We rented a car for the last few days of my sister’s visit to the Netherlands. We had enough of Amsterdam exploring and decided it was time to get out and see the countryside a little bit. Driving in the Netherlands is quick and easy. The country is smaller than the state of Oregon and the roads are well maintained and generally pretty easy to navigate, although our navigation lady in our car (we named her Rita) seemed to think that we needed exactly 2 seconds of notice to exit the freeway. Rita got a few additional nicknames, one of which rhymes with witch.
Tulip Fields and Anna Paulowna
Our first stop after getting the car was TULIPS. We had to take Margaret up to Anna Paulowna to see the amazing tulips. Unfortunately even though it has only been a week since we went up there, we already noticed fewer tulip fields and some of the tulips in the garden were starting to die. But she got the experience of seeing many many different varieties of tulips even with the ones that were left. Probably more memorable, however, were the waffles we ordered at the little cafe. Wow, Holland. You got mad skills with ‘dem waffles. Seriously, give up the cheese biz and focus on waffles.
Anna Paulowna is a cute little town with a pedestrian/bike only zone as their central square. I love those! I also love jigsaw puzzles and have been seriously deprived of puzzling since we started on this journey, although I manage to do a few here and there when we stop for awhile. I popped into a toy store and found OODLES of my favorite artist (Jan Van Haasteren) and just about died of jealousy. This artist is Dutch so I guess it all makes sense now. I restrained myself and did not pack an entire suitcase full of puzzles for Mar to haul back, although I was tempted. I bought a 500 piece puzzle and will work on that during our remaining time here. Jigsaw puzzles as a hobby and world travel are not a great match, but I am resourceful. I can FSO. Loyal readers know what that acronym means!
The next day was Mother’s Day and Haley and Zoe did a good job playing “We have two mothers”. They made us breakfast and got out of the house on time, we had a great cappuccino at our favorite cafe and then headed to Zaanse Schans. This area of Holland was re-created to help the visitor visualize the incredibly productive region along the Zaan river, that housed factories and windmills and everything in between. During it’s heyday in 17th and 18th centuries, this area produced sugar, flour, cocoa, rice, pudding, paper, and specialized in shipbuilding with wood from the area. The museum gave us a glimpse of what life was like in that era and we soaked up the smell of chocolate from the biscuit and chocolate making factory downstairs. It was a great experience to explore and learn about the region. I decided that if I have lived any past lives, it was probably there, at that time. I admire their productivity. They got stuff done, fersure.
In order to help the visitor really understand the area, they have relocated dozens of windmills and placed them in a small area, which is perfect for casual strolling and exploring. The fact that they put cafes and cute souvenir stores along the way made it even better. We had traditional dutch pancakes, we saw how they make wooden shoes, Zoe cuddled every dog she could find, we bought souvenirs for Mar’s kids and we went inside a working windmill. The windmill we visited is used for making chalk. The turning of the center grinds up the chalk, and they have separate rooms for the different colors. We will never look at chalk the same way again. Super cool.
Our final “field trip” during Margaret’s visit was to the town of Delft, where they make the famous Delft pottery (the traditional blue ink on white background) that is so famous in Holland. We strolled through the museum to see how the pottery is made and painted, we checked out the factory floor and we admired all the collections, especially those done for the royal family. We lost Haley pretty early on in the museum. She discovered the tour in front of us was being done in Spanish and she joined that group, which was more interesting than being with her two mommies. Fun fact: the blue is actually black ink, but it turns blue during the firing process. Who knew!? Now you do!
After the museum we checked out the adorable town of Delft and headed straight for the central square, which was bordered by some amazing buildings and a really neat church. We had a great lunch, did some shopping and then we tasted the mini pancakes that we have seen on all the menus. Yet another reason why the Dutch should give up on cheese: these pancakes were amazing. Seriously.
Alas, all good things must end sometime and soon it was time to take Margaret back to the airport so she could resume her normal life in her own country. She’s very sad because her country does not have Dutch waffles or pancakes. However, America does have plenty of free bathrooms.