Holland May you always be first and never second.
4 February Saturday DAY 71 of trip
We went to dinner with Karen and Frank, Narda’s family, to the Indisch (Indonesian) Restaurant http://www.kingsdish.nl/. This is about the smallest restaurant I have been to. The place was filled to capacity, sixteen diners. The couple who ran the restaurant painstakingly cooked us a four-course meal. Of course, being special, I had a vegetarian meal. The restaurant even posted this fact on their Facebook:
Dutch people are so big. There was our little group (I am only six one or two and Narda 5’10”, Frank is maybe six four or five and his wife a bit shorter than Narda, but others that came in; I thought it was the Dutch Women’s Basketball team, they were taller than all of us (not put together that would be just fake news and alternative facts – but they were several inches taller than me. I am looking forward to going to Asia in a couple of weeks just so I can stop feeling so short. No wonder I am a vegetarian, I need the attention.
Actually, I enjoy blending in and that many people, strangers, look like my family.
5 February Sunday DAY 72 of trip
We met up with my cousins Hans and Jose, who took us to a wonderful chamber concert, featuring an Argentinian string quartet, the Pavadita Tango String Quartet, performing for a small group of about 15 of us in Utrecht at the Paviljoen (www.paviljoenpop.nl). ‘Pavadita specialises in playing Argentine tango yet dislikes to be labelled’ http://pavadita.com/.
After the concert we met up with their adult children and enjoyed a meal at a Persian restaurant in the old city of Utrecht.
6 February Monday DAY 73 of trip
We spent the morning meeting our uncles, then wondered around Utrecht for the rest of the day. We used the bus system. As we entered we tried to explain to the driver, at some length, where we wanted to go, so that he could tell us the fare. He gave us an exasperated look and told us in Dutch to get on board. Free ride!! So that’s how you do it.
07 February Tuesday DAY 74 of trip
This morning our task was to get rid of some of our stuff. We put our winter stuff in a box and got a quote from the post office for 58 Euros for 10 Kg. Last month we paid $250USD for 20 lbs. Blimey, big price difference! For non-EU folks that is about $65 US for 20 pounds; close to one-fourth the cost of sending from the US. For some reason, we still have too much. When we left for Hawaii last November we had our winter clothing: coats, jumpers, gloves, scarves in our luggage but with them sent back now we still have more than we started. Go figure.
08 February Wednesday DAY 75 of trip
Tom and Ineke took us to the place in Utrecht where mum was born and raised, and also to the street where I was born. Here is me at 3 years old, and then the same spot 59 years later, just outside mum’s place of birth.
On the way home, a lovely lunch at the village of Haarzuylen at ‘t Wapen van Haarzuylen http://www.wapenvanhaarzuylen.nl/
This tiny village boasts an enormous restored castle, which is quite a contract and very interesting to see. It was restored by the Rothchilds family about 100 years ago. You can see some of the conspir theories when you watch this video!
In the evening we had cheese fondue, YUM! Hosted by my cousin Tanja and her husband and son. It was a lovely evening, we also got to meet Sandra, who drove up from Breda, and Paul who drove from The Hague. Really fun evening catching up with many family stories. Our mothers, sisters, have both died very recently, so we had a chance to talk about them and reminisce.
Driving in the Netherlands is always a hoot. Not really! The roads, not the motorway, are so narrow and of course bikes rule. On the way to our evening fondue we, well the Tom Tom (GPS), were lost. We ended up twice driving on bike lanes. How did we know? Well having bike riders shake their heads, pointing, and of course the tell-tale signs with a picture of bikes on it. This has happened several times but rarely twice (and on the same bike path) as it did on fondue night. Years ago we were had rented a car which had German plates and people were shaking their hands, heads, bodies at us as we drove along a bike lane somewhere in Holland. Having German plates though either made it OK that we didn’t know what we were doing or we were just bad people. Dutch people (the older generation especially) have a thing about Germans and the Dutch people’s bikes – residue from WW II when apparently German soldiers took their bikes and never returned them. Seven or eight years ago when we were in Holland with Narda’s parents, Narda’s father said to Narda’s German friend, Mau, ‘did you bring our bike back?’ of course, he thought he was being funny but no one else did.
I have so much enjoyed meeting all of Narda’s clan. The Dutch Nardas are all cool. And of course everyone is taller than us – even her relatives – six feet two is short in Holland. I am short. Next time I will wear elevator shoes so I can be close to eye level with others. At least adolescents.
09 February Thursday DAY 76 of trip
Today we drove to Rotterdam. This had been on our ‘to do’ list. We started off finding what was reported to be the Netherlands largest shopping mall. Not quite what we expected, but what followed was amazing. We took an 75 minute tour of the Rotterdam Harbour, which is the most amazing harbour. I never realise the scale of this place. A great tour.
We came close to Rotterdam about a decade ago when Narda.s cousin took us in his speed boat from somewhere, perhaps Utrecht, up some river to Rotterdam. We went very fast to there then very fast back with the front of the boat seemingly above the water and us wondering if we were going too fast and soon would be airborne.
10 February Friday DAY 77 of trip
Today, a nice day at home, catching up on bits and pieces, and resting. We did venture out in some snow flurries, on our bikes to Lidl. Bargains to be had there; we stocked up on chocolate and beer. I think Terrell also bought some healthy stuff for dinner, can’t remember what it was. This bike riding is great; almost getting good at it. The biggest threat to our safety is venturing out at about 2.30pm when there are packs of tall Dutch adolescents riding, three or four abreast, like the clappers. When we are going the other way , they pretty much ignore us, and leave a tiny narrow section of the bike path for us to continue. It’s only a matter of time when, either I will land in the canal, or I will take a swipe at one of those kids, and push them into the canal.
11 February Saturday DAY 78 of trip
Today it snowed, really snowed. We almost cancelled our appointment with Oom Piet to visit some relatives in Hardewijk (Tante Willy) and Ermelo (Oom Leendert). But we didn’t and had some really lovely visits. We did slip and slide a bit, negotiating the driveways and smaller roads, but by the time we hit the freeway, it was pretty good, and one our return it had seriously started to melt.
Who doesn’t love snow? We meet heaps of folks fleeing the stuff, not us. My favourite story is when we were living in upstate New York, about 2009, and our schools were closed (New York City, not a very often occurrence) one Friday because of snow (only a bit over a foot) and we heard that there was much more snow in Boston so we took the Amtrak train and spent a weekend tromping through the snow in Boston. When we lived in northern New York (Saratoga Spa) we used to take turns at being ‘hero of the dawn’ which was shovelling a path for the car and getting it warm at seven am so we could head out for work. On this trip we did not see much during our five weeks in Washington DC; just a few inches, and a bit in Boston and as we wrote earlier (https://neuage.me/2017/01/05/snow-country/) we did get stuck in snow in New York at the end of December, but we (especially me) always want more.
12 February Sunday DAY 79 of trip
The next day, 5 cms of snow fell overnight. We had planned to go to church with Rienk’s family, but phoned in the morning and caught up with them at around 12.00. Again the snow had started to melt by then which seems to be the pattern in Holland. They have had little freezing of the last 10 years or so, which is bad for the Dutch, who are a nation of very keen ice-skaters. World weather patterns are certainly changing as we continue to spew carbon into the atmosphere.
We had a great lunch, good Dutch soup (pea soup, or tomato soup, or bean soup, thick , rich , hearty and salty….the very best) Rienk’s kids, Linda and Marco, and Maartien and Aty, and their teenaged boys are so lovely, such a warm, welcoming family.
13 February Monday DAY 80 of trip
Took a random bike ride to Papekop. It was pretty cold, but we set out, ‘cross country’, following the canals rather than the roads, and ended up in a tiny village near the train track. We sat down, cold and pretty tired, in a little pub and had our favourite Mostert (Mustard) soup.
We, perhaps just me, had thought we could ride to Utrecht, only an hour or two on our GPS. However, we struggled with riding four kilometres and it is a bit cold, bottom line, not this trip. Maybe in the future when we are more fit we will do it, of course we will be a bit older too so maybe they equal each other out and we are stuck with short rides.
What always amazes me, as a not Netherlands person, except by relationship, is the bike culture. Not sure when they start riding but we see children that must be four or five riding alongside their parents and the younger are propped up on a baby seat or in a wagon sort of set up.
14 February Tuesday DAY 81 of trip
Today an experiment. Can I cook lunch to meet my uncle’s exacting Dutch standards. We picked them up (Piet and Rienk) as promised, and took them back to our little place in Woerden. We made them stamppot with spinach, gehakt balletjes and fla for dessert….and also appelmoes. All good. They said they liked it. Talk about pressure…cooking a Dutch meal for these experts.
On the way back we went to Els’s place in Vianen. Els my newly found cousin, lovely woman. She knows my family and remembered me as a small child. nnnn
I was adopted back in 1950 in upstate New York. Here again I got adopted, this time 2017 in Holland. Not sure whether I subscribe to the ‘America first but can the Netherlands be second’ routine. I like both equally. I have enjoyed being a part of the Narda clan. I lost count around twenty folks. And of course being a Leo, I am pleased to hear from Narda that her family likes me. Some may even think I am funny at times which of course is a wonderful compliment. We love the food here and yes there is a lot little old fussy me can eat. I have my smoothies every day with kelp (so cheap here – in Australia it has become a trendy food so of course it is expensive) and protein powder, apple, orange, almond mild, coconut milk, hemp seeds (a new addition – hey this is Holland), chia, avocado and whatever else is around that looks healthy. If I am in an Oregon state of mind I look for organic crap to put into it. Food is cheaper here too. Much cheaper than Australia, cheaper than the States and especially Hawaii.
15 February Wednesday DAY 83 of trip
Today we picked up Hans and Jose for a road trip to Amersfort. It was a really enjoyable day, we had lunch together in the market square outside the old tower. The weather was sunny and quite warm.
16 February Thursday DAY 84 of trip
Nearly time to leave, Today we rode the bikes to Harmelen to return Ineke’s bike. Said goodbye to them and returned to pack and mail our box, and start cleaning.
Hans Albers, Marjam , Linda and Suzzanne came for dinner. A great evening, lots and lots of conversation and enjoyable company. Terrell cooked a killer soufflé, the best yet!
When we were in D.C. last month I would put baby Liam (age 17 months or so) on the counter in the kitchen and have him break eggs into a bowl then stir so we could have a meal of eggs in some form. We thought since we were making a meal with eggs we should video it for him which is below.
Video for Liam https://youtu.be/yop6glGzvRI
17 February Friday DAY 85 of trip
Off to Rienks’ this morning to return his bike, then washed the car, and cleaned and packed.
Is it us? It always takes so long to go anywhere. When it was just me things got thrown in a suitcase then out the door. Maybe a wet rag over some dishes, a bit swept up, hopefully some perishables tossed from the fridge, then magically, home got forgotten until I returned. I raised my two-children as a single parent the same way. Twice I took them from Australia to the States and once through Europe a bit; each time we just abandoned our home and went with an ‘oh dear what a mess we left’ when we returned. We moved house ten time in a ten-year period once when they were young. My life and by default, my children, too, lives were a bit chaotic.
No more; now model citizen, domestic wonder, if I were still raising my children I would be parent extraordinaire.
As always, we left the property in great condition. Our packing was perfect (well I get to clean the kitchen and Narda does the packing). It took us a day and a half. Washed and vacuumed the car. We spent weeks getting our home in Adelaide into shape before we left. This is all of course not just because we traded houses; this has happened every time we have left our home wherever it has been in the world. Narda wants to come back to an orderly and clean house. I must say I am not that fussed about a few things around the place but also I think after close to twenty-years I sort of understand fractionally the importance of leaving a tidy place and packing neatly.
Though all that time spent – I could have done a few more pieces of art, made another video, learned a new computer program, taken another selfie, done other stuff…. But not too worry. Life is good.
We did get into watching ‘Family Guy’ every morning on Netflix while eating breakfast so I felt I was still maintaining some of my core-root self.
And we did find a favourite place to shop, Jumbo. They were not in their present form as a supermarket when we were in Holland last time but they are large and everywhere now. And they have the foods we eat including what I need to maintain my low-carb-vegetarian and somewhat organic life style with. Bike riding to Jumbo became part of our ritual of the day; along with watching ‘Family Guy’ during breakfast, ‘The Blacklist’, and ‘the Killing, in the evening all on Netflix.
18 February Thursday DAY 86 of trip
And here we are in the airport Hyatt hotel. We took the train from Woerden, arrived here early afternoon, nice room, and have been lazing about ever since. Tomorrow off to Bangkok.
Goodbye Holland, see you next time!!!!
seeing the world from Finnair with a bit of Amsterdam and Utrecht on the way