NB: The majority of the photos taken in the blog were shot by my amazing husband, Nick.
We decided about a week before we went, that we would go for a trip to the Netherlands, as an early birthday celebration. I had been looking up USO & RTT tours on base, and one was due to leave for the Keukenhof Tulip show the same weekend. Nick was like ‘well, why don’t we go and do it ourselves and make a long weekend out of it?’ – so that’s just what we did.
On Friday, we set off for Amsterdam. The goal was to get there by 1400, but unfortunately, as with anything left to the last minute, it didn’t quite work out like that. We took the following route:
Unfortunately, the road leading up Germany on the west side was full to the brim of staus. Stau is the word that Germans use for traffic jams. We would just get up to 130km again and then boom – stau. We didn’t get to Amsterdam until 1800 (roughly 8 ½ hours of being on the road).
Tag ein (day one)
On a recommendation from a fellow spouse, I booked accommodation at Zaan Inns in Zaandam. On the map it looked a decent distance from the city centre, but in reality it was only a short 10 minute train ride and it was right next door to the train station. We could only get a twin room, but the beds were pushed next to each other, and as it turned out I had a cold so Nick was probably relieved to have the ‘bed’ to himself.
I took some Advil and we set out to the city. It was raining, and our shoes leaked, and we had to buy Nick an umbrella. To be honest – it was miserable. I was coughing and sneezing and aching, it was raining, it was cold, dark and we were both grumpy. The only thing we’d eaten was McDonalds for lunch somewhere in the middle of Germany and we were regretting that.
We then got lost.
In all my wisdom, I didn’t see the point in getting the tram cars once we got into the city, because I couldn’t figure out their route compared to where we needed to go, so we set out on foot despite my fever-like condition. We were trying to get to the Anne Frank house, but the maps we were getting given by people when we asked for directions didn’t appear to match up with street names. We walked in circles and eventually made it to the Anne Frank house.
By this point we were starving, which is probably ironic going through the house. I was humbled. I had read the book as a girl around age 10 and had become obsessed with Anne and her struggles. I ended up reading book after book on the topic, and I find it crazy that I was able to go in the house where she wrote the book. I could see the church that she talked of. I walked where she walked. Although it is 70 years later, the postcards she put on the walls spoke of her eternal youth. Nick hadn’t read the book, but was still touched by it and amazed by the two storey house they had managed to build inside of the spice factory.
After that, we were both exhausted and both had wet feet from our shoes that couldn’t withstand the Amsterdam wet, so we went back to the hotel and slept.
Tag zwei (Day two)
We opened the curtains and looked out to another overcast, cold day. Fortunately, it wasn’t as chilly as we thought it would be and didn’t rain once all day!
We had a delicious breakfast at the hotel of cheeses, fruits, cereals, crossaints and other European delights. Nick was perplexed by me taking my crossaint, cutting it in half and pouring some chocolate hail and then eating the crossaint with it’s delicious chocolate centre. Weird kiwi 😉
Disaster struck around 9am. As we were dressing, I checked our bag for underwear. None. Somehow I had managed to forget my underwear. Nick had some, but I didn’t want to wear boy undies. There was only one thing that could be done. We had to go and buy me some undies, first stop of the day.
After the disaster was dealt with (I had to change in a dodgy Indian restaurant bathroom), we decided we would wander, and see where the canals and streets of Amsterdam would take us. We followed the crowd until they disappeared and we ended up at 3 different markets that day by doing this. We looked at Amsterdam bikes and will probably be going back to buy a couple of cruisers once we get a bike rack, they were reasonably priced, old and had a lot of character. Exactly what I love!
We took photos. Photos of anything that caught our eye. There was a lot of graffiti in Amsterdam, but somehow it just worked. This place is grungy. It has a dark undertone. But it all works. We passed many ‘coffee,’ sex and cheese shops. While we didn’t partake in the prior two, but I swear we ate our own weight in cheese samples.
In the evening we took a cruise around Amsterdam canals in a boat. It was interesting to see that we had managed to wander all the sights on foot that day; and it was cool seeing them from the boat.
By then, my cold had worsened, so it was time to go back to the hotel to sleep. My eyes were bloodshot from taking Dayquil to keep me up and active all day, and I think I looked like I had been enjoying all that ‘Amsterdam had to offer’ which Nick thought was hilarious – especially since I was paranoid about people thinking such!
Keukenhof Tulip Festival
We’d purchased tickets already, so we could choose what day we went. We originally were going Saturday, but since the weather didn’t partake, we decided to push it back to Sunday. That was the best decision we could have made!
As soon as we walked in the gate, my breath was taken away. There was every type of tulip colour you could imagine. Everywhere you turned, it looked like a story book, and I think I will always remember how vibrant nature could be. There is a reason why they call it the greatest garden in the world, and if I hadn’t looked up the tours, I never would have even known the garden existed! Apparently my gramps had even been to this same show some forty years earlier.
Words cannot really describe what we saw, so the closest we can get to conveying it is by showing some photos. Here is a selection of the photographs, it was hard to choose what to put up here.
On the way home
We set off back home via a cheese and clog factory. A sweet young boy showed us how cheese was made, and gave us many samples. It was set in an old farm shed, and out the back were some of the cows and chickens. It was so beautiful to pull into a gorgeous Dutch farm with all the animals around, the chickens scratching at the ground and pecking away. The cows all turned their heads as we turned up as we were the only visitors. The barn cat rolled onto his back as we turned up so his belly could have a scratch and he purred with satisfaction as Nick gave him rubs.
We purchased some cheese. My favourite was the whisky cheese, and we also got some smoked and natural cheese. One of the interesting flavours was stinging nettle cheese! It tasted amazing. We will probably get some when we go back next time.
I asked the boy if we could go out and have a look at the cows in the shed. He took us out and let me feed the girls and give them pats. They were extremely friendly young ladies and wanted a lot of attention! He took us back to some of the calves that were born in the preceding days. One of them took a liking to my top and bag and constantly was trying to eat them. I loved them! He also found a broken egg in the hay bales and we found the little chick running around with his mum who had probably come from the egg.
And then, it was sadly time to go home. We took a short route home this time, and it only took around 4 hours to get back. We went home through Belgium, which was stunning, so we are planning to go back and see it when it isn’t dark and raining!
Until next time!