Side trip to EnkhuizenSeptember 25 in the Netherlands
With Albi set up in Bordeaux and Ginette off to Canada for a 50th birthday party I had a bit of time on my hands and decided to take a trip. Several options presented - the Ryder Cup golf matches are playing just south of Paris, several friends were traveling in to Frankfurt and there was a large boat show back in La Rochelle. But after thinking it all through I decided that my best option was to visit some friends just outside Amsterdam - friends that I had not seen since we left the Philippines back in February of 2016.
We had sailed together with Monique and Janbart on Evia Blue for several months - first on the Sail Malaysia rally and then through a good part of Indonesia and up to Davao. Janbart is a former professional fisherman and we shared many stories and experiences along the way. Although we were sailing newbies Monique and Janbart never made us feel inadequate, and we thoroughly enjoyed their company and stories from almost 10 years of sailing all over the world.
After finally securing Albi adjacent to the barges in the Bordeaux port district I made my way to the airport on the tram and bus. For only 1.70 Euro it was easy travel and I got to the airport in plenty of time. Unfortunately my flight ended up leaving 1.5 hours late and I arrived in Amsterdam after midnight to find the airport completely packed - an hour and a half wait in the taxi rank and Uber at double pricing. After confirming there was no train I decided to try the bus again and after a couple of calls to the hotel got the information on how to get there on public transit. I boarded the bus and in less than 15 minutes I was across from the hotel - a trip that cost me 6 Euros but would have been 60 in Uber!
It was strange to be back in Schipol airport, which had a very familiar feel as Gin and I had used it many times during our time living in Germany. I recognized some of the words in Dutch and even remembered where the Starbucks was! The countryside seemed familiar to me as I rode the bus and the friendly driver helped me out to find the right stop. I always remembered getting a warm welcome and a friendly smile from the Dutch people - especially if they found out I was Canadian. There remains a strong bond between Canada and Holland after Canadian troops liberated many parts of the country at the end of the second Great War. Many don’t know that Ottawa’s Tulip Festival celebrates the gift of these flowers given to Canada in acknowledgement of the assistance provided to the Royal Family and Canada’s contribution to the cause of victory in Holland and Europe.
I slept in late and had a hearty breakfast at the hotel, then had a leisurely day enjoying a nice room, hot bath and air conditioning. I thought of heading to Haarlem or even Amsterdam prior to meeting up with my friends but I had been to both before and truth be told I was really enjoying the luxury of a comfortable existence in the hotel. M&J picked me up at 3PM as planned and we made our way to Enkhuizen where their ‘new’ boat - Cocoon - a 58 foot Schionning catamaran - was in dry dock for a keel repair and paint job.
We chatted the entire ride back and well into the evening. They showed me around the boat and to my cabin, and being onboard brought back many great memories of our time sailing and being with our friends during many adventures. I picked Janbart’s brain about many of the features of their amazing new ‘home’ on the water. Monique and Janbart bought the boat partway through a major restoration and completed most of the work themselves, and they were happy to show me all they had done and the many incredible features they had put so much thought, time and effort into in the past year. They had just completed their ‘maiden voyage’ to Sweden in the summer, but ran into some trouble on the rocks during anchoring and thus were getting the keels fixed up at the local shipyard.
Since there was no work to do we lulled away the morning with coffees watching the bay and the yard wake up, then did some touristy stuff in the afternoons. Enkhuizen proved to be a wonderful little village full of interesting shops, incredible architecture and with a potent maritime feel - having once been home to one of the country’s largest fishing fleets. In the 1930’s the adjacent sea, the Zuiderzee, was closed off to the open sea with a large dyke and the fishing and trading importance of the port fell away, but today it acts as a bustling summer vacation Centre that caters to authentic ship cruises around the lake on boats dating back many centuries. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the village with my friends who told me many things about Dutch culture and history and introduced me to gastronomic delights of the region and their home towns.
We spent one day touring the Zuiderzee museum which is a large ‘living’ and outdoor museum that captures the history and society of the entire region. It was fascinating to learn about Dutch food (fish (herring mostly), potatoes and cabbage as the staples), sailing and fishing customs and to tour around the museum ‘dry dock’ and the living village. Many buildings were brought to the property from all across the region as they were earmarked for demolition, and rebuilt here to capture the history and customs of the former trading powerhouse of Enkhuizen and surrounds. Some highlights includes seeing the fishermen making and tanning their nets, the blacksmith forging implements for the local residents and making a rope the old fashioned way out of strung flax twine. Janbart also showed me the huge boiler in the laundry, which in fact used to heat the water in his own laundromat before he traded it in and it was subsequently donated to the Zuidersee museum. Now the boiler power all the machines and heats the water for the washing. We spent more than 6 hours on the ground and stayed until closing - all of us enthralled with all we had seen on a perfect sunny day.
In the evening we dined on Netherlands food lovingly prepared by Monique and swapped stories. I made them mussels one night the way we do in Canada and we enjoyed dipping fresh Dutch bread in the leftover curry sauce. We chatted and watched shows and occasionally I got them to tell me stories of their travels aboard all of their boats - Victory, Evia Blue and now Cocoon. They share their passion for adventure together in an engaging way, contributing to each other’s thoughts and bringing the already incredible details of their lives to life. Listening to them tell stories of their trips brought me back in time and stoked my desire to see and do more in the future - maybe even by boat. But Janbart’s ‘scariest’ moments enroute from Tonga to New Zealand - with Victory heeled over so far that water was ingressing the engine room fresh air vent and they thought briefly of abandoning ship in the Southern Ocean - made me wonder if I have it in me now to take on an ocean passage again.
Our last day was spent touring around the area where J&M will build their new home. They have decided to sell Cocoon after completing the full repairs and paint (when she’ll likely never look better) and to build a home on a large lot with their son. We enjoyed checking out the partially built homes in the area and discussing the pros and cons of each design. Many of the homes were almost 100% windows in the front, which was an interesting concept but provided no privacy. We could see every detail of the lives of those who did not draw their shades or curtains. I’m not sure I’m a big fan of this design even though I love the natural light. From there we went to Utrecht - Janbart and Monique’s home town - and got our laundry done at Janbart’s laundry mat. More correctly, his son’s laundry mat as he has taken over the family business from Janbart and now occupies an upstairs apartment. We got the 100% family discount too which was nice, so I can return to Albi at least with clean clothes in my bag! We lunched in the sun at the old fish market in Utrecht, strolled around the shops and streets and J&B told me about their upbringing, how and where they met and some of the history of this beautiful city. It surely must be one of the prettiest in Holland and maybe even Europe, full of vibrant young students, green spaces, canals and cobblestone streets. I got a tour of the neighbourhood Janbart grew up in and got to see the house Monique lived in when she left home some years ago!
All too soon my visit was over and we were on our way back to Schipol. I got a return flight from Bordeaux for only $200 Cdn so this was a very cost effective side trip. Aside from Ryanair there are many different low cost carriers operating in Europe now and the flight was less than half the cost of a train ticket which also would have taken the better part of a day each way. I will land in Bordeaux at night, get public transport back to the RV and set about a strategy for the coming days. I have a couple small projects to complete including installing a battery monitor on the second house battery, installing some lighting and a fan. I will also try and find a sports bar in order to watch hopefully some of the Ryder Cup, and I might take the scooter back to La Rochelle and catch a day of the boat show if the tolls are not too high. Then I have told Gin I will find us a good ‘base camp’ for some biking in the Bordeaux wine region for a few days before we head to the coast where we will spend the last few days before I have to return to work. We haven’t quite made it to Valencia in fact I think we’ll only get half way, but Gin’s Canada trip came a bit unexpectedly and we knew our plan was fluid from the start. The weather has been so good that we have to take advantage and see all we can. Once we leave France things will become harder as the language barrier will challenge us, so we’re in no real rush at this point. And who could pass up some sunny days cycling amongst the vines and castles of probably the most famous wine region in the world?
Here’s hoping the fine weather and warm temperatures continue for a few more weeks.
All the best from France.
Derek and Ginette
Bordeaux, FranceRead more