Showing posts with label Holland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holland. Show all posts

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Winter in Amsterdam

Winter suits Amsterdam.  Even in mid-March there are still splinters of ice in the North wind and the cold blue-grey light is the perfect backdrop for the monochrome colour palette of the city, with its network of canals bordered by merchants houses, still as beautiful and harmonious today as when they were built.

We spent my recent birthday there, staying on the Herengracht, one of the prettiest canals in Amsterdam, browsing around the markets and churches, enjoying the ambiance in the cafes, shops and restaurants, and admiring the art in the museums and galleries, chatting with the very friendly locals and hopping on and off trams whilst trying to avoid the bikes which seem to come flying from all directions!  

Amsterdam has many faces and most of these photos were taken in the Nine Streets area near our hotel.  This area is lovely by day...







... and by night.  In the evenings, we would walk around the Nine Streets after dinner, admiring the stark winter-bare trees against the night sky and the lit-up windows of the beautiful old houses. 







 I was particularly fascinated by the shop windows, lit up at night and full of colour and life













A great city for a short break and one I look forward to revisiting one day.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

"See you in Copenhagen!"

"I'm cold, wet, exhausted, uncomfortable, nauseous and I've been bumped about on a rough sea for the last 24 hours."  And this is fun?  I am so glad I decided to stay at home and go to a garden party instead of joining my partner in crossing the North Sea in a small sailing boat.  Once was more than enough for me!  He had good crew and apparently they all rather relished the challenge. I guess it's a man thing.

This is the post I wrote about my first (and last) crossing of the North Sea to Holland before I found out just how tough it can get out there.



Night Crossing




"Our crew turned out to be profoundly deaf, a burly 6'2" giant. Somewhere in his sixties and retired, he delighted in telling tall stories of near disasters at sea in a very loud voice, whilst chain smoking, not entirely inspiring confidence. Quite overpowering on a small boat, he felt the need to touch me every time he spoke. I edged further away on the hard bench, trying to maintain some personal space, without falling into the churning sea, fighting nausea.


The night crossing was definitely a test of my courage and a huge challenge. Sailing in a small boat across the North Sea to Holland, wind over tide for those who know about such things, is a bit like trying to ride a bucking bronco, whilst at the same time trying to make a cup of tea, or go to the loo. A particular low point was trying to adjust my clothes and momentarily letting go of the nearest handhold, just to ram my forehead into the shelf opposite. The damp night sea air crept into every crevice of my being. Even my bones were cold".


I shall fly out to Copenhagen and join him there, potter round the Baltic sea and end up in Southern Sweden with his son and granddaughter, which is after all the point of all this.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Postcard


Delicious ice-cold, fruity, blond beer, steaming pots of fresh mussels cooked in white wine with onions and celery, perfectly fried chips dipped in garlicky mayonnaise, and pancakes (pannenkoek) met slagroom (cream) yes, really!

The entire nation on its bicycle; mothers and fathers, boyfriends and girlfriends, grandparents with grandchildren perched in front, clutching tiny pretend handle bars and looking terribly serious. Or walking dogs; big dogs, little dogs, every possible variety of dog.  I think every Dutch family must own at least one - they even take them out on their boats.



A huge bowl of sky in gorgeous shades of palest duck egg blue and grey.  And water.  Water everywhere. Canals leading off inland seas, taking us right into the very heart of lovely ancient towns where we could step off the boat straight into the nearest cafe or bar, wander through the streets, shopping for fresh bread, coffee, cheese and fruit, or just admiring the pretty Dutch houses and wondering how on earth they get their windows so very clean, before heading back to the boat to sit in the cockpit watching the world go by with a glass of wine and a bowl of pasta, cooked on the little swinging stove.


From Goes we sailed across the Oosterschelde to Zierikzee for the Mussel Festival, joined friends from England, stayed a day longer than planned because of severe weather then, setting off for Willemstad, were forced back to Goes, probably my favourite place in Holland, by an unpredicted Force 7 in the Oosterschelde, which is like standing fully dressed in the wind and rain, with someone chucking buckets of freezing water over you every few seconds. Not my idea of fun at all! Lovely fish soup and a glass of warming Calvados helped to ease my recovery from the difficult conditions at sea that day.


A long day's sail up the Volkerak finally brought us to Willemstad, another pretty dutch town, to stay for a couple of days before taking the boat up the Haringvliet to Middel Harnis for pannenkoek, then on to Hellevoetsluis where we fell in with a crowd of Dutch boaties who all have the same boat we have - an instant connection there.  We spent a couple of days with them and joined them in a race (my first) where we were totally outclassed, but great fun anyway, then a barbecue in their clubhouse in the evening, watching the sun go down over the water and chatting with the English speakers, swapping sailing stories and practising Dutch pronunciation to their great amusement.

                         
Time now to retrace our steps, back to Willemstad, then back across the Oosterschelde again, this time into the Veerse Meer and the pretty town of Veere for the night, then on to Middelburg in the pouring rain, then the train and the ferry home across the wide, cold Noordzee. 


Now where did I leave my waistline?

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Night Crossing

Our crew turned out to be profoundly deaf, a burly 6'2" giant. Somewhere in his sixties and retired, he delighted in telling tall stories of near disasters at sea in a very loud voice, whilst chain smoking, not entirely inspiring confidence. Quite overpowering on a small boat, he felt the need to touch me every time he spoke. I edged further away on the hard bench, trying to maintain some personal space, without falling into the churning sea, fighting nausea.

The night crossing was definitely a test of my courage and commitment and a huge challenge. Sailing in a small boat across the North Sea to Holland, wind over tide for those who know about such things, is a bit like trying to ride a bucking bronco, whilst at the same time trying to make a cup of tea, or go to the loo. A particular low point was trying to adjust my underwear and momentarily letting go of the nearest handhold, just to ram my forehead into the shelf opposite. The damp night sea air crept into every crevice of my being. Even my bones were cold.

Every journey has to end and we arrived in Zeeland on a fine sunny afternoon, all traces of sickness gone, looking forward to a good meal and a hot shower. What I got was a cool shower and wet shoes and clothes - the water went everywhere. The meal was delicious though. Life with TMITPS, I realised, is never going to be dull. Uncomfortable and challenging at times, but never dull.

The rest of the holiday was spent pottering through the inland seas and canals of this charming country, staying in small marinas and quays in pretty Dutch towns, eating wonderful meals and enjoying the hospitality of this gentle country and it's friendly people. Living on a boat was fun and sailing creates a strong bond between strangers. The locks were particularly interesting as everyone jostles in a small space, desperately trying to hook a line onto rings and bollards, whilst trying not to bang into each other or the dank, unforgiving lock walls. I quickly became an expert in fending off and tying clove knots, my new skill.

The journey home was much more straightforward. No crew for this, as I was supposed to have my sea legs, and I did. We managed the trip between us, mostly during daylight, constantly watching for the ferries and container ships that would suddenly loom through the haze, seemingly from nowhere.

It was quite an adventure and lovely to be safely home in my quiet, spacious house. But sometimes I find myself missing the intimacy of living on a small boat and the simplicity it demands.