Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Boat ride and rijsttafel

Anouk on De Walrus
Anouk on the boat

Saturday was a beautiful day here — the sun was shining and it was actually warm — a perfect day for a boat ride. Lucky for us, Anouk and her parents (Jan and Ria) invited us to join them on their boat for the afternoon to be followed by rijsttafel in the city afterwards. In between we got to visit their home in Amstelveen.

Jan and Ria keep their boat, De Walrus, at Leimuiden on the Westeinderplas. For those who aren’t familiar with the country or area, the Westeinderplas is a large shallow lake south of Schiphol airport. De Walrus is a British-built motor boat that is mostly enclosed with a nice deck on the back. It’s very comfortable, and with the nice weather we were mostly on the rear deck except for Jan, who manned the helm inside, sometimes with company from John.

Jan at the helm
Jan at the helm

Shirlee and Ria on the deck
Shirlee and Ria on the deck

Nursery barge
Nursery barge

Recreation islands
Recreation islands

Jan took us out of the lake to the Ringvaart, a canal that is part of the staande mast route (standing mast route) linking Amsterdam and Rotterdam. There was quite a bit of traffic on the canal including some commercial barges like the one in the photo, which was moving containers of shrubs from a nursery. The town of Aalsmeer, which borders the lake and is bisected by the canal, is home to many nurseries and greenhouses. It hosts huge flower auctions of tulips and other flowers that are shipped all over the world from Schiphol, both as cut flowers and as bulbs.

Between the canal and the lake Jan and Ria pointed out little islands with docks. These are recreation islands. People from the city buy (or sometimes rent) them as a place to take their boats for a picnic or a weekend get-away. They aren’t allowed to sleep on the islands, but they can sleep on a boat moored at the island. Some were quite developed with picnic tables and playgrounds in addition to the docks, but others were left in their natural state, except that the weeds were cut.

As comfortable as it was on the boat, it also looked like it would be fun to ride a bike along the canal. The bike paths are very nice, and there are plenty of places to stop along the way. Unfortunately, my folding bike was stolen soon after we unloaded it from the boat. I didn’t even get to ride it. Yes, it was locked, but bicycle theft is rampant here. When I mentioned it to Anouk and her family, they said, “Welcome to Amsterdam.” On the website for Boom Chicago, an English-language theater here, the directions by bike read, “Bike to the Leidseplein. Lock bike nearby. See show. Replace stolen bike.”

After the boat ride, we drove to Anouk’s family home in Amstelveen where John got to see a Dutch house from the inside for the first time, and we met Anouk’s brother, Patrick, and their dog, Kai. Then it was back to Amsterdam and the Indonesian restaurant Tempo Doeloe for a wonderful rijsttafel. A rijsttafel is a dinner of many small dishes of varying spiciness. The idea is to start mild and work your way up. (I have to record the name of the restaurant because we couldn’t remember the last one we went to in 2004 with Jeffrey, Karan, and Esmeralda. It turns out that it was just next door, but I still don’t know its name.) The food and service and wonderful, but we couldn’t finish it all — except that I think we did manage to eat all of the dessert.

In all it was a wonderful afternoon and evening that we are sure to remember as one of the highlights of our stay here. Thank you so much, Jan, Ria and Anouk!

Monday, September 22, 2008

End of a sunny week

Mark your calendars: we just had a whole week without rain here! In fact, it may have been a few days more than a full week, but we have a 70% chance of rain tomorrow. We’ve enjoyed it while it lasted, going for walks and boat rides.

On our way home from our second dinghy tour last week, we spotted the sailboat Dandelion tied up along the canal where the boats who taking the “standing mast route” through Holland go. Dandelion is the boat that crossed the Atlantic as we were crossing from the Azores to France and that stopped in Cherbourg while we were there. The skipper, Andrew, grew up in Eugene. He’s now been joined by his wife and baby daughter. They were headed for Finland, but it’s late in the year to finish that voyage, so they’re going to spend the winter here at Marina Westerdok too.

We spent the first few days rafted up, which is always gezellig (an untranslatable Dutch word that means something like cozy, but now Dandelion has its own slip. In a few days we hope to move too to a slip that isn’t on the outside. The Dutch are very good boat handlers, but there’s lots of traffic in the canal, especially when the weather is nice, and it feels safer to be in an inside slip.

From a walk in Vondel Park

One of the canal boats

Another canal boat

At the farmers' market

Apparently there are no freight elevators here

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Our dog is Dutch

Märzen got her Dutch pet passport today. Although her rabies vaccination was good for three years, we thought the EU required yearly vaccinations because they require a vaccination within a year of entering the EU. So we made an appointment with the closest vet we could find in the Dutch online yellow pages, just two stops away on the bus and within easy walking distance, except that Märzen doesn’t really like to walk.

The vet is a nice woman named Annette, who has two dachshunds of her own. That was an unexpected bonus. It turns out that, although the EU recognizes rabies vaccinations as good for three years if that’s the kind you get, they don’t actually recognize the Fort Dodge vaccine that Märzen got in San Francisco. The ID chip scanner also didn’t recognize her chip, and they vaccinate here against some diseases that aren’t a problem in the western U.S. As a result, Märzen got a new chip and two shots along with her passport, and her mom spent all her cash.

The vet was amazed at the amount of paper in Märzen’s medical record because they computerize everything here and record the essentials in the passport. That’s very handy. Now if only they took Visa.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Canal tour in our own dinghy

We had one day of nice weather last week (before today) and celebrated by visiting the Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s Central Park. We really enjoyed wandering the paths in the sunshine. When we arrived in early afternoon, it wasn’t crowded, but before we left, school had let out and it was quite the happening place. It reminded me of Golden Gate Park on a sunny weekend afternoon.

Later that day another sailboat came to the marina. They didn’t fit in the slip that the harbor master had planned on, so we had them raft up with us. It was fun to have neighbors for a few days. Maria and Lex are about our age and live in 's Hertogenbosch, in the south of the Netherlands. They were on their way home from a five-month summer voyage in the Baltic. We all got along very well, and we enjoyed getting together every evening they were here to have a few drinks and visit. They’ve invited us to visit them in 's Hertogenbosch for a regatta later this winter and for Carnaval in late February. Carnaval is the Dutch version of mardi gras, and it’s really celebrated in the south, which is predominately Catholic. 's Hertogenbosch is supposed to be one of the best places for Carnaval, and we’re looking forward to the adventure.

Despite the rain that has fallen almost every day we've been here, the canal has been busy with canal boats filled with Dutch people having fun. Today after John reset a stanchion, we finally put the dinghy in the water and went for our own tour on the canals. We had a canal map with the routes (truly a map, not a chart), but at one point we got lost anyway. It’s difficult to see the names of the canals from the water because they’re posted on the sides of buildings. Often on the water the view is blocked. Then when I could see a name, it wasn’t on the map. I figured we would run into a canal off of the one we were on eventually, but it dead-ended due to bridge construction before that happened. We ended up retracing our route back to where we had turned off. Finally we found recognizable territory and made our way home.

If the weather is still good tomorrow (and it’s supposed to be), we’ll go out again. This time we’ll bring the map I use to get us around town. It has all of the streets on it. We’ll also bring a leash for Märzen, and a blanket. Today she needed to stop, and I didn’t have her leash, so I had to follow her closely lest she escape. Fortunately, it isn’t too difficult to get ashore, and we were somewhere without a lot of street activity.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Developing a routine

Cruising can’t be exciting all the time. Even when you’re someplace exotic, if you stay put, life develops a routine. And that’s what’s happening with us. We’ve found a chandlery in addition to grocery stores and markets, and we’re figuring out the most efficient combinations of buses and trams to take to get where we need to go if we don’t walk. Day-to-day life consists of small trips to the store, checking the Internet for election news, and working on boat projects.

Our shower space is now a shower all the time as we’ve moved all the things that we were storing there to other locations. We definitely had more provisions than we needed for the Atlantic crossing, but now we don’t have to buy as much at the store. John has found a place in the lazarette for the transformer where it is safely out of the rain, and we’ve gotten the bike out but haven’t used it because of the rain. (Did I mention that it rains here?) Sjoerd, the harbor master, has loaned John a bike, so we can go riding together when we get a dry day.

A major project for John has been fixing the furnace. (That’s why we’ve already found a chandlery.) It’s working now, though, and should be fine for the rest of the winter. Now we’re tracking down the leaks. Found one right over the table in the salon, but now there’s another in the galley.

We haven’t seen our old friends this week, but we did go to a DemsFun gathering of Democrats Abroad NL, met some new people, and said hello again to those we met on Obama night. The elections are really capturing most of our attention these days. There are links to some of the blogs we follow on the Links page of our website if you’re interested. That’s part of the reason that we haven’t added new photos to the website. It takes time to read all that stuff! Also, the weather hasn’t been very conducive to picture-taking.