NOTE: This e-mail was sent to me and others about KB's recent vacation -- thought I'd post it up with her permission because it's fun and interesting -- different perspective, though! Enjoy! R-
returned to dreary ol' US of A after a totally relaxing week in the Netherlands. Alas, I did not get to see Amsterdam (Meri - I'm keeping your recommendations for the next time round!) and stayed in Wendy's home in Groningen during the entirety of the trip. i'm at work (shhhh!) and will compose this whilst the details are fresh in my mind..
let's see .. i happily left NYSD for JFK airport - the staff remarked on how big my grin was plastered across my face mere minutes before my departure.. as you can say, i was totally ready to skedaddle.
the flight to Iceland was uneventual and through the plane window I was able to glimpse the geography.. An Icelandic friend had told me that I'd be seeing a lava field from the airport and sho enuff it was.. dark brown with some boulders and ridges about, with some crisscrossing road.. the airport is situated on an island so the shoreline was amazing to look at.
I proceeded to Heathrow airport in London and I made the mistake of speaking to the flight stewardess.. I had the window seat and had passed out for few hours and my anxious bladder had woken me up.. but the passenger blocking my way to the lavatory was out like a light.. i feared that touching a hearing sleeper would cause a ruckus.. eventually a stewardess came to see if i was alright - my speech was numbed from heavy sleep and i couldn't understand her accent.. i was able to use the lavatory.. upon the arrival in london, i found what i feared for, a disability guide waiting for me! i told him i didn't need him since i knew the airport well and hauled a** out of the gate.
as the plane approached the schiphol airport in amsterdam, we were greeted by fields of tulips in striking red, blue, yellow, pink, orange, etc. (didn't take pictures!). the fields were everywhere and manicured farmlands showed itself.. might put the pennsylvania dutch farmers to shame!
Wendy picked me up and we drove for nearly 3 hours to her home in Groningen in northern Holland - 30 minutes from the northern shore as well as the German border.. no tulips fields! Wendy explained that all tulips are cultivated west of Amsterdam.. somethign about the favorable climate, I suppose..
On thursday, the day after my arrival, two other friends arrived to stay at Wendy's home for Queen's Night and Day fesitivies. Every year Queen Beatrix celebrates her mother's birthday and accession to the throne by visiting a chosen city and village each year. As luck would have it, Groningen is the city this year. Princess Juliana (the mother) had died in April but the Queen decided to continue the festitivies since it is very popular. as opposed to the British royalty who rule til death, the dutch royalty retire at age of 65. sensible, huh? the four of us went to Wendy's brother JW's
home to meet the others and warm up before the Queen's night.
Bikes, oh my! When we walked to the city square, the bikes were everywhere.. stacked against buildings and parked.. it's a wonder how an intoxicated biker would find his or her bike out of the mess.
the crowd in the square was crammed and crazy - at one point we were nearly trampled when the crowd moved too quickly from pushing and shoving.. it was a trip though.
On Friday, one of Wendy's friends lent me an orange t-shirt to don in honor of Queen's day and we headed out before noon. We watched the Queen and her grown children visit a village nearby before they proceeded to Groningen.. the town threw out its traditional festivites and activities which included some kind of endurance test where a man lifts himself up by his arms holding a piece of cloth hung from a monkey's bar.. one of the princes who is obviously in a good shape held out the longest and he looked kind of bored.. oh well.
We secured a good spot along the parade route where the queen and her heir apparent and spouses would be transported on horse carriages.. I got a good shot of the queen .. hopefully it comes out great..! we wandered around the city and the shops and bars were open. we secured a table outside and were served beer and colas. very mellow and relaxing afternoon.
on a ramble, the group showed me the original deaf school near the city center (the school moved to outskirts in mid 80's since the kids were continually being hit by cars).. the school is the second oldest in Europe after Abbe's in Paris. Wendy's brother explained that it is the scene where the Nazis rounded up deaf school children and the bullet holes remained in the walls for decades afterwards - as a kid he used to poke his fingers in the holes until he learned of the significance. the city bought the school and removed the bullet holes much to the deaf community's indigination.
they put up a memorial in the park across from the old school.
Saturday - the weather continued to be beautiful so we took the chance to go out to the lake to hang out. One girl and I rolled up our jeans and waded into the water. after some time, we walked around the lake and went though a nudist beach.. there wasn't much to look at since not many people were there and it was mostly old men (need i to say more?? uck) walking around and sunning themselves. Lik the night before, Wendy and I stayed home for the night to watch movies.
Sunday - the other two people left to return to Amsterdam. Wendy decided to show me the north shore and to a good friend of her's home in the countryside. before we left, she showed me the new deaf school where she teaches.. it s not as grand as the original school, all in concrete blocks and affiliated with a blind school. a nice foresty setting though.
the shore was covered with sheep droppings and there was some kind of marshland beyond the shore.. the Dutch do this kind of activitiy where they wear sneakers or shoes (to avoid having one's feet be pinched by crabs) and old clothes to walk into the water, with water up to their chest.. walk around for several hours.. they are to wait until the water level drops later in the spring ... apologies for sparse details since i don't understand it myself!
We visited her friend Daan's house who is a self employed carpenter. He had bought a small falling down brick house and renovated it by himself - he would find old tiles, doors, windows, including Wendy's old kitchen counter what have you that the neighbors tossed out, clean them up and add them to his house. a charming feature is a large round window in the shower room. Daan's mother makes stained glass window and she recreated his house and property. very nice.. I was completely blown away by his house.. I'm a sucker for a genuie do it yourself people :). Took couple pictures outside the house.
We returned to the city and rode the bike... Holland is the 2nd country after China in bike riders.. they have their own lanes and stop lights. family sized bikes even.. a typical parent's bike would consist of a small seat behind the handlebars for a toddler and a larger child's seat behind the rider. I saw one parent with a small child inthe front AND a stroller attached to the rear of the bike (giving you any ideas with aidan, tracy? :)). One of wendy's friends was not at home so we rode back home.
Monday - as usual, we slept in and went shopping.. later, wendy and i went to a friend's house to hang out and later, to a deaf club gathering.. two japanese women were travelling from beligum and i knew a friend of theirs back in japan. deaf world can be so small :).
Tuesday - took me 18 or 19 hours to travel from Wendy's home to my apartment. the plane ride from amsterdam to iceland and iceland to new york were uneventual other than some nasty turbulence. took pictures of iceland (poor ones due to limited visibility).. i stupidly declared two small boxes of breakfast candy. the US Customs had all my bags x-rayed and i was handed a brochure on agricultural products despite my protests that it is NOT a farm product and had bought them from a honest to goodness supermarket. then i was grieved to find that NYC taxi commission had hiked the fares the day before and now, the cab ride to NYC from JFK is 45 buckaroos. I let out some jet-lag laced curses and settled for the subway home..
overall the vacation was great, slept in everyday, and when we were not out, we'd be inside watching TV and reading books. Wendy made some delicious meals, some dutch and some indonesia cusine (former colony of the netherlands). i have yet to develop pictures and when i do (soon!) will post it on ofoto.com.