Posts Tagged ‘Holland’

Three Highlights

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

I am well and truly back in Paris and have said farewell to my parents. I am now officially living independently (well, plus Tom) in France with no parental guidance, job or direction. Sounds fun! Pity it is currently raining. Actually, I’m going to go and watch the rain. Be right back.

Back. A reasonably heavy downpour just happened and instead of taking cover like most Australians would, the French people who were hanging out in the park just continued to chat and put up some umbrellas. Water doesn’t seem to melt them as much as it does to Australians.

Anyway, back on track. So I am back in Paris after three weeks away in Holland, Germany and Crete and I feel I haven’t written much lately and I probably should. The problem is, a lot happens in three weeks so I am going to choose one highlight from each country and the rest you can decipher from looking at my photos that are now all up on my Flickr site. Sounds like a plan, Stan.

Holland

Ahh, Holland. Or should I say, The Netherlands. Apparently there is a clear difference but it is a bit like the capital city of Australia – is it Canberra or is it really Sydney? No one from outside Australia really knows or cares. Having Dutch family, I have always enjoyed pretending I am ‘Dutcher’ than I am. There’s something exotic and romantic about being from European decent as opposed to being the great-great-great-great granddaughter of a convict. I believe I am a mix of both. But it still amazes me how everytime I arrive in Holland I feel an instant recognition and connection with the locals. I can see myself in their faces, their rosy cheeks, their longer limbs and larger builds. On this visit it really hit me how a large percentage of Dutch women have stronger, more ‘solid’ builds than other nationalities. French women are tiny and ‘petite’ and would be crushed to death if a Dutch person sat on them. I certainly not saying that Dutch women are fat – they are very healthy and fit despite eating a lot of pancakes and cream. However they are tall and well structured and for once I actually felt like my own body shape fit in. Kind of relieving, really!

My ultimate highlight from Holland was most likely the mudwalking but as I have already written about that I shall write about my second highlight – Bike riding to Hoorn. Dad had hired bikes from a local bike shop and as he and Mum are now expert bike riders we decided they should teach Tom and me the secrets of the dutch bike paths. The night before we set off, Dad and I looked at maps and planned a route from Medemblik (the small town where we were staying) to Hoorn (a larger town nearby) – a 50km return trip past two windmills, through lots of little towns and across many dijks. Holland is covered in cycle paths that are all linked together and numbered. All you have to do is look at a map, see what number bike paths will connect you with where ever you are going and then jump on your bike and follow the numbered signs. It’s that easy!

Bike path map
It’s a netwerk of fietsroutes

It is a wonderful system – you can get slightly lost if you go off track or miss a sign but Holland isn’t really big enough for this to be a major problem. You only have to ride for a few minutes and you are in another town – there isn’t much chance of getting lost in the woods/desert/ocean etc. We rode past some really interesting scenery and along bike paths of various descriptions. Sometimes we were on the road side with cars and trucks giving way to us, other times we rode along the top of dijks with sheep farms and fields of flowers on either side. No matter where we were riding I always felt safe and the cars on the road knew exactly how to deal with bikes. That I think is the main problem with riding in Australia – drivers in cars become nervous about bikes and accelerate to get past instead of just waiting for a safe moment to overtake. Idiots.

Bike ride

Riding along on a dijk

Another things I discovered while riding was that my Grandma wasn’t lying when she told me that the wind in Holland is always in your face, no matter what direction you are riding and how many times you try and ride in the opposite direction. You cannot escape it and it can have quite an impact on your peddling abilities. We did choose a remarkably beautiful day to go on our ride to Hoorn so the wind wasn’t a huge issue, but I did wonder how my parents managed to ride for 100km in rain and strong winds a week or so before on their cycle tour of Holland. They’re clearly insane.

Anyway, the ride was wonderful as it was such an easy and enjoyable mode of transport. I think I received severe bruising to my rear end by the end of the day but otherwise no injuries sustained. Tom punctured his tyre so we had an emergency stop at a bike repair shop. And we ate fresh gevulde koek from a bakery which was probably the ULTIMATE highlight of the day. Much better than packet versions that have spent three months on a ship to Australia.

Gevulde koek

Mmm... deliciousness filled with almond goodness

Now I am hungry and I am going to go and buy a baguette but I will return later to write about Germany and Crete. Fear not!

Crete, Glorious Crete

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

I’m feeling a bit ‘bler’ at the moment, largely due to the fact that my three-week holiday is about to come to an end. Sure, I’m going to be flying back to Paris which is hardly the end of the world, but it was nice to escape the craziness of that city for a little while. We’ve spent three weeks travelling between three quiet, calm and generally relaxing places – a fishing village in Holland, a city full of old people in Germany, and a beachside/mountainside/resort town in Crete.

Crete is always a highlight – no where in the world wows me with its landscapes as much as this island. From powerful, impressive gorges and cliffs to oceans the colour that you only thought appeared in high-definition movies. In between you come across scraggy rocks with tufts of spiky grey-green plants and then lush forests with waterfalls and bright flowers. Considering they had snow here in winter, Crete seems to be where all possible landscapes and weather conditions join.

We have to catch a plane first thing tomorrow morning so we are spending the night in Heraklion, the capital city of Crete. We’re avoiding spending too much time there as it is hectic, hot and full of tourists. I think we’re leaving at a good time though – the European tourists are starting to arrive in full swing, ready to drink cocktails and get their summer tan. Time to head back to Paris where everyone is leaving for their holidays at the beach. Plus I have a job interview on Tuesday morning so I have to get back and face reality. Let’s just say the idea of talking about how good a writer I am in French is somewhat daunting. I figure if everyone reading this crosses all of their fingers and toes then that should be enough crossed digits to get me through. Thanks.

Walking Through Mud is Quite Tricky

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Quick update: Still in Germany. Went to Limburg yesterday where I bought a red felt bag (hooray!) and some new Tom’s shoes that I had been wanting but couldn’t find in Paris or buy on the internet because the website wouldn’t accept my French address (hooray!). Have eaten good food. Today we’re driving along the Moselle river. Went on an amazing chair lift ride into the hills where there was a spectacular view of the Rhein river. The end.

Ok, now back to my adventures in Holland. There is one event in particular that I feel I need to share with everyone as it isn’t every day you get to do this. Previous visits to Holland had included discussions with my Dutch family where they described a local activity that I heard to be a glorious stroll through low-tide waters to a deserted island. Much fun is had, the sun shines and everyone has a jolly good time. And so when my third cousin (or something like that) Judit contacted me via Facebook to ask whether or not I was coming to Holland with my parents and if I was still keen to go ‘mud walking’ my immediate response was, “Yes please!” Oh, how young and naive I was when I made that decision three or so weeks ago…

Judit and her sister, boyfriend, mother and father came and picked up Mum, Tom and me and off we drove for two hours to get to the most northern point of Holland in the province of Groningen. The day before, the three of us had been busy running around el-cheapo shops buying ankle-high shoes, socks, shorts and warm jumpers to wear as it rapidly became clear that what we were about to do wasn’t quite as sun-shiny as I expected. The forecast for the day was 15 degrees with showers and as we were about to walk out into the North Sea, we were required to wear shorts in order to not get soggy pants. Crazy dutch.

We finally arrived at our destination and it started raining. We all jumped in and out of cars changing into our mud-walking togs and scoffing sandwiches before our three-hour trek. And here’s where we walked:

mud walking
Somewhere out there is the edge of the North Sea

We were accompanied by two guides who took us from the safety of a dijk to down onto the sea bed of the North Sea. In summer, during low tide, the water between the north of Holland and some islands off the coast recedes and groups of insane Dutch men/women walk towards the water. Why? I’m not sure. I suspect they think the resulting mud on the sea bed does good things to the skin on their feet because considering the wind, rain and general stupidity of the activity, I can’t think of many other good reasons to do mud walking.

I kid. It was actually ridiculously, stupidly fun. I am not one to get my feet dirty on a daily basis and I much prefer being clean, tidy and germ-free. So the act of intentionally walking into large expanses of mud was very beneficial to my mental health, I think. I was dressed for the occasion and knew what I was getting myself into (sort of) and therefore loved the fact that my shoes filled with greeny-black mud. See?

mud walking

Squidgy

We did the beginners’ walk which meant that for most of the time the mud was ankle deep at the most. On occasion you would hit a patch of soggier mud where you would sink a little further or harder mud where you were practically walking along a beach. There were two patches of mud that proved slightly trickier. We had been given the advice to take “quick, short steps” which is well and good to say when you suddenly discover your calf is engulfed in mud. It was deep. There’s probably deeper mud in the world but at that point in time I quickly thought back to the advice Bear Grylls had given about what to do in quick sand. Mum and I had been walking through the mud together to avoid potential death-by-mud and I soon realised that she had sunk slightly further than I had. She had clearly forgotten the ‘short quick steps’ advice and instead had both of her legs knee-deep in mud and had then lost balance and fallen forward slightly. Not so good. I thought I would have to leave my mother in the North Sea forever more but luckily the guides had saved stranded tourists from mud previously and gave her a large walking pole to stick into the mud and hoist herself out of it. Of course, by this stage I had been rapidly sinking further into the squidgy darkness and had to save myself while the guide took care of Mum.

So it all worked out ok in the end. No one died. No one was left to sink into the great unknown. And everyone enjoyed themselves. We were all a bit grubby by the end of it, particularly Mum who had some nice brown patches in some amusing areas on her pants. We eventually reached the North Sea and everyone cleaned their shoes in the water. It was bloody windy and I think I caught a cold as a result of it but it was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments that I really enjoyed. And will never do again.

Mudwalking

I made it!

You can see more photos and movies on my Flickr site, should you be interested.

Location Update

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Greetings to all.

I am currently sitting in a sunny upstairs bedroom at Tom’s Oma’s house in Koblenz. I have already spent one week in Medemblik, Holland, with my parents and have a few more days in Germany before we head to Crete. Much fun has been had, bikes have been ridden, trampolines have been bounced and mud has been walked. One of the highlights that I will have to write about later is when my mum’s cousin and his family took us to the most northern point in Holland and made us (yes, FORCED us) to walk out into the North Sea. Thankfully, the tide had gone out, but it left behind a very muddy seabed which completely ruined my shoes. It’s a long (and good) story that needs to be told at a later stage when I’m not hungry and thinking about breakfast. In the mean time, I invite you to visit my Flickr site to see my photos. I’m putting them up slowly when I have free moments and access to internet.

Ooh breakfast calls!

What to Pack

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

I am taking a break mid-pack. Tomorrow Tom and I head off on a three-week travel adventure and I am already stuck. What does one pack when spending one week in Holland (current forecast temperature range 14-20 degrees with rain later in the week), one week in Germany (17-22 degrees but sunny), and one week in Crete (22-25 degrees with lots of sun)? The temperatures may not sound that significantly varied but as soon as you add sunshine, cloud, rain, wind etc it can make a big difference. Currently there is going to be at least one 14 degree day in Holland which will require a jacket but is worth taking a jacket for just one coolish day? OH THE CALAMITY! Looks like I will be packing my entire wardrobe. The next question is should I take boots? Probably not… I think I will survive without them. But what if a sudden cold spell hits Holland (which is highly likely considering the weather patterns that country tends to have) and I am left freezing without thigh-protecting shoes? This is all too hard. I think I need to go for a walk to some shops and eat a crepe. I won’t be able to have one for three whole weeks and that could cause grave mental distress. We can’t allow this.

Anyway, I’m not sure when I will next have internet access so it may be a while until my next entry. In Holland we will be staying in a little fishing village with my parents while my Dad makes a wooden surfboard. There’ll be plenty of poffetjes (spelling), herring (for Tom), and bike riding. Then it is Koblenz in Germany with Tom’s parents where we will most likely visit a few castles. The pièce de résistance is Crete where I get to go swimming (FINALLY!) in glorious blue waters, eat delicious Greek food and ride around on the back of a scooter. I am beyond excited. Bring on the fun times.

A Quick Aside

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

On a side note, my parents have started their two-week bike tour of Holland. They are riding around on Gazelle dutch-style bicycles with a group of Australians with the main aim of discovering how those Dutch manage to make such good bike paths. Yesterday I used my new Velib card to hire the free bikes in Paris to ride around the city and it was one of the scariest moments on my time here. The bike paths in Paris aren’t quite as well planned as those in Holland and yet I know the paths in Australian cities are even worse. So I think we all need to get behind this team of bike-riders and get them to bring home the secret to a good path. Plus it’s just amusing to watch my folks riding around on bikes for two weeks, living out of panniers. Will my mother survive not being able to wash her clothes every day? Will my father drop his camera? All will be revealed on the Cycling Dutch Style website.

Like a Gazelle

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

My parents are going on a two-week cycling tour of Holland next year as part of a project to stimulate discussion and change to cycling in Australia. By going to one of the world’s most bike-friendly countries, there’s hope that Australian governments will realise that bike lanes ARE a good idea and will instigate them in our cities. As a bike rider myself, I’d much prefer to have a safe path to ride on rather then being squashed under a car by a loser driver who is impatient to get to work.

The trip will be filmed by two of the bike riders in the group of 30 and they’re currently looking for monetary support. If you pay them enough then you’ll get a free bike! AWESOME!

Look close enough and you’ll spot my Dad. I’ll most likely write more about the trip next year in May when it all happens.