Today we board our boat after we clear out of the Airbnb. Not enough time for the Van Gogh museum. Instead, we dropped our luggage at the ship then headed to the city center. We visited a beautiful old 17th century cathedral, St. Nicholas’ Basilica. Then we meandered through a bit of Chinatown and had some delicious stuffed rolls…melt in your mouth. Unintentionally we cut through a portion of the ‘Red Light District,’ talk about dehumanizing women. So sad. Near the ‘Red Light District,’ was a well located Salvation Army. Back at the boat, the Magnifique, we met our cast of characters; our shipmates and crew for the next 5 days. Each so delightful. Ingaborg is our hostess. A Dutch born, New Zealand accented, tall, Gweneth Paltrow like, fun, and engaging woman. Our captain was a 27 year old handsome, slightly shy German. He didn’t look old enough to be a Captain. I feel like that a lot lately about a lot of people. Our Chef was young and fresh out of culinary school. His skills were ample. We also had two 1st mates. They took care of getting our bikes fitted, among many other responsibilities. Yes, they too were extremely young. Among our shipmates we had: 6 Germans, including a sweet 7 year old boy; 2 Aussies, an older couple that made the word ‘extroverted’ sound boring. Of course, the abundance of wine didn’t hurt either; 2 Mexicans, a sweet couple that were also empty nesters; 1 very interesting Brasilian woman traveling alone. Apparently she’s an actress in Brasil. And of course, the 4 Americans, us. The ship can hold 32 guests. It was really nice having a smaller group. 😊 We had our first dinner on board as we sailed to Haarlem. It consisted of Bratwurst and Dutch and German potatoes. When we arrived in Haarlem there was ‘patchy drizzle.’<said in a Brasilian accent. Nevertheless, we had a brisk foot tour of Haarlem. Noted throughout the trip so far, the Netherlands make great use even today of the windmill. The old are quaint, the new are minimalist and quite nice as well. They do their job. It’s a very energy conscious country. We wished we had more time in Haarlem. Next time. Our first night on board was fun! We have some crazy, in a good way, shipmates. The rooms were well appointed. Each room had it’s own updated bathroom. Our room had 3 portholes with lots of light. We were very comfortable with our big fluffy European down comforters.
We sailed from Haarlem after breakfast and at about 11 am we disembarked to head off on bikes from the small village of Zaanstad to Alkmaar. About 20-25 kilometers. That’s a guess. I always wanted to be blissfully ignorant of exact mileage, er, kilometers. Within a short distance of starting out we came upon a little Dutch village set back a few hundred years. The scenery was breathtaking. I can’t get enough of old windmills by canals, by the sheep and the cows. Of course we, or I should say Sam, bought cheese every chance we could. It is hard to resist when it’s being made right there. Kinda like Beecher’s in Seattle. Every little village we rode through was immaculate. People take great pride in their little yards and turn them into virtual gardens. Gorgeous! We stopped for Cappuccino everywhere we could. 🙂 One stop was in Akersloot. Becky and I were in love with the quaint village, and ready to move there. For sure if Trump is elected! 🙂 Idyllic. No need to say more. When we finally arrived in Alkmaar, I’m not gonna lie, my thighs were burning. All worth it. Each town more adorable than the last, patchy drizzle (Brasilian accent) or not. We arrived just as the boat did. Side note: It wasn’t a race, but we won! A little yoga was in order before dinner. Never has child’s pose felt so good. And that downward dog!
Today is the longest ride. I did pick up on that. Thankfully, maybe due to a lot of stretching, I felt great. We didn’t think it possible, but each village and all scenery just seemed to get cuter. We developed an affinity with the sheep. When Sam ‘baaa-ed’ they came. 🙂 We went off route a bit and went through Edam, a picturesque harbor near our destination of Volendam. Of course we bought more cheese by a local farmer and a beautiful cheese cutting board. The ride today felt a lot easier than I was anticipating, thankfully. We arrived Volendam a bit before the ship. Again, Becky and I won! It wasn’t a race though. 🙂 While waiting for the ship we had some Poffertjes, or little Dutch pancakes. So utterly delicious! Volendam is a summer resort village with little kitchy shops along the coast and adorable little houses back behind the row of shops in what they call ‘the maze.’ A lot of little narrow, windy streets. Sam and I went out before dinner to meander. After dinner we hung out with the ‘entertainment’ upstairs for a while, then headed down to our little stateroom to stretch and read/watch Dutch reality TV. <It’s so funny.
Our last day to ride. Off to Amsterdam through Waterland – Katwoude. One village we went to, Monnickendam, had a nice little outdoor farmer’s market. It was a cute little harbor town as well. Our boat-bike tour company is headquartered there. Leaving town we road along a dike, also know as a berm, for quite a little while. It did not take us long to reach Amsterdam. We were passing by farms and sheep pastures and suddenly we were in the city. When we arrived our boat was already there. We dropped off our bikes and made a quick turn around to hit the Van Gogh Museum before dinner. No line, or at least it was very short. We had been told to expect a 2 hour line, so we were thrilled! Why do so many artists have such tortured lives?! Back at the boat we had our last dinner and a last night toast to all the staff who have been so wonderful. The time has gone by too quickly. Sam and I went back out to Dam Square that night. Some kind of OctoberFest was going on. It is a mystery how they were able to squeeze so many rides into that space and still have room to operate them safely. It was fun and a bit crazy! Sam made note of everything he wanted to try on Sunday. We were still too full from dinner.
After breakfast on the boat and saying our goodbyes we headed to the ferry to drop our bags off at the DoubleTree for the last night. Our hotel was wonderful. Very new and modern. The Rijksmuseum was the last ‘must do’ on our list. It was great. Rembrandt is my kind of artist. His paintings are not ones I wonder if I could do myself. 🙂 We went to lunch in the Muvseumkwartier at Bouf when we left the Rijks. It was delicious. Becky took a great photo of their toilet. It was pretty cool. For a toilet, that is. Many multigenerational families were out together Sunday afternoon. It was an exceptional people watching day. We never did go to a ‘coffee shop.’ I’m not speaking of your grandma’s coffee shop. Even though decriminalized, it’s still illegal. Does that make sense? Also, when you enter one, they take all your I.D. information down and enter it into ‘the system.’ Just an FYI. After a stroll to Rembrandt’s house we went to Dam Square again. This time we had a little of everything. Crazy big sausages, fried dough, amazing french fries with different styles of mayonnaise! Good, good, great! Back at our hotel to crash and pack. I hope Sam can fit all his cheese into his suitcase.
The ‘continental breakfast’ was, wow! Our cab arrived on time, so we got to the airport in time to grab some grab and go tulip bulbs, and a few others. 🙂 The flight to Philly was long. We arrived late and lost John and Becky in the shuffle from customs. No time to say goodbye. So we texted our goodbyes on our machines. 🙂 The next flight took 30 minutes to DC. Our bags didn’t make it so we headed home via Uber. So great to be back! Yet, I could have stayed longer.
Grateful for our fun traveling buddies. This is a trip I’ve been wanting to take for a few years. Checked off the list!
We loved the Netherlands. The people are wonderful. If you are looking for a tall, good-looking someone, likely with blonde hair, it’s a ‘must go.’ Someone said, they are tall because they eat a lot of cheese. Everything is so clean and neat, and we never once felt unsafe. The simple beauty of the Netherlands is calming. I say this almost every time I travel…”let’s move here.”