Saturday, June 12, 2010

Celebrating end of Tax Season with a trip to The Netherlands: Amsterdam, Gouda and Kinderdijk (Days 2 & 3)

We stayed in a cute Bed and Breakfast in Reeuwijk called Pax Tibi for 2 nights while we toured around mostly the western region of the Netherlands. It was pretty neat to see canals everywhere in this area. We even had to cross over a mini canal to get to our B&B. Anyway, the owners, Marian and her husband, were very kind and extremely helpful. They even were able to provide a baby cot for Reagan which is a nice bonus when traveling with a little one. Also our room had a little kitchen and refrigerator. Reagan enjoyed crawling around the spacious room and probably would have been happy there the whole vacation! She also loved the animals that were at Pax Tibi, such as a pig, rabbit, roosters, chickens and a few others.

On Saturday, we decided to road trip into Amsterdam from our B&B. It was still a little bit of a drive, but not near as bad as if we were coming from Brussels. We parked on the perimeter of the city and took a tram (similar to a train) in. There's a special deal where it only costs 6 euro for parking and tram tickets combined (our B&B actually told us about this offer). It makes going to Amsterdam so much more enjoyable, especially since it is already overcrowded with cars, bikes and people. We explored one of the quieter areas of Amsterdam, the Jordaan District. They are several fun shops and cafes and a few antique stores and of course canals!

The following day we decided to check out the quaint little town of Gouda. Yes, this is where the famous Gouda Cheese originated! There are several cheese shops, but only a few were open on this particular Sunday. Regardless, we had fun sampling a few varieties and ended up buying 2 rounds of gouda along with some amazing sweet mustard dipping sauce. Besides being famous for its cheese, Gouda is the home of the stroopwafel, which has become one of my favorite treats! One of Shannon's coworkers introduced them to us when we first moved here and we always used to stock up on them when we went to Holland. In the meantime, we have realized that you can find them in Brussels. We often bring them back to our friends and family in the States who all go crazy for them. Now, if only they weren't so heavy, those dang baggage weight limits anyway!

And the last leg of our trip was to Kinderdijk where the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands exists. It's a Unesco World Heritage Site and is quite a spectacular sight. You can bike or just take a nice stroll between the rows of windmills. One of them is open to the public which we went in, while I believe some of the others are a bit more private and used as homes.

Pax Tibi, the B&B we stayed at in the Netherlands. This is the main house where the owners actually live, but breakfast is served here.
Just behind the house, there's an old, though nicely renovated, barn which is where the rooms are located.
Reagan doesn't quite know what to think of this pig and its little friend, the rabbit.
Reagan checking out the roosters and chickens
A house fairly close to our B&B
We made it to Amsterdam and enjoyed many nice strolls along its canals.
I love the sunny cafe terraces (patio seating) you see all over Europe. This one is in the Jordaan District next to a church I believe
Back of the cafe / church. It looks like there's a house built into the side
Typical Amsterdam architecture...take note of the hooks which is how they move in/out of their houses via a pulley system
Reagan was such a trooper that day...hanging out on my back and all!
View of the church square from across the canal
The red house is supposed to be considered the smallest (skinniest) house in Amsterdam
Just some more patio seating. We made sure to relax a bit down the street where we indulged in a piece of Dutch Apple Strudel. It was to die for at Cafe Winkel! I have to thank my friend Marion for recommending the cafe to us.
The next day we went to Gouda. Shannon and Reagan are standing in front of its 15th century gothic city hall in the middle of the market square.
Gouda's gothic city hall
View of the whole market square in Gouda
One of several cheese stores
Yum...we are all Gouda cheese loves, even Reagan!
These were on the door to the cheese shop
Hmmm, so many choices, where should I start?!?
Gouda with different herbs, who knew there could be so many different styles of gouda!
Loved the traditional wooden cheese shoes (clogs)!
Reagan slept through our whole cheese encounter so we thought we'd better include one photo of her with some cheese!
Gouda is home of the famous Stroopwafels which I am a dear fan of! They were first made in the late 18th century by a baker using leftovers from the bakery, such as crumbs, that were sweetened with syrup. Gouda currently has 4 factories that make them, but used to have 17 back in 1960.
Typical Stroopwafel tin
Another cheese store we came across but was closed
Some folks kayaking down one of the canals.
Cute house in Gouda
After we were finished touring around Gouda, we stopped in Kinderdijk on our way back to Brussels. Kinderdijk has the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands, 19 in all. They were built around 1740 and were used to drain the polder (marshlands) that Kinderdijk is situated in. Old windmill clog like boots
Inside one of the windmills since families lived within them
Shannon and Reagan checking out the windmill

Row of 19 windmills

There's also a bike path that goes around the windmills which you can kind of see in the distance.

Modern version of a windmill that is being used today to drain the polder
Sign at the entrance
View as we made the journey back to our car
Also saw this cute idea as we made the walk back to our car
I think the windmills wiped Reagan out! Next time we'll have to pack some blankets in the backpack carrier!