Saturday, September 4, 2010

Look at me - I'm in a windmill!

We slept in this morning.  After breakfast, we walked to the train station to catch a bus to Zaanse Schans to see windmills.  DH plans our daily routes so we walk on different streets.  All of a sudden, we were in the Red Light District once again!  I managed to get a picture of the red lights along a side street.  Apparently, the photo rule is that you cannot take pictures of the gals, but otherwise photos are okay.  The photo needs a little editing, so I won't post it until after we get home.

We had a lovely bus ride with a family from Argentina to this picturesque village on the Zaan River northwest of the city.  Their little boy was an energetic as Jackson!  The busses are very clean and quiet.  Many of them are doubles with the flexible middle allowing them to easily turn corners.  There's probably a name for them, but I don't know it!

I'm so glad we did this sidetrip since it allowed us to see the immediate suburbs of the city.  The neighborhoods are filled with apartment buildings three or four stories tall. Some of them have small patios and lovely well-maintained gardens.

I loved Zaanse Schans!  Even though this is obviously meant for tourists, it was not "touristy."  Throughout our visit, we saw residents riding bicycles or visiting with one another.  People in the half dozen shops as well as the mill operators were extremely friendly and informative.  We visited a cheese shop and learned how goat milk is magically transformed into delicious Edam cheese then wandered along the grassy fields and watched the goats.

We walked along the river stopping to visit four or five windmills.  There was little wind at first.  There's a small fee to tour a windmill (3 euro per person), so we chose one to visit.  The De Bonte Hen (The Brightly Colored Hen) was built in 1693.  At the present time, it is run by volunteers and produces vegetable oils.  It is dark and musty smelling on the inside.  The mill operator apologized that there was no wind, but suddenly we heard creaking and the gears started to slowly turn.  As the wind picked up, you could hear the mill come to life with the sounds slowly accelerating.

I decided to climb up to the second level and go on the outside of the mill.  The stairs are incredibly steep.  They reminded me of the stairs going into the depths of the tall ships, but these were steeper and narrower.  Fortunately, there was an iron handrail -- but only on one side!  I managed to climb the stairs and was rewarded with a spectacular view of the countryside and the village of Zaandijk across the river.  I will never forget the sound of the windmill turning "up close and personal."

We crossed the river by ferry (actually a small boat) and wandered around for an hour or two stopping by a little sandwich shop for a "broodje."  We even splurged on a nut tart for dessert.  Our meal times are totally off; breakfast at 10, lunch at 3, and dinner at 9.  My SIL and BIL would be so proud of us for eating dinner so late!

As we were heading back across the river, we heard sirens everywhere.  Once per year, there is a truck parade when handicapped children get to ride along with the drivers and tout the horns and sirens.  There must have been 200 vehicles!  The children were having such fun, but the noise was deafening.

The #91 bus brought us back to the railroad station and the start of our long walk home.  Time to try out the washing machine, which is both a washing machine and a dryer in one unit -- not the piggyback style that we've seen before, but actually one unit that serves both purposes.  Susan, the owner of the apartment, left handwritten instructions that left us baffled.  We figured out the washer, but after several attempts with the dryer, we had to call Susan for a walkthrough.  Even after two hours of drying, the clothes were still wet.  Hopefully, they'll be dry by morning!

DH and I tried Restaurant 't Zwaantje for dinner.  It has a delightful atmosphere and wonderful food, typically Dutch so we've heard.  Doug had a delicious fish dish.  The French fries served with it came with mayonnaise as a dipping sauce!  He loves mayonnaise, so he was in heaven.  I ordered Oma's beef stew (how could I not?), a melt-in-your-mouth beef in a marvelous sauce served with a variety of fresh steamed vegetables (carrots, leeks, green beans, red cabbage) and mashed potatoes.

It was 11 p.m. when we finished our wonderful dinner and walked back for our last night at Herengracht 311.

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