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In which SWMBO apologizes for blog delinquency – 10 days without a post.  No excuses except maybe a honeymoon?

We’ve left behind the United Kingdom and what a wonderful time we had there.  Most of us took the ferry but some flew…

Newcastle from ferry (heading to Amsterdam)

Newcastle from ferry (heading to Amsterdam)

Firstborn gets broomstick lessons at Alnwick Castle aka Hogwarts

Firstborn gets broomstick lessons at Alnwick Castle aka Hogwarts

We’ve rented a beautiful self-catering place in Haarlem – it is spacious (sleeps 8) and has a lovely back garden.  Haarlem is a wonderful town with a laid back vibe.   The kind of place you want to settle into for a while.  The kind of place that steals your heart.  The Hoi-An of Mainland Europe.

Our backyard in Haarlem

Our backyard in Haarlem

The kind of place you just want to buy a bike and bike around forever with all the other Haarlem bike people.  Sooooo, yesterday, I found an abandoned bike and got the kids to (literally) drag it to the bike repair shop where I was told it would cost twice as much to repair than to buy a good second hand bike.  Long-time blog readers will know that I have been pining for a bike since Paris.  On the way home, I went into a second hand shop and looked at a few bikes, then saw a new bike and fell in love.  It is an old-style coaster and here they call them “Oma Fiesten” – grandma bikes!  In the past, they were (obviously) for old ladies but now they are for everyone and there is nothing sexier than seeing a dapper man in a suit pull up on one…  I took it for a spin and was smitten.  No speeds and to brake you simply pedal backwards!

The kids thought I was nuts bringing the thing home and when I got in, the look on Fahbio’s face told me he thought I was crazy too.  I convinced him to go to the shop on the new fietsen and when he came home he declared that it would be good if we had two so we could bike together!  It was Father’s Day and we had no gift…  The stores are closed on Sundays so first thing tomorrow we are going out there to double our insanity and pick up another bike.  How we will move on with a van, eight people (more on the extra person later) and two bikes (no bike rack) will have to be seen.

My new bike!!!!

My new bike!!!!

We went into Amsterdam today and visited Anne Frank House.  Well worth the long wait to get in – it certainly made an impression on the kids and was just as good for the parents as the last time we were there.  BTW – You all know how fond I am of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  Well, in 2009, Anne Frank’s Diary was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List of Documents as being of global significance.  I think we all agree with that.

Too bad we had to endure the worst park and ride experience EVER to get to Amsterdam but no point dwelling on totally stupid urban design that frustrates hundreds of people every day.  All I can say is if anyone ever suggests you park at SLOTERDIJK Park and Ride – DO NOT DO IT!! It would be better to pay $200 to take a taxi to downtown Amsterdam than to attempt to navigate the insane rip-off design of the Sloterdijk Park and Ride (if you can even find it btw – the best hidden park and ride).  AND – if by any chance you have to pee after you’ve been driving around forever trying to find the p+r, be prepared to pay 50 euro cents to do so!  Man if there are two things I hate paying for it is parking and peeing.  It was supposed to cost 1 euro to park there but everyone at the p+r ended up being charged 9.80 euros for various reasons!!  Lots of very irate customers.

Speaking of paying – forget paying with a credit card in most places in the Netherlands and the only banks around here seem to be local so also forget no fee withdrawals.

Bike parking, Haarlem

Bike parking, Haarlem

But enough negativity.  I think the whole p+r thing was so shocking because everything in the Netherlands is so well designed and thoughtful.  How could something like the Sloterdijk p+r even exist in this country?  It defies logic.  To end on a positive note, let’s focus on a few of the many, many, many great things about this country:

  • So much creativity – great art, design, architecture.
  • Laid-back, down to earth people.
  • Beautiful people (not that I’m that shallow but there is a lot of eye candy around, that’s all I’m saying).
  • Nice sandy beaches.
  • BIKES!!!
  • Relaxed attitude to nudity (and everything else)

And to really end, let’s move from negative to positive to a higher plane.  Fate?  Karma?  Serendipity? Coincidence?  A sign from above?  Fahbio and I have a favourite restaurant in Amsterdam.  It is a tiny place among thousands of restaurants.  A place in which we dined twice in our lives, the last time being 20 years ago.  It stays in our memories as serving among the very best meals we’ve ever eaten, any place, any time.  We had no idea whether the restaurant still existed or even where it was (other than somewhere in Amsterdam).  We had no intention of going there as our style these days isn’t really elaborate, multi-course, scary-expensive dining.  Today, we decided to wander around a little before visited Anne Frank House and there, all of a sudden was our place : Chez Georges et Bessie.  Wow.

Best memories of by-gone eras

Best memories of by-gone eras