Oh Holland of old

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Where I stayed
Hotel Gastronomique de Echoput & Remstedts
What I did
Tennis cycle sightsee

Flag of Netherlands  , Flevoland,
Monday, September 19, 2011

19 Sept- Arrived, couldn't find a laundromat so gave up. Dropped by the Palace Het Loo for a quick look but it seemed closed, being Monday.

Our dinner in the Restaurant was absolutely Gastronomic which is probably why they call it Gastronomic Restaurant de Echoput (http://www.echoput.nl/echoput_restaurant.asp). 

5 courses in Pescatarian + 5 wines (the last being particularly tasty). There's a separate story for the 'Echoput' part. Apparently to do with a hole in the ground. BTW Pescatarian means veg but + seafood.

20 Sept - A quick trip to our friends, the Remstedts, in Heemstede and at 1500 we we on the tennis court in a private estate (dating back to the 17th C) desperately trying to win a game against Pieter and Kido. The first set went so quickly when we were beaten 6-0. The second set over we managed 4 games and I thought the 3rd would be ours. We almost broke Kido when he was serving at 5-4 but it was not to be. 

Happy for the experience and not sulking over the loss we retired to the village pub for a few beers and then bid farewell to Kido and went home to ready for dinner by the sea. Having forgotten the camera for the tennis we didn't forget for dinner and managed to take a few snaps. From the beach I noted there were maybe 50 board riders using kites for their speed. It was amazing sight and they travelled so fast and were so able in manipulating the kites to change direction. This must be the next move from board sailing. The pictures are not clear but hopefully something of it can be seen.  

Dinner was one laugh after another as we shared memories going back more than 30 years.

21 Sept - What a wonderful day of sightseeing picture taking and chatting with our very kind hosts, Pieter and Trudi. Pieter's passion for vintage cars is matched by Trudie's love of her grandchildren. We spent a couple of hours at Zaanse Schans near Amsterdam ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaanse_Schans) going inside and up a windmill that was use to grind chalk for use in pastels and paint. Watching a demonstration of clog making ( with a  group of Mainlanders, many of whom videoed the whole thing with their cameras) was absorbing and as we left the area I managed to find a young artist and buy some of his work. The housing at this place is period and many were moved here from their original sites to show the different styles of facade that you usually find in Amsterdam. We had a lunch of specialty pancakes and then headed to IJmuiden (Eye- mur-den) to check where our ship will leave from for Newcastle tomorrow. There we saw a 'sand-sucker ship' of the sort used to develop Chep Lap Kok in HK. Now there a fleet of them around the world. All this because the Dutch had to dredge to get the sand for their dunes. Now they are the world experts.

Dinner was another marvellous experience at Specktakel a restaurant in Haarlem (http://www.vinogusto.com/en/place/97375/restaurant-spektakel). Just walking into that village and seeing the buildings and the St Bavo church (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Bavochurch) was a walk through time. The meat market identified by the stone carvings of steer heads and ram's heads was a reminder that only a couple of hundred years ago most people still could not read or write and needed images to speak to them for understanding.
The food and  wine, though expensive by my standards was just superb.

22 Sept - We rose early and made our way back to Haarlem to see more before going to Alkmaar (http://www.vvvalkmaar.nl/content/cityguide.asp?menu=00200000004_000068_000000_000000) to fill time before going to queue at the port for boarding the ferry.

Alkmaar, the cheese capital of Holland is small cute and ever so interesting. Their Kassmarkt (Cheese market ( cheese market) building is OTT. The Great Church of St Lawrence is imposing for its size and position in the village. We couldn't get in and the camera battery failed at that point. We’ll recharge on board the ferry, hopefully in time for the departure.

The past seems quaint and small in many respects but is brought into perspective by the grandeur and magnitude of the cathedrals of Europe. While the craftsmen might have been illiterate and live in hovels or tiny houses they brought into their lives and ours the beauty of their craftsmanship, the creativity of their minds manifest in the designs and technology developed and employed on their projects. Supporting all this are the homemakers whose own skills and creativity nourished the bodies and souls of the workers. The nobility and clergy seem to be the ones who had the free ride in the material sense though no doubt there were parish priests as well as bishops and church princes. Looking today at these villages one is reminded everything passes …memories, bricks and mortar and people while beliefs and creativity and adaptability continue.

Our time on the European mainland now comes to an end having started in Denmark on 3 June we now cross the North Sea to Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England arriving on 23 September.  103 days in Europe, 16 countries, thousands of euros and kilometres invested in visiting and revisiting places and people has made us richer and more appreciative of our Asia and we look forward to returning to the food, people customs and weather of Asia.

This travel blog will come to an end when we leave London on 2 Oct but in the meantime there’s a sea to cross and much to see and do in England.


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