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Report 121: Three Months in Holland

By Marta (Moderator) from Washington State, Spring 1996

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Page 2 of 8: Arrival in Holland

April 19, 1996 Hello from Europe. Well we have arrived and settled in to our apartment.

The plane ride was non-eventful. Everything was on time. It was long as usual. We landed at 7am at Schiphol airport Amsterdam on Sunday.

The weather was sunny but cold and breezy. We could not check into the hotel until about 1pm so we stayed a bit at the Schiphol airport. There are many shops at Schiphol including a big Leonidas chocolate shop and a supermarket. We had a coffee and pastry and finally went down to the train platform or "spoor" in Dutch to catch a train to Leiden.

The ride is not long, maybe 30 minutes at most. The countryside was pretty barren still since it was the beginning of spring. I saw a few bulb fields and lots of daffodils in yards. Most of the trees are without leaves.

We dropped off our luggage at the hotel and took off to explore a sleepy Leiden on an early Sunday morning. It was not yet time for church. With George's interest in plants, we headed off to find the Hortus Botanicus. This is an old botanical garden associated with the University of Leiden. We took several wrong turns, rested a bit in the sun and finally found the garden. It was closed so we headed off for other areas and more exploring. We walked Breestraat one of the main shopping streets and found the beer store. We climbed the Burcht, an ancient fortress in the center of town. Soon it was 1pm and we checked in the hotel. We stayed at Hotel Mayflower, Beestenmarkt 2, Leiden.

We walked to the apartment a short distance away. We got a quick tour of the apartment and how everything works. The apartment is modern and furnished with the minimum, but it does have most everything you need to survive and is much better than the hotel.

We were starting to feel the effects of the plane ride and having been up from 7am. We went for a quick dinner at an Italian pizzeria. On the way we also explored another shopping street, located a grocery store and other places to shop. We crashed back at the hotel at 8pm. We fell asleep and slept most of the night.

Next day I awoke with very little jet lag. I met my co-worker at the apartment and we were off for the train station. He showed me all the traffic hazards (bikes, cars and scooters from all directions street intersections). I found out how to get train tickets, monthly passes, read the train schedule and where to get the train to The Hague. Next was how to use the ATM and the route to the office after arriving in The Hague.

At the office, we had a small going away party for my co-worker. A few of us stayed and went to a trendy bar/"eet café" just off the Square (Plein) for dinner. It was very good food. They even had a vegetarian entree!

The next day my co-worker left very early for Germany. I wondered if I could remember the way to the train station (I did) and later George checked out of the hotel and moved into the apartment. Tuesday was a good day to move in and move out since the maid comes by and does the cleaning.

Tuesday evening was my first time in the apartment. George had unpacked and had already been to the grocery store. We exchanged stories of life in Holland. George was getting familiar again with shopping, how to weigh and price your produce, how to get a winklewagon (shopping cart), and what the Dutch words for meat are so he can make certain he doesn't buy any food with meat in it. I was figuring out how to get to and from work.

Church bells are always ringing from the church near the apartment. You can get used to them. They are rather strange in that there is no pattern to them. Sometimes they ring the correct number on the hour sometimes it is on the half-hour, sometimes it's wrong number. I slept with earplugs the first few nights, but I didn't need them last night.

Thursday is the late shopping night in Leiden. We walked along the two main shopping streets Breestraat and Haarlemstraat. Haarlemstraat is definitely the more popular. Lots of people out. George bought potting soil and is planning on potting up flowers in the flower boxes on the patio. I found the beer store again. A whole shop dedicated to beer. Of course, I was in heaven. It is customary in Holland and Belgium to have special glasses for each brand of beer. This shop has the correct glasses for each beer. I bought a few of my favorite beers (Chimay Bleu, Duvel), a few beers that I recognized and want to try and few beers for I bought just for the labels. I will definitely be a frequent customer at this store. Now it's Friday. The weather has been wonderful. Still warm and sunny off and on. It's supposed to be nice tomorrow. We are going to the flower parade. It's a parade of flower-decorated cars and floats that goes from Nordwijk to Haarlem (about 30K). It will be in Haarlem in the evening and we will go there to see the parade and view the floats afterwards. They will be illuminated until about midnight. Spring is so late this year that they have had to import flowers from France and Spain for this parade. The daffodils are just about at their peak and the tulips are just starting to bud and open.

Sunday we may go to the Keukenoff Garden and/or Amsterdam. Tot zeins.

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