30 April ’04, Friday. Happy Birthday Queen Beatrix !!!! Well, we were there and so was the whole country of the Netherlands. We caught a shuttle bus up the street that took us right into town and smack-dab in the middle of the whole nation in celebration. The City was all decked out in ORANJE !!!!! Oranje, oranje, and still more. As you know, the Queen descends from the “House Of Oranje”. It was beyond our imagination (otherwise we would have STAYED HOME !!!). I would imagine this was what you would find in New York City for their New Year’s celebration. Solid shoulder to shoulder, butt to butt, chest to chest and everyone suffocating and looking for air….. Quite a kick for a while (actually a short while). We wanted out and there were those that still wanted in. We tried to tell them what they were getting into but they didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Dutch so it was a push and squeeze 20-30 minutes until we broke back out for good. Now we will take some credit for being dumb but this was our first time to see the Queen…. We did make it out and we did find a place to sit down for a while and we did have a lot of fun listening to all kinds of bands on just about every corner and we did some shopping and we did find the bus for our return so in retrospect a great time was had !!!! Just after we left the bus we found another happening just outside of the campgrounds. They were having Harness Racing. Well neither Louise or I had had this opportunity before so we got in on “Senior Passes” ($4 EU ea.), bought a couple of beers and sat on the grass, leaning on the fence (race track side) and watched the races….. GREAT FUN was had !!!! This was like having the race track right in your own back yard. For a fact you wouldn’t be allowed to get on that side of the fence in the States. Birthday Celebration still going on (we can hear the pop bands all this way), races over and hamburgers from the barbecue done…. Tomorrow….?
29 April ’04, Thursday. Heading North this morning started with a “Detour”. Finding this camp site last night was somewhat of a challenge but when we did we found it to be a very nice location right on a canal and bay front. Out of the way, Yes but worth it. Now getting back to leaving, just as we passed around a corner there was a barricade that we just couldn’t get around and we had to back up, turn around, and go off on a unmarked path following a dike for a looooonnnnggg time. Pleasant drive, wonderful day and we were still heading North. Not much of a change in plan. Our trip today was to take us to Denoever, across the Afsluitdijk and finish up at Groningen. Now the Netherlands is small and just about everywhere is flat, flat, flat. This is going to be the longest one day trip so far. We’ll travel about 100 miles today. The real find for the day was the Afsluitdijk. For literally 3 centuries the Dutch thought of draining the South Sea and create a huge tract of valuable farmland. So in 1927 construction started and in 1932 their job was done. They had divided the North Sea from the South Sea and Ijsselmeer was born. This is a large body of fresh water and another large body of land right out of the sea bottom. The river Ijessel flowed into the void as the salt water was no longer coming in. Fishing really took a hit but the farming industries prospered and still do today. The dike (dam) is 30km long and 90 meters wide with a series of locks at one end to allow ships and boats in and out. We had a chance to stop in the middle of the dam to see and read all about this project and we were really impressed. Our trip them took us to the “Lakes Area” of Sneek (Snake) and on to Groningen. We did pull of into a small village and made a sandwich about 2 and then headed on. On arriving in Groningen and finally finding our campsite we went to the Reception and the first thing they ask was “Do You Have A RESERVATION?”…. Why heck NO!!! Why would we need a reservation, it’s early Spring, North Netherlands, and only Thursday? Their reply was “It’s the Queen’s Birthday and SHE’S COMING TO TOWN IN THE MORNING !!!!” But, we do have a couple of openings so “that will be alright”…. We lucked out. We did know it was the Queen’s Birthday and we THOUGHT we had taken care of not being anywhere close to were she might be but, we were wrong. After setting up our pitch we donned our backpack and computer and headed off to find our internet café and check out the town before all heck was to break out in the morning. Well, we mis-calculated how far Centro was and we had a heck of a walk setout for us. We were finally fortunate in finding a internet café so we spent over 1 ½ hours up-loading over 2 weeks of journal. Then off to explore Groningen prior to the Queen’s arrival. The city was hopping!!! Banners, balloons, music stages, large TV screens, outdoor pubs, street vendors, TV cameras and all the equipment, and a lot of gawkers (us included). Tomorrow, The Queen Arrives and we’ll be there….
28 April ’04, Wednesday. Last night we decided to hole up one more day to see if we could get ourselves feeling better prior to Keukenhof. Well, that was last night… we did sleep in till 9:30 but after our hot shower and breakfast we were all checked out and heading off to see the gardens of Keukenhof and all the flower fields on the way. Very impressive sight with all the tulip, daffodil, and hyacinth. It truly was a rainbow of bulb variety all set among the huge trees, ponds, falls, and lakes. This was all put together by a sculpture of fine art. The sun was hidden until we arrived and when it came out we were shown a unique and magnificent display. I even hate to say it but the only disappointment was the food. Expensive and I wish I could say tasteless but, I can’t. We spent about 4 hours at Keukenhof and Louise got the map out and back on the road we went. We headed N, NE and ended up at Edam on the shores of “Markermeer”. First I would like to tell you about the Markermeer. This was a “Sound” of the North Sea until the Dutch decided to seal off the mouth of the inlet with a very long dike. Now this large body of water is all fresh water and is about 10 feet below sea level (North Sea). They also developed a large land mass and this became “Flevoland” (New Land). More on both of these later…. Edam used to be a renowned whaling port. Now it is not only known for it’s beach location, unique canals, hand operated draw bridges, but during the summer it is famous for its cheese market. Would you believe 250,000 pounds of cheese is marketed each year? The cheese industry and the whaling go back to the 15th Century.
As we were just getting into putting the meat on the barbecue the cloud cover started to build real fast and all of a sudden lightning and thunder started to let go on us. This was soon followed by rain of course. We were able to save everything just before the rain came in and as we sat down to eat we were treated to our second large thunder and lightning show in 2 nights. Tomorrow we will leisurely head North.
April ’04, Tuesday. We boarded the train for Haarlem at 10:59am. Alright, I know, the morning hours start a little earlier than 10:59…. First, I either caught my second cold or, because everything is in full bloom around here I’ve got an allergy problem. I just could not get to sleep last night…. my head felt like a stuffed medicine ball. Unfortunately Louise isn’t feeling up to par either so we’ll let all that answer our tardiness. Attached to the Haarlem station is the VVV (visitor information center) so we went in and purchased a map of the 2 walking tours of Haarlem. It seems that Haarlem was in a 2 year siege beginning in 1572 and lost most of their inhabitants. That was when the Flemish came into the picture. By 1621 the Flemish had established themselves at 51% of the inhabitants of Haarlem. The architecture shows us that today. Our walk took us to the Grote Markt. This Markt is were they had among other things, competing knights in tournaments. The town hall dates back to 14th century and was a hunting lodge belonging to the Counts of Holland (Now tell me, why is it that we HAD TO HAVE a new City Hall in Seattle? This one even looks better and it is a couple of years older…. Someday I’ll understand I’m sure). We then walked across the Markt and entered the Great Bavo’s Church. This is a late Gothic cross-shaped basilica with a slim-line wooden crossing tower. This church was built in 1445-1446. If you are in to the arts, Frans Hals the portrait-painter is buried here. Also in this church is a large Muller organ and was played by Mozart during his tour of the Low Countries. Walking further. we came upon one of the museums that we’ve wanted to see. The Teylers Museum with a striking neo-classical façade from 1878. This is the oldest museum in the Netherlands. There is a large display of fossils, coins, an electrostatic generator and a very nice collection of paintings and drawings which included Rafael and Rembrandt. This day was done for both of us so we decided to call it and head back to our pitch. As I mentioned yesterday, it is amazing just how much later it stays light here. When we arrived back it was already just before 7:30pm and the sun was still high in the sky… Well, hope we sleep better tonight. Tomorrow we are off to the tulip fields of Netherlands and the nationally known gardens of Keukenhof.
26 April ’04, Monday. Hello from Zandvoort, NL. We pulled away from Amsterdam after breakfast and headed West past Haarlem and on to the North Sea and Zandvoort. We stopped in one of the suburbs of Haarlem for groceries and didn’t stop until we found the gates of our next “pitch”. This was a short trip and we saw some beautiful countryside along the way. As usual for the Netherlands we enjoyed the architecture of all the homes and businesses and of course the wonderful canals. Our campsite is right across the road from the North Sea beaches and about 2 blocks from town center. We got “Bumble Bee" settled and headed out to do some exploring. The boardwalk is just across the street, so we walked towards town looking for lunch and exploring all the new sites before us. We came upon a sea food vendor in his outdoor kitchen/trailer. Let me tell you, everything that he had looked great so our decision wasn’t easy. The only thing that Louise and I totally agreed upon was next time we would only order 1 meal and split it. The portions we received were huge, with a capitol “H” and tasted fantastic. After filling our stomachs we continued our walk, looking out at the beautiful sea, the sunbathers (a few topless and still others completely nude), and some hardy bathers who even late this evening (8:45pm) headed into the cold waters. Zandvoort is celebrating it’s 700th Birthday this year. Heck, we think 100 years is a lot. Zandvoort was first settled on the 25th of April 1304. It started out as a fishing village and now, well, a “Sea Side Resort” complete with real nice Casinos, hotels, great restaurants, and one of the worlds best racing tracks. This afternoon there were time trials going on for national motorcycling competition. Zandvoort is a cozy village with lots of sidewalks and very few roads in the village it’s self. The beach has “Pavilions” all along the beach front. The first 7 are for those that want to bath in the “all together” with the remaining 28 to handle the rest of those that enjoy the beach. Now a Pavilion is a space that has a restaurant/bar with raised seating and bathing areas that are sheltered from the winds by being surrounded by glass. They also have private wind shelters that will handle 2 beach lounge chairs that line the beach area in front and down to just before the water high tide. Louise wanted to see the sunset tonight so about 8pm we wondered over to the beach to watch. Just around 9pm we saw what was just about “Sunset” as the sun went behind some low clouds and eventually went below the sea. Now this isn’t the 26th of April back in Seattle with the sun still shining at 9pm. Tomorrow Haarlem and then back here for the “Nudist Beaches”.
25 April ‘04. Sunday. A full day at the van. Cleaning, arranging, airing out everything, laundry ($14.50 for 2 medium loads self serve), haircuts for both of us at the van, and a run to the bank machine. Even had a chance for a little sun bathing…. Over all, nice day !!!
24 April “04. Saturday. On our first trip into Amsterdam we came upon a small shop that was selling antique bath hardware. She had some of the most beautiful and unusual bath and kitchen sinks, tubs, and hardware we had ever seen. Anyway, she told us of a side trip that we might want to take. Well, today’s the day and we will be going out to Purmerend. We got off the tram at Central Station and looked for the bus that would take us to our destination. It wasn’t long and we were boarding and I asked the driver if our passes that we had been using for all our transportation would cover this trip as well. He said it would so off we went. Purmerend is a nice little town with some wonderful architectural styling all over town. This town has a lot of single family and duplex type of housing. They are small and have small yards in most cases but are really a wonderful site. After a lot of site-seeing and shopping (what else) we boarded the bus back to Amsterdam. Well, this bus driver saw our pass differently and we had to pay to get back…. Well it was a good day anyway.
23 April “04. Friday. We heard that we could ride the city ferry “FREE” so guess what we did first thing this morning? Yep, we jumped off the tram and immediately headed through “Central Station” and jumped on the ferry. The ferry takes you across the river to the islands of Amsterdam. The long ride took about 10 minutes but IT WAS FREE!!! When the ferry landed we chose a direction to walk in and just enjoyed the great weather that we have been having and a wonderful community on the other side of Amsterdam. Another site that we have been wanting to see was the “Flower Market”. What a wonderful market. It was set up for about 3 city blocks all along one of the canals. You can’t imagine all the different flowers, trees, and bushes that were all on display. It was really wonderful for at least 3 of our senses. The rest of the day was just exploring the city street by street, and store by store.
22 April ’04, Thursday. Today our first stop is The Van Gogh Museum. This is one of the most modern buildings in Amsterdam and has the world’s largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh in the world. It was really great to be able to see over 200 paintings by one of the worlds greatest artists. As it was looking at Rembrandt’s works, seeing a print or picture of one of the “Greats” work has nothing to offer as does the original right there in front of you. My personal observation was Van Gogh had his good days and he had his other days and his work would show it. When he was in the grove he was really in it…. Van Gogh had a troubled early start in his adult life. He started out working in a gallery but was fired. He then gave the ministry a go as his father did and he failed at that. He really wanted to paint so he fought hard and long and finally sold his first painting. After a little success, experimenting with different lighting and color mixes, a long fight with a rare type of epilepsy with a long stay in a hospital, staying with his brother over and over again he took his own life at an very early age. What a tragedy.
We needed lunch so we headed for the deli and got what we would need. Out the door to a close by park and enjoyed a wonderful picnic. Then off for a tour through the canals of Amsterdam. We have heard over and over that we “had” to take this tour because it is one that even those that live here never tire of. The countless, lavishly decorated facades standing side by side boarding and somewhat protecting the canals. The unique bridges, each and everyone unique to the other, crossing at all angles and making those that go under them feel like they must duck or loose their head. The greenery of all the trees whose branches hang low over the water help make these 17th Century canals a wonder of their own with the lure to come back because you didn’t see everything. Then heading for the tram and back to “Bumble Bee” for a great barbecued dinner, a bottle of good wine and making plans for tomorrow.
21 April ’04, Wednesday. Hard to get to the showers this morning but we make it. Back to Bumble Bee for breakfast of eggs, bacon, and “Nescafe Espresso”….can’t beat that can you? Do a little pick up around the pitch and the van and head off for our second day in Amsterdam. This day was planned and made us both “happy campers all day long. Our first stop was going to be Rijksmuseum. They have on display the very best of it’s collection “The Masterpieces”. One of the many was “Rembrandts “Jewish Bride””. Other artists without naming them all were, Jan Sateen, Frans Hals, and Vermeer. Over 400 masterpieces are in view. But, before going on I must tell you we came across a great street market just prior to the Rijksmuseum and we spent at least 1 ½ hours there. Now back to our leaving the museum, we headed east for a couple of blocks for our third stop for the day…. The Heineken Experience. The Heineken experience started May 17, 1867 and is still going strong today. This is the second largest brewery in the world. The tour was a “self tour” with 2 stops on the way to taste the cold refreshment of a “Heineken”. We felt that we really got our monies worth out of this tour. This wasn’t going to be a long day so after stopping off at a grocery store we caught our tram back to the camp grounds and fired up our barbecue. Tomorrow….. Big day planned.