Wednesday, May 25, 2011

European vacation, Part 3--In which I buy yarn and acquire fiber!!!

Thursday, May 5–We drove to Hauwert to see Annie and Jan. Annie was sure I’d get lost as it’s difficult to remember exactly which left turn to make after passing “Whoville” (a housing development that looks exactly like something Dr. Suess would think up. Where WERE the architects brains that day?). We were only 2 minutes late! Annie treated us to fresh coffee and cake, a walk through Medemblijk with a stop for lunch (brie on crusty bread, sparkling iced tea). When I mentioned that I couldn’t find stroopwafels in the supermarket where we used to shop in 2007, they stopped at the local Deen supermarket where I cleaned out the shelves. I am the Stroopwafel Blackmarket Maven! Then we drove over to Hoorn to see our friend Wilbert who owns Shouten Handwerken–you’ll have to check Annie’s blog for pix. Somehow, 2 skeins of sock yarn jumped into my hands and went home with me? The purple/pink Trekking Handart sock was started in Belgium--I looove it.

Friday, May 6–While we were getting ready to leave Akersloot, the front desk called to say my friend was waiting out front for me. She had about 3 kilo of Belgian flax for me stuffed in her bicycle saddlebags! Since it's considered an agricultural product, we could not take it in our suitcase (and it's just too much to fit in there without leaving clothes behind). On Monday morning, we stopped at the Belgian post office and mailed the flax home after much hand-waving and sad attempts at saying "Customs declaration" with a French accent. It cost 25 Euro (about $36) to mail home and it arrived quickly, although the side of the box was completely destroyed by US Customs and then taped back up with 2 (ONLY TWO!) strips of tape.

flax fibers against a black Prismatic pencil to show fine-ness

We hopped in the car about 9:30am and drove south through the Netherlands, heading for Belgium via Maastricht. Arriving around 4 at the Hostellerie du Cerf, we unpacked, washed up and had a lovely gourmet dinner accompanied by a local white wine. This dinner was just the beginning of a week of yummy delights cooked up by our host/chef.
The garden, 'our' chairs

The back of the establishment

Next: piles of rocks, we are adopted by dogs

Friday, May 20, 2011

European vacation, Part 2--Bloemendags and tulip fields

Tuesday, May 3–On recommendation from both our Dutch friends, we drove over to Limmen to see the displays for Bloemendag ("flower day"). The residents use just the blooms from hyacinth and other spring flowers, pin them to backgrounds to make pictures, and leave them up for the week. Everyone rides/walks around to see the displays, which are sometimes political, sometimes sports related, sometimes whimsical.

Afterwards we drove over to Volendam for lunch at the St. Catherein where I love to sip beer and watch the ships, bought some tulip bulbs which we are assured don’t need a certificate because there’s less than 50 bulbs and they are clean, bought a couple of scarves because I just can’t resist them, and Skip bought a piece of painted porcelain HE couldn’t resist. Then we returned to the hotel to nap in the late afternoon because we were still suffering the effects of jumping ahead 6 hours, had dinner at the hotel, and spent the evening on the patio, knitting and watching the sunset.
Wednesday, May 4–Skip and I chose these dates for our vacation because we wanted to see the tulip fields. 

Two different pink tulips here
SO RED it hurts our eyes!

We also drove over to Anna Palowna for their Bloemendag displays and stopped at a little restaurant/deli on the corner for lunch.
In celebration of Mothers Day on May 8

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at Gre’s again to have dinner with them. We thought, Fons wouldn’t be able to join us for a take-out Chinese dinner because the church choir was singing at the war memorial in Akersloot–May 4 is the Netherlands’ Remembrance of the Dead, the day they honor armed forces members and civilians who died in wars or in peace-keeping missions since the outbreak of WWII.Between this and the Queens Birthday on April 30, the entire country was swimming in orange!  However, the ceremony finished early and Fons was able to enjoy yummy hot Chinese food and good conversation with us again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

European vacation, Part 1--Wijk an Zee and Akersloot

Sunday, May 1–We landed at Schiphol Airport, picked up our rental car (an Opal Corsa) and drove to Wijk an Zee for a walk on the beach. While we were living in Heemskerk we used to drive over to the shore on nice days to enjoy the breezes and watch the inhabitants out flying kites and playing with their dogs.

I'd always wanted to stop in a little hotel just near the beach but they were closed for the season when we were living there. This time they were open and we had a lovely brunch. I just love the European habit of serving a biscuit (cookie) with coffee!

We drove the short distance to the Akersloot Valk hotel where they allowed us to check in early (I made sad eyes at the reception desk and told them we were sooo tired from the flight). We took a nap and decided to just sit in the evening sun and drink beer for a while before dinner and bed. There’s something about the Dutch love of the outdoors and sunshine! I called our friends to let them know we’d arrived safely and to set up get-togethers.

Monday, May 2–We drove over to Akersloot (just a few minutes drive but we’re lazy Americans who would rather drive than bike–actually, bike rental was too expensive for just the short trip) to visit with Gre and Fons. I consider Gre to be my "Dutch sister" because we have so much in common and just chatter like two magpies when we're together. I wish we could see each other more often--maybe I'll win the lottery and be able to buy a small house in North Holland?

We spent the day walking in the bird preserve which borders the Alkmaardermeer and were almost run down by the local artist artist on his bicycle, who then proceeded to talk our ears off. What an interesting man.

It was lovely to spend some some with our friends' grandson who we hadn't seen in 3 years and to meet their third daughter when she joined us for dinner (we'd met their other daughters on our previous visits) We had wonderful macaroni and cheese with sausage and homemade banana ice cream for dessert.

Next up--Bloemendags and tulip fields