Amsterdam – Two Days – continued

We had made arrangements to meet our good friend Yvonne, who lives in Amstelveen, The Netherlands at around 4:30 PM..  Her home is located about five driving miles south of the Hotel Okura. So it was good that I made the decision to return to the hotel, as Yvonne arrived just past four and I was there to meet her.  Since our expensive/upscale hotel would not permit parking in their lot without extracting more Euros, it was necessary for Yvonne to find a place to park on a street one canal west.  She took a chance of getting a ticket as apparently one must have a parking permit to park on city streets.  While we were waiting for Barbara’s tour to return, Yvonne and I sat in the lobby, had a drink and caught up on family events.

Since Alan had scheduled our next event (a typical Dutch Diner), we would not have to be back to the hotel until just before 7 PM.  During the next 2 and a half hours I think I experienced all of the human emotions.  First joy to be able to be with our dear friend,  sheer terror as she navigated the narrow, bicycle populated streets, all the while keeping eye contact with Barbara (sitting in the back seat).    Wonderment at the beauty of the countryside whizzing by my side of the car, and amazement that we did not kill anyone in our path.  Some of the older roadways that are built on top of the canal dikes have three lanes – one for cars and two for bicycles!  Therefore to safely pass an oncoming car, the driver/s must share the bike lanes.  IT gets even better, in an attempt to keep traffic speeds low on these dike roads,  the Dutch roadway engineers  place pole barriers(?) on both side of the car lane every kilometer or so,with a speed bump, so that if you were meeting an oncoming car, one of you would have to wait for the other to pass through.  Who had the right of way was indicated by a sign with two arrows on it, and the driver with the right of way sometimes had to “take” his right of way.  Just when I thought it safe to relax, our friend would stop on the roadway to show us an interesting house or landmark!!  We really love Yvonne, but I kept thinking ahead to the next day when she and her son Rob would pick us up to show us the rest of the Netherlands.

I think we saw this traditional windmill – at one point when I was able to take my eyes off the road…..

Dutch Windmill

Let me explain something about bicycles in the Netherlands: contrary to their size, they are kings of the roads, streets, crosswalks and any other place they can fit!!  If a car hits a bicycle, even though the driver had the right of way –  the driver is at fault.  And heaven help someone who is stupid enough to walk in a bike lane – you then become a target and by the time the “ringing bell” registers it’s too late.

Here is the bike lane we had to cross right outside the hotel parking lot to get to our canal boat for the dinner cruise on our last night in Amsterdam…

… yes, the rider was not in the picture when I framed the it…..

Amsterdam canal

….and I crossed to get a shot of this beautiful canal.  I could never get enough of the Amsterdam canals.  They are so unique to this energetic citty.

Yvonne did deliver us safely back to the hotel in time for us to get dressed for dinner.  Once again Alan loaded his charges back into our tour buses for the short ride to the “De Nissen” (SP) restaurant for a traditional Dutch meal  This is the same place that Alan had taken us to eat two years ago after our Baltic cruise. Alan also sprang for a free glass of wine.  IF you go to that site and click on photos, you will see that it is made up of several dining rooms.  Keep that in mind during my “Second Hand” story in the following paragraph

After the meal Alan asked if anyone wanted to take a walking tour of Amsterdam’s red light district, and most of our group raised their hand.  We had been there two years ago, so I opted for the offered ride back to the hotel – Barbara  decided to go with the group, and the following story is purely second hand, believe me.

Barbara was sitting and enjoying conversation with eight other diners in one of the very back dining rooms, and unbeknown to these “9” folks, the bulk of the group had departed without them  – with Alan and the tour guide!!  So they all struck off in the general direction, hoping to join up with the others….however… when Alan realized what had happened he attempted to retrace his route …. and got lost!  The “lost 9” eventually met up with the others and made their way to the waiting bus for their return to the hotel…Alan-less.  Alan never did explain what happened, and I guess it is just as well as he was waiting for his herd at the hotel.

Sunday morning around eleven Yvonne and Rob fetched us and away we went… with Rob at the wheel, whew!  I could not retrace our route in a hundred years, but I do know that I must have seen most of the Netherlands.  We did stop for coffee in a quaint old village coffee shop… on this street….

And this marvelous view of a church in Weesp….

For dinner we stopped at a “Taveerne” for lunch on a very busy canal that was part of a river system and a steady stream of boats of all sizes queued up to wait for the draw bridge to let them pass.  I did get a picture but I hope you can get the feel of the experience in the Google Earth image…

…. and this picture…

The “Taveeren” is building on the lower right along the canal.  The drawbridge is at the upper left and the bridge is open.  It was a memorable afternoon, with the sun shining on our faces, great food and drink and best of all, fellowship with our Dutch friends.

Later we drove out to the north coast and watched kite surfers braving the intense North Sea winds…..

…oh, I know you can’t see them, but isn’t this a beautiful picture?

It was a memorable day, and we hope that sometime so we can reciprocate and show  Yvonne and Rob our beautiful Olympic Peninsula.

Next: Goodbye Amsterdam – Welcome to the USA

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