Friday, July 30, 2010

Waiting for damage money

As you can see, we are looking totally stressed out about our damage settlement with Air Transat. Actually, we're having a very mellow July, and we enjoyed a lovely week at the beach at Port Burwell on Lake Erie. It did take some work on my part to put together the paperwork (letters, bills, etc) for our damage claim for two bikes. It was quite disappointing to see the amount of damage to my bike and to Matthew's bike. If I had any advice to give to other bike travellers, it would be to rent hard cases for bike travel. The cardboard boxes could not withstand the return flight mishandling. Now it's back to more relaxing, reading, writing, and sand castle building.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Home again, home again, jiggety jig!

Okay so it wasn't snowy, it was rainy when we got home. I needed a picture of my house and found a Christmas picture.
After 12 hours of travel, we made it home, and we were happy to see Ellevis the cat again. Our house seems enormous now!
The flight went well for us, and less well for the bikes. Pearson airport isn't quite as slick as Schiphol, and my bike sustained the most damage: bent forks, bent rear tire, lost seat post and seat. Matthew's box also was mangled and one tire is out of true. We'll find out Monday if my bike can be repaired. That was a big disappointment. We are all tired and ready for bed very early tonight! I already miss Holland. truste!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Matthew's birthday lego

When we got to Weesp we had to quickly go shopping for some lego for Matthew's birthday. Fortunately there is a Blokker, Matthew's favourite store, in this town, with Power Miners! Matthew is wearing his "voetball" shirt with Sneijder's name & number, which makes Matthew popular. A great win again last night, but a little noisy for us since the party room was on the other side of the wall from our room. Matthew and Sarah were so tired they slept right through it!

Oranje fever

I fit in a little with the locals with my orange stuff, but the family objected to being seen in public with me and my orange boa.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

All finished and all healthy and happy

We made it! Over 400 km of distance, and not a single flat tire! No big crashes, and the couple minor spills were very minor. We have so much to be thankful for; excellent weather, safety, new friends, wonderful family gatherings, and heathly bodies. Thanks to God the creator of this wonderful country and the keeper of us all!

Back in Weesp and Tired!

We made it back to Weesp, after 55 km, our second longest biking day. Everyone was tired and hot. Today is Matthew's birthday, and he says that his present is that he gets to stop biking.

Cooling down at Anneka's place

The cool water felt so good!

Anneke's awesome Dutch hospitality

Today we experienced one of those delightful moments of grace! We were biking along, about halfway to Weesp, and starting to think about finding a place for lunch. We overtook a female cyclist, and, no surprise at all, I started chatting with her. When she found out we were vacationing, she invited us to follow her to her campsite to have tea with her. So we agreed, and biked with her to her campground, where her caravan was permanently parked. The dock was on a beautiful body of water, and she made us feel right at home. We set out our picnic lunch, and Anneke brought out lemonade and other cold drinks and tea, and even cooked up a batch of delicious sausages for us. The kids fed the ducks and cooled their feet in the water. To receive the gift of hospitality is always a pleasure, but to have it so kindly offered by a stranger is an enormous gift. Rob and I agreed that we will strive to live our lives more like Anneka, and seize every opportunity to offer our hospitality to potential new friens! Thank you Anneka!

World cup beestjes from Albert Hein

World cup fever has taken over this country, and the grocery stores are no exception. These beestjes (little beasts) are given out by the Albert Hein grocery store with every fifteen euro purchase. The school kids all have them wrapped around their handle bars. These are the beestjes that ride on the back of Matthew's bike. Apparently the fishermen are trying to get them because they make excellent lures for bass.

Biking through National Forest

Again today we biked a good distance in the National Forest. The path was paved and so we flew through the woods. Then we biked past the Soest Dunes, which apparently are quite special. In the middle of the forest, you come upon the dunes, and it looks like a huge sandy dessert. We had another perfect weather day (four in a row!!) with sun and about twenty five degree temperatures. Today in fact was hot! We all have serious biker tan lines.

Last night's Lodging in Amersfoort

Last night we stayed in the Logie Tabaksplant in Amersfoort. At first I was worried that we were staying in a "coffie shop", but no, it was a regular lodging house which historically had been used to store tobacco leaves.

Another great picnic place

Everyday we look for a great place for a picnic lunch. On the way to Amersfort, we saw a beach area with green lawns and a huge trampoline! We had to force the kids to rest and eat lunch, and then they jumped some more!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Mill in Buren

Yesterday, while riding toward Tricht, we stopped in Buren at a park. Then came Hans, the miller's apprentice, walking through and he asked where we were from, and then he invited us to come see "his" mill. So Millar Bart and Millar's apprentice Hans took us to into the Mill and set the sails on all four arms of the mill. When they were finally done, the wind died, and the arms would not turn. It is a real working wheat mill, and it was huge. The leg span of the mill is 27 meters!

Fortified gate of Amersfoort

We walked through this gate to get to our Lodging house in Amersfoort. It is from the 12th and 13th centuries. Wow. We ate pizza in the town square surrounded by old buildings and a church and I thought, "we're having this euro experience here and no one is noticing anymore". The kids feel so at home here, they are no longer taking in how special and old and beautiful it all is.

Marker in the woods

We biked through National Forest for over an hour today on gravel paths on the way to Amersfort. Here, in the middle of the forest, at a bike and horse path junction, is this marker to make sure everyone gets where they are going.

Go cart on the fruit farm

The kids loved this go cart at our B&B outside of Tricht. They made up games like taxi, police, and delivery and played for a long time. Their legs hadn't pedalled enough during the day I guess!

Bird houses in the woods

As we rode through the forest between Schoonhoven and Tricht, we saw this villa in a clearing with this grouping of large bird houses.

Hay storage

We saw this type of hay storage often. This is on the way to Tricht.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Typical crowded hotel room

This is what most of our hotel rooms look like, with five beds crammed into one room. Beds become chairs, wrestling mats, card tables, picnic blankets, etc, etc. Everyone has to learn to keep their clothes organized in a very small space, and shoes have to go under beds. If you need private space you simply jump on your bed! This is our hotel in Schoonhoven, where we stayed for two nights. I left Rob and the kids here to veg. while I went to church Sunday morning. I attended the Herevormed Church in Schoonhoven and sat with the DeRuiters. They had a guest preacher and his sermon was exactly 55 minutes long; I timed it! I will never again think a 20 minute sermon is long. The minister preached on Acts 8, and I can tell you his point, because he made it at least 10 times. Good for me, because I only understood about 50%, so by the end, I got it. They were very kind and officially welcomed our family to Holland at the beginning of the service, and then the minister prayed that we would be blessed as we visited here and searched out our roots. Very sweet! I felt like a visiting dignitary.

Everything is geared towards bicycles, even garbages

Everything here is geared toward bicycles. Cyclists can simply throw their garbage into this basketball net style garbage.

The Best B&B ever

We are staying in a B&B called DeHoenderik outside the town of Tricht in Gelderland (Rob's Mom's region!!). This is very different than our other places, which have mostly been in cities. Now we are staying on a working fruit farm, surrounded by cherry trees, and our apartment is built into the barn. Best of all, the family allowed our kids to use their gocart and their trampoline. After 40 km of biking in perfect weather conditions today, the kids were hardly tired (they are getting stronger!), and had energy to jump for an hour. On the down side, the dairy farm across the road attracts millions of flies, so we have had to close our windows. This afternoon Jessica and Rob and I biked into town for groceries and Jessica and Rob had lots of sprint races.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chatting with Tante Sygje

We passed on greeting from Canada, and of course promised to return "groetjes" to Canada. We were very surprised and happy to see that some of the cousins had made an album with pictures so we could remember their names and their children too. They even included a picture of my family's visit to Canada when I was only 3! There we are with the same cousins that we were with today! I feel very thankful for the opportunity to see my family here! It was very gezellig!

Cards with the cousins

Matthew, Sarah and Jessica had great fun teaching the cousins how to play cheat with cards, and then they all had fun playing crazy eights and spoons. The Dutch cousins taught our kids their version of spoons and they play with poker chips and call it Donkey.

vanGils family reunion

At Huib and Ria's house we enjoyed a wonderful reunion of Aunts and Uncles and cousins. The house was full of relatives, and I kept thinking to myself, "These are my people, I belong here!!". Oom Wim and I remembered how when I was very young, he bought me a "Mrs. Beasly" doll, and I was happy to tell him that I still have her! It was so beautiful to see the effort that everyone made to come see us and to enjoy fellowship and food together.

Huib and Ria's modern milk parlour

We were very impressed with cousin Ria and Huib's modern milking parlour, where he brings 28 cows in at a time,14 on each side. This way one man can milk a 60 cow herd! The kids really loved the baby chicks, the black and white farm cats and the blind dog.

Goof and Danie's garden

We enjoyed visiting with Goof and Danie and we also saw their beautiful home and garden, of course with a small sloot or ditch, running behind their property. Danie and I share a love of gardening; as I admired her garden I wondered if my Lupins were in full bloom.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Oma's grave site

Goof took us to the Brantwijk church where Oma Neeltje Ijzerman Brouwer is buried. She died in 1944 after a miscarriage caused by the shock she experienced when a British plane crashed into the canal right by their house. Seeing the canal and the house made this childhood story suddenly seem very real and very sad. Another casualty of war. Near Oma's stone stand the three stones of the British airmen who also died in the crash.

Cousin Goof's bike shop

Rob and I left the kids resting in Schoonhoven and we biked to Vaulendam to see Goof Ijzerman's bike shop , the best bike shop in the region, according to Goof, and it sure looks like it to us! Rob bought a snappy jersey with the shop logo on it. We went on to Brantwijk to have coffee with Goof and his wife Danie and another cousin Hennie. Earlier in the day we had dropped in to see the Herevormed church in Schoonhoven and spoke with Bas de Ruiter, who asked who we were and then said he had known my Opa!! I mentioned that I'd like to attend church there in the morning. While we were having coffee at Goof and Danie's, the phone rang, and it was Mr. de Ruiter checking on our family name and whether we really would attend church, because he planned to welcome us. Kind of a small world, eh?

Storm clouds chase us into Schoonhoven

We had an easy 15 km ride into Schoonhoven this morning, and just before we got into town, we were chased by these dark rain clouds. We got wet, but quickly found our hotel Belvedere. Before we left our hotel in Gouda this morning, we met two friendly Brits who were on a cycling trip. Both were named Peter, and one pedalled a traditional bike and the other used a hand propelled bike attachment that worked with his wheelchair. Talk about an inspiration!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dutch girl by canal

Jessica is looking more and more like a Dutch girl with each shopping trip.

Cheese weigh house in Gouda

We had a tour of the Kaas Waag, or cheese weigh house in Gouda, built in the the mid 1600's. The open beams inside are from the original, and the original stone relief is mounted inside too. Our guide took us through the making of cheese and he gave us a real appreciation for what makes Gouda cheese have that salty flavour: it's the salt water from the North Sea filtered through the Ijssel, which makes the grass salty, which in turn makes the cow's milk salty in the farming region between Gouda and Utrecht. The farmers actually still bring their cheese wheels into this market square (or heart) every Thursday morning. Sadly, we came into town too late on Thursday to see them. You know how they say "everyone in Holland speaks English"? Once again, not true here. Our tour guide spoke no English and so I was nominated to be the translator.

Trapeze artist in front of Stadhuis in Gouda

The impressive stucture in the background is the city hall or "stadhuis" in Gouda, another Gothic style 17th century building. The market square around the building is actually in the shape of a heart, and the amazing trapeze artist flying through the air in the foreground is none other than the amazing Matthew Kloet. It was actually one of those cool trampoline get-ups where you harness in and can do backflips and huge jumps.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Miles and miles of greenhouses

As we left Delft, we biked for a solid hour through these greenhouses; nothing but bike paths and greenhouses for 15 to 20 kilometers! This must be the bread basket (or groente-vegetable basket) of the nation. No wonder Ontario growers come here to train and learn!

Utrechtse Dom

Another brilliant shot by Rob! This is taken from our second floor hallway looking down the two flights of stairs to the lobby of the Utrechtse Dom, our hotel right in the old city. These skinny, windy stairs take up much less room than our huge stairs at home. Our hotel is a short walk from the town centre with its old Stadhuis (city hall??) and Jankerk, which I hope to tour tomorrow.

Gouda; the land of the cheese wheels

Can you believe the size of these cheese wheels? Earlier today the girls and I wandered into this shop and I sampled many different types of Gouda cheese. The shopkeepers were happy to educate us; the waxed wheels can sit on a shelf for two months without refrigeration, and much longer if kept cold.

Ferry ride

Today was a two ferry ride day; everyone was happy to sit for a few minutes as the ferryman took us down and across the canal just outside of Gouda. We rode about 40 km today from Delft to Gouda, but it was a more difficult day because we had mostly headwinds. Beautiful sunshine all day again, and temperatures in the low twenties. We feel pretty blessed!

Bread boxes for bikes

While we stayed in Delft, we saw these secure lock-ups for bikes in the neighbourhood of our hotel. We realized we were on the wrong side of the tracks, and then we noticed some rough looking young guys checking out our bikes, which were locked up outside on the street. We were not happy with this arrangement, so once the hotel concierge went home, we snuck all the bikes into Jessica's room. They were still safe in the morning.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Second breakfast, picnic style

Our daily schedule when we travel looks like today;
breakfast at 7:30 in our place, this time it was a B&B in Leiden,
on the road by 8:30,
stop in the next town after 9:00 to pick up groceries for lunch,
find a picnic spot by 10:00 for sandwiches and snacks
(notice the great sneeze shot of Matthew?)
find a rest spot at 11:00, usually with a stroop waffle snack
stop for lunch at 12:00, today it was at a beach just outside Delft. (the funny part about the beach was the fact that it was a nude beach, normal for Holland, not so normal for my surprised kids....naked Opas and Omas...not so pretty.)

Canal shot in Delft

Another brilliant shot by Rob. This is the canal right in front of the Vermeer house.

The Girl with the Pearl Earring

We went to the Vermeer house in Delft and saw where Vermeer painted his masterpieces. I've been reading the novel "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" out loud to the kids on this trip (thanks Sharon!!), so it was pretty cool to see Delft today and compare it to how the book describes it in Vermeer's seventeenth century. We saw the canal where Griet, the maid in the book, has to collect wash water, and the market square in front of Nieuw Kerk where the Vermeer children played. We went into Nieuw Kerk where Griet tried to pray, the same church where Willem of Orange is buried. What a cool city. Lots of blue too.

Don't fall in the sloot! to Delft..

We biked 36 km today from Leiden to Delft, and for a while we biked alongside this canal. There was no barrier, just a drop-off into the water. Jessica has bet ten euros that Matthew would drive into a sloot on this trip, and today I was seriously concerned that someone might just do that. Fortunately, we all stayed on the road.

Windy day at the lake

We had dinner last night at a lovely lakeside restaurant that was close to our B&B in Leiden, and we watched the windsurfers. The wind held all evening, so all twenty windsurfers kept playing on the water.

The North Sea

At Zandfort aan Zee, we stopped for a break at the beach. The kids picked shells, and Sarah and I put our feet in the Sea. Brrr!
The good news was this: the wind was very strong, but it was a tailwind the whole day. This was a brilliant cycling day; sunshine, wind, twenty degrees and fun people. We made it into Leiden after about fifty kilometers and everyone still had energy to walk and play at a park.

The Dunes to Leiden

Yesterday we biked from Haarlem to Leiden, and about ten kilometers was throught the Dunes along the North Sea. The funny part was that the morning before, Rob and I had biked along this route without the kids (one of our before breakfast 30 km rides for exercise), and along this same route I saw about a hundred bunnies and about 30 deer. So I told the kids they'd be able to count bunnies and deer (so far we've been counting herons). Together this time we saw two bunnies and no deer. None. So now everyone thinks I lie. My theory is that these animals only come out in the early morning.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Good bye Haarlem

This was our last day in Haarlem, and what a day. This was the day Holland beat Denmark 2-0 in the World Cup! We watched some of the game in our room, and the rest we heard out in the streets. We walked around the market square, listening to the game through the open doors of all the packed bars. All we had to do was listen for the huge "hurrah" from the orange-clad fans, and we'd know who scored. Yeah Holland.

steep stairs in the windmill

We went up and down four flights of these ladder stairs during our tour. More impressively, so did our almost 70 year old tour guide. Another fine example of a fit and actve Dutchman.

our tour guide at the windmill

Our tour guide was a retiree who is part of this group of volunteers who support the windmill. He loved this windmill and was very happy to teach us the mechanics of the mill, the history of the city, and much detail about the polders and the construction and deconstruction of these windmills. I was most surprised to learn that all over Holland, they would deconstruct and relocate windmills when they were no longer needed in one location. How efficient is that. And, no screws, nails or other hardwared are used, only beams with wooden pegs, to make it possible for the windmill to "move" without breaking. Very cool.

Windmill Adriaan in Haarlem

This is one of Rob's better pics, the windmill Adriaan in Haarlem. It was rebuilt in 2002 as a working mill museum and we had a very enjoyable tour.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cool stretch bikes

We've seen many different types of bicycles, but this is one of my favourite designs. A child seat on the back, and room for several more children plus groceries in the front box makes this a vehicle that could replace a car. We've even see super stretch bikes with two child seats on the back and another on the bar in front of the cyclist. We've also seen several cyclists with a child standing on the back rack and loosely holding onto the parent's shoulders. No helmets of course. We've seen not one bicycle collision; everyone seems to understand these mysterious traffic laws. The closest we came to a collision was this morning on our bike ride when Rob and I missed a traffic light and rode into a stream of cycling traffic and got loudly sworn at by an angry Dad, with his small daughter glaring at us from her little seat behind him. Oh, and also the time I was studying my GPS and looking at the next turn and didn't realize I was on the left side on the bike path. I got called at "trut" by that angry cyclist. So much to learn. Oh, all the great photos are by Rob.

The story is true, apparently

The legend about the boy who stuck his finger in the dijk must be true, because here he is, at Madurodam.