Visiting Betsy and Michel in Holland (Nov. 13-14, 1999)
On this weekend, my niece Betsy had invited me to Schiedam (near Rotterdam) in The Netherlands to visit her and her fiancÚ, Michel van der Hoek. Of course, I took the train, leaving after work on Friday.Unfortunately, this journey got off to a rough start. I didn't make it to their place until 2am Saturday morning. The train was supposed to take me all the way through to Schiedam. It stopped in a place called Breda and I was lucky that someone told me we had to take a bus. At the next station I had to wait for a while for a train to Rotterdam. It finally came, but by the time I got to Rotterdam I had missed the last train to Schiedam. I didn't have any Guilders (the money in Holland) but fortunately I could use my credit card in the phone and I called Michel. He said I was out of luck and would have to get a cab because neither of them have a car. I got the address and found a cab. The cab driver knew Rotterdam but didn't know Schiedam and got lost. I made him call Michel twice and finally we got close to the train station and I was so mad that I made him stop and let me out. God I was pissed. Anyway I found them and we went back to Michel's apartment. We stayed up and talked until about 3:30. They had a mattress on the floor for me to sleep on. It was pretty comfortable but the weird part was that they had mosquito netting hanging over it and recommended I use the netting. Apparently the mosquitoes are pretty bad around there with all the water everywhere.
I couldn't sleep very late the next morning - the sun was so bright. Betsy fixed breakfast after we had all gotten up and had showers. I think it was more like an English breakfast. Either of them could impersonate a Brit if they wanted to. Michel speaks English with a British accent and Betsy even has one now, she's been over there so long. There was NO COFFEE - just tea! Breakfast consisted of mostly bread, butter, and sweet stuff to put on top of the bread and butter. They have this way of buttering bread and then putting white sugar on top of it and eating it like that. They did have some muesli cereal so it wasn't all strange to me. Being in Holland, I did as the Dutch.
After breakfast, we went around to some stores and they did some shopping. Then we headed to his parent's house and it took all 3 forms of public transport to get there - train, tram, bus. You don't really need a car around there with all the convenient transportation. Mr & Mrs van der Hoek are very nice. They both spoke good English which was great for me - who can barely speak his native language. After a quick soft drink, we borrowed their bikes and rode to this place along the dikes where there were a bunch of old windmills. Pretty nice. I was surprised to learn that people live in them now. They looked like they would still work. I think they quit using the last of the old style windmill around 1950. It was a relatively short bike ride. OK for me because I was underdressed and really cold. Holland is a fantastic place for riding bikes. It's totally flat and has bike paths everywhere. More bikes than I've ever seen. We went by the grocery store on the way back to his parent's and had a hard time finding a parking place for the bikes.
Back at Michel's parents, we had coffee (thank God) and apple pie. I met his sister Monique. She is pretty funny. They talked a lot back and forth in Dutch - it's pretty funny to listen to. Sometimes it sounds like badly slurred English. I told Betsy and Michel I would treat them to dinner. His Dad recommended a Chinese restaurant in Rotterdam. Michel's sister gave us a ride down there. We got there early and had time to stop in at a bar for a couple of beers beforehand. Dinner was uneventful and decent. By the time we got back to the apt it wasn't that late but I was really tired. We played this game called Mad-libs where it has a couple or three paragraphs that tell a story. There are blanks in the story that you fill in to complete the story. One person tells the player(s) whether the blank to fill it is a noun, adjective, adverb, etc. and off the top of their head they supply the word. When you get done filling in all the blanks, you read it back and most of the time it is really funny. After that it was another night under the netting.
Sunday morning I got up and ran. Had a nice run along the paths beside the canals. I think in Holland wherever you are, you are beside water - canals or rivers. When I got back Betsy was preparing this really good vegetable dish. She had obtained the recipe from a vegetarian friend of hers. It smelled great! After a quick breakfast, we headed to the Hague to go to the American Protestant Church. This was a really cool church (Betsy said it was sort of Presbyterian/Methodist). This was the most multi-national gathering I think I had ever been to. There were people there from Morocco, South Africa, Russia, Australia, Canada - you name it. It seemed like a great church. Good music, a lot of people, nice minister, familiar service. I'm glad I went.
It was such a long trip to and from church that when we got back, I only had 5 minutes before we had to hurry back to the train station. That sucked. Betsy made me a care package with some of the dish she made. It was as good as it smelled. Thanks Betsy!!
I had a LONG trip back. Got on the train in Schiedam at 2:10 and 8 hours later I was back in the apt. I've had enough train travel this year!
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