In the last post, I shared three Friend Family Qualities. Let me add to that list.
Fourth, we enjoy traveling. Fifth, we are foodies and are obsessed with ice cream. Sixth, our souls are nourished when we are interacting with nature. Seventh, we enjoy reading, together as well as individually.
The Sisterchicks series by Robin Jones Gunn is on my all-time favorite list. In 2009, I read Sisterchicks in Wooden Shoes, about two friends who spent a week touring the Netherlands. I was smitten and Holland became my “ultimate vacation destination” dream.
My dream came true for our 25th wedding anniversary trip. Most of my life, I’ve been hesitant to allow my hopes to raise for fear that reality won’t measure up. Yet, five years of dreaming and re-reading the book had set the bar high. I’m delighted to report that this trip was far better than I had ever dreamed it could be!
Our trip bucket list included seeing tulip fields, biking, seeing windmills, and experiencing the water – the sea, the canals, the dikes, the dunes. Tulips bloom in the spring, so we risked cold weather and booked a Boat-Bike trip in April. I was so excited!
My friend, Lisa, gave me a bon voyage gift of a journal and watercolor paints, encouraging me to take time to paint. Never had I considered painting yet decided to take her challenge, assuring myself that it was for my eyes only. It was so rewarding! This was the birthplace of my recent artwork. Thank you, Lisa!
Arriving in Amsterdam three days before our cruise, we determined to savor the experiences rather than go at The Amazing Race pace. Seeing Royal Flora Holland, the world’s largest flower auction, was the perfect place to begin.
As soon as we entered, the smell of flowers greeted my nose. Imagine two football fields under one roof, packed with beautiful plants and fresh cut flowers, sold and restocked daily. We stood on the skywalk, mesmerized. Each cart of flowers was driven past the auction floor then taken to the buyer’s holding area to be flown to their destination such as Costco in Florida.
The following day we explored Harlem and visited “The Hiding Place,” where Corrie ten Boom’s family had lived. Her book, describing their resistance against the Germans, came to life in this narrow home located above their watch store. Standing in the cramped, dark, secret hiding place gave me a glimpse into the terror that the Jewish refugees must have felt.
Exploring by train, we came across a flower parade. Think: the Rose Bowl Parade but with tulips and other flowers. Amazing!
The unseasonably cold spring had delayed the tulips, which was a God-gift for me. Why, you ask? Well, daffodils, my favorite flower, bloom before the tulips! My heart burst with joy at the “hosts of golden daffodils.” Thankfully, we saw hosts of blooming tulips after our cruise.
Our trip kept getting better and better. Upon boarding the small yet comfortable barge, we were assigned our cabin and bikes. Each evening after dinner, the tour host reviewed the following day’s bike route. He could be reached by cell phone if needed, allowing us to ride at our own pace. If the boat was to be moved during the day, we would rendezvous at the new location.
Bikes are the major form of transportation in Holland, making it an easy, convenient, and safe way to travel. We would bike for a few hours, then stop at a sidewalk café for coffee or their Dutch hot chocolate, ride further and stop for lunch, then continue on to meet the boat.
Each day was different and full of new experiences. We ate fries with mayo, warm Stroopwaffles, Dutch hot chocolate, ice cream, cheese at a farm in Gouda, and we tried pickled herring sandwich (see scrunchy face below.) We put our feet in the frigid North Sea, watched a craftsman create wooden shoes, visited the famous Delft pottery factory, saw windmills, visited outdoor markets, wandered around a Queen’s Day carnival, and made new friends with the only couple on the boat who were younger than us.
After our cruise, we visited the national flower garden, the Keukenhoff. I assumed that a tulip was a tulip, only varying in color. I was mistaken. The varieties seemed endless and the intricacy of God’s creation was fascinating. Leaving the gardens, we missed traveling by bike so much that we scrapped the idea of using the public bus system and rented bikes for the remainder of our vacation.
As we prepared to leave the Netherlands, their beloved Queen turned the throne over to her son. She felt the country would be better served with a more contemporary leadership. Joining the celebration, we left for home wearing their national color, orange.
As I look at the photos, I’m ready to go again!