I need to jot down the events of the last two weeks to document the memories! Jenna arrived on the 20th of April and we toured sights in three countries in six days! We started with Brugge, one of our favorite places. I think it became one of her favorite places, too. We did the brewery tour at Halve Maan, which Dick and I missed on our last visit. Jenna and I took the train into Maastricht the next day after she caught up on sleep. The Friday market was in full swing and we were able to get some kibbling. Next up was Aachen to get a taste of Roman history and German. In Cologne, we did the walking tour and the chocolate museum (highly recommend!). Jenna got to experience delicious bratwurst and saurkraut at a German restaurant. I had sauerbraten for the first time and Dick had liver (ick!). We had an amazing day on Monday: Kinderdijk, Keukenhof and Sushi! The windmills at Kinderdijk are a lot of fun to see and we managed to stay dry the entire time. Keukenhof! What can I say in words that are befitting? It’s glorious and you really must experience it in person. I’m so happy that Jenna was able to do that with us! I know it’s something we will never forget. After we saw every flower, we drove to Haarlem. We found a great sushi place and gorged ourselves (it was all you can eat). Jenna and I stayed at a barely adequate hotel in Haarlem that night and took the train into Amsterdam the next morning. We had another great day: canal tour, Heineken tour, Albert Cuyp market, Musuemplein, Vondel park and more. Whew! It was so sad to see her leave and for the first time I felt very homesick.
After we dropped Jenna off on Wednesday, we headed to Friesland to spend a few days with Els and Frans (Dick’s cousin and husband). It ended up being a long drive because traffic was backed up in several places along the highway. We arrived in time for a delicious dinner and settled into their gezellig huis. Thursday was Koiningsdag or King’s Day, which is a national holiday in NL. April 27th is King Willem Alexander’s birthday and this year he is 50, which made it even more of a big deal. The King visits a different city each year to celebrate and this year it was Tilburg in Brabant. The celebration was televised and we watched some of it to get a sense of what King’s day is all about. The main event in almost every city and town in NL is a rommelmarkt or vlooiemarkt (flea market). Yes, the Dutch celebrate the King’s birthday by selling and buying unwanted stuff! We went to Leeuwarden where there was a huge flea market. I bought an Oswald Chambers devotional in Dutch and Dick just had to have an upside down light bulb lamp thingy. Frans is very familiar with the city and gave us a little tour. There are some beautiful old buildings there. We had a nice lunch at the old weighing house in the square. The drive back was a scenic tour of the Friesland countryside. It’s so beautiful!
On Friday we had a relaxing day eating, chatting and walking around the environs of Oldeholtpade. We learned so much from Els and Frans. Later in the day we travelled to a nature preserve for an evening canoe tour. There were two tour guides, each in a boat with us and another couple in a third boat. The guide with Dick and I graciously spoke English during the tour thanks to a tip off from Els! It was such a lovely outing with beautiful sights of birds, water and sky. The guides were very knowledgeable about the local flora and fauna. Much of this area is sort of being reclaimed and restored with birds and animal species coming back to the habitat. At one point, we canoed down an little inlet and floated in silence for awhile listening to the birds. So peaceful and soothing! We were out on the water for over two hours and the time flew by. We left Els and Frans Saturday morning feeling rested and encouraged by our visit with them. Dick had to work a little while we were there, so I probably felt a little more rested than he did!
On our way home Saturday, we stopped at the Hoge Velluwe National Park. Inside this park is the Kröller-Müller Museum, which has a large collection of Van Gogh paintings and a huge outdoor sculpture garden. Just inside the entrance to the park, there are free bikes available to ride throughout the park. We rode the bikes first to the information center, where we stopped to eat our packed lunch, and then on to the museum. The park was a lot of bush and not as picturesque as we though it would be. The museum was nice and the sculpture garden was cool, though we didn’t leave enough time to see it all. We decided to travel further towards home and stopped in Roermond for dinner. A tasty dinner at an Irish pub was gratefully consumed and then we did a short walk around the market square. We need to go back and spend more time in Roermond some time.
Sunday was Dick’s birthday and we agreed that it would be a quiet day of relaxation. It was a beautiful weather day and we enjoyed being home!