Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Stopover in The Netherlands

While the motorcycles were at sea, we flew via Shanghai to Amsterdam. For the first time in almost 9 years I set foot again in the country I was born in. The country I had lived in for 40 years. It felt strange. Not so much because a lot had changed, I had expected that, nor because everything seemed so small, as I had expected that too. The strange thing was that it seemingly hadn't changed all that much at all. I noticed that the license plates on the cars had a different number, and that there were a lot more expensive cars than I remembered, but nothing drastic seemed to have changed.

One of the first things we did was a visit to a camera shop, for Mike's birthday present. As he had turned into a very keen and talented photographer, both parents and grand-parents wanted him to have a better quality camera and joined together to buy him one. He was glowing! The 'job' granddad gave him was to get 700 photos on it asap so that we knew it was good, as the camera failing on the trip would be a disaster. He had made well over 1000 photos before we left!

We stayed with my parents and visited old friends while back 'home'. We made bicycle trips of course, we were in Holland after all, to touristy places nearby like the beautiful Brielle. Brielle, or Den Briel as it's also known, is an historic town and former seaport. It's a fortified city that played a key role in the 80-year war of the 16th century. Most of the buildings date from that era.

Now it's a tourist town. Sailing boats occupy it's harbour and cyclists roam the cobble-streets. It's a beautiful town with a pleasant atmosphere and well worth a visit.
The old part of Hellevoetsluis, also a former seaport, is a nice place too. Jeanette was really enjoying all this. Despite the natural beauty of Australia and the wonderful life we had enjoyed in Tasmania, she just came to life here. Seeing her cycling, zooming through the little lanes made me realise she was truly in her element here. I also realised I hadn't seen that face for 8 years and that this was the only place she really felt at home. In short, it was time for her to go back 'home'. Of course my mum played 'some' role in it too. She tried to get us to come home and cooked for us like I've never seen her cook before. Recipes I had never even heard of. Of course she made out like it was nothing special… yeah right!

We made a day trip to the medieval castle 'Slot Loevestein' and then left for a while to visit friends on the other side of the country. That visit reinforced Jeanette's feeling even more. She just wanted to go back… but never said anything. I had already made my mind up; we were going back after this trip! Life in a small overcrowded country is of course very different then what we were used to in Tasmania.
Although only a small state in Australia, Tasmania is still 2.5 times bigger than The Netherlands. Tasmania has half a million inhabitants, The Netherlands have 17 million…! Still, areas like Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe are relatively unpopulated (by Dutch standards that is) and have beautiful forests. Especially at the edge of Drenthe and Friesland in an area called Drents-Friese Wold.

We spend another week with my parents and then flew from Amsterdam to Vancouver. Because we were flying with KLM, we assumed all was going to be fine... the technical gremlins thought otherwise.
They couldn't close one of the windows in the cockpit, seriously, and it took them 6 hours (6!) to realise they needed another plane. Arriving seriously late in Vancouver, we were 'greeted' by a rental company that wouldn't give us the car as we had a Visa Debit card. The car was paid for, by the same card, but they still required a Visa Credit card for security.
In the end we took a taxi to downtown Vancouver, a Toyota Prius driven by an Indian man who must have a higher fuel consumption than I would get in a V8. He took us to another Indian man for a rental car... The drive from there, after a 33 hr day, through Vancouver to the campground was 'interesting'. We arrived seriously late at the campground, pitched our tent in the rain, and fell asleep...