Tuesday, September 30, 2014

random reflections on the netherlands…

These are no more than MY memory-jerkers/diary scribbles relating to our wonderful time in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Houten+Tricht (to remind me over the coming months/years!)… in no particular order and certainly not exhaustive:
1.       Just lovely seeing Dick+Dientje at their home in Houten… and their wonderful, generous hospitality.
2.       Dick’s paintings and Dientje’s collages.
3.       Dick’s soups.
4.       Sitting in Dick+Dientje’s garden eating breakfasts and drinking coffee.
5.       No rain and plenty of sunshine!
6.       Dick+Dientje’s lovely “children” – confident, articulate and warm.
7.       EVERYONE speaks English perfectly.
8.       Coming out of Amsterdam railway station and being confronted by a three-storey, full-to-bursting, bike-park and lines and lines of other bike parking.
9.       Bikes/cyclists everywhere (even crowded basement bike parking in student accommodation beside a canal)… and a whole network of generous cycle roads/paths.

10.   Sketching, looking out from our Amsterdam hotel bedroom and, for the entire half an hour, listening to a man in the street whistling a beautiful operatic aria (that I can no longer recall).
11.   Friendly, helpful people.
12.   Lots of beautiful, young, lean people – especially cyclists.
13.   Elegant sit-up-and-beg-bikes.
14.   “Roads” dominated by bikes… adjustment time needed by us to keep a watchful eye out for them when crossing roads (and, obviously, remembering to look left first!).
15.   Amsterdam not as clean as I’d imagined – especially around the station area.
16.   Beautiful canal-side houses - especially at night, when you got to see rooms lit up (even posher than Clifton).
17.   Lovely to be able to walk beside the Amsterdam canals.
18.   Lots of Americans in Amsterdam (often quite loud!).
19.   We didn’t go to Anne Frank’s house, but noticed that there were 50m long queues outside, even at 7pm on a Monday.

20.   Cyclists have priority, then pedestrians… and then vehicles in city centre areas.
21.   Impressed by the railway system (once we’d remembered to get our tickets scanned at the barriers)… and a lovely way to get a “feel” of the country.
22.   Free ferry ride across the harbour (from the railway station) to the EYE film institute for coffee on the terrace.
23.   Dom Tower in Utrecht – dominates the skyline as you approach by train (only wish I’d been brave enough to take photographs from the top!)… and amazed by the massive nave gap between the tower and chancel (which collapsed in a hurricane in 1674)
24.   Drinking coffee and eating delicious apple pastries with Dick+Dientje outside in the Utrecht sunshine.
25.   Gentle walks beside the Utrecht canals.
26.   Meeting up with very good friends Harry+Willeke in Utrecht… and having a lovely time with them (as he’s keen on history, Harry was in his element because it was Open Doors Day) and seeing beautiful places we’d have otherwise missed… and organist Willeke was able to give us the low-down on the impressive church organs we came across.
27.   Wonderful lunch with Harry+Willeke in the courtyard of Grand Hotel Karel V.
28.   Cycling to Tricht (and back… 45km in total) with Dick… a great experience.
29.   Testing out and falling off Dick’s lie-down-on-your-back bike(twice!)… much to the amusement of the others.

30.   Picking apples and collecting walnuts in the orchard at Tricht… and then just sitting, chatting, eating+drinking while watching the sun go down at the end of the day.
31.   EVERYONE (all ages) seems to own at least one bike… and uses them.
32.   Being impressed by the layout of Houten (population nearly 50,000)… re-designed around the bike when the town was enlarged in the 1970s. Bike-lanes everywhere and cars relegated to ring road and access points.
33.   Houten transport/urban design system (and central areas of Amsterdam+Utrecht) means you don’t need a car. Bike and train are all you need.
34.   99% of bikers don’t wear cycle helmets (but there are quite a few who, sadly, feel the need to text whilst cycling!). When I queried the lack of helmets with a friend of D+D, he told me that it had been discussed at length but it was felt that HAVING to wear helmets gave the wrong message (ie. cycling was potentially dangerous)… and, given that bikers are given priority over vehicles, I think they have a point. Clearly, in the UK (where cycling is a minority pastime and the car is king!), safety considerations make sense.
35.   Very lucky having such lovely, generous Dutch friends and to experience much more of the beautiful Netherlands than just Amsterdam and Utrecht.
A truly lovely holiday.
Photo: Dick+Dientje+us


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