So far – still stressed !
I want to thank all our dear friends who joined us for ‘the last supper ‘ (which was also on a Thursday) and gave us such an incredible send off. You will be happy to know that after months of promising to leave, we actually have (left Victoria, Canada, our lovely friends and family, and the beautiful rocks trees and water that form the Western frontier).
We are now in Holland – no thanks to BC Ferries who stressed us out on the day of our leaving by cancelling the ferry on which we had a reservation without even so much as email notification. I realize that running a ferry system is complex and at times unpredictable but for customers like us it is vital we can be assured that the ferries they say will run, actually run. Unfortunately we cannot blame David Hahn for this one – but someone in BC Ferries would have been to blame if I had had a heart attack on Friday morning (it felt like it was close). Colin who was taking us to the airport remained as cool as the proverbial cucumber as we drove onto the 11:00 am ferry and fingers crossed made the journey relatively uneventfully to the airport.. Happily we did get off the ferry around 12:45 and arrived at the check in counter with enough time to check in our multiple bags (5 in all, equal to 100kgs of luggage) and our dog (box and all) . The down side was that my son, who had left Kamloops very early to be sure to meet us at the airport for lunch, spent half an hour at check in counter after waiting for three hours, then we had to leave. He proceeded to have his own problems with the ferries and road works on Hwy 99. Poor Tim took 8 hours to get from the airport to Nanaimo after a 4 hour journey from Kamloops. I believe he must love his mum a great deal to go through all that hassle. Thanks Tim I appreciated all your valiant efforts.
The Air Transat flight was relatively uneventful, although we did fly via Calgary, which was not on my agenda. As luck would have it we sat beside a young man on his way back to Beverley (about 8 miles from my home town of Hull) with his little Bichon. He, too, was following the dog route back to the UK which is via Holland and Belgium . Andy (the guy and his dog) sailed out of Zeebrugge on the overnight ferry to Hull, arriving the next day. He was a interesting young man – very capable and adventurous , working for an online events company that organized and put on a variety of events everywhere including things like comic fairs. At the time he was on his way back from an event in Vancouver. Kerry survived the flight quite well – no mess or anything. I am sure she could smell the other dog in the hold beside her (Transat will take up to 5 dogs per flight), and that must have been very comforting for her ( because she was not alone). However she would have been mortified if she had known that her traveling companion was a little fluffy white dog called Mattie
We rented a car for a week at Schipol Airport (Amsterdam) which was a really good decision with so much luggage and a dog.. The Dutch road system is a phenomena that cannot be described only experienced. I was impressed how everything worked so well on the highways – but then I remembered it was Saturday and things may look different during the week.
We had a reservation at a little hotel in a place called Dinteloord, which seemed like a pleasant Dutch village/small town. You need to remember that Holland is the most densely populated country in the world – 17 million people living in an area less than the size of the Lower Mainland in British Columbia. Everyone lives quite well albeit on a smaller scale than Canadians, who are used to a lot of space. On the way we went to see our new boat in the boatyard. It was in the dry dock having a lot of work done on the keel and the other parts of the hull ( all the below water stuff). It is really much bigger than I anticipated – 12.5 meters (41 ft) is a long way from the stern to the bow (back to the front for the non-boaters). It was in serious repair mode.
Our town and the boatyard are off the beaten track in Holland (yes, there are a few places where the buses and trains don’t run). Our boat was in the boatyard being worked on and we had anticipated staying on it, but after sniffing the toxic fumes used in the paint and processing, we decided the hotel was a better bet. Unfortunately we did not anticipate being in a hotel for a week ( first over budget item) but decided if we are going to be away from the boat we may as well find a really nice place to stay. Willemstad (about 5 kms from the boat) filled the bill. This delightful small town – the seat of Princes Willem of old, has a lovely harbour full of pricey yachts, old fortifications and a few small churches, stores, restaurants, and cobbled streets. The hotel is about 88 euros per night including a good breakfast. It is very clean but very small. We have a tiny kitchen so we have reduced costs by cooking dinner and making sandwiches for lunch. Eating out is quite expensive in Holland (as it is in Canada these days) but there is no tipping and the taxes are included.
I now understand why Dutch people are so punctual – there are churches with clocks and bells all over Holland. The bells ring every half hour – so no matter what time of the day or night (and there have been a few nights) you always know what the time is. This is useful at 8:00 in the morning but not at 2:00 am. So we have stayed in a couple of small towns/large villages with lots of churches and bells – not always synchronized I might add, and we are gradually learning to appreciate them. Dutch people are generally polite, low key, not excitable and not especially demonstrative, but they all (yes I mean all) speak English very well and seem happy to have the opportunity to practice. We are a bit of an unusual phenomena as Canadians although we saw a bicycle tour in Willemstad. We have met a couple of white South Africans who were completely bi-lingual. I making some headway understanding Dutch, if they speak slowly (speaking English and German really helps) . The car radio is difficult for me to understand, and I am not impressed with the Dutch radio obsession with techno-pop.
While our boat is being made seaworthy we are busy measuring and shopping, shopping and measuring. We have a time constraint , as we are booked on the ferry to Hull on May 26. This is the Whitsun holiday in Europe – a fairly major holiday in which all the schools and businesses take time off for a couple of weeks. We return the rental car on that day so any shopping must be completed by then – cos after that we are on foot, or bus or bicycle. Talking of which (bicycles) that is our next purchase so we have some forms of transportation.
I thought I worked hard to leave Canada, cleaning and tidying up our lives there, but we have worked just as hard setting up a new life in Holland – with more to come. So far we have been to the hardware store (800 euros for tools) the electronics store ( 450 euros to be connected and wired ) and Ikea ( 1300 euros for furniture and a new washing machine) to set up a brand new home on the water. We have done lots of planning, cleaning and shopping and still need to do some more but the worst of the financial hemorrhage is over. There is still the boat the insurance of 450 euros and lots of sundry expenses plus the cost of the repairs. To be fair to Holland – prices are quite reasonable here. WE bought a Boursin cheese (one of my favourites) that would cost about $6.00 in Thriftys (Vancouver Island) and about $4 in Costco, for €1.25, a bottle of Yellowtail costs about €6.00 here and costs about $12:00 in the BC liquor store. There is lots of cheap fish (mainly farmed), shellfish and other meats here, although I am surprized there is comparatively little chicken offered in the restaurants. Veggie prices are very comparable – two tomatoes are about €0,.25 and bananas are also quite cheap. Dairy is very cheap, and so is bread. So we are back to a diet of wine, cheese and bread – no problem for yours truly.
On Saturday we are in Rotterdam to return the car and meet our friends Brigitte and Peter to head for the ferry to Hull and a completely different adventure in Yorkshire.