Netherlands Day 2: getting out of the city

It’s Friday so I’m breaking my media fast just long enough to post for everyone. 🙂 I remembered that I had this draft ready which means I can post from my phone! Yay for technology. I hope you enjoy. 


I was up early, and hopped onto a tram to get closer to Centraal Station, near where my tour was departing from.  I was so stoked to get out of the city!  En route, I was treated to the sunrise bathing the tops of the buildings in gold, and an unexpected sight: the Amsterdam Oersoep; a spectacular passageway on the Damrak that you really need to see in person. Honestly. It’s just such a random and beautiful thing to see in the midst of the city!

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Stunning morning light en route to Centraal Station

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Amsterdam Oersoep. Stunning, isn’t it?

On the bus, I sat in the first empty seat, beside another woman travelling on her own. Turned out she was my age and Canadian!  We ended up spending the day together and having a great time.

First stop: historic windmill village Zaanse Schans.  The setting was picturesque and had me feeling instantly calm.  I was reminded of the village communities of Nova Scotia and so of course felt at home.  We toured Het Jonge Schaap, a cap winder sawmill.  A working sawmill, it has been there more than 70 years (the original was demolished in 1942).  At one time, there were roughly 1000 windmills in the area, but by 1920 only about 50 remained.  In 1925, the De Zaansche Molen Windmill Society was founded and now owns 13 industrial windmills.  I could have spent an entire day at this one spot and can only tell you that pictures (mine, at least) don’t do it justice.

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Above, you can see the inner workings of the saw mill.  Most prominent in the foreground is 1 of 3 saw-frames that move up and down, powered by the wind, to saw the beams or tree trunks.  The ropes you see top left are also wind powered and the ropes are connected to a chain that is wrapped around the beam or trunk to slowly pull it toward the blades.

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A volunteer sweeps up scraped bark, as windmills turn in the background

Next: Volendam, Holland’s best-known fishing village according to Holland Tourism, was our stop for the Cheese Factory.  It was more “buy cheese” than “cheese-making demonstration” but there was lots of free sampling to be had, and I came away from the shop with a super fancy cheese knife, so it’s all good.  After stuffing ourselves with free cheese, it was time for lunch.  Having had enough of the big crowd, I passed on the suggested restaurant and wandered a little ways down the road, finding a lovely and quiet (read: almost empty) restaurant where I had the most filling, rich bowl of tomato soup ever.

After lunch, we had time to pop into Woltje’s Backerij, where I tried my hand at making stroopwafels!  It was fun to work with their chef, who has been doing this for a few decades.

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Do I look like a professional?

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Cheapest diploma of my adult life! 😉

After lunch, we took a 30-minute ferry ride to Marken.  It’s an island full of quaint traditional wooden houses, farm land, and features a still-working lighthouse that was built in 1839.  In Marken, we had the full clog experience at the Wooden Shoe Factory.  I had always wondered how they could be hollowed out and yet made in one piece- and this was the day the veil was lifted!

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YES! WATER! Leaving Volendam behind us en route to Marken

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Marken is known for it’s traditional wooden houses

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Funniest guide ever- also shared knowledge and clog-making process

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Step 1: Turning the clog on the lathe

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Step 2: hollowing out the shoe

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A lovely surprise as we headed back to the bus!

Driving back to Amsterdam, I learned more about the intricate canal system.  Some areas are as many as 7 meters below sea level! Drainage here is an artful science, as draining too much will cause the land to sag and too little will cause flooding.  In one place, we passed a dike that had been built to stop the destructive flooding that was plaguing the community.  The Afsluitdijk causeway is a staggering 32 kilometres (that’s 20 miles) long and is 90 metres (300 feet) wide!  It dammed off the Zuiderzee (an inlet of the North Sea) and created what is now a fresh water lake, IJsselmeer.  If you do a google image search, you can see how impressive it is from the air!

Back in the city, it was still light out and the weather was perfect so I started walking back toward my hotel.

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Back in Amsterdam, droopy buildings add personality to the landscape. Besides- at 330 years old, I think it’s allowed to sag a little!

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So happy to be here, sporting an Italian scarf that belonged to my Grammer ❤

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You can’t even see the entire crowd hoping to get into Anne Frank House! 

On my walk, I passed the Anne Frank house and it’s hundreds of queued up tourists.

TIP: If you want to see Anne Frank House, it is VERY strictly booked and you have to book 2 months in advance.  What you see above is the afternoon crowd, because you can line up from 3 pm on with no reserved tickets, and hope that the line moves fast enough that you get in, but there are no guarantees. This line wound back and around the buildings- there must have been a few hundred people.

At any rate- by this time, I was getting a bit tired after a long day of walking, so I sat down on a bench by the canal opposite Anne Frank House, and requested an Uber.  The driver recommended Foodhallen for an early dinner and it was an amazing suggestion! 

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I started with fresh juice: Het Leeuwtje, made with turmeric, mango, banana and orange.  Then it was on to an Asian booth for gyoza (not as good as homemade, I’m sad to say). Next: chipotle braised beef corn tacos with sour lime cream, fresh herb salsa, and pickled cactus. And yes, it was as good as it sounds!  I was pretty full, but not too full to sample a vegan dessert: a dark chocolate truffle lightly dusted with cocoa.

I was surprised that there was still light as I left Foodhallen, so I decided to do a bit more walking.  I could not have timed it better if I tried. As I crossed over a small canal, the sun had just settled below the top of the buildings, casting a golden glow onto the canal and creating breathtaking silhouettes.  As I passed Vondelpark minutes later, the setting sun was cradled in the branches of the trees. It was the perfect end to a really incredible day.

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Full circle moment

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