A Travellerspoint blog

Day 86, Noordbroek

storm 13 °C

It rained all night. The wind blew, the house creaked. When we woke up and peaked out the window, it was all the same. The rain blew in visible sheets on the gusts of wind. It was dark and stormy and we went for breakfast. We ate slowly, dragging time. We spent an hour nursing a cup of coffee. When we thought we could wait no longer we went downstairs and told our host we were leaving. She disagreed saying if we waited another hour the rain would blow away. We stayed until 1100, our Belgian friends left at 1020. It didn’t stop raining, the wind didn’t stop blowing and the temperature didn’t rise above 13 degrees.
It was funny at first, the flowers lay flattened by the rain, the fog limited our visibility and the wind, at 30km/ph had us struggling to stay upright. Then, when we felt the wetness sink through our jackets and then through our shirts, we stopped laughing. The cold felt colder and not one inch of us wasn’t wet. We strayed off the planned route, we needed to get there faster.
We stopped at a grocery, dripping water all over the floor as we shopped for buns, egg salad and boterkoek. We kept going, the last 10km dragged on. When we finally got to our next accommodation we were spent. We parked our bicycles in the barn and were shown to our room. The house was very old and very big. We stripped off our soaking clothes and jumped in the nice warm shower. We dressed in our comfiest clothes and found the lounge room, a beautiful grand room with large windows and plenty of formal chairs. The carpet was plush and soft and the coffee was free. Shane and I found a 500-piece puzzle to occupy ourselves and we turned the fireplace to warm the large room.
We chatted with the owner of what used to be a working dairy farm and is now more of a large party venue. It is still a working farm, but in a far smaller capacity. Our Belgian friends came to the house around 1700, dripping wet as we were. We did our laundry with permission and cleaned up the finished puzzle.
Dinner was very, very delicious. Mustard-leek soup (that Shane loved!), fried pork with beans and potatoes from the garden. We were fed very well. After dinner, as were plotting our route for the following day, the owner of the farm came by the take us for a tour of the facilities. He was a funny guy and we all shared a few laughs. We settled back down at the table again, this time with a few beers. Our friends told us about the places we needed to see in both Bruge and Brussels, unfortunately they wouldn’t be in Brussels when we were, they were headed to Germany. They also gave us some beer and chocolate recommendations, very important.
The beds were so comfortable and we were so exhausted that we slept solidly through the night.

Posted by s-a 17:12 Archived in Netherlands Tagged biking Comments (3)

Day 85, Noordlaren

semi-overcast 25 °C

Today we:
biked 70 kilometers
biked 65 kilometers against the (very strong) wind
saw the Wadden Sea
nearly died
smashed into one telephone pole
stuck one person’s foot in another person’s spokes
bought raspberry jam from a road side stand
drank a beer half way through
waited for three draw bridges
tried to feed the cows
got lost many many times
had a fantastic dinner

Posted by s-a 23:03 Archived in Netherlands Tagged biking Comments (8)

Day 84, Pieterbruen

sunny 26 °C

Once again we were up and at ‘em way to early, we both rolled out of bed at 0720 cursing my name. Breakfast was pleasant, although slightly awkward, Betty didn’t seem to be loving her job. We skipped out right away, we were cycling down the road by 0830. The written instructions are not all that easy to follow, so throughout the day we get lost. It’s a darn good thing we have that GPS (finally!)
Shane said this tour should be called the capbells-soup-sore-butt-broken-head-church tour because in every tiny town we went through the highlight was some old church. Most of them were closed, but there was one we did see inside. It was in Eenum (population: 116) and built sometime around 1175. It was pretty small, but neat.
We kept biking and soon we were in Zeerijp, this is where Shane met Jose, the bump on his head. You see, Shane, being a boy thought it was awesome that there was a zipline in the park, he had to try it. As you can see in the instructional video at the end of the post all you need to get a Jose for yourself is: 1. A heavy piece of plastic on a chain 2. wet slippery grass and 3. a fast speed. If you combine these ingredient you might come away with a brain injury. We stopped at the next building with people in it, a cafe. This cafe was on a farm and in it we found strawberry-quark cake and coffee. (I also found a milk and sugar set for 7 euros!) We nursed Shane’s massive headache for a while. He was in serious pain. (Don’t worry moms I didn’t let him sleep!)
After an hour or so we got back on the bikes, we had about 30 more kilometers to go. We stopped every so often to see how lost we were and continued along. We left the cow and sheep farms for agricultural fields. The four main crops in this area of the Netherlands are: potatoes, sugar beets, onions and wheat. My favourite though was the glistening fields of golden wheat, they were beautiful.
We popped into a bakery in Uithuizen and asked them to make us a sandwich. They did, meat and cheese and margarine. Yum. We were getting really tired by this time and our butts hurt! We kept going and going until finally, around 1430 we reached our next farmhouse. Clearly not expecting us for a few more hours our hostess, Lei, calmly invited us in. We had a cup of coffee and she showed us our room. The house is stunning, unlike our room at Betty’s where everything was old (and beautiful) this house was all brand new (and beautiful.)
We showered, washing all the bug guts off our skin. I got hit with a fly in the tongue and a kamikaze bee flew into my eye, oh the joys of bicycling. Dinner was quite nice, a real good tomato soup and a delicious spinach and potato pie. We talked politics tonight around the dinner table with our Belgian neighbours. With all the fresh air we were asleep in no time.

Posted by s-a 22:15 Archived in Netherlands Tagged biking Comments (4)

Day 83, Oosterwijtwerd

sunny 21 °C

What is with all this waking up early stuff? We are on vacation for goodness sake! We woke up early and scarfed breakfast, we had a train to catch. A taxi was called and we drove to the train station. For the next four hours we were on four different trains. From the first train we had a two minutes to connect, the next one five. We had left an hour earlier than scheduled but this was necessary, you just never know when Gary is going to throw a tantrum.
We were in Appingedam be 1202 and as promised Jim was waiting for us. He and his wife Betty started this cycle tour ten years prior. He drove us to their farmhouse in Oosterwijtwerd, about 10 km away. We had a room in their house for the night and rented a bicycle from their shop out back. Shane carried Gary up the teeny-tiny stairs and we hurried out to adopt our new bikes. We took off down the road, the bikes were so nice! Cruising through fields and beside cows, until we got to the dreaded highway. We found out the hard way that a circular sign with red around it and a picture of a bike means that bikes are NOT! allowed! Unfortunately once you are on this road you can’t get off. Countless cars honked as they passed us.
We were relieved when we got off the road in Appingedam and onto the bike paths, but we didn’t know where to go! We had no map AND it was Sunday-nofunday, so everything was closed. We cycled around for a while until we spotted what we wanted, fried kibbeling. Man, this stuff is so good! I do realize it’s only fried cod, but it’s the best fried fish I’ve ever had. We tried not to inhale it...
When we got back to the house Shane passed right out, he was so tired. Without internet I was going crazy, there were no English books and it had started to rain outside. So I reorganized Gary and took all the extra stuff out of our bags, he was going to spend the next few days banished to the garage. We took our showers and went down to dinner at 1830. We dinned with a Belgian couple and their two year old daughter. They are on the same tour as us, so we will be eating with them the next few nights.
Dinner was okay, I was a little choked that considering how much we are paying for this tour we were served Campbell's tomato soup for a first course, but I got over it fast. Dinner was a delicious bolognese pasta. At 1930 we went back upstairs, promising to be down for breakfast at 0730. Not knowing what to do all evening we turned on the tv for the first time in 11 weeks. Wonder-of-all-wonders it was in English! The subtitles were in Dutch but the shows were speaken ze Engles. YES! We watched some pretty funny shows, Sarah Palin’s Alaska, CSI Miami, Boarder Patrol. And we capped off the night with some scary show that gave me nightmares. Thanks honey.

Posted by s-a 22:06 Archived in Netherlands Tagged biking Comments (5)

Day 82, Apeldoorn

overcast 22 °C

Our first task of the day was to visit my Opa’s sister, Tante Ali. She and her friend, my Tante Tini live in Apeldoorn, so we decided to pay them a visit. We asked the guy at the front desk if we could rent bikes for only three hours, it was a 4km walk after all. He decided no, that he would only rent them for the day at 9.50 euros a piece. No less. There was no way we were giving that stupid guy so much money so we started walking. We made it 1.5km down the road in the rain for flowers. It was 0945 and we weren’t sure what to do. We had 5.5km to walk to their house and only 45 minutes to do it.
We decided to walk to the train station where there were sure to be taxis. We got a price from the first driver we saw. The price was 16 euros, so TAKE THAT HOSTEL GUY! WE SAVED 3 EUROS! We got there with time to spare. We nervously pressed the bell and scampered up the stairs. Tante Ali was waiting for us at the door. We said our hellos and entered the apartment, it was beautiful! So big and bright! It had been 10 years since I saw them last and we caught up right away. We looked through the old picture books of my dad as a kid, they were so cute! Oom Teun (my Opa’s younger brother) came by part way through our coffee. He is an English teacher here in Apeldoorn, which made the conversation very easy (not that Tante Tini and Tante Ali’s English wasn’t great, it really was!) We had a few more cups of coffee before Oom Teun drove us back to our hostel.
Shane called Wÿnand right away to let him know we were available. He would come in an hour. Shane and I honed our Dutch while we waited. I learned ‘What are you called’ and ‘How old are you’ to ask the little boys of course. We ate two stroopwaffles each for lunch. (When Ina gave these stroopwaffles to me, three year old Thomas asked his mom why she was giving his stroopwaffles away! So cute!)
At 1330 on the dot Oom Hans and Wÿnand picked us up from our hostel. They took us to Nunspeet where we climbed six stories to the top of a tower. We called this the Eiffel Tower of the Netherlands because you could see quite far from the top. We drove the round about way to Elburg, a town totally surrounded by a filled moat. It was built this way, with the town wall and moat 700 years ago, finished in 1296. We drank coffee on the bustling street watching the people come and go, Saturday style. Our hosts told us that the town used to be a hub of fish activity, with boats bringing fish from the North Sea to the rest of Holland. This was the case, until 1932 when a dike was built north of the town and the fishing boats stopped coming. The body of water the town lies on gradually changed from salt water to fresh water and tourism became the main industry.
With coffee done we walked just a block or two until our pride was put on a line. We had to try raw herring, there were no options. We chucked our heads back and took a bite, then it was with all determination that we swallowed it. With that one out of the way we found ourselves looking at a tray of pickled herring. This one was much better, I love anything potent and vinegar-y, we actually quite enjoyed it. So I advise unless you are under high peer pressure, do not try the raw herring, I’ve done it for you, it’s not good.
We walked another two blocks to the old marina, where the fishing boats used to dock. Now the boats are for show, but they are neat nonetheless. Wÿnand disappeared into a shop while we wandered around the water enjoying the view. When he came back he was carrying a try of fried kibbeling. It was great! Light and crunchy. We ate it with gusto.
We drove to Wÿnand and Henrike’s house. They live in a beautiful townhouse they’ve almost entirely re-done since moving in a few years ago. Henrike has beautiful taste in decor, the entire house was a treat for the eyes. We looked at pictures from their wedding and of Noah’s first months of life. It was very nice.
They drove us to Tante Lia’s house, where Oom Hans was frying up pancakes like no tomorrow. Almost as soon as we got there Noah woke up from her nap. We were very excited to see her. She is such a happy little baby, at 10 months old she’s nearly walking but her knees are still a little wobbly! Oma and Opa came to the house first and soon after Theo and Ina came with the boys. The house was full! Oom had made 75 pancakes and 20 minutes later there were only 8 left! (I think Shane ate about 10! Kidding of course, probably only 8!) Thank you Dutch family, for introducing us to speck IN the pancakes, this is a revelation for us! After pancakes we had ice cream and with all that sugar the boys were very hyper.
We played with the boys for some time while coffee was being prepared and took our turns holding Noah. Before Oma and Opa left we took a family picture, one I’ll always cherish. Bringing the camera out however, was the beginning of the night for the boys. They absolutely loved it, for the next half an hour they would pose for pictures doing goofy faces and then run around and look at what they had done. Their giggles and my laughs filled the evening. They also loved taking the lens cap on and off over and over again and trying the stick their eyes to the hole while I snapped the picture of what they were seeing. It turns out you don’t need a language to have fun with little boys.
All to soon it was time to leave, we said goodbye to the family and hopped in the car with Theo, Ina, Jack, Thomas and Lawrence. I sat between Ina and Lawrence, trying to talk but totally enthralled in Lawrence’s silly games. Baby laughs are very addictive for me. Another round of hugs and kisses and we were calling “Doei! Doei!” The weekend was over, we were sad to see them go.

Posted by s-a 21:28 Archived in Netherlands Tagged apeldoorn Comments (7)

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