27 08 2008

To all those thinking this is a post about football/voetbal/soccer I apologize in advance.  This is a post about my desire to hit all 12 provinces of the Netherlands.  I know you are thinking, “But the Netherlands is so small that shouldn’t be a problem”, well you are right; the Netherlands IS small but like living in any country it seems once you reside there you stop travelling with in it.   In Canada I had only made it to 5 provinces, and knowing full well that the chances of me making it too all the provinces were slim to nil especially the territories.   So instead I’ll some how make it to all the provinces here in the Netherlands. 

Out of the 12 I’ve managed to get to 7 of them, traveling through them like Noord-Brabant doesn’t count, I actually have to get off and touch soil and spend time there. do the tourist thing.  And this year I was able to add once more province to the list of where I’ve been, Zeeland (more on that in another blog).

The Provinces I have been too and some of the cities located in it are:

Noord-Holland**:  Amsterdam, Zandvoort, Haarlem. 

Zuid-Holland**: Rotterdam, Delft, Den Haag, Gouda

Utrecht: Amersfoort, Utrecht

Gelderland: Apeldoorn, Nijkerk

Overijssel: Zwolle, Deventer, Giethoorn

Limburg: Maastricht, Valkenburg

Zeeland: Middelburg, Vlissingen

So the ones that are left are Flevoland, Nood-Brabant (I’ve driven through here before but never stopped), Frysland, Drenthe, and Groningen.

Sooner or later I will make it to those provinces, the train system here in NL is pretty darn good and I can get pretty much anywhere I need to go.  But when you start going the longer distances it’s costs more of course and it can get a little pricey.  For example for me to get back to Zeeland (which I will do later on this year for a day) a round trip from Amersfoort to Middelburg is 39,00 for one.  After a while it does add up.  Still I want to see as much as I can.  Train travel is great for me since I can basically veg out and just read for the trip, a bit of a change from the driving I used to do back in Canada, except on the train people aren’t as appreciative of my singing like Stoney is.

 ** The name “Holland” which many people use to refer to the country is actually the two province names.  Most Dutch, especially those that do not live in either North or South Holland Provinces do not like using that term for their country and would rather people use The Netherlands.


I’s done gone to da south!

23 08 2008

South Limburg that is!  HAHA!! Oh I crack me up I do! 

OK… SO…. after getting up at 6am, packing up lunches, saying goodbye to Stoney and hoping he doesn’t kill the cat while we are gone, we jump on our bikes to get to the train station for 7:34 to head to Valkenburg for the day. 

The first thing that you notice coming from any other province in the Netherlands is the HILLS!! YES PEOPLE!! THERE IS LANDSCAPE HERE.. oh sorry… um… the horizon isn’t a flat line!  It’s is a nice change from the “prairies” that we see here in Amersfoort.   The change was welcome, even though a little painful on the legs that weren’t use to the up and down trudging though the town.  

Valkenburg is a town located about 20 minutes by train from Maastricht, the station isn’t too far from the center of town, so walking there is no problem.  Now if we had the bikes… that would have been another thing, some of the roads were quite steep and the chances of me actually biking up those hills would have been slim to nil! The only major hill that I know of here in Amersfoort is the overpass going to Ikea.  But here it reminded me a bit more of up north in Ontario, except North Bay doesn’t have Castle ruins!!  

Valkenburg castle was built around the 1100’s and over time saw take over, destruction and rebuilds until 1672 by the troops of King-Stadtholder Willem III. They blew up the castle to prevent it to fall in the hands of the French troops. The castle fell into decay and was never rebuild again.  You are able to walk around the ruins that sit above the city and get an idea of the original layout.  Granted this day and age there really isn’t much left to it, also they are doing a lot of preservation.  That means lots of scaffolding to ruin pictures.  It took us about an hour to walk around the entire castle, but the day was nice and the view fabulous from up on the hill.  So it was well worth the trip up the hill… up the stairs…. and around the grounds.  The castle was made from a type of rock that is distinct to the area, flint.  The rock is mined from the area and there are kilometers of tunnels under Valkenburg where the rock comes from. 

The mines of Valkenburg are something to see, so we did.  The walking tour under the castle took about an hour to so and the other tour call the “City Mines” took 1/2 hour by train (I wasn’t walking that again).  Inside the mines there were carvings and drawings.  Some over 100 years old and all well preserved because of the high humidity and low temperatures.   The caves are at a constant 12C with 90% humidity.  During WWII these caves were used as shelter for both the citizens of Valkenburg and some US troops, whose silhouettes are now on the cave walls.   It was fun walking through the caves and at one point they turned the lights off so that we could see just how dark it gets.  Hard to imagine all those people under ground while the Nazi’s were bombing the area.   In the city mines they had sectioned off areas where if there was another emergancy, the city could again take refuge in the mines.  They had the amount of people that would be allowed in section on the wall and some had “Private” areas that could be bought.  The mines had showers and toilets enough to pretty much accommodate the town. 

Valkenburg is a great town to take pictures, it seems that every corner that you turned there was another picture to be taken.  I did manage to get a few good shots in this trip.  Limburg Province is a gorgeous part of the Netherlands to begin with.  I love how it is so close to either Germany or Belgium.  I love the hills and the trees that are in the area.  I would go back to Limburg in a heart beat.   There are more pictures on my flickr site.  Including a picture of me (and Frank and the kids) to appease my mom. 

It was a long day, but well worth the travel!

More then just fish

20 08 2008

A few days ago (yes I know I’m behind in the blogging), we headed back to Spakenburg.  This time around we took Stoney with us.  I think he’s starting to really enjoy the rides now since he isn’t as tense in the basket, also he moves a little more when he sees things that he likes; which doesn’t make it easy for me since when he moves I have to adjust to the shifting of the front handle bars.  Although, he does start to whine whenever he sees sheep for reason, I don’t know if he wants to go play or if he thinks they are going to come after us. 

When we arrived at Spakenburg the market was going.  So we took a stroll around the square and I saw a sign that said “Quilts”.  Since I can’t sit still long enough to sew a button on, making a quilt is out of the question.  So I have to rely on the talent and patience of others to make pretty crafty things.  I would love to be able to do all the artsy stuff like my friend Tammy.  But back to the blog… I went to go see what the “Quilts” thing was and it turned out to be a museum the Klederdracht en Visserij.  The museum is run by the ladies of Spakenburg and it was a display of the traditional dress that they used to wear, some still do, in the town.  The women that work the museum still wear the dress, some daily while others only on Sunday.   The tour lasted about 30 minutes and from what I could tell our guide was very informative… the tour was in Dutch, but they did give me a sheet of paper with the translation for the stations of the tour.  For the price of 6, 50 for all of us plus the dog, it was worth it. 

I was able to take some pictures of the museum showing the dress and the boats that they used for fishing.  They had displays on how they would use the netting to catch the fish.  They also had quilts up on the walls, and the tour guide said that this was a skill that they learned from the US and Canada.  All the dresses and accessories are handmade by the ladies of the town, the stiff shoulder looking vest are starched beyond belief and literally feel like cardboard.  The small cap that they where are crocheted and are so delicate. 

They had a small store in the museum and the all the items there are made by the ladies of the church.  The small crotched caps they wear were also for sale and really at a reasonable price.   We picked one up for the cabinet along with the pipe from Gouda

I know we are going to head back to Spakenburg before the summer is up, and who knows maybe I’ll go back to the museum and take another walk around or buy a new cap.  I want to wander a bit more through the city and hit all the small little side streets.

Another train ride and 6 months to stay…

15 08 2008

Needless to say I have the bike route memorized to the train station.  On Wednesday Frank and I had another little trip to take, this time to Zwolle.  I really don’t know much about this city except that the IND is located there.  Granted, Amersfoort is located in the province of Utrecht, and the city of Utrecht is only a 20 minute train ride; but yet they send us to Zwolle a 50 minute train ride.

Wednesday turned out to be a bit of “thiscan’thappentoday” type day.  First of we thought the appointment was at 1:30 giving us LOTS of time to get up, get dress, make sure all of our mounds of papers are together and get to the train station with time to spare.  I even planned it so we could get to Zwolle with time to spare so that we could grab lunch.  BUT  I was unceremoniously woken up by Frank at 9:30 saying our appointment was actually at 11:30 not 1:30.  So that meant we had to rush to get everything done, and anyone who knows me rushing in the morning is NOT my forte!  We did get to the train station on time, but the train was 10 minutes late.  Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but when you are already running late every minute counts.  When we finally arrived in Zwolle we had to get to the IND building in a matter of 5 minutes, no problem… except we didn’t know where we were going.  We made it to the building and after a few questions with the showing of the passport we were handing a ticket to wait…. and so we sat…. granted not for too long, surprisingly enough.  The lady helping us was nice, but to be honest I wish they would all get on the same page when it comes to the paperwork that is needed.  We were told that we could just use Frank’s divorce papers .. well no.  We still need something from the city.  Then we were told I needed to get a statement from Canada or the Embassy that I have never been married.  No problem, did that on Monday at the Embassy.  Signed and legalized.  BUT that’s not good enough, they want it to come from Canada… um…I’m in the Netherlands right now, little difficult to get it from Canada unless they are willing to pay for airfare.  Granted they could always just call my grandmother, she’ll vouch I’ve never been married ;).  After a bit of arguing with the IND that really the Embassy IS Canada and that I had asked around to others that had come over from Canada and the IND itself.  So she went on the website that she had and said that it “should” be ok… “should be”.  *rolls eyes*.  What I don’t get is that we sent countless emails and placed many phone calls (at .10 per minute!) to get this information and there she is sitting with this list in front of her ticking off what we needed to bring.  Now why wouldn’t you just give us that list that you are using when we called????  UGH!  Plus there are other things we need to possibly get, but they’ll send a letter and let us know, probably once they go through their list and tick things off!   But all said and done, I got my little sticker in my passport and I can now legally stay here in the Netherlands for 6 months waiting for the IND’s approval for my actual permit.  They said it shouldn’t take 6 months but if it does then we have to go back to the office to renew the sticker.

After the IND drama we headed in to the center of the city for some lunch.  Since I really didn’t know what to expect in Zwolle, I wasn’t looking for anything in particular.  But I did take a few pictures in the not so nice weather we had.  From what we could see the centre of city is shaped like Naarden, only on a smaller level.  The city did have a beautiful gate located on one side, and it seems fountains are the thing for the city.   But one problem while we were there, so was the carnival and it took over the centre square of the city so we weren’t able to get around very easily.  I wanted to go into some of the churches but the carnival was set up right out front.  So instead we wandered, I bought postcards, we wandered a bit more, I took some pictures, and then we left since we had to catch the train back and bike home.

I think Zwolle is a city I would like to go back to one day and take my time walking around.  There seemed to be a few museums and a couple of churches that would be interesting to venture into.   Hopefully the carnival will decide to stay home that day.

Gouda – Yes as in the cheese.

13 08 2008

On our way back from Den Haag on Monday for a brief visit to the Canadian Embassy *pauses to wipe small tear from eye*, Frank and I stopped in Gouda(pronounce “Ghuu (gutteral g) ow – da” not “Goo-da”) for the remainder of the day.   This cute little tourist trap of a city is located in Zuid Holland, about 45 minutes or so by train from Amersfoort.   And if you are thinking I’m just kidding about the cheese, I’m not.  Gouda actually makes the gouda cheese.  Unfortunately since we went on a Monday, all the museums were closed and the stores didn’t open until 1pm.  So we weren’t able to do some  of the typical tourist things.  But we did walk around the town and we went into one of the churches, Sint Janskerk the longest church in the Netherlands.  The stadhuis in Gouda is a beautiful intricate building that is located in the middle of the square.  They have a puppet show with music that plays on the side of the building every 2 minutes after each half hour.  The front of the buidling looks like a church to be honest, with the towers and staircase. I can’t post the video I took of the puppet show because this blog program won’t let me up load an avi file so here’s the link to my flickr account.  CLICK HERE FOR PUPPET SHOW.  The puppet show represents the granting of the town rights by Count Floris V in 1272.  It plays a little tune as it comes out and plays for a good minute or so.  We were going to walk around the stadhuis but there was a wedding going on and by the time we returned to the same area i was just ready to go home.  

We did go into a church, Sint Janskerk.  The pictures I took in there aren’t the best because well… um… I really wasn’t suppose to take the pictures, but some how magically my camera was on and my finger on the button and it was aiming towards the stain glass windows.   Sint Janskerk is the longest church in the Netherlands with a length of 123 metres.  The building started back in 1280 but in 1552 there was a fire that destroyed most of the church.  The church was used by the Roman Catholics until 1573 where was assigned to the Protestants.  The stain glass is known as “The Gouda Windows”  They show scenes from the bible and from national history.  Part of them were made between 1555 and 1572 before the church was handed over.  For more information on the church you can go here

After leaving the church we just wandered around the city, and pretty much anywhere you went there was a picture to be taken.  It really is a pretty city to just spend time in and wander around.  Even though I’ve been in the Netherlands for a bit now and I’ve been here many times before, I’m still amazed with the old buildings or bridges that I see around the country. 









Normally I don’t buy things when we go into the different cities, mainly because you can only have so many pairs of delft clogs or Holland magnets, but this time we did get something, a Delft Gouda Pipe.  On this pipe it has a windmill scene painted on it.  It so very fragile and the stem of it is so thin that I’m afraid to snap it.  So right now it’s bubble wrapped and in a box until we get a nice glass cabinet to put some of the other little things we’ve been picking up here and there, including two old Delft tiles that came off some building somewhere in Holland.  Hopefully we will be able to get back to Gouda one of these days when the museums are open.  I would actually like to go to the cheese museum!

Around the Town

10 08 2008

On the weekend Frank and I went into the city to go to the market and to do some shopping.  On the way there since we were kid free and dog free, I was able to stop a little more to take some pictures.  

This is a picture of the outer wall of the city.  Amersfoort has the two walls in it’s double wall defence.   On one side there was a cemetery and very old one.  I would have like to have gone inside but the door was locked.  I did manage to get a few pictures through the windows in the wall.   The openings on the other side of the wall far at the back lead to a park with a bike path.  



This is one of the small windows looking into the cemetery.  I did get a few pictures closer to the wall and inside the cemetery.  You can see those on flickr. 





This is one of the Churches in the centre of the city.  We were in the square at the markt.   The nice thing with the marktis that some of the fruits and veggies are cheaper, same as the eggs and the bread.  You can also sometimes get some good deals on other goods.  Frank also bought some saddle bags for his bike, this way when we go on the bike rides I’m not always the pack mule.



This is the Onze Lieve Vrouwentoren, or the “Long John” as a nickname by the people here in Amersfoort.  Way back in the day there used to be a church attached to the town, but an explosion back in the 1700’s destroyed the church and the tower managed to survive.  The square where the tower is still standing you can see the outline where the church was.   The tower is still one of the tallest medieval structures in the Netherlands.  It really is an interesting site to see this tower, because you notice it almost immediately as you enter the city. 





Here is the main road going through the centre of the city, Langestraat.  Along here, you will find pretty much anything you are looking for.   During the day after 12:00 I believe, they block off the street so car can not get through.  It makes it much easier to shop with out worrying about being hit by a car trying to cram yourself on those itty bitty things they call sidewalks.  We lucked out yesterday with nice weather and warm temps.  And now that I’ve gone the route a few times into the city, I’m pretty sure I can get there again on my own.  The confusing part is once I’m IN the city, not actually getting there.  With my luck I’ll take a wrong turn and end up in Utrecht or something.   But once I get the hang of it, I’ll be able to visit one of my favourite stores Dille & Kamille.   It’s a little pricey to be honest, but it is a one stop shop for many things that I want in the kitchen or the house.  Oh and I actually bought an apron (everyone in Canada you can stop laughing now).  I bought the thing because I’ve ruined enough shirts cooking, especially when I make the sauce.  I do need to go back and get more spice jars, I bought the little jars with the snap down lids like the old canning ones you see with preserves.   I would also like to get a few new place mats and a new bath mat,  so maybe sometime this week I’ll head to the city again if the weather holds up.

Happy Birthday to ME!

7 08 2008

Well this is the first birthday I have spent either outside of Canada or away from my family.  Even living in Toronto/Mississauga/Oakville I still came home for my b-day.  *sob*

Frank put up balloons this morning before I got up, and the kids each bought me  gift.  We’ll have cake today and a nice meal at home since the weather isn’t all that. 

I’m keeping this post short, since I have to go eventually get up and get dressed.  It maybe my birthday but I still need to get clothes on.  If the weather turns then maybe we’ll go out for a ride, since this is also Frank’s first day of vacation.

So on that note… Happy Birthday to me!! 🙂