(April 2015) HOLLAND
Forty years ago my father spent two years in the Netherlands (Holland) on a mission for our Church. The amazing experiences that he had while there made a lasting impression and my childhood was filled with stories of the incredible Dutch people. My name even came partly from a children’s storybook that he came across—it is filled with stories of this mischievous little girl who is full of ideas and always getting into trouble.
We celebrated Sinterklaas evening every December and grew up singing Dutch nursery rhymes. As we have gotten older the 5 of us kids have been talking for years over how to get my dad back to Holland, it just has never been an option financially. Then a few years ago I started working for an airline which opened up a world of travel opportunities for my family. Suddenly it wasn’t someday but when.
Last week I flew up to Seattle to meet up with my parents who had flown in the night before from Alaska, and we boarded a direct flight to Amsterdam. They were incredibly excited. My dad was going back to a land that he loved and my mom was taking her first trip across the ocean.
They were surprised by the free food, and other great perks that come on a transoceanic flight. We arrived at the Schiphol Airport and used the free WIFI to book a hotel in Dordrecht. We purchased train tickets and with no wait boarded a train. Soon we arrived at a small community on the water. We walked around town exploring—our backpackers packs clearly giving us away as being tourists.
We checked in at the Hotel Dordrecht –a wonderful establishment near the water with excellent service and great beds –we took a quick nap to shake the jet lag off then headed back out to just wander and take in the city. We found the old church building where my father had spent quite a bit of time, and there were some men meeting there so they let us in to look around and he got to try out his speaking abilities for the first time in years. He was amazing. It was starting to get dark so we headed back to our hotel to plan out our next day. We decided to explore Kinderdijk.
We woke up early and had an exceptional breakfast provided for free by the hotel. Bread and cheeses and fresh fruit and omelets and eggs made by request. The allowed us to store our bags in the office and allowed us to use two bikes. We headed over to the train station and rented a third bike for the day.
Holland is made for bikes, they have their own roads and entryways and roundabouts and everything just for bicycle traffic. The town seemed much smaller when we were biking versus when we had walked it the night before. We biked to the Waterbus and bought tickets over to Alblasserdam from there it was a quick 10 minute bike ride through the city to the road to the Kinderdijk area. It’s this small road not open to motor vehicles that winds through the canal and windmill country. There are a few museums and open windmills along the way.
We biked along, stopping to explore and eat stroopwafels and take as many pictures as we could. It was incredible. Eventually we had to head back, biking through Alblasserdam and catching the waterbus back to Dordrecht. We collected our bags from the hotel and took a train into den Hague to stay in the city for the night.
The next day we took a train to Leiden to see the famous Keukenhof tulip gardens. We spent hours wandering through the fields of tulips and were able to see so many incredible flowers. It can also be a very easy and convenient day trip directly from the AMS airport. The air smelled incredible. Would you be surprised to hear that I planted more flowers as soon as I got home?
My last day was Sunday and we travelled an hour by train to ‘s Hertogenbosch to attend church where my father had once started up a small branch of eight people. We arrived to find a thriving church family of over 120 members who were very welcoming. Unfortunately none of the old timers were still there but it was still a fantastic experience we sang and laughed and listened and met some incredible people. We spent the rest of the day exploring den Bosch—wandering the canals, eating French fries with mayo (that’s how they are served) seeing old churches and stopping in a few toy shops. I bought the inner working of a music box at one shop for one of my cousins. At dusk we headed back to the hotel. My parents had a romantic date on the beach and I booked my flight home for the next day.
In the morning they dropped me off at the train station and I headed to the airport to get back to work. My parents were able to stay in Holland several more days and explored Delft and Gouda and see the blue pottery and cheese factories and then head up to the north country and see some more areas that my father remembered. He bought a fitted pair of wooden shoes and my mother took more pictures than she has taken on any other family trip. They had a wonderful time and are now talking about where to go on their next adventure.