Thursday – Saturday, January 19 – 21
As Max was leaving to head back to the states, a dear friend from Maine was winging her way to the Netherlands. Nothing quite compares to having someone come visit from home as they always bring a piece of it just by their presence.
She headed over to keep me company during a season typically raw, damp with short daylights. And, she was willing to stay aboard when ice grippers were necessary to gingerly navigate from JUANONA’s cockpit all the way to the marina shower block.
Furthermore, she did it with a smile.
Eager to show her our temporary home port, I was extremely thankful to Mom Nature when we woke to a sunny day. A clear sky offered perfect weather for touring in spite of an icy glaze skimming the harbor.
On Max’s and my bikes we headed to one of Hoorn’s most famous landmarks: the Tower Gate at the harbor’s entrance. We performed chilly poses,
then rode the fifteen minutes to our friends’ Deborah, Thijs, and Tika’s home for afternoon tea.
Our early-evening cycle home allowed us to capture the rosy glow of the setting sun before bunkering below with JUANONA’s diesel heater and electric radiator pouring out warmth (augmented by hot water bottles in bunks).
Saturday offered us a momentous opportunity to add our voices and feet to the Women’s March in Amsterdam. Since we had rented an airbnb in Delft, roughly an hour further south from that city, leaving JUANONA required the usual closing ritual of checking heaters, dehumidifier, propane, bilge, latches, fans, lights, fridge, lines, etc., while opening all lockers for circulating air.
Once that performance was accomplished we hopped off JUANONA and trundled ourselves and bags to the station for the half-hour jaunt to Amsterdam… only to discover a mechanical problem forced everyone heading there to take a circular route adding another 30 minutes to our ride.
We missed getting our pink hats, but we managed to arrive in time for the initial gathering prior to the march. Stowing our luggage at the station we rode the tram to the Museumplein, site of the Rijks and Van Gogh Museums and now the Women’s March.
As we waited for the start of the march, we discovered many, like us, were ex-pats or visitors wanting to join millions of others across the globe in support of the mother of a march in D.C.
Circling and weaving our way through thousands of other marchers, we’d strike up conversations and were even welcomed to share some signage.
Tees, posters and banners proclaimed a consistent message that all humans deserve equality, inclusion, and fairness.
Within that context some pointedly addressed specific behavior.
Finally in a millipede motion we began to inch our way towards bleachers where some sat for a group photo with various chants echoing through the crowd.
The final destination was a short walk 90-degrees to the left where we mimicked bullhorn slogans in front of the U.S. consulate office. Sadly, a shuttered brick building stared blindly back at us.
The march dissolved into pockets of folk heading to various destinations, and we turned our feet towards the train station and Delft. A bit hungry we fortified ourselves with some delicious caramels bestowed upon Colleen from a work colleague. Life was good.
Sunday to Wednesday, January 22 – 25
Ever since Max and I visited Delft in April 2016 we knew others would enjoy this quintessential town dating from the 13th century. Colleen immediately fell under its spell as we strolled around cobblestone streets bordering small canals with buildings dressed in their Golden-Age trimmings.
Our apartment was a three-minute stroll from the Markt or main square. As a major landmark this open plaza ensured we’d never get lost due to spotting the tall spire of the Nieuwe Kerk (‘new’ church as of the 14th century…) from all vantage points in town. During our stay, we crossed it daily; and, one late afternoon we found ourselves part of a ghostly mist blanketing the church
and dramatically lighting the storefronts rimming the plaza.
Our days were filled with wandering to historical sites, one being the Museum Prinsenhof. This building had been a former convent before its walled city became the court of William of Orange (1533-84) (hence, Prinsenhof or “Court of the Prince”). The structure and grounds still retain a peaceful atmosphere in spite of their history. Here, William I, leader of the Dutch revolt against the Catholic King of Spain, Philip II (1527-98), was murdered. (Philip, the same guy who married Queen Elizabeth’s older half-sister Mary I, hired a French dude to gun down this Dutch enemy.)
Having seen the spot before I led Colleen to the stairwell where the bullet holes from 1584 were framed in perpetuity.
But, another feature attracted us to this museum, one we’d seen promoted at the local Tourist Office, and we excitedly made our way to this exhibit: the Strandbeest of Theo Jansen (b.1948 in The Hague).
Educated at the Delft University of Technology, Jansen began creating kinetic sculptures out of PVC tubes, plastic lemonade bottles and rubber tubing. Having seen his work on YouTube, we eagerly awaited the promised demonstration held in a cavernous room warmed by portable heaters.
Unfortunately the explanation was in Dutch, but not understanding the verbal description didn’t detract from the magnificent and mesmerizing movements of these walking-stick beings. We even had the opportunity to experiment with these creatures ourselves, something I couldn’t (and didn’t) resist.
But to truly witness these creatures coming to life visit his website: http://strandbeest.com.
Another Dutch attraction involving moving legs was Colleen’s wish to cycle out of town, which we did for one glorious day.
The bike shop didn’t offer a lot of sizes, which caused a small mishap or two as Colleen couldn’t stop without hopping off. But, this inconvenience didn’t put a halt to our exploring on our two-wheel mounts.
A helpful motorcyle-postman gave us directions to a tiny village described as one of Netherlands’ smallest. From there we made a circuitous route back to Delft passing green gardens, some wild, some not so wild.
Thanks to posted maps along the bike paths we were able to gauge our progress along the way.
Famished, we found a seat at a sunlit table where we enjoyed a late lunch and took time to pen cards while luxuriating in the golden light.
We also documented a slightly busted lip, a momento of our biking adventure.
Thursday – Saturday, January 26-28
For our final two nights we had found a great B&B in Amsterdam, close to the train station. We said good-bye to Delft and took the train back to Amsterdam where we had been the previously Saturday.
During our stay we independently set our own agendas, with Colleen doing some site-touring, such as the Van Gogh Museum, and I, some errands, such as a Dutch Immigration visit. We ended up cruising around together Friday afternoon, strolling up and down and through some of Amsterdam’s historic streets, something of which neither of us could tire.
Our last night culminated in a rendezvous with a college friend. And, what a perfect way to end Colleen’s visit.
Meeting at the same hotel where my sister had stayed in December, Colleen and I found Rod and a surprise visitor, his daughter Emma. We’d miss Joanne, Rod’s wife, who was flying in the next day for a full-family reunion (their other two children would be joining them), but at least we had the opportunity to see Rod and meet Emma, who added to the enjoyment of the evening.
From drinks in the hotel bar to dinner at a typical Dutch Cafe the evening was another highlight of Colleen’s visit. We ended up discussing politics as it’s a natural topic these days for anyone concerned about the plight of our nation and its affect on the world. Seemed rather appropriate considering the Netherlands’ history of secularism and our dining setting.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, being with good friends is another way of bringing ‘home’ into one’s world. I treasure times such as this and hold fast to the memories made.
But, just to show what stuff we’re made of, here’s a requested photo–two with and two without:
I mean, truly, how lucky can one get? :)