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  • Day3

    8 Hours...

    April 27, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅

    Of sleep! In a row! The sun is up, the neighbourhood is quiet and peaceful and all of the kiddos are still snoozing. Trevor’s gone for a run and I’m sitting on the couch nursing this cold with a hot tea, listening to the birds chattering all the while drinking in the smell of netherlands spring. Lilacs and magnolias are in bloom, neighbourhood cats are everywhere and locals are sleepily walking their dogs. It’s a national holiday today so that is likely why there aren’t bikes zooming by; everyone is resting and taking it easy this morning. I’m feeling much more myself today after the sleepless whirlwind that yesterday brought and am slowly waking up to what’s in store for day two!

    Today we have plans to enjoy King’s day here in Utrecht by hitting up a canal tour at 11. A planned quiet morning with a slow start to give us all some time to decompress and rest. After which we’ll come back to this beautiful Airbnb home for some lunch. We’ll then head to Caroline and Henk’s to meet up with their three rascals and head to Rotterdam to see the windmills. Famke, Caroline’s daughter, is on school holiday already and joined us yesterday for the airport pick up. She’s a lovely gal and all the little kids hit it off very well chatting and cracking us up at lunch yesterday. I’m looking forward to seeing how much Kai and Nieske have grown today too and watching all the kids interact and play. We’ll have dinner at Caroline’s home tonight as well.

    But as promised, let’s finish out yesterday’s account first. Now, where did I leave off. Oh right, breezing through customs and rental van woes. Seriously, why did the Netherlands not care who was coming for a visit? Sullivan was so excited to have his new passport stamped in Iceland as we transferred planes yesterday and cleared customs and was then disappointed to not have a flashy stamp from Netherlands. So weird! No complaints of course - it’s far better to waltz through rather than have to answer questions and nervously dig for paperwork - but still, so puzzled by the ease of this hurdle.

    It’s fun to sit here this morning and reflect on yesterday’s travel day. A good night's sleep adds a fresh perspective and a bit of distance. I’m smiling to myself at the funny quips all the kids said throughout the day. The kids handled themselves marvelously through all the “new” but a few times had us all covering our mouths trying to suppress our laughter. We hoped this trip would stretch us all, teach us to try new things and jump in openly to fun and new situations. Trevor and I have both worked hard to prep the kids to be open and that situations my be different than their expectations and to be mature and roll with the punches. As we were walking on our first flight yesterday, after all the nerves and logistics of getting all 6 of us through security behind us, Sully was navigating his way back to our seats in rows 32 and 33. People were filing politely down the aisles as Sullivan loudly yell/exclaims, as only a newly 8 year old can “THEY HAVE TV’S!!”. Each seat on the flight had its own tv, as most flights are wont to have these days but this revelation was pure magic to Sully. His relief and joy was felt by all around him. All fellow passengers, including all of us, cracked up and enjoyed the moment as he very happily found his seat and settled in for the long overnight flight - in front of his very own tv screen.

    The flight went smoothly overall. As predicted, I didn’t sleep, but that’s par for the course for me. But thankfully, Nolan and Sully slept for a good few hours. Liam and Trevor caught a bit of sleep as well but poor Ava struggled to get comfy and didn’t sleep either. All the kids took it in stride and before we knew it, we were losing altitude and preparing for landing in Iceland. We were all tired for our 1 hour layover in Iceland and zombie walked with the hundreds of other passengers - some transferring to France and others like us to Netherlands. Shuttle buses, teeming rain and snow, small waiting areas, long queues but after an hr we were seated on our second flight ready for our second leg of the journey. We were in the exit row this time and low and behold each seat had its own tv again! The joy! But this time, you had to press a button while simultaneously pulling on a lever to bring the tv up from its hidden compartment. Sullivan was over the moon! That tv, in seat 19e, has never seen more of a workout in its life.

    After breezing through customs we were greeted by Caroline, Aunt Anneke and Famke. It was such a relief having them there to help us navigate the airport and our rental car fiasco. We’re making do with a smaller suv but its not ideal. On the bright side, driving a smaller car through small streets and busy traffic has been a blessing in disguise. We followed Caroline past the Koekenhof and took in the brilliance of colourful tulips and ended up at a lovely cafe for lunch. As we settled in and got sorted with menus, Nolan in true Nolan style had trouble finding something to suit his tastes. Before he and Sullivan, our two pickiest eaters decided on pancakes for lunch, Trevor reminded him he needed to keep an open mind. Tired stretched weary Nolan leaned into his dad and with a shaky voice and near tears about to spring form his eyes, he said “I do have an open mind I just can’t find anything on the menu I like”. It was a very serious matter of course but the humour was not lost on us. Pancakes saved the day and both boys happily defended their lunch choice and gobbled up their traditional Netherlands pancake with joy.

    The rest of the night was a bit of a blur. Settling into our beautiful temporary home, a grocery run, backyard and nearby park romp, showers to wash off the grime of travel and bedtime tuck ins. I mindfully went from room to room to sing to each little kid and settle them for the night. When I asked Sullivan what his very favourite part of our trip so far was, without missing a beat he of course said the tv on the second flight. Nolan surprised me and said the tulips. He doesn’t miss much that kid and is very reflective. Ava was already asleep by the time I could get to her room so will have to ask her today. And Liam, who is too big for songs and cuddles but deserves to be asked too, said the sandwich he just ate was his favourite part. A perfect cheeky happy almost 16 year old response.

    Well, it’s time to rally the kids and get some warm oatmeal into us. Day two, here we come.
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  • Day5

    The Quiet of the Morning

    April 29, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅

    Slowing down a wee bit last night and this morning has been a great choice for TELNAS. After an amazing day in Amsterdam touring the Anne Frank house, walking the city streets, feeling some rain on our faces and navigating a very busy and overwhelming Rijks museum, we were ready for a night of decompression. After once again thanking Caroline, Anneke, Kai and Nieske for their help and hospitality, the kids dispersed to their chosen activities. Liam to his loft space, the two boys to a world in Minecraft far far away, full of giggles and building and storing inventory, and Ava to some homework, nestled in beside me. The only major agenda item on our list for the evening was acquiring groceries and making a nice dinner.

    After some rest and time to ourselves, Trevor and I and the three littles walked the two minutes up the path to the shops to pick up what we needed for the night and coming few days. The kids each have 40 euros for the duration of our time in Holland and boy is it burning a hole in their pockets. Sully is desperate to find Pokémon and the other two are generally on the hunt for interesting treats. We left the kids at a pharmacy type store to scour the shelves for treasures while we went for groceries. It was a successful run for what we all felt we ‘needed’ - food for supper and fudge chocolate for the kids. Oh, and Ava found a very reasonably priced beauty blender, which she was very happy about snagging. Make-up application is important you know and having the right blender makes all the difference.

    On our way back, we left the kids at the park and came home to make a nice familiar spaghetti dinner. After cooking and clanging around, all four kids began to hover and pace as kids are wont to do when they’re hungry. We soon had dinner on the table and their full attention as they devoured. It was a time for a bit of TELNAS reflection, a team check in of sorts on how the day went and what was to come in the next few days. Highs, lows and thankfuls were shared. All of us agreed that the Anne Frank House was a high. Sully said walking the streets for such a long long time was his low, which I’m not sure entirely if that was because he has short legs and was feeling very tired overall or if it had something to do with being scared a few times with some near bike and car misses with my shouts and strong arm yanking him away from the roadway. Adjusting to the narrow streets, compression of thousands of people and cars and bikes a plenty has been tricky for us all but the 8 year old has felt it the most acutely.

    We sat for a bit longer and ran through the coming day’s agenda. The family reunion, timelines, packing up, saying goodbye to the Airbnb and the ever present expectations we have of them for the get together, such as that annoying difficult social task of looking everyone in the eye when they’re introduced, speaking clearly and being present and attentive to whom they are meeting. This can certainly be hard for kiddos and teens, especially in big gatherings and new situations. Watching them grow and practice their social navigation skills is a pleasure. They’re all doing wonderfully on this adventure - stretching and learning and it’s magic to be a part of.

    The quiet of the morning is waning - Sully is now up and our sappy lovey sleepy morning feeling we woke up with is transitioning to adulting thoughts of packing, breakfast and the drive to Friesland. Goodbye sleepy peaceful feeling; until tomorrow when we meet again.
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  • Day6

    Friesland, Family, Friendship & Farewell

    April 30, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅

    Its been a busy wonderful few days and it’s time to carve out some time and space to share my thoughts and feelings. We are currently sitting on our 3rd flight and are on our way to Keflavik. We’re all in one row again so I’m separated from the kids by an aisle. Trevor is snoozing at the far end of the row in a window seat and is beside Liam, who is self-sufficiently on his phone or watching a show. Ava and Nolan are sipping on their free drinks and watching shows as well. Meanwhile, the toothless wonder seems to be switching between his iPad, retrieving gum from his backpack, putting his tray table out, putting his tray table back up, squeezing himself between his seat and the seat in front of him to pick up dropped headphones, reaching past Ava to ask me a question and so on. Ava and Nolan don’t seem bothered by his antics and he’s smart enough not to bang into the person in front of him (thanks to a few reminders about airplane etiquette earlier) so I’ll leave him be to sort himself out and carry on with my journaling.

    It feels a bit strange to already be on our way to Iceland. The days have felt long but here I sit now already three quarters of our way through our trip. In the blink of an eye, the Netherlands portion has whirled by. We’ve managed to see and do just about everything on our wish-list, which of course made for busy days. We planned a relatively short stay and felt we needed to make good use of time. Within reason, we kept to our schedule and saw and visited and hit up the sights we hoped to see.

    A few days ago we said goodbye to the South and headed North to the long awaited reunion. We were originally hoping to meet up in the morning with Trevor’s cousin Ignarts and his fiancé Joke at a new info centre near the sea wall but practicality and tiredness prevailed and we decided to meet in Wier at the gathering instead. After a busy morning of packing, tidying and rallying sleepy kids, we were soon sitting snugly in our NOT-a-minivan small SUV and were waving goodbye to our beautiful rented home. The rainy drive went smoothly and we even fit in a short stop on the sea wall to overlook the ocean and fresh water lake, which 4/6’s of TELNAS partook in (the TEAN portion) and the remaining 2/6’s chose to stay dry in the car. During a second stop for a necessary washroom break at a convenient nearby McDonald’s, the opportunistic kids used some of their 40 euro to try a sampling of chicken McNuggets (which I suspect was in hopes of avoiding the pre-made boring sandwiches I’d packed). Well, did you know the chicken nuggets in Netherlands are far superior to those from Canada? The reports are that they are much less greasy! ;)

    The reunion was held in a newly renovated town school house. I was later to learn that Trevor’s cousin and wife had a large hand in the building’s restoration and current use. A perfect gathering place for sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, wives, husbands, cousins, new little ones and welcomed family and new friends visiting from Canada to gather and be together for an afternoon. It was overwhelmingly wonderful to witness Trevor reconnect with his family after many years and a privilege for me, Ava and Sullivan to be accepted and welcomed so warmly by everyone. I continue to process my many conversations and chats, sorting names I’ve heard and read on the family tree for months now with faces, warm hand shakes and kisses on my cheek. I watched our four kids attempt to integrate and make connections of their own, at their own pace and in their own ways to suit their personalities. From almost 16 to newly 8 years old, all four successfully relaxed into the crowd as only time, confidence and bravery can provide.

    Food, treats and drinks were in abundance thanks to those tirelessly organizing behind the scenes. A large group picture was organized outside and May, Trevor’s cousin’s wife, who happens to be a photographer, took the shots. I’ve seen a few now, which have quickly circulated on Facebook and whatsapp and they look great. It is such a large group and you see the magnitude when looking through the lens of the camera. Trevor and I have had many moments throughout this trip where we wish for the rest of his family to be here, most especially his dad and mom. We felt this most intensely at the reunion as we watched his three aunts chat and the whole family mill amongst one another so comfortably. Many well wishes and hellos were sent back with us and we fully intend to pass them along when we’re back in Canada.

    We are now two hours into our flight and I’ve nearly written a small novel. In the interest of sparing you all the details of our time in Friesland all at once, I’ll adjourn here and save the update from day two for another post. Hopefully I can squeeze in some time to look back to our last full exploration day in Holland before life in Iceland takes over. It’s now time to turn my head toward customs, chilly weather, motorhome rental, grocery fetching, a three hour drive to Vik all the while helping to steward four tired kids who will most likely be stary-eyed and full of adrenaline for the aforementioned tasks ahead for TELNAS.

    Until then, wish us well.
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  • Day17

    Amsterdam - A Very Wet Welcome Indeed!

    September 5, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    It was a bit bittersweet to take our last climb up the 8 feet to our loft bed in London.  I wont miss the tricky and tenuous descent in the middle of the night to tinkle ... but ... it was so nice and cozy up there.  I was hoping our bed in Amsterdam would be as comfortable!

    GRATITUDES: John has been reading blogs about travel (while I was under the weather and tucking in early!) and one tip he picked up was not to use the barcode check-in device at the train station, but rather to go to the desk to check and ensure your seats are facing forward!

    We did so ... and ...discovered our seats were not!! THAT could have been a bit challenging for my motion sickness ... so ... the kind Eurostar staff reassigned our seats ... AND... gave us a table!!!  Turned out there was no one seated across from us so we had lots of space and room to breathe!!! 👌👌👌

    Let me begin by saying how much we enjoyed train travel! We were so impressed with Eurostar!  No wasting 4 hours in airports prior to departure and claiming bags after arrival! We only needed to arrive 30 minutes before departure.  It was sleek, smooth, swift, spotless and silent ... except when we were underground!

    GASPS: According to the stats, 334.7km an hour is it's fastest.  We were travelling @300km/hr for most of our trip! AND apparently their are 50.45 kms of train travel through each tunnel between the UK and the mainland ... and ...each tunnel is 75 meters below sea level!! It was such a stress free mode of travel.

    GAHS:  Well ... given we have escaped rain for our first three destinations (Scotland, Ireland and England) ... it should not have come as any surprise that we might get wet in Holland.  And ... we sure did!  Thunderstorms were booming and the water was falling in cascades when we arrived.

    We left Centraal Station on foot ... GPS in hand ... searching for our little abode amongst the umbrella laden lanes. And ... before too long we found it!  It was nestled almost invisibly between the "Seed Shop" and the Italian restaurant. And ... those seeds are not for gardening! 😏

    After taking the highest climb up the narrowest bank of stairs yet ... we got settled into our humble space ... and ... hastily unpacked our yet unused rain jackets!

    GRATITUDES: At the recommendation of the lady at the wine store ... we enjoyed a very nice Dutch inspired lunch of croquettes and spicy beef stew on baguettes at a place called "Blom"!  It was delicious ... 👌

    With full tummies we donned our rainwear and wandered a bit to acquaint ourselves a little more with our surroundings! I think I've already gone a bit 'nose-blind' to the 'pot'- pourri (if you get my drift). So so many skunks around here!! 😉

    GRINS: And, we barely logged any steps before we had to take off our jackets.  The thunderclouds cleared and we enjoyed the walk ... sans rain.

    GASPS OF ENTHUSIASM:   Guess what?  They have baked potato bars that you choose your toppings just like you would at a Subway.  We didnt have one ... yet ... but it's on my ' to experience' list. 

    A little further along the way ... we spotted a little table for two by a canal and stopped for a drink. A glass of wine was $3.50!!  The best price I've seen anywhere... and ... it tasted lovely! 😍

    Anyway ... wondered about trying to follow Google maps to restaurant we picked out and somehow ended up in the red light district in the midst of what appeared to be a movie shoot!! And... if you've ever seen those three windows with the ladies of the night selling their wares ... well ... we walked right past them!! Perhaps when we have more time we'll head back to take it all in ... but for that moment ... there was no time for window shopping!! 😀

    Oh my ... no shortage of unexpected moments to treasure! But ... now ... we are safely back in our room and looking forward to unwrapping more gifts from Amsterdam tomorrow! 🧡
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  • Day18

    Another Day of Dutch Delights!

    September 6, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    We started our day back at Blom because we noticed yesterday that they served dutch pancakes! And then before I knew it, there I was, tearing up at the table to the sound the server voice at breakfast! She had a deep, husky voice with a cadence and intonation that reminded me of John's mom. It has been almost two years since we've heard Oma's voice.  I was moved with remembrance from memories tenderly tucked into my heart. 💙

    Breakfast was delicious ... and ... uniquely Dutch. While John had a bacon and apple dutch pancake ... I had a ham and cheese omelette. Mine came with 3 slices of soft bread (not toasted) with a wee little smear of butter that Oma would have scoffed at.  It also came with salad.  yep. Salad with breakfast! One of the joys of travelling for me is to experience all the different customs and tradition and rituals!

    And, it's interesting to note the difference in vehicle traffic here in Amsterdam. Far fewer buses and cars and many more cyclists on pedal bikes!

    John's Uncle Dick and his wife Wil picked us up and drove us back to their home for coffee. Enroute we passed some gorgeous scenery. We drove by the house John's Oma was born in ... and ... stopped by to see his son, Paul! Two of our daughters spent time with Paul when they were in Holland years ago. Paul asked us to send his best greetings to you Sherisse and Britt! He now has three children ... 6, 4 and 6 weeks! 😊

    Dick and Wil also took us to a Museum that explained the building of the polders ... which is where the water has been pumped off the land into the canals so it can be drained into the sea! It was fascinating to learn how the windmills were used to accomplish this until they became too inefficient given the demands of 3600 polders!! And hence ... the museum highlighted the transition to steam pumps instead! I'm not sure I understand the mechanics of it all ... but ... I was intrigued by the ingenuity behind the conceptualization of the feat!! Absolutely fascinating to see how people are living beneath the water line here in the Netherlands!

    We thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and the reconnection with family! And ... because of their kindness, we saw so much of the area outside of the city! They live right beside Schiphol Airport! We got some video of a plane taking off right beside the house. Surprisingly, you can't even hear the planes indoors!

    We look forward to seeing them again on Sunday when they take us to meet with some more Aunts and Uncles. For now, we are tucked on our room ... with some take away from down the street. Feeling content and very happy with our day! It's going to be challenging to narrow down which pictures to post for you ...💕
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  • Day20

    Cruising the Canals ...

    September 8, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    We slept in and had a fairly leisurely start to the day.... except:

    GAHS: We had been told that Anne Frank was sold out until September 22nd ... but we learned that they hold back 20% of the tickets to sell on each day. So, we started our day waiting in the online queue ... hoping to get two of the last of tickets for today! We started with 110 people before us, then 80 then 59 ... the excitement was mounting! We were both staring at the screen! Our hearts thumped when it showed 45 ... and I got so hot ... I had to take my sweater off! The .... we were 33! John got his credit card out ... just to expedite the process ... in case we got really lucky! Then we were 18 ...and almost there!! And ... finally ... only 1 ahead of us!! 🤗🤗

    I was thrilled when the ticket page opened ... but delight was short-lived! All the tickets for today were already gone. We might try again for tomorrow morning. But ... if it doesn't work out ... well ... I trust it wasnt meant to be! 

    We learned that "ij" is theDutch word for water and there is a lookout point called -This is Holland - where you can see Amterdam by 360 degrees from the rotating restaurant... OR ... by the "sensational swing" that sweeps out over the edge of the top of the building. I tried to catch a picture of it .. but ... the photo didn't quite do it justice!! And no ... I'm not going on it!! BTW ... there 60 types of fish under the ij. Many delicious edible ones too!

    GRATITUDES: We also stopped by to see what the call the " Gay Monument". It is a monument dedicated to show solidarity with the marginalized and oppressed. I was impressed that the city has created a formal honoring of the challenges faced by those who dwell in the minority. There was also a kiosk nearby called the Pink Point: Gay and Lesbian Information. Wikipedia answered some of my questions about the monument. It stated:

    "The Homomonument is a memorial in the centre of Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. It commemorates all gay men and lesbians who have been subjected to persecution because of their homosexuality. Opened on September 5, 1987, it takes the form of three large pink triangles made of granite, set into the ground so as to form a larger triangle, on the bank of the Keizersgracht canal, near the historic Westerkerk church. The Homomonument was designed to "inspire and support lesbians and gays in their struggle against denial, oppression and discrimination." It was the first monument in the world to commemorate gays and lesbians who were killed by the Nazis."

    Interesting to note that the Netherlands took such a lead role in the fight for social justice. "Later, similar monuments were realised in a number of cities all around the world. During the Netherlands’ annual Remembrance Day ceremony on May 4, wreaths are laid on the monument to commemorate LGBT victims of persecution. On May 5, Liberation Day, the monument becomes the site of a street party."

    GASPS: Oh my ... and nearby the monuments was one of the several public urinals for men. No door ... but ample privacy. John noticed several of them around the city ... but .. we took a picture of the one near the monument.

    GRINS: We enjoyed a wonderful stroll through the local Saturday Market! It went on for blocks and blocks! John got to have his long awaited Paling (smoked eel) along with a warm stroopwaffle. I found another nice light packable blouse! 

    GASPS: And then... at one of the fresh fish stalls, we saw a man cleaning and filleting herring. John enjoys them pickled ... but there was a woman eating one of them. I know that people eat raw fish in sushi ... but she just raised it above her head ... and then ... dropped it towards her mouth (like a worm to a baby bird) and bit right into it. John said he would have tried it were it not for my agast!

    And then ... after all that walking ... we were thirsty. And the one of us who hadn't been snacking was hungry.

    GRINS: So ... we found a canal side table at Café 't Smalle .... right on the water. If you tipped your chair you'd be wet!! We ordered meatballs and a cheese and tomato toastie to share... and met our new friends Katie and Peter ... from California now Denver. We so enjoyed chatting with them!! We shared phone numbers so we could reconnect later in the day ... and perhaps ... share a tour of the red light district together! 

    GAHS: When a boat docked in front of us ... we had to open a walking space so they could alight themselves! And, they were done eating before us (because we were busy chatting with our new friends!). And so we were disrupted again so they could get back on their boat. John offered a hand to several and also helped to manage the rope. Upon completion, one of the gentlemen said ... " you are the nicest people on the planet" Ha ha.

    Crossing the street remains a bit hair-raising. You are not only watching for cars, trains, trams but also bicycles coming in all different directions. There are parking stations for bicycles everywhere! We learned that 60,000 bikes are stolen every year!! This is highest form of petty crime in the city.

    We did, in fact, take a wander through the red light district after supper. We didn't stay long but certainly got a sense of it! We also learned that there are 900 prostitutes ... 290 windows ... and the average time of service is 10 minutes. And, most surprisingly, the most requested type of service is not sexual. It was our first time being out past dark so we took a couple of pics over the bridges! All in all, it was a great day in Amsterdam.
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  • Day837

    Ootje Konkel Pannenkoekenhuis

    October 11, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C

    In a country whose landscape is as flat as a pancake it is happy serendipity for a blogger, that one of the nation's favourite foods is this flour based culinary offering. We are parked outside Ootje Konkel Pannenkoekenhuis, a pancake house whose 'Dutchness' is enhanced by their use of flour milled in the traditional way at Korenmolen de Krijgsman windmill, one of the Netherlands' many iconic landmarks. We'd been on the lookout for somewhere to eat pancakes ever since entering the country 10 days ago, so we when Will saw on the CamperContact app that Ootje Konkel offered overnight stays for vans, we thought it would be the perfect place.

    This morning we set off from Lelystad over the 27km long Houtribdijk; a low dam built accross a natural fjord that creates the Markemeer lake, separating it from the Ijsselmeer (also an artificial lake, formed by damming the mouth of the fjord to the seaward side of our location. The road isn't as visually outstanding as some we have driven on, but 27km is a long way and as we drove we marvelled at the engineering expertise involved in its construction. It was originally intended to aid the creation of a polder (an area of drained land) in the Markemeer, thus creating terra firma for agriculture and housing where the lake now stands. The 2nd World War scuppered this plan and decades of political wrangling has seen the country finally settle on a course of action to form an island archipelago nature reserve in the lake. Work began in 2016 and aims to provide breeding grounds for birds and act as a tourist attraction. As we drove, we saw diggers on floating platforms excavating substrate from the lake bed and piling it up in mounds. It was fascinating to see the islands taking shape, we wonder how they will look when established and whether we'll ever return to see them?

    Ootje Konkels is perched between the dyke of the Markenmeer and a small fishing lake. We found a spot at the end of the narrow customer car park and when they opened mid afternoon we checked we could stay and settled ourselves on the lakeside terrace. We say 'lakeside' but the wooden seating area was actually built over the water, so we could see the light glinting off the small waves through gaps in the boards. The sun was warm and we relaxed into watching a Great Crested Grebe diving nearby while waiting for our order. During this time we got to see the little pontoon pedestrian ferry being put to use as a fisher stepped on to it and pulled on a horizontal rope to haul the contraption over the small channel. Simple but effective.

    Our pancakes arrived filling their large plates, Will had chosen crystallised ginger with cream and Vicky warm cherry with vanilla icecream and cream. They were delicious and satisfying, well cooked in the middle with delightfully crunchy bits around the edges. To walk them off we took a stroll along the grassy path on top of the dyke. The shallow lake stretched out to our left and fields splayed out to our right, grazed by sheep, Fresian cattle and a few horses. Stings of geese flew accross the dyke and made ungainly descents to settle on the water.

    In for a penny in for a pound we returned to the restaurant for an evening meal. The sun was setting over the fishing lake and the decorative lights had been switched on outside. Like the Danish 'hygge' the Dutch have a word that roughly translates as 'cosy'. The bar was strung with 'gezellig' bunting and within, there was a real feel of 'gezelligheid' as candles burned, fairy lights glowed in the branches of small potted trees, each table had a diminutive green leaved plant and lamps hung low overhead. Young kids were encoraged to play and dogs were welcome on the lead (it would have been too tiring for our Poppy). The waiters were friendly and the space was functional, not fussy and very easy to relax in. With a couple of local Texels beers our taste buds tingled in anticipation as our savoury pancakes were presented. Vicky's Hêlegaar Prachtig was topped with 'old cheese', fig compote, rocket salad and salted nuts, while Will's Volle Hooischuur had bacon, ham, leek, Dutch Beemster cheese and garlic sauce. They both tasted great and neither of us had any room for desert. We were glad it was just a short distance to the van!
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  • Day851


    October 25, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

    Our Martha is parked in the only motorhome bay in Grave's medium sized car park. A steep grassy hill borders one side of the area and was built centuries ago to defend the town against invaders.
    We are close to the centre of town, but tucked away from any through roads, with ivy covered walls forming the other sides. In fact the car park is so well hidden we struggled to find it. Coming straight from an oversubscribed camperplaats on the outskirts of Grave, where we'd planned to stay, we turned into the main parking area. It took us a while to realise this wasn't the one we wanted but when we did, Will set off on foot to scope out the surroundings while Vicky compared photos on the CamperContact app to aerial views on Google Earth. It was here that we located our intended destination and after circling around the narrow streets a couple of times we managed to find the entrance - phew! It was solely motorhome parking so there was no water or emptying point but our efforts were made worth it by the free electric hookup and excellent access to a historic town, so we decided to stay two nights.

    Many of the settlements we've visited so far have been relatively modern, so Grave, that started life in the 12th century with a castle had a different feel to it. Over the years it had been laid siege to many times, but the buildings that line its cobbled lanes are 17th and 18th century; old enough to exude a ye olde worlde character.

    We made our way in with our eyes open for somewhere we could have lunch. Our time in the Netherlands seems to be drawing to a close very quickly and although we've sampled plenty of the country's sweet treats, we've not yet had many of the savoury. The streets were quiet and most eateries appeared closed so we were drawn to the open door of the Café Gouden Leeuw, a pub in the small main square. Can anyone guess what its name translates as?

    We got a good feeling as soon as we stepped into the almost full front room. We grabbed one of the two free tables and asked the waiter for a local beer, accepting and enjoying their recommendation of the Brand on tap. To eat, Will chose bitterballen; little balls of mixed meat coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. Vicky went with the Gouden Leeuw special sandwich without the meat. While waiting for our food we took in the distinctive decor. The table we were sitting at had a glass covered board game inset into the dark wood and from the ceiling hung models, including hotair balloons, a witch and a jester around two grand, black metal chandeliers. The walls were pale green with handpainted decoration and canal scenes in little circles or rectangles. The colours were muted and upon closer inspection we saw a nicotine coloured wash had been applied for effect. We think the pub must be one of the Netherlands' bruin (brown) cafés. Some say they are so named because of the dark brown wood, others think it is because of the stains left on the walls from all the tobacco smoke. The Gouden Leeuw had both, so we reckoned it was a safe bet. The staff were helpful, the beer and food tasty and the vibe convivial and relaxing so we went for broke and booked a table for the following evening, when there was a 3 course special menu for €13.95.

    Continuing to explore the town we dropped into the tourist information office, where we found just one leaflet in English. The level of spoken English in the Netherlands has been second to none, so it was ironic that of the two people working here, only one spoke to us and in very broken English at that.

    The central area was pretty small but packed with curios. A sign advertised 'catacombs' open to the public, which turned out to be a vaulted cellar filled with a whole range of items from large painted wooden clogs to a life size models of tigers. Vicky found some loose chamomile and managed to resist scrumtious looking chocolates in a tea and chocolate shop, the likes of which seem more common in the Netherlands than in many other countries.

    For the rest of the daylight hours Will found a canal to fish in while Vicky kept Poppy company. The leaflet we'd picked up from the Tourist Office advertised a Friday morning market, so this was tomorrow's daytime entertainment sorted. It wasn't a large market but it was a practical one with decent prices where we managed to pick up a whole load of foods including some Dutch runny honey, smoked mackerel and fresh strawberries. There was the obligatory cheese stall where we were given a taster and bought a wedge cut from a large round with a wire, while more rounds were delivered on an upright, two wheeled trolley generally used for shifting boxes in warehouses. There were two wet fish stalls advertising kibbeling; chunks of deep fried battered cod cooked to order. This was another Dutch speciality we had yet to try, so Will returned at midday and queued for a bag which he brought back to the van for us to share. They came with a pot of herby mayonnaise, a little like tartar sauce and were delicious!

    Walking through Grave for dinner at the Café Gouden Leeuw, the town was lit up with warm white fairy lights, falling from strings attached high up on buildings either side of the cobbled streets, wrapped around pollarded Plane trees and forming a 'Historiche Grave' banner at either end of the main street. It was beautifully atmospheric!

    Inside the pub there was a real buzz and ours was the only table free. After a yummy pumpkin and rocket salad for starters, Will had harvest risotto with stoofvlees (sweet-sour beef stewed in beer, herbs and mustard) while Vicky was served Victoriabaars (perch) celeriac puree and fries. The waiter kindly gave us a digestive pause before our salted caramel and chocolate tarts, which we rounded off with a glass of jenever (Dutch gin). The food was good quality and well cooked, it was a really lovely meal and we couldn't believe it cost as little as it did. Back at the van Will had a whiskey nightcap and made jam with the strawberries we'd bought earlier!
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  • Day831

    Paterswoldsemeer, Hoornsedijk +De Helper

    October 5, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    We are beginning to think we misjudged the Netherlands. They have provided a free, 6 place camperplaats looking out over the beautiful Paterswoldsemeer; a lake fringed with grass, trees and a mix of well spaced houses of varying styles. It is the weekend and this hive is busy, but not crowded. Our spot is situated just before the access road turns into a cycle track so there is no through traffic, save for walkers and bikes, that pass behind us. An artificial beach has been created and a black boarded jetty reaches out a short way.

    We came further than we'd planned today because the first stopover was down a road that was being dug up and the paraphernalia that goes with such a project needed somewhere to be stored- bang goes the motorhome parking! Never mind, looking on the bright side it had the advantage of giving us extra time at Paterwoldsemeer which is undoubtedly the better site!

    We were gifted with two days of beautiful sunshine and blue skies. Vicky sat out with Poppy and knitted while Will took to the water in the canoe with his rods. A couple of small islands were easily reachable and many more lay further to the west. Will docked the canoe and swum from one close by, being careful to check he would be able to get back out of the water as the island perimeter was like the bank of a canal, with vertical piling reaching half a metre above the water level at most points. It seemed the islands were engineered for pleasure boaters to dock at with a picnic as they had mooring stakes, rubbish bins and picnic tables. The larger even had a shallow water cove cordoned off from boats for safe swimming. Will only discovered this after he'd already been for a dip but the air was warm so this fact didn't stop him making good use of it! There were a myriad of small sail boats on the lake, many of them wooden with creamy white sails. They looked beautiful in the bright light and it was wonderful to see so many people enjoying the outdoors.

    To cap off a gorgeous day we were treated to a delightful sunset whose instense amber hues transformed the sky, silhouetting the lake shore and rebounding off the still water. We watched from the comfort of the van with homemade pizza and a glass of red. As the sunlight faded the focus changed to the pretty electric illuminations. Warm white bulbs and a purple display light shone out, marking the path of the shore as it tracked around the water's edge. We felt truly content.

    The following day Vicky was feeling up for a paddle so we headed out in Little Green after lunch, charting a figure of eight around the islands then making a beeline for a traditional Dutch windpump farther to the west. We gained the shore via a metal ladder and tied the canoe securely to the pilings to go and investigate it properly. A low post and rail fence cordoned the structure off but the little gate was open and as we approached a volunteer asked us if we'd like to see inside. He said they'd be setting it up for use and he could take us up to the top when he went up to check the mechanism. We jumped at the chance and within 15 minutes were following our guide, clinging onto the handrail and scaling the steep wooden steps that led through roof hatches onto the two floors above ground level. At the top were two huge angled cogs that drive the main shaft, which is thicker than many of the nearby tree trunks and stretches the full length of the structure. At the base there were more cogs to turn an Archimedian Screw, which moves water from an inland drainage pond to the lake. All the operating parts were made from wood and our guide showed us where they'd wedged or nailed small blocks to repair or fine tune the operation.

    We spent nearly an hour with the mill master and volunteers as they set the windpump up for use. Through a combination of chatting to them and research we learned De Helper is an octagonal smock windpump, so called because of its resemblance to a smock. It was originally built in 1863 and relocated here in 1971. Recently repainted, its reds, blues and whites shone in the bright light, contrasting nicely against the black wooden boards of its central housing. It is one of nearly a thousand windmills in the Netherlands and is protected as a national monument. There is a contract to operate it for 10 hours a month and it appears we turned up at exactly the right time because Saturday afternoons are the weekly slot they've chosen to open it. The group of around 4 people working on it are learning the skills over a course of two years. We watched as they manually rotated a giant wheel to turn the 10m wooden trellis blades to the wind, securing the position with huge metal chains. The volunteers then proceeded to unfurl the canvas sails, two red and two white, climbing the blades and looping a rope on the leading edge over a series of hooks. It was a long process but once everything was in place the brake was released by pulling a metal chain that dangled from the top of the structure and the blades quickly picked up speed, setting the Archimedian Screw to work pushing water underneath the windpump in the direction of the lake. We peaked through the gridded hatch to see it in action.

    Paddling back to the van we found ourselves in a bit of a daze. We can't find any information locally or online about when De Helper opens so we couldn't have planned this. It was just very good luck that we stumbled upon it when we did and not only got to see the whole process but were the only visitors who got to climb up inside it!

    You can watch a video of the windmill taken on Vicky's phone on the VnW Travels YouTube channel:

    We decided to stay all three of the nights motorhomes are allowed at this camperplaats. It was a beautiful spot and the weather was amazing for October. We doubt we'll find many other free places that we like as much as this one!
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  • Day4

    Snaggletooth Sullivan

    April 28, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅

    We’ve been making bets as to where or when this kid would lose his front tooth but no one guessed it would happen just before dinner right here at the Airbnb. We thought maybe in the airplane as we flew over Greenland but nope, not there. Someone suggested on the canal tour in Utrecht but nope, not then either. Sully hoped and wished for it to fall out in Iceland somewhere, anywhere but that wasn’t in the cards. This kid has had a sideways sticky outty snaggletooth for weeks and the wait for freedom is finally over. The unending tasks of a mom, I tell ya. I nurture, fix, love, clean, redirect, teach and...yank teeth. ;) I’ve yanked countless teeth between the two of my kiddos but never have I pulled one out in Holland. Goodbye you weird crooked awkward tooth; you won’t be missed.Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Kingdom of the Netherlands, Niederlande, Netherlands, Nederland, Nɛdɛland, ኔዘርላንድ, Países Baixos, Niðerland, هولندا, ܗܘܠܢܕܐ, Países Baxos, Hollandiya, Нідэрланды, Холандия, Peyiba, হল্যাণ্ড, ཧའོ་ལན།, Izelvroioù, Holandija, Països Baixos, Nizozemsko, Yr Iseldiroedd, Holland, ནེ་དར་ལེནཌསི, Nedalands nutome, Ολλανδία, Nederlando, Holanda, Madalmaad, Herbehereak, هلند, Nederlannda, Alankomaat, Niðurlond, Pays-Bas, Payis-Bâs, Nederlân, An Ísiltír, નેધરલેન્ડ, Holan, Nizozemska, הולנד, नीदरलैण्ड, Nižozemska, Hollandia, Նիդերլանդեր, Nederlandia, Belanda, Olanda, Niðurlönd, Paesi Bassi, オランダ王国, ნიდერლანდი, Uholanzi, Голландия, Hollandi, ហូល្លង់, ನೆದರ್‌ಲ್ಯಾಂಡ್ಸ್, 네덜란드, Nederläng, ھۆڵەندا, Holandi, Olandɛ, ເນເທີແລນ, Nyderlandai, Nīderlande, Холандија, നെതര്‍ലന്‍ഡ്സ്, नेदरलँड, နယ်သာလန်, Niterand, Tlanitlalpan, Nedderlannen, नेदरल्यान्ड्स, Pays Bas, Païses Basses, Gollandii, ନେଦରଲ୍ୟାଣ୍ଡ, Paises Bahes, Hulanda, Holandia, Pais Bass, هالېنډ, Uray Llaqta Suyu, Pajais Bass, Ubuholandi, Țările de Jos, Нидерланды, Paisi Vasci, Vuolleeatnamat, Holände, නෙදර්ලන්තය, Holandsko, Vendet e Ulëta, Hôlanê, Nederländerna, நெதர்லாந்து, నేదర్లాండ్స్, Нидерланд, เนเธอร์แลนด์, Hōlani, Ol Nitelan, Hollanda, گوللاندىيە, Нідерланди, نیدر لینڈز, Hà Lan, Olland, Nedän, Bas Payis, Nederlandes, ENetherlands, Orílẹ́ède Nedalandi, 荷兰, i-Netherlands

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