Holland and finally some sunshine

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Get your Canada socks on daddio!

Feeling of two minds about leaving London, UK. Mostly not wanting to leave because we both really liked it here. We both love the bustle of the big city.

We love the many parks that seem to sprinkle the parts of the city we have seen. The transportation like the Tube here are phenomenal. In the early to late evening people are milling about and eating or having drinks in restaurants on the street. At any rate our London experience has been great (except for the sore feet and rib thing, nothing really to do with the city itself). On the other hand it is absolutely crawling with people and traffic, way too busy for our laid back Canadian sensibilities. It is not really that noisy for sleeping but down it on the streets during the day it can be really noisy. Plus, to us, the traffic is all going the wrong way. Anyway I am torn about leaving and we both want to return.

 For me, just walking the couple of blocks to Paddington Station was torture. My suitcase is way too heavy. I had to leave my raincoat, a pair of grey pants and a white scarf. I had purchased them all from charity shops so not worry, hope it does not rain much. It concerns me that just the weight of my bag causes me such problems. We take the train out the Gatwick Airport, just south if London. From where we enter Gatwick we need to take a shuttle to the part of the Airport where out flight leaves from - Garuda Indonesia. It is quite a wait even after checking our heavy bags (did not cost extra) and going through security. This is the biggest airport I have been in anyway, by the way. It is massive!

In North America flights usually have a quick airplane taxi and your off. Not here! There was a long taxi ride on the runway both taking off and landing in Amsterdam. We really had only about a forty-five minute flight and did not think they would have time to serve us food. After eating vegetarian, Hindu food on the plane we landed in continental Europe - a first for me, Ken has been before.

The Airport in Amsterdam was were we went through customs and it was a huge airport, also. It was full of stores, high end stores. We were not there long before we had our taxing burden wheeled off to the train station once more. This train ride from Amsterdam to The Hague was a bit shorter than our flight. Out the window we saw flat farm land with many little canals, etc for irrigation. We saw our first windmill - oh how Dutch, I love it. I did a report on Holland in about grade two. I was sold on the place and wanted to come here since that time. Wise teacher to get us hooked so early, I think she might have been Dutch. At any rate, hear we are in the Netherlands, as it is called now. Can hardly wait to explore.

Den Haag HS - Very nice neighbourhood

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Wonderful day outside, except it looks like it might rain. Rain is forecast. I still have sore feet and sore left knee. To me this is very serious because we walk lots, our major mode of transportation. I love to walk. What can a walker do without use of their feet? I will not let this beat me, I will recover my feet and get walking again.

I kind of waste the day away, not doing much but Facebook and scurrying the internet for information on the Netherlands. I wanted to find shoe stores that sold Keen sandals for Ken and either Teva, Chacos or Merrels for me. It took a little searching and I found them. That gave Ken a destination to aim for in his hunt for comfortable sandals. It appears that the chain Bever sells Keens in the Netherlands and Ken found lots of places that sold the kind of shoes I wanted.

I also searched the internet for the food of the Netherlands. In Amsterdam in particular they have vending machines called FEBO (pronounced Fay-bo) which puts out some pretty interesting "real" food. A favourite was mentioned - kaassouffle (a cheese souffle). In Canada you do not get a anything close to that in a vending machine.

Many of the other food items were sweets. From licorice (called Drop here), pancakes, a type of peppermints, apple pie (yes, it originated in Holland) and a type of shortbread cookie, all sweet. They also have some non-sweet traditional items. Thick, pea soup, also mashed potatoes mixed with other cooked veggies then served with a thick type of sausage (smoked sausage) and not to be forgotten, Gouda cheese (pronouced "how-dah" or "hod-suh kaas") which here comes in young and old varieties. They also have a type of fish eaten raw and eel but that did not appeal to my Canadian appetite. They have a great deal of Indonesian food in the Netherlands. Ships sailed from here in the 1600's to find spices. They colonized Indonesia so their food became part of this culture, too. I can hardly wait to try some of the Indonesian food. I definitely want to try Naasi Goring. When I have tried it in Canada it really appealed to me (vegetarian versions, of course). I also found lots of veggie restaurants to try. I do not know the food in the Dutch language. I had to, for example, ask the check out clerk at a grocery store if the palella had chicken in it.

Most labels on food products are in Dutch, of course, I am sure it is the official language. We have been told that most people under sixty speak English and Dutch.

Friday, July 3, 2015

I actually felt like going into the city of The Hague. It seems to be a mix of the old and the new with lots of pedestrian walkways and lots of areas for bikes. We went to many shoe stores (poor Ken). I am trying to find either Merrells or Tevas that are my size, in the neutral colours I want. I have looked on line to try and find retailers that could have them and there are not many here. Ken wants Keens, only one retailer here.

I fail miserably at my shoe mission and will try in Utrecht tomorrow.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

We are off on another adventure on the train. The train station near The Student Hotel, where we are staying, will not get directly to Utrecht, NL where we are going today. We are going there because Utrecht is the beginning point for the Tour de France bike race. They are holding time trials there today. The city is expecting over a million people in the city today, yikes. We have been to cities hosting big events before so have a little bit of an idea of what to expect.

Our train ride has us going through the countryside of Holland. At one place we saw five windmills at once (did not take pictures unfortunately). There were also the more moder, big, white windmills. We saw narrow, long strips of land coming down from a farm to the rail tracks. In between many strips were narrow waterways. We saw many of these narrow fields with sheep and some with dairy cattle. One area had big tracks of land covered in glassed in greenhouses. We went through come towns and cities - the main one being Gouda - yes, the cheese is likely named after this place.

The Utrecht train station was teaming with people. From the station you were actually and quickly whisked into a mall of high-end stores. Out onto the streets it did not seem too terribly busy considering the million expected people for the race events. There were stores with flags and posters touting the race.

Trees had their trunks wrapped in yellow or pock a dot plastic as part of the celebration. We went to a sporting goods store, Perry Sports, that was a sponsor for the race. We saw marque tents set up with venders selling lots of cheese, flowers, clothes, shoes, etc. It was reminiscent of Mexico.

What was Utrecht like you ask?

There seemed to be many Hollyhocks blooming in the city in very unusual spots. Much of the city that we were in was closed to traffic and very pedetrian/bike friendly.

The buildings were old, saw one from the 1700's but many were older, up to medieval in oldness. This city has canals running through it with building built right by the canals. You went down stairs to where the canal was and there were walkways.

Right by the walkways were doors going into house, artisan studios and even pubs.

We stood and listened to a band playing and they were right on the waters edge. Looking down on the canals from the bridges you could see the romance of the canals, the long canal boats with holiday makers enjoying the view fromt their perspective, the little cafes and pubs with their umbrellas catching the sun.

Dom Tower, which we were able to walk through, is part of the tallest church in the Netherlands. It is a Gothic-style tower and part of Cathedral of Saint Martin. It was built between 1321 and 1382. It is really a free standing tower and is on the spot were Utrecht began almost 2000 years ago.

We walked to where the time trials took place. You could see the actual race from many huge TV screens in the city of in pubs. We wanted to see the real thing. We walked along the canal for what seemed like a long time. I was tired, hot and had sore feet (my shoes are killing me). Once at the choke point we realized all the races were over for the time being. The party was grinding to a hault. The amount of litter on the street was herendus. I have seen littered, partied out streets but this won the prize for the top of the heap. Plastic, squashed water bottles everywhere. We meandered our way back to Utrecht central. Now we could see where the number of a million people came from. It was crowded and hot on the walk back into town.

We had a specific lunch spot figured out and we made out way there - Cafe Derat. Upon our arrival we discovered cafe could also mean pub because they did not serve food in this over crowed, spilling into the street bar. It was wonderful though. The big table beside us got moved outside, odd you say. Not really considering that underneath it was the entrance to the cellar.

Ken went down with the owner to move around a few beer kegs. It was much cooler down there. The temperature had soared to thirty and was hot for here.

Time for a snack here. Wok TOGO.

There was a huge big bike set up like a sculpture with the year 2015 were everyone was getting their picture taken to commemorate the race.

Being a bit peckish we decided to try out an automated food despensing machine. The FEBO (pronounced Fay-bo). In Canada we have food dispensers for chocolate bars and chips but at a FEBO you can get hot, cooked food that is dispensed out of little doors. I read an article stating that a favourite was the kkaasouffle (cheese souffle), a puffed pastry shell with melted cheese inside. You put in your 1.50 for the food you want. It came to us on a little paper plate. It was very hot and reasonable tasty. Likely was not that health, but after all it was spood out by a machine that had held it inside its warming oven for who knows how long.

FEBO, our first hot meal dispensory

We went a different way back on the train but got to go through Gouda again. He figured out how to have us end up at the train station about two city blocks from our Hotel. We were so glad to have our own kitchen to cook supper. We were exhausted from out great adventure and wonderful weather here in the Netherlands.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

I was having a tired day. No wonder the amount of walking we did yesterday. Again my feet are sore and my calves are very tight. It is a concern but I think it is because of the poorly padded shoes. Gotta get me some sport sandals.

Today Ken was unsure of the new Keen he bought at Bever a sport shop here. The reason for the uncertainty (which Ken usually does not have about anything) was the troubles I have had with shoes and my feet and legs lately. Couple this with the fact that he usually wears a much bigger size. He was able to buy wide fitting Keens but in a shorter size. He just was unsure about it all working out. He took the shoes back and tried the bigger size which he found way too big. He walked up and down the little man made hills to see it all was ok. In the end he decide the shoes fit very well.

Monday, July 6, 2015

We did not get up early but we still managed to get a small workout in at the gym downstairs. Since we have the opportunity to use a gym we might as well take advantage of it. They have weights and mats for yoga plus stationary bikes.

We went to a huge mall called Megastores. I could not get information on exactly how big it was but it is of significant size and several floors high. It has many kitchen stores and bathroom stores. It also has furniture shops. In Europe I understand that you take your kitchen with you when you move from your house. The kitchens were different from those in North America. The styles were quite sleek with clean lines. The fridges and sinks were significantly smaller. The fridges were downright tiny and all had cupboard door panels overtop of the door. Some did not have freezers. All the sinks were single, not double. Often the silverware drawer was under the gas stove cooktop. There were no actual stoves, all the kitchens had cooktops with built-in ovens. They had narrow, pull-out, floor to ceiling pantries. The bottom cupboards were often drawers and drawers were the soft-close variety. Often the upper cupboards had flip-up doors that stayed up while you put something into it or took something out. The materials were different too, most were made of laminate both cupboard doors and countertops. There was only one place that had one style in solid wood doors and not granite countertops. Different, hey!

The bathrooms were different, too. It both bathrooms and kitchens we went into about four different stores to get this information. The toilets are attached to the wall not the floor, much easier for cleaning. The sinks were a sink and countertop combination and not very deep. I would guess you would get splashed when water came out of the tall taps. For powder rooms they had very small sinks, I am assuming to save on space. The bathtubs were bigger than the ones in North America.

After coming home for lunch and on our way downtown we bought "ov-chipkaart". This made it possible for us to take the tram around town instead of walk everywhere. My feet are taking a beating on the cement. The card is easier to use than cash. We went to the World Court building which is huge and built on the canal.

We were at Binnenhof which is their parliament building. It has a big central courtyard with brick, castle looking buildings on the perimeter and a little metal fountain in the center.

We went into or by a few museums to see if we want to return and we do.

We went into Hotel Des Indes. Here is the official description off TripAdvistor, " Historical grandeur and elaborate elegance. Hotel Des Indes is a haven of luxury in the heart of The Hague..." I checked and it is over $275. CAD to stay there. It was a treat even going in and taking pictures in the massive, well appointed lobby with several eye catching staircases.

Hotel Des Indes

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Today it is off to Rotterdam on the train.

We can used the same card we used for the city trams here in The Hague as a way to pay. We choose to sit on the second level of the train but you could feel the back and forth motion of the train more then I have ever noticed it before on other trains. Odd sightings from the train were a huge pheasant sitting on a fence for Ken. My odd sighting was a field of horses, many had on horse blankets, one had on a zebra stripped blanket. Poor guy did not know how dapper he looked.

We took the train not to downtown exactly but to the huge mall and public market. The highlight of Rotterdam, at least that we saw - Markthal. It was a huge multi-level building shaped similar to a huge Quonset on the prairies.

Inside, the basement level was a parking lot. Next level up was a grocery store. The main level was a market similar to Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver but massive in comparison. There were shops selling mustards and jams, deli meats, just cheeses, exotic fruit or mushrooms, dried fruit or nuts, olives spices from Morocco. etc. Then there were little shops selling their own delicacies in the food department, such as bakeries or restaurants selling foreign food I had never heard of before. Many of the restaurants displayed the dishes (the complete meal) they sold so that you would know what it was. Along the sides were shops such as the big oriental food market we went to for ingredients for a miso soup I make. Now if that was not enough, the tall ceiling was painted with scenes from nature like flowers, caterpillers, etc.- amazing. From the outside you could see that somehow people lived along the outside of the building in specially made apartments. This would be an amazing and lively place to live.

My first cannoli treat

Outside of this market building was one of the biggest markets I had ever been to and I have been to lots in Mexico. Each vendor was under a marque tent. Clothes of all discriptions, shoes, fruit and vegtables, electrical supplies, etc. were for sale. It went on for blocks.

We had a delicious wrap from a vendor for lunch. It started as a square flat pancake like thing with cheese and spinach put into the maiz or corn flour batter. I thought it was an omelette at first. Into this base was rolled finally chopped lettuce, carrots and cabbage. with a garlic type oil squirted on top and Sriracha sauce squirred, too. We think it was called a Gozleme and it was Turkish food. Sooo delicious!!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

In Canada when you have to do your laundry at a coin operated laundry mat you get your soap ready and your change. Once at the laundry mat you compete with others for machines and driers. Sometimes there is an attendant, if you are lucky. Often you lose money in the machines because they do not work as expected so you need that attendant to assist you.

Here at The Student Hotel is a mini-launderette, nothing fancy, three washers, three dyers, an ironing board and iron. It is a luxury to have a place to do laundry where you are staying when you have been traveling for awhile. It is quite different from what you would regularly expect. You do not put money in the washer or the dryer. There is a control box on the wall which directs both washer and drier. You also just get soap for the price of the washer. You are told how long each machine will take. It was efficient and easy to use. The machines worked and the laundry came out dry and happy.

The funky light in the laundry

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