Monday, April 22, 2019

Picturesque Delft - A Perfect Ending

Just when we thought this trip couldn’t get any better, we find ourselves in Delft for our last three days! This little town just south of Amsterdam is full of old buildings with picturesque facades, small canals, inviting cafes, and cultural history involving Johannes Vermeer, the House of Orange, the Dutch East India Company, and of course Delft Blue pottery.

Delft is also know for its markets, especially the Sunday flower market. As we arrived via train and sat at pretty much the first street corner cafe we could find, we witnessed nearly everyone carrying bouquets of flowers either by foot or on bikes! We ourselves were too tired to find the market or do anything but sip beer, but we sure enjoyed the people-watching scenery.

Delft Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) door
And today, semi-recovered, we took off on a bike ride (yes, another bike ride!), this time on our own to the nearby town of Den Haag (The Hague). I was rather on a pilgrimage to see certain famous Dutch paintings, and Kent has become quite an art appreciator himself. At the Mauritshuis, we viewed masterpieces such as The Girl With the Pear Earring (Vermeer), The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp (Rembrandt), and, amazingly, The Goldfinch (Fabritius)! Not a bad haul for a 13.5 mile bike ride!
Kent & the crowd appreciating a very famous painting at Mauritshuis in Den Haag

Our hotel room in Delft has wide windows opening up to stunning views of a canal and Nieuwe Kerk built in the 1500s

Flowers in Delft

It’s been fabulously wonderful weather these past few days and we are soaking it all up. 

We hope everyone back home is enjoying some nice sunshine by now. 

We know we won’t be seeing any 500+ year old buildings when we get back, but we are definitely looking forward to springtime with the home folks! 

Tot ziens!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Bikes, Sailing, Music - What a Week!

This week as we rode up and around and through North Holland we've been doing things we've never done before, “going places we have never been, seeing places we may never see again” (thanks, Willie). We’ve enjoyed bicycling through towns, villages, countryside and seashore while negotiating the challenges of riding in a pack. We've totaled 140+ miles. 

And also we've been sailing on a 157 foot three-masted barquentine. Yesterday we spent the morning on our big beautiful ship helping hoist the eight sails. It took 7 people for each sail, and it was quite unlike anything we’d done before! What a thrill to be under sail in such a powerful vessel.
And this morning, after cycling eighteen or so miles along the coast of the Ijsselmeer (pronunciation anyone?) from Hoorn (a historic & charming harbor town), through the village of Edam (cheese!), to Volendam (another harbor town but today overrun by tourists at the beginning of this holiday weekend), we loaded our bicycles onto the ship for the last time and began our journey on water back to Amsterdam.

And we've been playing music on ukuleles. As I pedaled along each day I loved the frequent experience of hearing melodic whistling coming up behind me & then singing along with Ralph to “Four Strong Winds,” “Le Mer,” “Les Bicyclettes de Belsize,””King of the Road,” or other theme-related ukulele songs we’d practiced earlier. It made the miles so enjoyable. 

We are all looking forward to more ukulele tonight. On this trip, Ralph Shaw is all about strumming - using ukulele as a rhythm instrument and varying how it is strummed. He’s touched on trailing (basic clawhammer), slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, finger-picking arpeggios, accents on various beats, rolls, reggae, Bo Diddley strums, etc. all in the context of playable songs - not that I'm even close to being able to do all that! It’s been fun to learn more about ukulele. And play in a group. On a boat. With new friends. After riding bikes. Through the Netherlands!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Yes, There Really Are Windmills in Holland. And Wind!

SO. I had thought it would be fairly easy to ride a bike here where the land is very flat and just barely above sea level. Piece of cake, right?  But, well, hmmm. I was wrong. 
Yesterday we bicycled another 25+ or so miles through small villages, medium sized towns, and the lovely countryside. And windmills abound! They’re powered like sails on a sailboat, angled to catch the wind and turn. They are just charmingly picturesque and we couldn’t begin to see enough of them as we rode (and rode)!

Yet as we cycled through a gorgeous countryside rife with sheep and their babies, horses and cows, and more tulip fields of course we also faced that same wind that was powering those beautiful windmills! And wind, at least wind in your face, is not so enjoyable or picturesque for riding. That's a major understatement - many of us were quite at our limit. But hey, we finished! 
And so now TODAY we are just back from yet another ride, this one nearly another twenty miles from the town of Alkmaar, through Bergen, and on up to the sand dunes (um, not flat!) that line the coast of the North Sea - with the wind in our faces nearly every single mile!
Oh and yes, we’re also doing ukulele every chance we get. Every evening we are treated to Ralph Shaw, an internationally known ukulele teacher from England who is on board with us. Ralph also rides our rides with us and then teaches us ukulele! Today we learned some finger-picking arpeggios. Such energy and fun!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Bikes Rule

Beautiful tulips at Koekenhof Gardens.

Bikes on our boat.
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Now that we’re actually RIDING bikes each day and not just trying to keep from getting run over by them, we’re finding out more about how Bikes Rule here!

We took a long in distance and long in hours ride today - about 30 miles total, leaving our boat at 9 AM, arriving back at 5 PM. We rode into the town of Haarlem and then out into the country and to the incredible Keukenhof Gardens to see the tulips! And back.

I loved that there were special green and red lights just for bikes at nearly every intersection. And even though there were a lot of cars and we had a string of twenty bikes, cars waited for all of us to cross at lights. As we rode in the country, I loved the ease of riding on roads with one lane down the middle for the cars and two lanes for the bikes, one on each side.

Keukenhof is a sight to behold at this time of the year! Acres and acres of beautifully landscaped blooming spring flowers welcome visitors to walk around and enjoy. I loved it that SO MANY people were doing exactly that! Our bike guide, Hugo, told us that this was the most photographed spot in the Netherlands. And we did our part. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

When in Amsterdam

When your gloriously sunshiny, crisp, spring day in Amsterdam begins at 10:30 AM with a canal cruise while sipping chardonnay you just KNOW it's going to be a good one! The arched brick bridges and whimsical variety of boats are magical from water level and the beauty of this city as it begins to burst into spring is stunning. "Every way you look is another photographic moment," exclaimed Kent as he gave his Canon a workout.
One of many beautiful canal scenes in Amsterdam.

We were piloted through the Brouwersgracht, the Kreitzergracht, the Prinsengracht, and "our own" Herengracht - our hotel's on this one and we've rather claimed it. Just a couple of days ago we couldn't read or pronounce and definitely couldn't locate these waterways (including our own!), yet by the end of today's cruise and third in a row walking marathon days, we can now say and find each canal and its related bridge and side streets without a map. We are feeling fortunate and happy to be able to explore this unique place.

And we're also feeling fortunate and happy that we've managed to navigate these busy brick streets and sidewalks of zooming bicycles, trams, cars, skateboards, and fellow pedestrians without mishap. But wow it takes effort and attention to remember to look all ways, including behind you, several times at every single crossing even at alleyways.

Our Max Brown Hotel is in the background - so lovely!
The ubiquitous bicycles help give this place a very special vibe. Parked bikes line bridges and benches and posts and storefronts. Riders appear healthy and determined as they confidently ride and ring their bells at wayward pedestrians. And goodness are they fast! It appears that "no braking" is the rule! But we're rather grateful that our own bike riding will wait until we're in the countryside.

An eye opening walk through the Red Light District, experiencing a coffeeshop or two, the bicycles, bridges, canals, the poignantly sad Anne Frank House, and tomorrow both the Van Gogh and the Rijkesmueum are making these few days in Amsterdam memorable.

Tomorrow we'll begin our sailing/biking/ukulele odyssey!

As suspected, this has been a wonderful whirlwind of a trip with very little time left over for writing blog posts. It's fun to share! Thanks for taking a look!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Heading to Amsterdam!

A trip to Amsterdam inspires me to reinvigorate my Musings & Meanderings blog! It's been unpublished for quite awhile (in fact it's been over four years!), but it's not because I haven't been musing and meandering*.

I'll be heading out on this new grand adventure to The Netherlands with my very good buddy and partner Kent. We've been planning this trip for months after a thoughtful mutual friend sent us a link telling about a "ukulele/bike/sail adventure" through the canals. How perfect - three of our favorite things all wrapped up into a trip to a far-away land where we've never been!

To prepare myself I've been reading both fiction & nonfiction (a favorite: Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City by Russell Shorto), watching movies & documentaries (so many out there about Vincent Van Gogh lately), pouring over Rick Steves and DK guidebooks, and trying to soak up as much as I can before our flight leaves.

The more I learn the more I realize what a special trip this is lining up to be.

And so something is driving me to re-learn how to blog as I get ready for this adventure.
I'm seeing if I can remember how to operate Blogger: How to write a post, how to compose something at least a little bit interesting, how to include a photo and/or video, how to link interesting information, how to publish the post, and how to get it onto Facebook so friends can find it.

So, with the traveling and sailing and biking and ukulele playing, wish me luck as I figure out how to find some time to actually write & publish a blog post after we get there!


*In fact I've been traveling and enjoying life immensely: A trip to Jamaica, a second trip to both France and Spain, three to the British Virgin Islands, one to Mexico, three to Hawaii, and several to other states in the USA. All un-blogged, but definitely journaled! I journal nearly every day of every trip, and create an occasional Facebook or Instagram post, but I find it takes something else entirely to turn a journal entry or a photo caption into a blog post.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Montmartre & Au Revoir to France!

What an enchanting and perfect spot for my last days in France: Montmartre, that north Parisian enclave of individualism high on a hill overlooking the whole city.
On the steps of Sacre-Coeur, looking out over Paris to say goodbye
With Tim’s walk-up apartment as a base (thank you, Colleen & Gunilla) right at the foot of the impressive, glowing white limestone Basilique du Sacre-Coeur, I had an evening and a morning to explore this exciting, fabled Paris neighborhood before heading to the airport hotel for my last night in France. Diana’s staying for several more days.
Five floors down - and up!
We climbed up, up, up steep winding streets and set after set of stairs (engage.core.use.leg.muscles) and down, down winding cobblestone lanes (watch.your.step) to find the still rockin’ Moulin Rouge (home of the can-can) in Place Pigalle and Moulin de la Galette and Au Lapin Agile.
Can't remember seeing neon lights anywhere else in Paris!
Beautiful and historic Cimetiere de Montmartre - RIP, Tim
A visit to the Musee de Montmartre helped us begin to grasp the “Spirit of Montmartre” during it’s days of revolutionary fervor and its late 19th century days of artistic and avant-garde hedonism and free thinking. So special to see original Toulouse-Latrec poster advertisements and iconic posters for Le Chat Noir.
Famous image by Toulouse-Latrec at Musee de Montmartre
Le Chat Noir - the real one? - in Jardin de Renoir

So, au revoir to France! From Provence and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, to thought-provoking Normandy on the English Channel, to tantalizing Paris - merci beaucoup for a memorable, satisfying, and altogether wonderful trip!