Saturday, August 23, 2014


OK, Here's the Dutch part of my travels:

As I mentioned in the previous post, I arrived in Houston without any problems but when I handed over my paperwork at the United counter we were in for a rude surprise. 
She couldn't find me on the passenger list! After a lot of typing and inaudible mumbling she finally found me on the next day's flight! Yikes! Panic!
After more phone calls being made it turned out today's flight was cancelled due to a technical problem and they had moved me to the next day's flight, and 'hadn't I received an e-mail'?!
Nope! 'Did I come from far'? Well, yeah, 3 hours away! Oh, .....
well, ... in that case .... would you want to fly KLM today?
Heck, yes! And so it happened, although there was another hiccup at the KLM counter where they couldn't find me on the list... again, so I was added, ....again .....pffff!!

The flight went very smooth and since I was arriving at the morning rush hour we had decided I'd take a train to Den Helder so they didn't have to sit in traffic to get me.

There had been a slight panic on their side, since they had discovered the plane was cancelled and I didn't had time to notify them I'd taken another one, but I managed to sent them an e-mail from the train (don't you love modern technology) so in the end ... 'all's well that ends well' ....


There was lots of coffee and pastry and family and talk and catching up and for the next 4 weeks that was basically the daily scenario!


Now, as you might see in the pictures, a lot of which are taken while sitting outside, I happened to catch the warmest July since the beginning of recording!
This totally defeated what was one of the reasons behind this visit which had been, among others, to avoid some of the hottest weather in Texas and enjoy the cooler climate of Holland. 
What were the odds they were having a heat wave?! :-)

Not that we were complaining too much though, we'd planned for a lot of outings and of course it's so much nicer when the sun is shining!
For instance, we went to Texel, which is a small island just off the coast, only 15 minutes by ferry, from the town where my family lives.

We've all visited it a hundred times but it is still one of my favorite places to go. It's such a peaceful, laid back and pretty place.

It's very much a sheep island, and I would have loved to shear this one  .....

I paid a visit to my niece Riet at The Nollen and got a private tour. It had been a while since I'd seen it and was very impressed by the progress that has been made!
What a beautiful place and what stunning art! If you find yourself there one day you really have to see it!

Another visit brought me to the north-east of the country where I reunited with my best friend Irène  after 13 years!
Talking about 'catching up'! We had a great time, picked up right where we left of, and enjoyed a delicious BBQ and a long warm evening in her gorgeous garden.

I also paid a visit to my sweet niece Lotte, my sisters second daughter, who recently moved out of her mother's house and has the cutest apartment right under the 'dike' and at stones throw (well, you have to have a good arm ;-) of the aforementioned ferry to Texel.


That's her, on the left. Oh boy, I've actually witnessed her birth all those years ago. Where has time gone ....

Wednesday afternoons are reserved for 'hobby-time' at my sister's house. Whatever you want to work on goes .... 
A good time to try to teach my (oldest) niece Anouk how to spin on a drop spindle.
Minor detail, ... she didn't have a drop spindle, so we made her one!

A couple of old Cd's, a dowel, a rubber eye-let and a cup-hook, et voila .... a drop spindle! 
Although this is not so easy to learn as it looks she is pretty handy and very persistent so she got the hang of it rather fast.

She wants to try to spin some of the dog and cat hair she collects at the shelter she works for. Not easy, but I bet she'll manage!

This is a pic she sent me recently. Not bad!

My mother happens to live in an apartment on the 3d floor of a building that stands smack in the center of the city, right across from the railway station, on top of some of the best stores and with a magnificent view of one of the liveliest streets in town!

On Saturdays you overlook the farmers market (left) and on the right you see one of Den Helder's landmarks, an old water tower.


Her balcony is a great place to sit and 'people watch' and have your morning coffee!

My mom and sister had picked a few trips to entertain me while I was there, just in case I'd get bored, so one sunny day we took the train to Delft. 
This pretty city is known for its historic town centre with numerous canals, for the famous Delft Blue Pottery (Delftware), for being the painter Vermeer's city of birth and for it's association with the dutch royal family, the house of Orange-Nassau.

The Great Town Square,  with the New Church on one site and the City Hall on the other. 

We roamed the little streets, crossed the many canals the city is named for (Delft - from delving - digging - think 'canals') and visited the Old Church, were Prince William of Orange was the first of our Royal Family to be buried after being shot in 1854. 
Since than it houses the Royal Burial Chamber where most members of the House of Orange are buried.


We also visited the New Church, funny enough Delft's oldest church, where many famous Dutchmen are buried, including Piet Hein and Johannes Vermeer.

Prince William of Orange's tomb in the New Church

After having lunch at the Grote Markt we visited the Vermeer Center which offers a view on the works and life of the famous painter. It houses reproductions of all of his 37 works (never knew there were 'only' so few) and shows the methods and famous lights of his paintings. 


Last on the program was museum The Prinsenhof, where William of Orange held court and eventually was killed in 1584.  
Through the projection of a hologram on the wall (and a loud gunshot) his killing is performed every time you approach the steps where it happened and the bullet holes in the wall are still visible!

The museum tells the story of the turbulent period of the creation of the Dutch Republic and shows a good insight in the typical dutch city life of that 'Golden Age' period. Very well done!

Lunch at the Grote Markt
My sister could use some help in her backyard so on one of those Wednesday hobby-afternoons I 'hobbied' a little in the garden with my side-kick Anouk.

Repairing and extending some pavement and adjusting/re-arranging a planter. Got to use my landscaping skills; fun! 

And, together with my mom, we turned my sister's broken electric awning into a 'by hand' sunscreen.
The reward was an excellent BBQ, in the cool shade of that awning  being joined by Babet, the youngest of my 3 nieces.

                My sister baked this delicious pie with blackberries!

And than there was this much anticipated trip to one of everybody's childhood favorite amusement park, the Efteling!


Efteling "is the largest theme park in the Netherlands and one of the oldest theme parks in the world.
Since its opening in 1952, it has evolved from a nature park with a playground and a Fairy Tale Forest into a full-sized theme park. It now caters to both children and adults with its cultural, romantic and nostalgic themes, in addition to its wide array of amusement rides. It is twice as large as the original Disneyland park in California and predates it by three years!

The park is fantasy-themed and its attractions are based on elements from ancient myths and legends, fairy tales, fables and folklore." 

These mushrooms play music! (It's not that scary Monique, open your eyes! :-)

This is an extremely busy park with long waiting lines for most attractions (1 to 2 hours!) but we were very fortunate that the forecast had been for very hot weather so a lot of people had chosen not to go there that day ! 
We sometimes had a 10-15 minute waiting line but many times we didn't have to wait at all!
On top of that the weather stayed overcast and fairly cool until about 3pm and even than it didn't get too warm.   

It was so much fun to walk through the old part of the park and recognize all the old fairy tales of long ago. 
Of course technology has changed and compared with newer, more recent additions it might be a little outdated but to us (and to most of the younger children I saw) it was still just as mesmerizing.

                                 It's truly a magical place. 



The girls were brave enough to try some of the hair raising roller coasters, and some less scary ones, in a specially for this designed part of the park, but they are not for me!


 We ended with a nice greasy fast food meal because that's what you do in these parks!
Our gang
Since we enjoyed it so much we decided to re-visit another favorite, this one an Open Air museum.
It's the Zuiderzee museum in Enkhuizen which is dedicated to the culture and history of this area.

After parking and buying your ticket, the only way to get to the museum is by taking the ferry across the Zuiderzee. It's a nice boat trip that takes 10-15 minutes.

The museum  focuses on the past and the present of the IJsselmeer lake, the former Zuiderzee. The museum features living history, heritage, and crafts from the past, temporary exhibitions and new purchases that focus on the future.

Lots of interesting buildings and history brought to life by in-costume characters.
We found a nice place in the shade to have our lunch since, you guessed it, it was a very warm day again!


    Of course there was a cheese shop!

Smoking of herring and drying of cod (on the clothesline, why not)        

In the old school building I came across the board I learned to read from. (Even at that time it was a rather old fashioned method but I come from a small village with a rather elderly school board in those days.)

As you have noticed, it was a rather busy trip although there was enough time to relax too, during which, I have to admit, we ate a lot! Well, a person has to, doesn't she? 
I'd made a list of my favorite foods and in the end I think I'd pretty much checked them all off!

Top left: Chinese/Indonesian, top right: mussels, bottom left: BBQ, bottom right: pizza!

At my favorite Chinese restaurant: De lange Muur (the Long/Great Wall)

Nasi Ramas, my favorite Indonesian dish!                   My sisters ham and egg pizza at Pizzeria Costa

                                                             And steamed mussels!

Unfortunately, and on a totally different note, of course there was also this:


I've seldom seen our country as shocked and numb as when this news broke which sent the whole country in mourning. Disbelief, anger, deep sadness ... it effected everybody ...
In that same week another plane crashed in Algeria and another one in Korea and that just months after the disappearance of another Malaysian airplane!

Needless to say that when the end of my say was approaching I didn't particularly feel like flying back.
On the day I left, this was the scene in front of Schiphol, A'dam Airport.

So many flowers ......

But what is there to do? In the end you figure 'what are the odds' and 'everything happens in threes' and more of those uplifting clichés, and you just board that plane, just like all those people that are now dead did, ... and fortunately I was lucky ... if luck has anything to do with 
it ...

At my arrival in Houston I quickly found my way to the SuperShuttle desk and booked a ride to the Amtrak Train Station where I boarded the Sunset Limited train to Alpine at 6.15 in the evening.


Providing service between New Orleans and Los Angeles 3 times a week, Amtrek's Sunset Limited is the oldest named train in the USA still operating.
I'd never thought it would come through Alpine but it does. It might be in the middle of nowhere but it turns out to be where the operating crew changes and since it also happens to be where we do our monthly (big) grocery shopping it worked out perfectly!


Since the train ride would take all night I'd booked a roomette and a very friendly attendant showed me my quarters and put away my luggage. Dinner and breakfast is included with this arrangement and he let me know he'd made reservations for 7pm and if that was OK for me? Wow! 
Let's just say, I'd hoped this train ride would be fun but I had no idea I was going to be treated like royalty all the way, wined and dined upon, my bed made, free water, juice and coffee available all the time and listen to this ... there even was a (working) shower!

I thought I was also very lucky to be the only occupant of this 2 person roomette but I later learned that these are booked by room and not per person, so if you're by yourself you basically pay for the other bed too. Not that I cared because it was well worth the money, I loved to have the space by myself and it was still cheaper than if James would have had to pick me up.

Dinner was delicious, I had the Tilapia fillets, but there was also rib-eyed steak, chicken, hamburger and vegetarian lasagna on the menu and breakfast was just as good with a choice of pancakes, french toast, any eggs with bacon, biscuits or fruit. 
Coming from New Orleans it also had grits on the menu and the nice lady that joined me at the table taught me the proper way to eat them, with lots of butter on top! Pretty good!


I slept fairly good, by that time I was up for almost 24 hours, except for a couple of times that the train jerked a little more than usual or when the engineer was a little too enthusiastic blowing his whistle!

Although this train has a reputation to run a little late sometimes, this time we were actually 20 minutes ahead of schedule, and we arrived in Alpine at 10.15.  
Fortunately James had thought to go to the station a little early so we arrived practically at the same time!

Perfect timing of course because 10 minutes later at 10.30 we sat down for .... time!

Well, that's it for now. I had a great time in Holland but it's good to be home again and you know what ... it's true what they say; "absence does make the heart grow fonder" ;-)!