Great flight from Houston (9 hrs.) We boarded at 4:00pm, watched a movie, ate dinner, took a sleeping pill, woke up and had breakfast and landed in Amsterdam at 10:00am. Staying with a lovely hospitable couple  David and Janna (Yanna) and their two children Shamaya and Ben David in their 3 story townhouse with spiral staircase, one shower and three small bedrooms. They graciously gave us their master bedroom and they are all sleeping in one of the other bedrooms. Their cabinets, windows and doors all look like Ikea, and of course it’s minimal and efficient. Quite the contrast from Houston, the nick knack capital of the world! We’re eating lots of fresh bread and cheese and cold meats and sausage or meatballs for snacks which is very Dutch.

We visited The Hague, where the parliament of Holland is and the King of Holland has his office and palace. Also Interpol is there – that is the international police and the International Court where they try men from any country for crimes against humanity. There are buildings that are over 600 years old and businesses that are more than 150 years old. You can tell which businesses are over 100 years old by a Royal crest over the door. Small brick streets and canals everywhere, this is how they control the flooding since the whole country is 14m below sea level.

David loves to ski, so in a country that has no mountains or even hills, he skis indoors. Snow World has three mountains with toe ropes, ski equipment rentals, and a store that sells everything for the skier, all inside. There is also Dutch Water Dreams where they go surfing indoors and have a man made white water rafting river. In a country that is flat you make your own fun! Great for biking though and everyone rides bikes, even men in suits and women in dresses and high heels.

Today we went to Harlem by car with the ‘Tom Tom’. All went well except for one wrong turn that got us facing the wrong way on a four lane highway! We only got one beep and were able to do a u-turn without incident. That was scary! Harlem is a charming town where Corrie Ten Boom’s house still stands (it is over 600 years old!) We took the tour and the guide was a Christian Jew from New York who now lives in Holland. This was very emotional for me, to think we stood in the very house where Corrie hid over 800 Jews, rode her bike in those very streets and was raided and sent to a concentration camp. Her father, sister and a brother died in those camps but Corrie survived and forgave and went on to write 20 books and travel to 30 countries. Something I didn’t know was that after the war she was able to rent the barracks of one of the concentration camps, beautify it and use it to help refugees in Germany. Now that is redemption, and only possible because she forgave her guards and the German people. So humbling and challenging!

Old family businesses side by side with Mexx, H&M and Subway – sandwiched (scuse the pun) between traditional bakeries and cheese shops. It is overwhelming to the senses to see such amazing architecture and history all in one place. We sat in the main square listening to the church bells eating mini pancakes smothered in butter and generously sprinkled with icing sugar. For lunch we had a ham and cheese croissant and the best almond cookie I’ve ever eaten and we haven’t even gotten to France yet 🙂

We also went to a little Dutch village where they are still using windmills to grind corn, make oil and dyes. There were many old houses that are now businesses and B&B’s and of course canals and grazing sheep. Little roads barely big enough for two small cars to pass lined with picturesque homes that bump right up to the side of the road. The sheep are kept from wandering off by the canals. So quaint and peaceful.

By contrast, the modern townhouses and apartments are rows upon rows of straight lined brick buildings that look like subsidized housing, but they aren’t. Just practical, cost efficient and very boring! Everything is clean and well organized though, and there is a sense of order and no nonsense. The Dutch love Canadians – we helped liberate them after WWII. This helped us when we found an amazing parking spot in Harlem and returned 3 hours later to find a traffic control officer writing us a ticket (we didn’t see the ticket machine), but when we said we were from Canada he tore up the ticket and told us to have a good time 🙂

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