See part one toward the end of our last blog @ https://neuage.me/2017/01/24/washington-dc-to-amsterdam-and-life-in-between/
I was thinking most of 2016 that we would be in Holland for a month. However, the reality is five-weeks. Six-weeks in the States, Six here, and four in Southeast Asia. I think what I am concluding from what is going on in the States these past months is that most folks are concerned about fact-checking. It is all the rage and so it should be. We say that politicians are liars with almost everything they say. Alternative narratives are either accepted or lambasted. The narrative of life on earth is filled with alternative narratives, some seen as allegories some seen as stories for children some seen as creative twists of truth; religious stories, myths, fairy tales, what we tell our parents, children, partners – ‘changing water to wine’, ‘I was doing homework at Johnnies house all last night’, ‘feeding five-thousand mates with a couple of fish’, ‘Santa coming down the chimney’, ‘gingerbread houses’, Cinderella, ‘a million and a half people at an inauguration’, not to mention all the Greek, Roman, Aboriginal, etc. stories. We were at the Women’s March in Amsterdam yesterday, previous blog; http://goo.gl/WQPBuE so there may be a lingering trace of an outside thought about fact-checking.
Nevertheless, here we are, a new blog. When we started this trip, and from ones we have done over the past 15 years, see http://neuage.us/BLOGS/index.html for a selection of our past one-hundred+, each one was per day. Now we are putting together groups of days. The last one covered ten-days. Bottom line is that this current blog is a blank slate.
What is exciting about today, Sunday, is that we have a whole month here, another thirty-days.
The first time in my life in Utrecht was in 2005. Narda’s first time was the day she was born, which of course, was not very long ago.
Saturday, June 18, 2005 Utrecht - The luxury of holiday. I got up at 10 AM and the others soon followed. A day without plans is so different. After the past six-months of getting up every day at six AM for work and of stressing because of all the work on our house it is good to have few concerns other than where should we bike ride Today? The only thing I ‘need’ to do today is find a charger for our video camera. I found an adapter yesterday so I could plug the one we had in but as soon as I plugged it in (US 120 voltage into European 240 voltage) smoke came out and the thing became fried. We are driving to Belgium tomorrow for a few days and at this point I think we are just pointing the car we are borrowing in that direction and as long as we do not end up in the English Channel we should be fine.
As synchronicity would have it, not only where we in Utrecht a year later but we went to see the same people as we saw today (22nd January, 2017) as we did on Monday, June 19, 2006 Utrecht, The Netherlands – see http://neuage.org/trip06/June19.htm to read about our bike riding adventures eleven years earlier.
We drove into Utrecht as we have not sorted out our bikes yet. The ones left for us are not the right size; the man’s bike is way too large for me, and the woman’s bike is too small for Narda.
We visited Narda’s Uncles Pete and Rinke and cousin Hans. Pete, at age 90, has recently had his second knee reconstruction. A good indication of what health insurance is capable of when it is set out for the people. Rinke in his mid-80s is doing well. We used to ride around on his boat through the canals in past trips but this is our first winter visit and the boat is not an ice-breaker so no cruising this time. And Hans, in our age bracket, well Narda’s, I am in a bracket of my own; my sister has banned me from saying I am old so I fit somewhere between Narda and Rinke, interacts with us on Facebook so we are always a bit up-to-date with one another. We will explore more of Utrecht with him this time as he is retired now, the same as us.
Narda had a cold for four weeks in DC and now I have that cold. I managed to be up until one in the morning trying to breathe but we are troopers and colds will not thwart our explorations.
23 January Monday DAY 59 of trip
Narda rang Rinke this morning and asked if we could borrow a bike. In the past, we have often borrowed bikes from him and several times we have stayed with him. Rinke helped us get it into our rather small car so we could enjoy a month yet to go.
We spent a few hours riding around our local hood and in downtown Woerden. See https://youtu.be/TjTXv_y7zU0 = skating on thin ice in Woerden.
Left this morning on our bikes, the weather was very foggy; you couldn’t see too far.
Our plan was to visit Tom and Ineke in Harmelen, and cycle there. The GPS said 17 minutes, we took an hour. A nice effort. Had a coffee and a chat, told them about my bike which was a bit small for me. They promptly offered me Ineke’s bike which she never uses anymore. Of course I accepted their offer with glee. So now I am all set, bike wise!! After our visit we explored Harmelen, a lovely little town, never than some of the others, but certainly very liveable.
A part of the Rhine goes through Harmelen, news to us. We stopped at the local grocery store and bought some assorted goodies for lunch, cheese, a bread roll, yogurt drink, and assorted veggies for his vegetarian-lowcarb lordship!!
We a pleasant picnic table, covered in bright green moss and had a lovely picnic. It was freezing and rained a little, but we are not people to be deterred by something so insignificant as rain. The food made up for it! Got home at 4, saw lots of school kids cycling home on our way back…dangerous drivers, but so are most of the Dutch.
We left the bike Narda was riding and went off with Tom’s bike. It continues to fascinate me the biking in the Netherlands. Being a rather flat place it helps. There are roads just for bikes, even with lanes, traffic lights, and often there is also a walking path. Travel is unique here; train track, walking path, bicycle path, road of cars, canal with boats (not so much in winter) all side-by-side, going forward.
Still freezing we sought refuge at the only place we could find that did coffee, de kloosterhoeve, and to prove it is a real place here is their website, http://www.kloosterhoeve.nl the coffee was strong and it was good, we thawed out and headed down the road.
Narda needed some adjustments and the first bike shop we came to gladly got her into a royal position of comfort, free of charge.
We planned to bike to Monfoort, a mere twenty minutes away per our Google Maps. Forty-five minutes later we had gotten to the small village of Linschoten. By now we were cold, I was in pain (agony) with extremely cold toes. I thought I had frost bite (OK it was one degree above freezing, but my toes registered -20 both in Fahrenheit and in Centigrade). We went into the first restaurant we found, Café Van Eijk, http://www.cafevaneijk.nl/ which if you read Dutch there are probably some good deals. I had mustard soup which was so yummy that I looked up a recipe for it while eating. We asked the waitress if theirs was the same recipe as we found online which had leeks as a base but she said they did not use leeks so now I need to find a Dutch mustard soup recipe without leeks that is as good. Narda had some meat thingy but admitted mine was better.
We read on some sign that the Linschoten church was burnt by residents of Woerden in the 1500s. There were a lot of people cooked at the stake, mainly women that didn’t fit into the Christian ethos of what a woman should be like. Listen to our Linschoten video clip where Narda tells us about the good citizens of Woerden; which by the way is where we are living for five weeks, and their incursions into Linschoten just a fifteen-minute bike ride away, or an hour’s when slow like us.
In the evening we continued to watch our Netflix series, ‘The Blacklist’. We have now seen episodes in Adelaide, Hawaii, DC and now here. Even though it unrealistic, though in the ‘alternative’ world of facts we now live in, who knows? We like it, even more so now after living in DC for the past six-weeks. The thing is mostly filmed, or supposed to be, in DC.
Linschoten video https://youtu.be/5iJE6ErACAo
Up at 6:30 this morning. Narda stayed in bed until 10 with the cold I had, now gone (back) to her. I worked on Photoshop and writing projects for a few hours.
Spent our first day home since arriving eight days ago, not that I am counting. A down-day that we used to incorporate with our travels so we could gather our beans to go off exploring the next day but since here, and even more since we have had bikes we have been gone all day, each day.
We baked today. Always a good thing to do when traveling with a fussy-boots (oops that would be me). Narda made her wonderful low-carb bread and I made my low-carb cookies. Our food budget is doing well in Holland with the prices here much lower than Australia and overall lower than the States. In the States we made a budget of $350 a week for food which included a couple of times a week at a restaurant but here we have been closer to the $200 mark which is great and will pay for six-nights in hotels we did in the States that we had not budgeted for. I suppose this is part of being retired, having a budget, enough to go again and again without having to go back to work.
Another great thing about being here is how close everywhere is. I just looked up Paris. It is five-hours away. “Hey Narda I want to go to Paris for a couple of days”. Hamburg where Narda’s friend lives is five-hours away. I think we will go there sometime soon. Wow! In Australia it is like ten-hours to go to Melbourne from Adelaide. In the States we went to lots of places, thanks Chris for your car.
Went to lunch with Els. Els invited us to have coffee at her place and then go to lunch in a little French restaurant in Vianen. Which we did. She lives just outside the old city, her apartment is the end of a row, and the benefit is amazing views all over the countryside with the freeway wizzing along in the distance. She has a lovely back room surrounded by glass; a great place to sit and chat. It turns out we are related. She is the daughter of Tante Nels’ brother. Who knew. So I have a second cousin. We walked to the French restaurant, Suzettes, yummy food, Terrell had a quiche with salad and I had the soup.
Vianen video is at https://youtu.be/Wpo7zFbzgrY
28 January Saturday DAY 64 of trip
Another lovely visit with my cousin Karin and her husband Frank. Poor guy had just got off the plane from the USA a few hours earlier, so he did really well keeping himself awake and us entertained with lots of interesting stories. They have recently moved into this lovely house in Niewegein, just south of Utrecht. A very pleasant afternoon.
After a lazy morning at home writing, photoshopping, video- stuff we went to IJsselstein
IJsselstein is in the province of Utrecht. IJsselstein received city rights in 1331. IJsselstein owes its name to the river Hollandse IJssel which flows through the city.
We spent a lovely afternoon and evening with my cousin Hans and his wife, Mirjam, and daughters Linda and Suzanne (see our video below). They took us for a very interesting walk through the village (town) of Ijsselstein, entertaining us with interesting stories of the history of building and events. The video below gives some snaps of this. For dinner we had the traditional gourmet, using a large heating plate, and leaving folks to cook meals for themselves, table top, to their heart’s content. Lots of fun and very gezellig. An interesting and hospitable family; a highlight for us.
Morning spent completing blog for the period 1 – 10 January. See https://neuage.me/2017/01/12/more-of-not-the-same/ which took longer than expected which isn’t that always the way? To paraphrase Narda. We write these in Word but change it to html for an online blog, each photo gets re-imaged so it is easy to read on any device.
We are winding up six-weeks in the States: one week Hawaii, a week in Oregon, a week in New York and three weeks in D.C. As we write this we have five days left before we leave but I am sure we will find more than enough to keep us busy. When this gets posted we will have spent a day in Helsinki which now we wish we had booked a couple of days in, and we will be settled – hopefully, into our home for the month outside of Utrecht.
We left the house this morning with the thought of merely going to the hardware shop and getting some plywood or other cover for our two stained glass windows we made a few years ago and are trying to get to our home in Australia. At Ace Hardware, the shop that actually assists customers, unlike big box store hardware places that ignore us or if they see us heading toward asking for assistance they quickly disappear down another aisle, we were given cut offs of sheets of plexiglass for free and cardboard. From there we figured we should get a few groceries at Safeway. Then we decided to go to the Metro Shop and get SmarTrip® cards for ourselves as we have been using Chris and Jessica’s cards to explore the city and for me to get silly material for my Facebook posts. I was up for a senior half price card which is 85 cents for a subway/bus and half fare to the airport next Monday. The difficulty with driving in DC is finding parking. It is best to take public transportation but we were in our car going from street to street in search of a carpark. The one we found was in front of a very fancy building. The National Building Museum @ 401 F Street NW http://www.nbm.org/ this seems to be the place where presidents have their inauguration balls each turn over. In 1885, Grover Cleveland began the tradition of hosting presidential activities in the Great Hall; a tradition that lives on in present day of we won’t say who next week will be strutting their stuff
The building is quite incredible and we saw a few exhibits and got back home six hours after leaving to get some stuff to pack our stained-glass windows. We realise we would drive anyone nuts who travelled with us as we change our mind so often rarely doing what we set off to do.
On the way to collecting our new senior-money-pinching-metrocard we came across the Terrell Building. Aside of the fact that it seems to have a lot of office space available to lease it caused us pause so I could Facebook myself in front of it.
After going through the stuff from Terrell’s father which was still stored here (by our realtor and attorney…good people, let us know if you need a reference) we decided to make a massive parcel and mail a whole lot of stuff home. ($250 postage…oops) It actually took pretty much all day to sort it all out, including our little stained glass windows, which we made when attending Stained Glass101 in upstate NY one snowy winter many years ago. I have my fingers crossed to see if the glass makes it.
We picked up Liam from day-care today, he was very pleased to see us. Little gorgeous boy. He has a fascination for trucks, especially bulldozers, which he calls “boobootrucks”, always followed by “very loud”.
I’m sure going to miss this little guy.
Today, nearly our last day we took a bus to Georgetown. It’s always one of the bonuses in bus travel that you get to speak with the locals. I was sitting with a lady, about my age, and commented on the picture of a certain deplorable person on the front page of my newspaper. Actually I turned the paper face down and commented, “I can’t look at him”. This started a long and emotional conversation about her fears for the future and the future of her children under this looming administration. She actually started getting teary.
At the next bus stop we started talking to an older guy (the older folks are so much more amenable to conversations), who had fairly recently retired from a long career in the ‘services’, which also included the Department of Homeland Security. He was very knowledgeable; and also very concerned that we have the potential of ‘running over a cliff’ with this new government. Blimey. We saw this from a distance easily enough; the media keep us on a 24hour loop, and we all agree that we are talking about a ten year old bully running things, but when it comes from an insider, that’s worse. Over 90% of Washington DC voters voted against Trump. He has promised to overturn Obamacare, to cancel the peace agreement involving nuclear weapons with Iran, to skip NATO, and to embrace Putin. All wonderful things to look forward to and this is only a small part of it.
We went to The National Museum of American History. As always there are not enough hours so we have to be selective of what we see. This museum has a lot of areas to explore but with just an hour before we had to leave to do Liam-duty we went to the first thing we saw.
Exhibitions: FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950–2000 (Julia Child’s home kitchen, re. fast foods etc.) http://americanhistory.si.edu/food; 1950s and earlier life – including first mobile homes which we liked especially as we are in the transitional stage of becoming grey-nomads. As of yet I have few grey hairs (probably because I won’t be seventy for another eight months, + I let Narda do all the worrying and I just take photos and happily live in la la land) but I don’t think that grey hair is the number one qualification to be a grey-nomad. Just being old and travelling heaps. This caravan from the 1930s is not much different from what we have back in Adelaide. There was a bedroom, kitchen and sitting area. Couldn’t find the loo but perhaps it was beneath something. I would rather have this one than our newish one though we have a bike rack on ours. No doubt they were better made in the 1930s. A rather cool site for caravans of this era in the UK is at http://www.period-classic-caravan-club.co.uk/1930s
Having grown up in upstate New York in the 1950s – 1960s I remember these cars and going on trips every summer with my family.
We didn’t get to any of the other areas and planned to go back but other stuff filled our days and that was it. I would suggest going to their web site and having a bit of a plan of what to see. Of course, we never do that and I start planning after we get to a city then start planning after we get inside of a museum or place of interest so I am not a good tourist guide. Learning to live in the moment back in the 1960s (‘be here now’ and all those groovy sayings which has become re-packaged and trendy now as ‘mindfulness’) I have no sense of what comes next. Narda begins planning a year in advance the detail and I look for the exit door in the moment. Somehow it works and we do get to lot of places and see stuff.
Hard to believe that we are at day 50. Didn’t we just leave Adelaide a few days ago? We are coming to the conclusion that we are should be global-grey-nomads, not just going around Australia dragging our caravan nomads. Just spend the rest of our life going and never staying for long anywhere. Not sure how the economics would work though. I don’t care what folks say that money is not important – it is – we need to get to the next place and eat and stay somewhere. We made a four-month budget which at times we come close to being close to but more would be better. And having a twelve months of travel budget that would include at least business class travel on long trips would be good.
As we were heading out of town shortly we spent the day packing and cleaning the house until early or late afternoon. Time is a matter of translation in comparison terms. To me it was late, to me-side-kick it was early. Not to worry, we got our sorry asses out the door and into the cold DC air.
So, day 50, about twenty of those in DC, and we had our fourth museum day, and as in the past we were able to squeeze in a bit of an hour or two at the Museum of Art. I like art museums. Always have. I never spend much time in them but every so often I need an art fix. Old art. Not the new throw-paint-on-canvas stuff; ‘I can do Jackson Pollock’ dribble (I used to do that as a street artist in New Orleans too, 1968 and 1971 – 1974) that people drool over now days but real art. We spent blocks of minutes looking at some of the best of Rembrandt, Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, and as we are heading to Holland the best of other Dutch artists and other old shit. There was a room full of folks attempting to make art of art they were looking at, if we had time maybe we would have joined them. Probably not. Feeling refreshed, enlightened, fulfilled as tourists of the moment we took a bus back home.
I did my first picture poem of the year and posted it to several of my photographic-art sites such as:
And of course many more. What was significant in my little world was that I finally did something creative on the road. I want to be able to travel and continue with projects such as writing e-books and doing my photographic textual work. So far on this trip we just seem to be too busy. Everything is about priorities but my priorities are travel, experiences, creativity time to do writing, photography, films, as well as read and spend time with others. I need to be on a planet with twice as many hours and twice as many days in a year.
Last day today, spent most of the day cleaning and packing. We took Liam to the park in the morning; the weather was a little warmer, sun, shining and Liam really enjoyed playing outside. We put him to bed for his afternoon naps; he slept 3 hours! During the nap we cleaned the car too, the I took Liam to Chris’ church. Chris preached another masterful sermon on grace, and our prideful unwillingness to accept God’s grace. He always manages to hold his audience, and to find a new and interesting angle on stuff I have listened to for so many years.
I didn’t go to church, stayed home: wrote, did photoshop, listened to music (Supremes and other 1960’s stuff) and had a wonderful evening.
Packing is difficult. We have already sent a box of we had too much stuff to carry onto the next flight to add to our shed of stuff back in Australia.
Leaving America; sad. I will miss the kids. We had a long trip ahead of us, first Chris dropped us off at a Metro stop; Liam said ‘bye bye Oma, bye bye Rell’, about 3 minutes after we had left…bless him!
The ride to the airport was easy; Ronald Reagan Airport is so nice; old style classy, and not too big. It’s been added to our ‘favourite airports’ list, along with Portland and Schiphol. The next leg to Helsinki was fine, no hassle, but I certainly did not sleep, despite the sleeping pill. Bummer. Food with Finnair was good, hosties, all blonde and very fair-skinned, many with plaits, were friendly.
The next stage was interesting. We arrived at around 9am, and did not need to leave for Amsterdam until 4pm, so we found an airport locker (6 Euros) and took the train to downtown Helsinki (5 euros each, each way, but worth it!). A very nice city, snow covered, lots of old buildings, a harbour and some wonderful eateries, where we ate smoked cheese soup (Yum!!!) for lunch.
Travel Tip We walked to the ferry terminal and discovered that we could have taken a 2 night cruise, leaving that day to Stockholm and back for 90 Euros. A special for a quiet winter day and certainly a great idea for a future trip. There are also ferries (I mean large ships with cabins) running to Tallinn, Estonia, and St Petersburg. So a word to those considering Finnair; a stop-over in Helsinki has many interesting possibilities.
On the return trip to the airport we were both so tired, we slept and missed the airport stop. We managed to cross the tracks and go back with plenty of time to spare. When I got to the airport, I fell asleep sitting bolt upright; possibly with my mouth wide open and drooling, but Terrell will not tell me! [Why would I? The other passengers and I were all taking bets on who could shoot the M&M into her mouth]
Anyway, slept all the way to Amsterdam. Met the Dutch guy, Hans, in whose house we will be living, at Schiphol. Alice had made us a delicious meal of pumpkin soup and Indonesian rice. Life is good. I slept with the aid of Chris’ American over the counter blue sleeping pills, for 12 hours straight. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.
Our first day in Holland.
We slept until about 11 I think it was, Terrell on and off, me solid (it’s usually the other way around!) had a lovely time revelling in all the good food at the local shopping centre (amazing). I will take some photos. Mum used to say, food is so much better in Holland, which used to vaguely irritate me as a young person, but she was right. She did stop saying it in later years. So we bought croquettes, both rund flees and vegetarian, and some salade punnets….all good.
After it started getting dark, which was pretty soon, we drove into the old town. It was not so easy, especially when bike tracks look like roads, so it was a combined effort, one driving (me) the other bossing the one around. It seemed to work well.
I managed to collect a cold somewhere between DC and Holland. Narda had a cold and sore throat for about four weeks now it is my turn. I managed to sleep about six hours and finally slept sitting up in the lounge. I dragged myself through the day. No one will feel sorry for me. We are retired travelling the world, couldn’t be better – except not to have a cold.
You’d think I would be getting sick of travelling by now, but no, I’m just getting started. Being in different places, places I’ve never seen before excites me. I do miss family, but I also know that I will see them again soon. This is a great way to travel; we don’t do much touristy stuff, rather we try to experience it all as locally as possible.
In the evening we had a very gezellige time with Tom and Ineke who came to visit. I was able to talk with them about mum’s last weeks and they took the funeral service program and death notice card with them.
I met Narda’s uncle and his wife about a decade ago. They stayed with us in upstate New York and a memorable moment was driving to NYC for a day. We were standing in Times Square on the day Ronald Reagan died and a reporter asked them how they felt about Reagan’s death and Ineke said ‘we’re from Holland we don’t care’ and on the large screen above Times Square; there we were! How cool is that? I also remember Tom and his pacemaker/defibrillator. His parents were told at birth that he would not live past 14 or 15 years old because of his heart condition. He is now in his mid-80s and on his third pacemaker/defibrillator while I am on my first.
I managed to feel sorry for myself for the day catching a bit of sleep off and on all day because I could not breathe due to my stupid cold. By 4 pm though we were bored with my condition and sitting around the house watching me dying or close to it so we bundled up and headed to the next nearest town, Oudewater, a fifteen-minute drive away. See our YouTube clip at https://youtu.be/vinkc4CMSUE
Going to bed about eleven pm feeling fluey – maybe a fever or two I saw lots of buzz about the Women’s March against Trump. We knew about it from earlier in the week when we were in DC. A mistake we tried to rectify but were unable to was to stay in DC for the march; not the inauguration but for the march the following day. We looked up Amsterdam Women’s March and saw that there would be one tomorrow. Hoping to have a good night’s sleep we were keen to attend – tomorrow.
Finally had a night with some sleep. We were up at six am and though I still felt ill I wanted to go to Amsterdam. We got out of the house at ten thirty being the slow moving folks we are. At our local train station we missed the first train due to the machine not taking our credit card. From these smaller towns, after twenty minutes of frustration, speaking to someone on their help line who no doubt was in Amsterdam and not ‘live’ in our local station we found we could only get on the train using coins. The girl at the local food shop in the station was really helpful and gave us coins for twenty Euros, the amount to get to Amsterdam. Train travel is expensive in The Netherlands as we just found out. The train ride was only about 20 minutes and at Centraal Station Amsterdam we were able to use our credit card for a return trip.
Travel Tip: Credit cards are not as often received in Holland. We found this at grocery stores as well at train stations and most shops. Have cash.
So there we were, in Amsterdam, at the Women’s March. We walked to the starting point which was about 45 minutes away, at a rather rapid rate. We find that we walk faster than most people, maybe being tall is part of it, but even at our age we are always passing folks. The Dutch are the tallest in the world so we are no longer taller than most around us. For example the man that collected us from the airport a couple of days ago and whose place we are staying at was much taller than me. For example, he left his bike for me, but I cannot get on it, though I will try again. When I am on it my feet do not touch the ground. Can’t wait to get back to Southeast Asia where I will be tall again.
We found a map to the Rijksmuseum where the march would go from on its way, we assumed, winding through the streets of Amsterdam and finally ending in front of the US Consulate with lots of whoop and holler and of course signs.
Anyway, we got to the march, feeling sore from walking so fast, and me going through a few packs of tissues and wondering if my head would ever stop hurting. surprising, though I do not know why, there were a lot of people when we got there, exactly to the minute of its beginning. We were hoping the march would not be too long. Perhaps we would go with them just part of the way then take the train back home.
There were a lot of people there and finally the ‘march’ began. We walked and walked… five minutes later we were there.
And yes, of course, naturally, there is a YouTube video we did of this:
The march was exhila Watch this space!!!rating. We were surrounded by a huge crowd of Dutch people, all enthusiastic and hopeful. There were lots of laughing and chanting. It was so nice, after our dark experiences with the election and endless reading and dismay with the results. America is certainly not alone in its fear and depression; there is support from all over the world. The last I read was 700 marches worldwide. No violence, only joy.