Thursday @ Merrilyn’s

But first, an update. Kathy and I arrived in Sacramento late Sunday evening, we’d been traveling for 24 hours. It took a couple of days to adjust to California time.

By chance, our appetizers were both bell-pepper oriented this time. Mine was a cucumber/dill/cream cheese dip. Merrilyn made caramelized peppers with capers and Gorgonzola on crostini.

Everything in Merrilyn’s yard is popping with blooms.

It’s so good to be home!!

Last day in Amsterdam

On Wednesday evening, Kathy Cheryl and I had dinner in the hotel restaurant. Cheryl was able to fly home the next day.

Kathy and I needed a few more days to rest, recover, and figure out how to get home as soon as possible. On Saturday, it was time for one final adventure. We took the free shuttle to Schipol Airport then the train to Centraal Station. We exited on the north side of the station and, on a whim, jumped on a ferry that was leaving shortly.

We got off, found an information kiosk and asked where we were on the city map we had. Definitely NOT where we wanted to be so we ran back to the same ferry and headed back to Centraal Station.

Once we exited the south side of Centraal Station, we were able to walk directly to Dam Square. Very crowded today!

The tulips are now in full bloom.

We walked through the Red Light District and made our way back to Centraal Station.

Time to repack our suitcases and get ready to fly home tomorrow!

What next?

Overnight, my phone updated. This morning I had to reenter the 6-digit passcode twice. Success until I tried to actually use my phone – the passcode no longer worked. Two online chats with Apple support (about 3 hours) resulted in an appointment with an authorized repair facility in south Amsterdam. The 16-minute taxi ride cost $55 USD. At this point .. oh well. Things were going quite well, the young man, Yosni, at Cool Blue was great. And then …

Beep beep beep went the intercom. “Please exit the building immediately. Use any available exit.” The message continued to repeat. We all headed out. Blue jackets = Cool Blue employees.

However, it was a very tall building and people continued to stream out. There was quite a crowd gathered on the sidewalk.

The next announcement: “Everyone should move to the next block in case the building comes down.” Just one block? No one seemed concerned. Cheryl spotted Yosni in the crowd and asked him if he could continue working on my phone even though we were outside (love you, Cheryl).

Next announcement: “Thank you. This was a drill.” We all headed back into the building, my phone was restored, all data from the cloud migrated back. All was well until we got to the train station which rejected both our cards to get a ticket. We walked back to a grocery store (Albert Heijn of course) to get coins. This part of Amsterdam is quite modern with very interesting and unique architecture.

We were back at our hotel at 4:30. A whole day spent getting my phone back – although it was also a day not spent completely in our hotel rooms. Sadly, Cheryl and I are both still positive and can’t fly home tomorrow as planned. We are both so ready for some good news.

Next steps

Our Friday evening farewell dinner, fond goodbyes and toasts with champagne:

By 9 am on Saturday, we were all off the boat and headed in different directions.

Four of us went to a hotel near the airport, hung out in our rooms, and tried to get well enough to test negative – a requirement to get back into the USA. Our Amsterdam until that happens:

To Purmerends

By barge. At breakfast, Pietr announced there would be no riding to our next destination, the weather was worse than yesterday.

Once in Purmerends, our barge docked before the lock which couldn’t be raised because of the gusty wind.

A short e-bike ride (for some people) didn’t happen either because tree branches blocked the path for the bikes to come off the boat.

We walked into town.

Long ago, this square was for the beef cattle traders:

Vlaamse frites = Flemish fries. Thick-cut, freshly made, salted and served in cones with a side of locally-made mayonnaise.

A lazy afternoon on the boat playing cards, reading or taking a nap in your cabin. A few of us have a bit of a cold – this rest day helped.

To Alkmaar

A VERY windy day with occasional rain made for a challenging ride. Headwinds at 29 mph slowed some riders to about 3 mph. As we rode toward the North Sea, we had a rest stop in Castricum.

Riding through the forest:

The dunes at Castricum aan Zee:

The North Sea. Kite surfers in the distance.

Our lunch stop. Lee and Amal:

Riding north along the dunes was somewhat better because the winds were from the southwest:

Egmont Huys – the site of a castle first built in the 1100s, destroyed and rebuilt a few times.

We continued on to Alkmaar – another picturesque Dutch town – which we should have explored but most of us were too exhausted. 25 miles today. Tomorrow’s forecast looks worse than today: a high of 49, periods of light rain or showers, winds 25-35 mph with gusts to 50 mph.

To Wormerveer

We’ve been riding south of Amsterdam, today we motored north to Amsterdam for the next part of our bicycling adventure. Someone spotted a speck moving across a lawn – a Roomba-type lawnmower! Great idea.

We docked in Aalsmeer and got ready for a “little” walk

to Flora Holland, the world’s largest international trade center for flowers and plants supplied by growers and purchased by traders. This auction is 24/7 all year long, the building is 1/2 mile long and 1/2 mile wide. Flowers by type are on one side (of the walkway we followed).

On the other side, workers on carts deliver plants to specific buyers. Many many carts scurrying around in a well-organized dance.

We walked to and from Flora Holland (14,000 steps!, got back on the barge and motored past Schipol Airport, through the canals of Amsterdam

past the big-ship docks

to a good place to begin our day’s bike ride.

Even though we weren’t in the central part of the city, there were still many challenges to riding on crowded streets with cars, pedestrians, confident Dutch cyclists, and scooters (which are allowed to use the bike lanes!).

We rode to Zaanse Schans, an historic village and location of the first Albert Heijn – a grocery store chain with many locations.

Perhaps a “tourist trap” but a totally enjoyable stop for us.

At the cheese shop, there were many samples available for tasting and a presentation about cheese-making.

We continued our ride on the bike path behind the windmills

to where Claire de Lune was docked in Wormerveer. Wormer is actually across the canal, “veer” means ferry, so we’re on the other side of the canal accessible by the ferry (but it was actually a bridge). 10 miles of bicycling + 21,000 steps in rainy windy weather. Everyone will sleep well tonight.

To Oude Wetering

Too much rain and wind today for a bike ride so the barge stayed longer in Leiden. Originally, Leiden was known for making linen.

We went for a wet windy walk into town.

Stores were mainly closed Sunday and don’t open on Monday until 1 pm.

The Citadel of Leiden:

87 steps later, we were inside and ready to look over the wall.

Leiden is the town where Pietr was raised. His father was a caretaker at this church and told Peitr the church had been named after him.

We found an open shop to look for a few more essential items. Gloves, rain pants, raincoats, potato chips.

Back to the barge for a cruise to our next destination. We were all happy not to have ridden in this awful weather.

An afternoon of watching the countryside and villages

and playing cards – cribbage, spades, euchre, rummy.

Anne: big winner and the best at calling out “Rummy.” Thankfully we found a deck of cards with American markings because we couldn’t remember the Dutch face cards: B=Jack, V=Queen, H=King. The beer and wine might have been a factor but switching to the Detroit cards made things easier. I lost, by the way.

Chris the chef, Lidia who has many tasks, Pietr our cycling tour guide.

To Leiden

Breakfast at 8, riding at 9.

To the right, the natural water level. To the left, the land is obviously much lower. 1/3 of the Netherlands is below sea level.

Our first glimpse of flower fields. These are hyacinths.

We had a nice rest stop at Plantage:

We spent almost three hours at Keukenhof – truly a beautiful spring garden.

The number of pictures I could have included here are innumerable. Beauty at every turn.

One of several unique water crossings:

There was a huge building with indoor tulips – an amazing variety, some about 3 feet tall, all labeled with great names.

We ate the lunch we’d made after breakfast and made our way back to the meeting point. There were many areas of Keukenhof that we weren’t able to see. Next time!

We rode another hour frequently through flower fields. The scent of hyacinths was heavenly.

We parked and locked our bikes near the docking area and took a short walk into Leiden to buy a few essentials and wait for the barge to arrive.

Our landmark to find our way back:

A wonderful day of riding, some light rain to deal with, and 27 miles in the saddle.