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  • Day17

    Amsterdam - A Very Wet Welcome Indeed!

    September 5 in the Netherlands

    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 in the Netherlands

    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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  • Day837

    Ootje Konkel Pannenkoekenhuis

    October 11 in the Netherlands

    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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  • Day20

    Cruising the Canals ...

    September 8 in the Netherlands

    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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  • Day851


    October 25 in the Netherlands

    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 in the Netherlands

    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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  • Day19

    Tourist-ing is Tire-ing, but Terrific!

    September 7 in the Netherlands

    GRATITUDES: We started our day at Pancakes and Waffles ... this is a little 4 table and 2 counter cafe with the kitchen area exposed to the patrons.  Big kegs of Nutella decorate the space. Rap music was amusing the cook as he aptly prepared our breakfast and displayed his expertise by tossing our pancake almost as high as the ceiling! 😲

    Then ... off to the Hop On Hop Off bus! We took the entire tour to get a sense of our surroundings then transferred to the boat cruise  It was so tranquil on the water! We were grateful for clear skies as we cruised along the canals!!  We learned that Amsterdam has a world wide reputation for tolerance of diversity. The locals are very hospitable to tourists. We also learned that there are veryfew houses over 4 stories... they all need to be built on piles driven into the sand beneath the layer peat under the polders. 

    Our first stop was Gassan Diamonds. Diamond cutting became an important industry in Amsterdam after the immigration of many Jewish people seeking exile ... around 1945.  We were able to get some lessons on choosing diamonds and got introduced to their own world wide patented diamond cut.  It has 121 facets rather than the usual 57 of a typically brilliant cut stone. Their logo promoting their unique cut is: "Glassan 121*; more than brilliant."

    John really enjoyed the tour and all he learned about the 4Cs of diamond quality ... cut, clarity, color and carat. It was a great reminder for me of my studies years and years and years ago when I got my Graduate Jeweller Designation in Nanaimo BC!

    GAHS: We also visited the flea market ...which started in the 19th century and continues to run daily. They were selling everything from fanny packs to t-shirts to hemp lollipops.

    GRATITUDES: We stopped for a light lunch at a funky little place called "Lunch Cafe Waterloo." John wanted to sit outside ... I preferred inside because it was windy ... and so ... we got lucky to sit right by the open window sill! We ordered the Dutch frikadel along with frietjes and a nice soup. Trip Advisor gave it 4.5 stars. We would agree!  Oh ... and I have noticed a custom in Amsterdam is to provide all the cutlery and serviettes tucked into paper envelopes.  We haven't seen this before in our travels!  It's seems so sensible!

    GASPS: Heineken is Dutch beer!! We always thought it was German! There are 2500 house boasts in Amsterdam ... all fitted with gas and water and sewage and electricity. They became popular after a housing shortage after WWII.  No more permits will be allowed.  Mooring charges are in effect and residents are not allowed to leave their moorings.There are 250 bridges in Amsterdam  ... and ... some of them open! One of them was lifted today during our canal cruise to allow boat traffic through! We learned there are 40 parks in Amsterdam.  Apparently, there are 200 plus 'coffee shops'... but they told us they don't sell much coffee! 🤔

    GASPS OF GRATITUDE:  We had been told that the Van Gogh Museum was sold out for today ... but one of the Hop-On Hop-Off staff said some spaces sometimes open up about 4:00pm.  So ... we thought we'd try our luck and show up there at 4:00pm.  And ... they were just closing down the ticket sale booth .... BUT ... we got IN!!! 😁

    It was definitely worth the effort to see it.  One could feel the sense of angst and darkness in so much of his work.  We learned so much about his life and were invited to a deeper appreciation of his passion for peasant workers ... and ... that he didnt care what color things really were!  It was so interesting .... ! 👌

    But ... in all honesty ... by 6:30pm we were pooped out!  So we decided to call it a day ... no more museums or tours.  Just eating a loaded baked potato ... and then ... back to our room, post our blog and head off to sleep. 😴

    GASPS: But ... on our way home a young man came running past us ... at warp speed ... with a bag in his hand! And then... low and behold ... another young man fled past us in hot pursuit! As it was becoming clear the first was a thief and the second was the robbed ... a policeman on a bicycle came speeding along as well! It was a real live 'chase' just like in the movies!! We have no idea if he got away or not ... but ... it certainly raised our blood pressure! And ... it was a great reminder to be especially careful with our things in these parts.

    Okay.... nighty night from us! We have more touristing to do tomorrow so we need our rest! Good afternoon to all of you! 😊
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  • Day22

    On the Rails Again ...

    September 10 in the Netherlands

    GROANS: The laundry wasn't free before we went to sleep last night so John got up in the middle of the night ... climbed another flight of stairs ...and put out load in then. It's an all in one machine ... it both washes and dries! I went to get it at 7:30am and it was still damp!! 😬 And so ... I started the dryer again!

    GAHS: We had contacted our host twice over the past two days to see if we could have a later checkout (it was 10:00am) but had not received a response. So ... we panicked a bit ... hoping that we could get things dry and packed in short order ... and ... decided to get coffee and breakfast at 8:30am ... and check again on the laundry after that. Seemed like a great plan!

    GRATITUDES: We headed off to a little spot we discovered yesterday that offered an American Breakfast for $4.95. They had humungous coffee cups and with 4 creamers ... it was just perfect! So ... we decided to go back again this morning. John had another apple pancake ... and well ... make no mind of the pile of creamers by my plate. I traded John my speculaas (they always give you a cookie with your coffee in Holland!) for his four creamers. I mean ... it's a BIG coffee! I think I made a great trade! 😁

    GRINS: Since we couldn't check in until 3pm in Utrecht and it is only 30 minutes away ... so ... we envisioned ourselves woefully sitting with our backpacks for 4 hours at the train station. BUT ... while we were at breakfast ... our host responded that we could check out whenever we wanted!! JACKPOT!

    GIFTS: So ... we got an extra half a day that we didn't anticipate to wander and wonder and while away the hours with new freedoms! And .... it is sunny and bright! 🎁🎁🎁

    We spoke before about how many of the buildings have tipped forward ... but they are also built to lean a bit ... because you can't barely get your bags up the staircases ... never mind your couch or your washer and dryer! And so ... they have hooks and/or pulleys on the front of the buildings to hoist the furnishings up and the little lean makes it so that the furniture doesn't hit the building on its way up!

    GAFFAHS: Along our travels, we noticed a sign indicating NO bicycles ... and yet ... the lane was littered with them. See what I mean about Amsterdam being laid back. 

    GROANS: We were intrigued to see them doing construction without safety precautions! They had multi-levels of scaffolding and no one was harnessed in ... and they were lifting all kind of things up the front of the building ... not using the hook or pulley!

    We enjoyed the leisure of the morning ... John even enjoyed a nutella waffle with whipped cream!! And then, we went back to check on the laundry about 11:30am ... feeling guity that we had left it so long ... AND ... it wasn't DONE!! So ...we went for a sandwich. Certain it would be dry and ready afterwards so we could get to the train station by 1:00pm for our train!

    GRIPES: NO! It was still not done. And ... the thing is ... with these machines, you can't just unlock the door! I'm panicking a bit now. Our laundry has been in the machine now for 12 hours ... and ... we aren't sure how to get it out! And we have a train to catch. So ... my hubby resorts to Google!! Thank goodness they saved the day and we got our clothes out ... eventually!! He was my hero in that moment for sure!!

    And so ... we headed off to Utrecht by train. Somehow we ended up in first class ... but had second class tickets. Guess what? We stayed there ... for the whole 30 minuted ride. We would have moved if they had asked us ... but ... not until!
    And then ... after a one kilometer hike to our accomodation ... that felt like 14 kilometers ... we got checked in and went for a refreshment! We ended up at the corner pub ... and had such a great visit with the proprietor and his one lone customer! They were so kind to us ... they didn't even charge us for our beer and wine! Wow!! Where does THAT happen?? Utrecht. Yep. Utrecht. They also pointed us in the right direction so we could get some groceries. We already loved it here!

    We thought we'd head out for a small bowl of soup ... so we took Trip Advisor's suggestion for SLA. Turned out to be a mostly vegetarian health food restaurant ... yes ... it was very green. They smuggly smiled when John asked if they served croquettes. Anyway ... he ordered the gazpacho and enjoyed the ginger lemon tea ....with a slice of raw ginger and slice of lemon in it! He's not ever eaten in a health food restaurant before!

    GAHS: Oh my ...and on the way there ... we had our life in our hands trying to navigate the streets with all the bicycle traffic!! We were chuckling about what to call an onslought of bikes . .. is it a gaggle ... a pod ... a swarm ... a heard ... or ... as my husband determined: "a pedal-flock". Yep. Those pedal-flocks are silent and treacherous ... they come at you from all directions and you can't hear them coming!!!!

    One of the things about travelling for weeks in a row like we are doing is that we have so many sights to see and our days are chalk full of 'doings'! We are looking forward to a little more opportunity for simply 'being' in Utrecht before we hit the rails again with lots of things we'd like to see and do in Paris!

    And so for now ... as long as we can avoid the "pedal-flocks" ... we are going to take it really easy for the next couple of days. A little bit more R & R is top of our list. So ... good night for now ... talk to you tomorrow!
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  • Day21

    Our Last Day in Amsterdam!

    September 9 in the Netherlands

    Today was the very first time we've had 0 percent chance of rain here in Amsterdam. And so ... we bravely went forth without our rainwear ... and ... guess what? Yep. A sprinkle of rain found its way to us early in the day ... but afterwards ... it was nothing but warm and sunny and bright!

    GROANS: We tried to get one of the last 20 percent of tickets that went on sale today for Anne Frank but, sadly, we were not successful. So, we opted to go to the Rijksmuseum before we met with family!!

    GASPS OF AWE: It was really worth seeing! We preferred the works we saw here as opposed to Van Gogh. Maybe its just that I don't have a good enough eye, but there was a child-like quality to Van Gogh's work that is not as appealing to me as the work of Rembrandt. I guess ... each to their own ... but now I know my personal preference! John felt the same. Oh, and as we were leaving the museum, we heard a fabulous group of buskers playing some unique instruments! One of the staff said they'd been playing there everyday for the last four years! I got the sense that we enjoyed their music more than he did! 🤔

    GRATITUDES: We were worried about having enough time at the museum because our Hop On Hop Off tickets expired at 11:30am. But ... they very kindly extended our tickets to accommodate our needs! Wow. We never expected concessions like this ... even though we are seniors! 😉

    GASPS: We were shocked by the lack of traffic this morning ... both foot and vehicular. It was dead quiet. We are not sure if it was because it was early in the morning or because it was Sunday ... but we had not yet ever seen the city so quiet!! And, we couldn't help but notice the tilting and leaning forward of one of the buildings! Many of them are tipping sideways, but there are some that are falling forwards a bit! GAH!

    GRATITUDES: After our time at the museum, we got to have the #1 rated fries in Amsterdam! You can choose as many sauces as you'd like! They were fresh cut this morning and they tasted like it!! Scumptiousness wrapped in a blue paper cone!! We thoroughly enjoyed them as we waited for our ride out to see more family in Vinkeveen! 

    MORE GRATITUDES: And, it was such a delightful day meeting with John's mom's side of the family! Great conversation filled with oodles of laughter and lots of warm reminiscences! We got some beautiful photos of the canals in behind their homes! And ... had fun getting everyone into one family photo on the sofa! BTW ... the family sends their warmest regards to our daughters and their families!! 💌

    We had a nice roasted 'kip' dinner (chicken) with Dick and Wil (who kindly drove us to Vinkeveen) on the way home and now we are back in our room waiting for space in the washing machine! We need to get packed up and ready to leave for Utrecht tomorrow morning. I have to say that I won't miss this room ... but ... the location was phenomenal!!

    In the final analysis ... we have made the most of our time here (sans Anne Frank) ... and ... I have a fond appreciation for the beauty of the canals and the dutch pancakes and the croquettes ... oh and I forgot to tell you ... they have cream for their coffee! And good strong coffee at that! ☕

    It's hard to fathom that we are half way through our journey at this point! We have seen four different countries and hope to see three more before we get home! We're packing lots of memories into our hearts with each and every destination❣

    Sending love and hugs from our full hearts to yours ...k&j
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  • Day23

    We don't yet want to leave you Utrecht!

    September 11 in the Netherlands

    GAHS: We were so tired last night that we were nicely tucked on bed by 8pm. And ... John was still sleeping at 8:00am this morning. Who knows how long he would have snoozed had I not accidentally woke him while trying to make a coffee on a completely unfamiliar Nespresso machine!! I'd been up for an hour ... and was trying to be both quiet and patient ... but ... a girl can only go so long without her morning coffee.☕

    GRATITUDES: And ... after a couple of tries ... I figured out how to use the coffee machine!! And, we had bought cream at market so I was all set! We are really enjoying our accommodations here in Utrecht! They even have a Miele washer and dryer ... and an induction stove top and a combo microwave/oven for our use! But sadly ... there is no toaster. Perhaps it's because here in Holland they serve soft bread with food rather than toasted bread?? Or maybe if you want crispier bread you can eat rusk?? I'm not atall sure ... but we were sure happy to have a coffee in our pjs and be able to cook a nice breakfast in our room! 🍳

    GIFTS: Oh ... I forgot to mention ... when we were at the market buying our breakfast supplies ... we got a bottle of Pinot Grigio for $3.59!! And it was good!! I'm encouraged that wine might be more affordable from now on in our trip! 🥂

    And so ... as we were thinking about how we wanted to spend this day ... we chatted about the possibility of renting bikes. It sounded really good in theory ... relaxed and happily pedaling through Utrecht while taking in all of the sights. But .... as you noticed in the video from yesterday ... you really need your wits about you to pedal the paths here!!

    GROANS: And my anxious mind filled the potential for challenges: staying upright ... getting lost ... keeping my eyes on the roads and the scenery (not likely!) .... crossing the streets carefully ... not causing an accident ... the sore buttocks ... not falling off ... not taking out a pedestrian ... being on the wrong path ... holding up other bicycle traffic because I'm too slow ... keeping up with my hubby ... argh!! The more I considered the realities ... the less appealing it sounded. 🙄 And so ... we opted to descend the ladders at the canals and see more of Utrecht on foot! 👣

    GAHS: We also decided to book a train from Paris to Barcelona! And then we headed off to find some lunch. We traipsed around where we are staying ... and although there were many, many restaurants in the neighborhood ... not ONE of them was open! Sheesh! Finally we saw a Subway Sandwich shop and I had my first sub abroad! It was good!

    Just across the street, however, was an open square with a number of restaurants. John had a snack plate of a Dutch delights ... but it might be his least favorite food choice in our travels yet. 😕 So ... he set it aside and ordered some croquettes ... knowing it might be his last chance to have them ... and much to his pleasure ... they were one of the best he has had yet!! 😋 But ...we had no IDEA what was about to happen!!

    We headed home to do some more planning for the days ahead ... booking tours and flights and rooms ... and after we were done, we headed back out to our neighborhood to see what might be open for supper! And ... we hit the JACKPOT of JACKPOTS! We found our way to " 'tZusje" ... which is a most remarkable little tapas restaurant on the Oudegraght canal! They preferred we eat indoors for fear of rain ... but John really pressed to stay outdoors. Monique, our server, was most lovely ... and ... allowed us to have our wish. And, it was perfect ... because ... as another one of the server's so wisely noted; "if you sit inside, you don't even know which country you are in!" So true! So we sat alongside the canal and enjoyed the very best tapas we have ever tasted!!!

    And so ......... the verdict is in ... and it is unanimous!! Utrecht has provided us with our very best taste experience in our travels thus far! The tastes and the falavors and the experience was so magnificent!! Honestly ... probably going to be one of our favorite memories of this trip!

    And ... we capped it off with four desserts in honor of our grand daughters 10th birthday!!

    Honestly ... we are not ready to leave Utrecht quite yet! There are still many stones left unturned for us in this lovely place!! We have been well blessed with our time here!

    And, tomorrow ... we are off to Paris! We'll talk to you then ... :-)
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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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