It is almost two weeks since we arrived in Gouda (pronounced Hahowda in Holland) – the place that produces so much of the Dutch cheese with which we are all so familiar. This is our second visit to Gouda – we were here last year and had a splendid experience driving the boat through the lock into the old port that only takes vintage boats. We moored in the canal it offered us power and water but not great facilities for showers and toilets etc.
We met a lovely couple from Surinam; Glen and Gerda and son Denzel, who thought they were unusual sailors on the canals as they were not white. This lead me to some interesting thoughts about how many people of Asian, African or Latin American descent we had met on the water in BC – the answer is: very few. Seems to me that “water sport/recreation “ is culturally a European activity. Just look at the water sports like rowing and sailing in the Olympics to see that culturally these tend to be predominately ‘European’ sports. I am sure that may change in the future. I hope so cos the water (ocean, seas, lakes, rivers, and canals) is a ‘commons’ that everyone should enjoy.
We had three sunny days in Gouda and the weather did not break. Gouda is a lovely little city with a fourteenth century church and town hall that looks like a building in a Disney movie. (seriously – don’t you think it looks like the castle in the intro to every Disney movie). We did spend time some time at the local market and making more hardware type purchases in the town, working on the boat and getting ready to go into the recreational areas near Leiden. We left on Monday July 23 and headed up to the beautiful lake land area of north Holland. The weather was perfect – warm (27C) a little humid, with big blue skies.
When the sun comes out so do the Dutch. We followed the ‘ tall mast route’ to the Leiden – if keeners (map readers) want to check out Holland Plassen to Leiden up to a group of lakes called Zweiland and Warmond. These are lovely waterways.
We were sailing into a canal and lakes and Martin likened our passage to sailing through all the boats from Oak Bay, the Victoria Yacht club and all the boats in the Innner Harbour congregating and moving through the Gorge all at once. Add to that a few extra obstacles – bunches of kids and the odd dog in the water swimming around as we (in a large 41ft boat) ploughed down a comparatively narrow canal at 4 kph, with traffic in the opposing lane.
The Dutch people in this area really enjoyed the sun in an open-topped day cruiser (about 6 meters long). Families, friends (there were many boats with a bunch of women, with bottles of wine, driving them) and couples out for a day sail with their big cushions and picnics baskets. No hats, a few pairs of sun glasses, and most people wearing bathing suits – the Dutch people were just out and about, enjoying the sun, getting all their Vitamin D quota in one afternoon and to hell with any worries about skin cancer. (Dutch people have a higher risk tolerance as well as sun tolerance!). Having experienced the summer so far in the Netherlands – I would be out enjoying every ray, as they do not come very often. We stayed out in the ‘country’ for a few days, mooring along side the sheep fields and an open marina on the side of a lake, then we headed into the lovely city of Leiden.
We arrived in Leiden on the night of the opening of the Olympics, Martin – bless him and his technological genius, set up our satellite dish. With the help of his new Ipaddy – he was able to get our satellite dish in the exactly the right direction in order for us to receive a very clear signal. We watched the Opening Ceremony with interest and bemusement, albeit very late (we are on hour ahead of London ). It was great to see that Our Betty ( Queen Elizabeth) has a good sense of humour. The skit with 007 was perfect. I liked the music and the politics of the opening ceremony, being a left of centre kind of political girl – the support for the National Health Service and education were unusual themes . (Hey it was almost Canadian – celebrating the health care system as the most important facet of the modern age). But why not?
We will have to see how the UK program of ‘Team GB’ translates on the podium for the Brits. We had a similar program for the Winter Olympics in 2010. I guess when you are spending so much taxpayer money on the Games then you need to provide the home-town crowd something to celebrate. They are certainly good at cycling.
Canucks seem to be doing OK especially the rowers and the gymnasts – medalwise I think we middle of the pack but there is not a lot of coverage of Canadian athletes in the BBC .
Back to Leiden – we had a lovely day in Leiden and went to the local market – this was one of the biggest and best markets I have been to so far in the Netherlands. One of those two hour Kodak moments with fish stalls where they were still cutting the fish, lovely colourful fruits and veg stalls, other stalls with twenty varieties of olives, beautiful cut flower and plants, fabric and clothing and hardware. You could buy almost anything you need at the market at a discounted price especially clothing. Leiden has a long and respectable history, it became a famous university centre around 1575 and even more famous as a book publishing centre about four hundred years ago. Leiden was a very international city where English was spoken as easily as Dutch – and you get a great Strongbow in tap.
The harbour was packed that Saturday night – boats rafting up in order to get a place. Leiden is an ancient walled (and watered city) that was somewhat destroyed during WWII has been rebuilt around the canals.
We had some great thunder and sheet lightning in Leiden – the thunder was so loud that it woke me up. The rain was a 7 on the rain scale (buckets coming out the sky) plus the loud rumbling and flashes like a firework display. We often have thunderstorms and a convectional rainstorm after a hot sunny day as the air here is always humid. Martin and I discovered there was something very sexy about thunderstorms and lightning. I will leave that to your imagination – but the 1812 Overture comes to mind.
As I mentioned many Dutch people speak English – their language is midway between German and English with a bit of Scandinavian thrown into the mix. Dutch if for me quite comprehensible to listen to, however speaking is another matter. I have no sense of the structure and grammar so muddle through with English and German and few words like ‘ ik spricht Engkels.’
Another of ‘difficult to find’ need has been a ‘honden trimsalon’ for Kerry. We have tried for weeks to find one but there are very few of them, they are very popular and it is summer holiday time. We are on the move – only spending a couple of days in a place, unfortunately every ‘honden trimsalon’ we called needed a week or two notice to get an appointment. We bought a set of dog shears and I have been the ‘honden trimer’ but without good equipment and confidence (not to mention some training and experience) the best I can do is keep her coat shorter and cut out the tangles. Poor old Kerry – she is very long suffering and patient with me. Now we have booked an appointment in a town we will sail to in a week or so.
After Leiden we made our way to Den Haag and had a couple of surprise visitors. My friend Eva Roberts and her cousin Marlena called from Frankfurt, hopped on a train and then arrived in Den Haag within six hours. It took us two days to get from Leiden to Den Haag. Unfortunately we were moored in an industrial part of the capital, Den Haag as we were too tall to get under the some of the fixed bridges in the centre of the city. Our marina was very secure but a bit off the beaten track – near the KPN headquarters and the International Criminal Court. After working on the boat for a while we went into town on the bus to meet Eva and Marlena. Railway stations all over the Netherlands are under construction so meeting people in these locations was a bit complicated – thank goodness for cell phones. The recession has also hit Holland (as a member of the Euro group ) but there are so many infrastructure projects going on that the construction industry appears very busy and it is difficult to realize that times are hard in Europe.
Den Haag is the capital city of the Netherlands – Queen Beatrix is the Queen of the Netherlands, a country which has practiced the hegemony of the first born (to become the monarch) rather than the first born male to become monarch ( as in the UK) , has a palace in Den Haag. The Dutch Parliament buildings are surrounded by water on two sides (good plan if your policies are unpopular) and are highlighted by the flags of all the 13 provinces of Netherlands. Queen Beatrix became the monarch after her mother Queen Julianna abdicated in 1980 and died in 2004. Queen Beatrice has four sons – that eldest of whom will become William IV – the first king the Netherlands has seen in over a century.
We (Martin and I and our visitors) wandered the streets of the Den Haag – hung out a bit near the Parliament and then back to the boat for a late dinner. Very early next morning we set off for Delft – this gave Eva and Marlena a taste of our boat life. In the grey morning with cups of strong coffee we made our way to Delft under and through a few bridges. Upon arrival in Delft I got a train to Rotterdam to meet Joan and my mum off the overnight ferry from Hull, in the meantime the Maori girls did Delft!
It took some time to find my mum (aged 85) and young Joan (aged 81) at Rotterdam Centraal (as it was also under construction) , but we all made it back to Delft on the train and had a wonderful lunch together celebrating our meeting in Holland from all corners of the world with lots of local mussels and wine
The picture below is of our first party on our back deck – tea and cake. Lucky Martin he got to spend time with 5 women for a while. Marlena and Eva left for Amsterdam shortly after this picture. Sorry to see them go – but maybe they will come next summer for longer.
The next day in Delft was beautiful, sunny and warm, after wondering through the old town for the morning so we cruised along the canal to our current location of Schiedam. Mum and Joan are improving their boat yoga – bless them both for being so adventurous, flexible and sure footed. After a violent storm last night we are basking in the sun and the six famous windmills and distilleries of Schiedam.