Friday 30 March 2018

Alkmaar Day 6

The plan for the day was to visit the Alkmaar and the cheese market before leaving mid afternoon to drive to the next accommodation. On hindsight we wished we had booked another night but the next accommodation was already paid for. We packed the car and asked Piet and Jettie if we could leave the car on their drive whilst we cycled into the city. Peit and Yettie suggested we would be better to drive later and recommended a local restaurant to have a meal before we set off. We followed the cycle path to the centre of Alkmaar. The signed were a little confusing but did take us to the centre but not by the shortest route. We made our way to the main square where the cheese market was being held. It was a popular event watched by a large crowd that had gather to see the spectacle. We found a spot to lock the bikes and joined the crowd. Sledges of cheeses were being inspected then carried round the main square on sledges to be weighed. Having taken photos and video we sampled and purchased a cheese from a stall by the main square. We then made our way back to the Grote Sint Laurenskerkl. Deposited the bikes in the underground manned bike park and selected a bar for lunch. Our first choice only had seating outside so we went into the bar next door and had found two seats by the bar. After lunch we followed the walking tour route around the city bike. The tour took us past the ferry which was on of the options for the route into the city we were trying to find in the morning. Having returned to the Grote Sint Laurenskerk we decided to combine our route back with a ride and exited the city centre but this time by ferry. No signed posted route but we eventually crossed the route in we had taken in the morning. We turned in the opposite direction an eventually reached a foot bridge across a canal we had seen in the morning but had not taken. We crossed the bride and followed a route to the north of the city centre. Having established a possible route in for future trip we returned to the car. Jettie had reserved us a table a restaurant about 4 km away. We said goodbye to Piet and Jettie and we at the restaurant for 6.00pm. After a filling 2 courses we were on our way to Meerkerk and Broeks' Bed En Brood bed and breakfast. We arrived just after 9:30 pm. Kate took us 100 yards past the house but when we turned round and then saw the sign. We were shown a large room with ensuite with an entrance separate from the main house.

Thursday 29 March 2018

Netherlands Day 5

Thursday was spent visiting the BroekerVeiling museum located in the village of Broek op Langedijk a 15 minute drive from the accommodation. We arrived at 10:20 shortly after the museum the museum opened and were the first visitors of the day. The receptionist was very friendly and even checked I had parked in place where I was not going to be fined. The 17:50 euro admission price included a boat trip round the remains of the Realm of a Thousand Islands, and a demonstration auction in the first and now only surviving sail-through auction in the world. The boat trip was at 12:00 so we spent the morning touring the museum that explained the history of the area and challenges of growing crops on the small strips of land that made up around the 15000 individual islands. The auction house opened in 1913 as the first sail though auction house in the world. It only closed in 1973 and has now been reopened as the Museum BroekerVeiling The 45-minute boat trip was round a small part of the islands that have been preserved for posterity. There then followed a demonstration of the auction process. A punt entered the auction hall and the process of bidding was explained to those present. We had a small problem as the guide started without giving us an English translation. She only realised when a colleague told her when she had finished the talk and the bidding was about to start. An English translation was quickly produced much to the amusement of those present and we were soon up to speed. The auctioneer called out the starting price. The single hand showed the fractional amount in cents and as the hand moved round the price reduced. One full turn and the price had reduced by a euro. If you wanted to buy the item you pressed a button on the desk in front of your seat. If you were successful your number lit up on the large board. The 65 kg of onions were just for fun but then bidding started on small lots for real money. Fruit, vegetables and even 3 packed of sauerkraut were auctioned. We were eventually successful on the last lot of the day of 3 Minneolas which Lyn won with a bid off 75 cents. By the time the auction finished it was almost 14:00 so we adjourned to the cafeteria for a late lunch before resuming the rest of the tour. An audio guide in English triggered by information panels around the museum guided us round. On completing the tour, I even received an email with a link to my personal tour and a chance to listen to any of the boards we missed. We left the museum at 16:00 and drove to the small town of Bergen. We did not have time to cycle round the dunes so had a coffee in a bar. We decided on a stir fry for tea and Albert Heijn provided the necessary ingredients.

Or accommodation is in the building on the left.

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Netherlands Day 4

The forecast for the day was rain after 1:00pm so we decided to go for a bike ride in the morning. We set off just after 9:30 in a easternly direction using he Dutch “knooppunten “ a junction route network again. The specification for the ride is a matter of debate as I was planning on about 30 miles whilst Lyn was expecting just over 20. The first stop was the bakery adjacent to a windmill short distance from our accommodation, We checked the opening times as it was open until 16:00 decided to visit on our way back. Our route took us alongside the Ellands polder an area of drained wetlands where windmills were used to raise up the various dykes. The route was along minor roads and cycle tracks and turned to a southerly direction towards Alkmaardermeer a large expanse of water. Rather than skirting the top of the lake we decided to extend the route and circle round the bottom. The only problem we had was when at the bottom of the lake and following route 87 we found the ferry crossing across the canal shut. The crossing reopened on the 16 th of April so we had to extend the route and cycle a mile further 2 miles and cycle down the canal until the next bridge, The rain that was not due until 13:00 but started at 12:00 when we had had completed about half the ride. We modified the route to take the most direct route back. The 1 minute journey on the ferry across the canal cost 1.20 euros each. Not a significant cost unless you base the calculation on time or distance. We extended the route by a short distance to return to the bakery. The bakery provides a protected working environment to people for whom 'ordinary' work is too complicated or demanding and in which craft is central. A sesame seed loaf and two very tasty cakes were selected for a late lunch. Ryan offered us a tour of the windmill which we accepted despite being wet. It was brief but interesting tour and Ryan was able to answer all our questions about the mill in his excellent English . He explained the history of the windmill. It was originally built to pump water, later used to mill animal feed. It was burnt down having been stuck by lightning, rebuilt and then used to mill grain. The mill had two set of mill stones and they were made of concrete and not millstone grit. At present the mill is not used on a regular basis to grind wheat for the bakery because they do not have a fulltime miller. After out tour we cycled back to the accommodation to dry off and have a late lunch. A round trip of 33.40 miles with 300 feet of assent. By the time we had eaten and showered it was too late to go to the butterfly farm so we drove the 25 km to Hoorn instead. Our brief visit did not justice to the town. The guide book suggested an overnight stop at least 3 hours to explore the old town. From what we saw it would be well worth exploring in detail on a future visit, preferably on a day when it’s not raining. We had time for a coffee in a brown bar before driving back to our accommodation in Alkmaar. We eat in our accommodation smoked salmon for a starter, followed by pork fillet with mushrooms and onions in a white wine sauce.

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Netherlands Day 3

Breakfast was delivered on a tray to the kitchen at 8:00am. Jan’s guest who had prebooked the parking left before 9:00 and as the next guest was only due at 18:00 we were able to park on the drive all day without having to pay for the parking. The car was packed and as the forecast had improved with a significant chance of rain only starting after lunch we decided to explore Leiden by bike. We cycled thought the park to the centre and then explored the varying canals and paved streets. Leiden has a rich historic past. Has a famous university, was the home of Rembrandt, boasts several Nobel prize winners including Jan Oort who was a pioneer in the field of radio astronomy. It also has an historic botanical garden. We had lunch in P___D a Greek café. Good coffee and we selected a feta and spinach filo pie each and shared a piece of chocolate and walnut cake. We left just in time as the first spots of rain had just started to fall but we made it back to the car without getting wet. The drive to Alkmaar was uneventful and took about an hour. We stopped at Lidl for provisions in Alkmaar before driving to the accommodation. The Airbnb is a surround by fields and is around 5 miles from the city centre. Fortunately, Kate took us to the door as it would have been difficult to find on our large scale map. We were warmly greeted by Piet who showed us round the room once I had got my large car across the narrow wooden bridge to the property. We were offered a fresh coffee which he brought over with his wife Jettie along with slices of fresh Apple cake. As we enjoyed the cake and coffee they gave us lots of good tourist advice and maps of what to see and do. The only problem is we are not staying long enough to do everything.

Monday 26 March 2018

Netherlands day2

After a substantial Dutch breakfast delivered to the kitchen on a tray we were set up for the day. We left the accommodation just after 9:30, so only had to pay 10 cents for the parking, and we at the Keukenhof gardens just before 10:00. Getting round the gardens would have been too much walking for Lyn so we prebooked a wheelchair which we collected from the entrance. When we last visited the gardens in 2007 and the boarders were a sea of colour. The colder weather and the fact were earlier in the season meant a lot of the outside tulips were only just starting to develop. The gardens had only been opened for a few days so pots of tulips had been placed alongside the boarders to supplement the display. The bulbs are planted in layers of different tulips bulbs so flowering can continue throughout the season once it starts. A full day was spend walking round the gardens and its various exhibition halls. In addition to looking at the flower exhibitions we learnt about tulip bulb production and the fact that the Netherlands produce 62% of all the flower bulbs produced in the world. The temperature was around 8 degrees but it felt warmer in the sun and we broke up visits to the outside gardens with the internal displays and stops for coffee , lunch etc. We left the gardens around 6:00 pm so had a full day. We decided in eat in in the apartment so on leaving the gardens got Kate to direct us to the nearest supermarket. We were going to Lidl but found Albert Heijn first. It’s the largest Dutch supermarket chain had a wide selection of produce on was more upmarket and with a wider selection than Lidl. We bought a fresh curry sauce , a selection of vegetables and chicken breasts. There were also lots of kits of pre-packaged ingredients to make a wide selection of dishes from fresh soups to curry’s for those that that wanted a more convenient shop. My currency card was refused at the till but fortunately we had sufficient euros. Tea was a success; the only problem was solving the puzzle of how to unlock the induction hob. The instructions were in Dutch and a combination of button presses eventually brought it to life.

Sunday 25 March 2018

Netherlands day1

We arrived at Harwich at just after 20:30. The boarding had just commenced although the sailing was not until 23:00. After a short queue we were on board and climbing 7 flights of stairs to our cabin. The Stena Hollandica is a modern ferry with and Italian flare on the internal design. We had factored in the Holland being 1 hour forward from the UK but had not considered the clocks changing to British summer time when we booked the tickets. So we lost 2 hours sleep on the journey. The arrival time in the Hock of Holland was 9:00am on our tickets but confirmed as 8:00 am when we were on board. So after a good night’s sleep were woken at the equivalent of “5:00 UK time” to be told breakfast was now being served. We had had disembarked and cleared emigration and we on our way towards Leiden by 9:00. A road closure and division added some additional scenery and provided the opportunity to stop at La Place for breakfast. A popular self-serve establishment with a wide selection of freshly prepared self-serve food. Breakfast gave us the opportunity to study the map and decide on a location for a bike ride. We decided to head 10 km north of Leiden to the coast at Noordwijk aan Zee. We found a place to park and got the Garmin to suggest 3 circular rides . We pick a route thought the dunes to Zandvoort and the back towards Haarlem before returning to Noordwijk aan Zee. A round trip of 28 miles. We had to replan when the route thought the dunes was closed because of a local event talking place. We abandoned following the Garmin and instead used the Dutch “knooppunten “ a junction route network where you pick the junction numbers you want to cycle to and follow the numbers signs. The advantage is you only need to remember the sequence of junction numbers . Information boards at the junctions provide the opportunity or extend or shorten the ride. We headed in a northerly direction following the junction numbers towards Harlaam. A café on route provided a tasty if expensive bowl of soup for lunch. We sat outside because although I had brought the lock to secure the bikes I had left the key in the car! We returned Noordwijk aan Zee via a circular loop. The ride went past several bulb fields so would quite spectacular in a few weeks time when the tulips have a chance to grow and flower. We arrived at the BB Het Vogelhuis at 16:30 where Jan showed us our large room with shared kitchen in separate extension to the main house. I had not reserved parking so had to leave the car on the road. Free on a Sunday but 10 cents an hour for the first 2 hours after 9:00 on weekdays and after that its 2 euros per hour . We decided to eat out so cycled into the centre of Leiden. Fortunately, we ignored the map as I had pick up directions to a couple of restaurants in the opposite direction. After a throughout investigation we selected a Spanish restaurant. The choice helped by the recommendations from some people sitting outside, We shared some fried padron peppers to start and then a paella.