam. First a 40 minute bike ride along the Vecht river from Nederhorst to the train station in Weesp. Like most train stations in Holland, there are multiple racks to store bikes. Here the bike racks have two levels... I'm not sure how people get the heavy bikes on top... we opted for street level.
A 20 minute train ride took us to Amsterdam Central Station, from which we walked along the Damrak to Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum where (Small) Kiki and Lief spent the afternoon. Big Kiki continued along the Nes, the Reguliersdwarsstraat en the Rembrandtplein to the Weteringschans to visit an art supply store to pick up Khadi handmade papers.
To Lief's delight we got to spend a day at the soccer field of the local soccer club, where Eva and Kiki played multiple games in the Youth Soccer Tournament. Ted - Judy's son - was linesman for his sisters game. Judy's husband Gerrit-Jan is the 'voorzitter' (president) of the club. And both Eva, Kiki and Ted are the captains of their teams... So this is an involved soccer family!
Both Lief and I were impressed with the amount of kids playing soccer, and that there are both girls and boys soccer teams, multiple soccer fields and quite the covered seating area for the main field...
Lief is getting a bit nervous, as next weekend he gets to join Ted's team for the adult soccer tournament... More to come on that later.
There are more blogs about our trip to Holland. Scroll down for older posts