Well several days have passed since we last ...

Trip Start May 11, 2001
1
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Trip End Jun 16, 2001


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Flag of Netherlands  ,
Wednesday, May 16, 2001

Well, several days have passed since we last had access to a computer. Let me bring you up to date ...

Before we left Toronto, the Alegria B&B sent us the following directions. We enjoyed reading them a great deal and wondered if we'd ever find this Bruges hotel.

. . . And here we go for some more
INFO ON HOW TO FIND US BY CAR.

Coming in from
France, Paris.....by highway
You will drive straight ahead direction Brugge,
drive continiuously
straight ahead, you will than autamatic.
drive on the big ring around Bruges,
drive straight ahead, follow the indication
KUST,ZEEBRUGGE,BLANKENBERGE,
that means once off the highway you only have to drive straight ahead all
the time!!!!!!!
you will pass several lights, go into a tunnel,
drive passed our old prison ( left hand side )
drive passed our new prison ( left hand side )
at about 2 km you will find on your right hand side
a BIG SHOPPING CENTER, with shoes and child
confection E.A.
Right after that center you will need to
drive off at the indication A.Z. ST JAN,
( hospital )drive straight ahead again, you
will pass 2 redlights which we count for one and
just behind the second lights( third ) you have to turn
left, straight ahead again, second lights right again,
there you are at the EZELSTRAAT,
that's the beginning of our street, straight ahead
once passed over the little bridge
turning with the road right and left again before the church
there you are in the SINT JAKOBSSTRAAT now.
You will see a lot of flaggs HOTEL NAVARRA
at the right hand side,they have number 41,
ALEGRIA B&B is located a bit further on the left handside
NR 34 B. Please don't drive passed our house,
try to park the car on the pavement oposite our house,
we will open the parking for you who is located
the first little street on your left hand side
NAALDENSTRAAT NR 1
Voilą I think that's it, it realy is very easy to find,

If you get lost ( there could be roadworks )
please ask for the DE BIEKORF
( that's an underground parking just around the corner
a bit further than our private parking ) . . .

Believe it or not . . . "Voila, I think that's it!" . . . We found the directions to be completely accurate. The owner of this manor house that dates back to to the 1700's talks just like her written directions, as well. The hotel is only steps from the central market square, so it was a great location.

We had one full day in Bruges. In the morning we did a little shopping and then took one of the canal boat cruises. The boats are small and open, so it was good that we had a few hours of sunshine that morning. Unfortunately, we couldn't really hear the narration, but we sure enjoyed the water level view. I remember seeing gorgeous deep purple lilac blossoms hanging over the water from the tiny garden of an old manor house, water steps at most buildings, including churches, many geese and swans.

Afterward, Dad and I climbed the market square bell tower (366 steps). The view is terrific once you get there, but the staircase !!! It's a corkscrew staircase that grows progressively narrower and there are people constantly going up and going down simultaneously. Very scary.

Once Dad and I had recovered, we hopped on a mini-bus that gave us a great city tour. We drove through streets we would never have reached on foot. Some of the streets were so narrow, I don't know how the bus made it! Dad videotaped much of the tour and, once in a while, you can hear Mom gasp.

After a rest in our room, we had a wonderful dinner of Flemish stew at one of the outdoor market square cafes. We started out eating on the covered porch of the restaurant but, when the rain started to pour (it was a deluge), and the winds began to howl, we moved inside next to the fireplace.

It was a terrific day!

The next morning, after another hearty breakfast at the hotel and buying picnic supplies at the outdoor market, we drove north into Holland. We still haven't been stopped at any customs location. The only people who have looked at our passports have been bank staff when we cash travellers cheques. The entry into Holland was just a sign along the road. We took a short ferry (6 km) across into the delta area of Holland (sw Holland) and then we drove north along dikes. In order to reach our next hotel in Noord Holland, we drove through the very urban areas of Le Havre and Rotterdam. We saw enormous shipping locations along the harbour areas. Very impressive.

Most of this day was pouring rain and we weren't able to visit the tulip fields this afternoon as we'd hoped. Instead, we stopped near Leiden for a leisurely lunch at a traditional pancake house. Dutch pancakes are what we in North America call crepes . . . with no maple syrup in sight! Our dinner pancake had chicken and a mild fruit sauce. It sounds strange, but was delicious.

We finally reached the area north of Amsterdam where we started to look for our next hotel. I had booked three nights at Hotel Edam Farm, a renovated stable on a traditional Dutch farm. We found the village of Middelie where it was supposed to be located. We drove and drove and drove around the back roads of the polder, looking for the elusive hotel. Nothing. It was getting wetter and wetter and Mom was sure we were going to end up with the swans and herons in one of the MANY canals.

Finally, we found a auto repair shop where they spoke some English. Our hotel was one canal-road over. We finally found it! There are cattle (including a long-horn steer), a llama, sheep and goats in the yard. Our room was very large and had a jacuzzi, or as the owner pronounced it, yacussi.

It finally cleared during the evening, though it remained very windy. After a snooze, we drove north to the Great Enclosing Dike. This dike has cut off the sea from the huge bay in the centre of Holland. It has allowed them to replace the bay seawater with fresh water and drain some of it to create new land. Holland is such a tiny country and has a large population (60 million), they can use every acre they can find. (Even with that large population, we haven't found that there is an overcrowded feeling.) The dike is an engineering marvel. At one point along the dike, we saw between 30 and 40 swans sheltering against a small spit of land.

After we left the dike, we drove slowly back to our farm hotel through tulip fields and picturesque villages. We were really pleased to see the tulip fields. Because the spring is so late this year, some are still in blossom. Once the plants are in full blossom, the farmers cut off all the colourful heads - you see piles of blossoms decomposing at the ends of the fields - so that all the plant's energy goes into the bulbs. Fields of red or yellow or orange really are thrilling to see.

Early Thursday morning (I mean early!), we headed to the Aalsmeer Flower Auction. This was a really interesting place to see after the tulip fields the night before. The auction takes place in one of the largest buildings in the world. It is the size of 125 soccer fields. Every weekday they sell millions of plants - literally! The tour consists of walking along a catwalk that is suspended over the central part of the building. From there you can look down on innumerable flowers and plants that will be shipped the same day around the world to be sold in florist shops, etc. The staff (thousands of people in total) are moving around the facility like busy bees, some walking, some riding bicycles to get from one side of the building to the other, some are driving little vehicles that trail trolleys of flowers behind them. There's quite a cacophony of noise echoing about the place - machines, shouting and calling. You can't even say the flowers are completely silent, though their noise is in the pungent smell that hits you like a tide as soon as you enter the building.

After being saturated with the flowers, we headed into the centre of Amsterdam to visit the Van Gogh Museum. We got there just as it opened (wheelchair parking just in front of the museum!) and so had a chance to view the impressionist's work without huge crowds. I really enjoyed this visit; van Gogh has always been one of my favourites. Mom wasn't thrilled with his aggressive style. However, we all enjoyed later in the day the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem.

Our intent had been to stay the day in Amsterdam, walking through the old centre, taking a canal cruise, etc., but when we left the Van Gogh Museum, there was a torrential downpour. It just wasn't worth it. So we headed to Haarlem. The Frans Hals Museum was of great interest to Dad and me since we'd earlier read a book about Frans Hals, a Haarlem painter in the 1600s. The museum was terrific, with works by Hals and many of his contemporaries. I highly recommend it.

One very interesting thing we saw at the Frans Hals Museum was a 17th century doll house - about seven feet high and built into a beautiful chinoiserie cabinet. The paintings on the walls of the dollhouse rooms were done by a well-known artist of the day. We're not talking Fisher-Price here.

That's all for now!
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