Amsterdam and Netherlands

Trip Blip Week 3 and a bit!!


August 9, 2008

Probably the final update before we return home...although I still don't think I have finished up the summary from Costa Rica 6 months ago:)

Since I last wrote we have made a short overnight trip to Friesland. The purpose of the trip was to visit relatives and see the city that the boys Oma and Opa came from and the town that there last name is derived from. (sorry about the grammar).

First stop was at Dick's (One of Opa's brother's, Pete's son). We had coffee at his home and met with his daughter and Uncle Jo (Joop) came too. Then we headed out to see some of Meppel. First we went to a war memorial. There is a memorial there with the names of people in the resistance or through other reasons (not soldiers) that died in the War. The boys great Opa has his name on the memorial. Then we walked through the nice streets and went to a working windmill for awhile.

Next we walked past their Oma (Jane's) row of houses where she grew up. Then onto Meppel Centrum where there was a festival in action. Terrible music on this day. "Sweet Caroline" sung in a loud voice with a Dutch accent...Blech!!! Some more thunder and rain showers too. The boys and John climed the hundreds of stairs to the top of the church tower. Some of them found it pretty scary up there. I shopped instead:)

After some Vlaams Frites we walked past the house where their Opa and Uncle Joop lived. Joop also took us through the back gardens and told us a story from the war. Opa (Annius) and the other brothers were in hiding working for the Resistance but on weekends they would come back home. it was too dangerous to stay in the house because of raids so they would sleep in a little building close to the house. They had to get up early on Monday to go back to work but couldn't use an alarm clock so Joop who was young still and at home with his mother would have to set his alarm and then sneak through the back gardens to wake them up. It was very dangerous and he had to go past a German officer's home to get there.


Back to Dick's for some more tea and then onto a large piece of land that is a sort of a park and shows historic sheep ranching and herding. After that Joop took us on the scenic route to deliver us to Petra and Peter's for the evening. Peter made a lovely dinner and they made a nice place for us all to stay. Poor Petra was not feeling well but stayed to entertain us. After a night's "rest" we headed to spend the next day in Groningen.

Groningen is also an interesting city. We enjoyed the market and some people had some herring in true Dutch style. Raw and Whole!! Yum yum yum!!! Jonah says, "Yuck yuck yuck!" Sander actually tried it but

didn't like it at all. We visited the Synagogue, the Maritime museum and some shops and tourist spots.

Last stop on the way back was a brief detour to Driesum. A very pretty little town and a great opportunity for the boys "from Driesum". We took a different route back so we could drive over the dike (Dijk) that separates the North Sea from the created inland lake and the rest of Holland.

A great couple of days but we were all glad to get back to our home away from home. Our minds and bodies are starting to wrap up this trip and we are preparing for the trip home in just another day. We will miss some things here and also bring some ideas home with us. Gabriel wants a back yard swing, I would like a grapevine and we all would like to ride our bicycles everyday.

Wishing everyone at home a beautiful weekend and to everyone here we would like to say







August 6th catch up,

Travel fatigue caught up with us over the last couple of days and I just didn't get around to posting. A couple of days ago we went to Muiderslot in Muiden. It is a castle built in the 1300's. A wonder for the boys to be in a real castle! Jonah says

"Today we went to a medieval castle. It was really cool and there was fun games you could do to get an idea of the things medieval people would do. Some of the games were jousting, throwing rock balls at people's head's and making a strategy and using it to fight in defense of the castle."

In Sander's words,

"After we went into this really cool ( 10 and 11 year olds find this description meaningful), neighbourhood. We had lunch there and the portions were huge. My family and I got to see a very interesting water lock. What happens is that when they open the gate the water on one side of the gate rises and the water on the other side lowers. There is also a rotating bridge so the boats can go through but after the people can go over top."

It was a really great day but a couple of the boys seem to be battling a bug and we were all tired so yesterday we just hung around the house. Today we are going to the Tropenmuseum (tropics). Supposed to be very good. Tomorrow we head to Meppel, Groningen and Driesum for a couple of days with family and to see where John's parent's grew up.


from a stil tired family

August 4(writing about August 3rd), 2008

Hello to all who are reading this…

I was much too tired after our day yesterday to even try to write a coherent update.  I will try to catch up now as we are going to go a little slower today.  
Yesterday we got up and with Map Quest map in hand we began our drive to Smilde for the cousin’s lunch at Els and Henk’s place.    Two hours in the little Peugeot was enough to remind us why we have a van…separation!!!!


We all made it to Smilde in one piece enjoying the landscape along the way.  The hundreds of wind turbines are amazing as the quietly and efficiently collect power.  

Smilde was very nice with many of the houses along the main canal.  Some of the new houses even were putting on reed thatched roofs which the children found interesting.  We drove down a very pretty garden lined street to Els’s really terrific new home.  Her home has very clean lines and fresh sense of style and design.   On the front door was a picture of the 5 van Driesum brothers.  There was a wonderful turn out with only a couple of families missing due to other commitments but that is pretty good for a large extended family.

Our boys really enjoyed meeting all these cousins, second cousins, and second cousins once removed, as well as their Great Uncle and Aunt.  Some of the people they had met earlier in our trip and others had been to Canada before but for some it was their first meeting (and me too).  The boys entertained some of the younger children and played and chatted with family.  A very pleasant day! For all of you that were there, I have pictures for you.  I will try to send them by e-mail but if you want higher pixel versions or if the files are too large I can put them on disc and will send them once I am home.

The later part of the day it started to pour rain but Els had arranged a big party tent which was then lifted over the patio and the boys had lots of fun releasing the pockets of water that formed!!

Thank you to Els, Petra, Henk and Peter for organizing a great day and to everyone else for being there and putting up with my non existent Dutch and the boy’s rambunctious behaviour.  For all those friends and family in Holland, we would like to re-extend our invitation to come and visit in Canada.  We do have lots of space to host adults and children in our home and we have camping gear that can be borrowed for exploring beyond our home.  You just need to book the planeJ.  We look forward to seeing you!

Today we will keep it simple and go to a castle, Muiderslot, not too far from here. One week from today and we will be en route to the airport to return to Victoria.  In some ways I will be glad to go home but we are enjoying ourselves so much I think we will also feel a little sad.  



August 2,


Back home you are starting your long weekend.  Have fun be safe and I hope the weather is fair.  The weather is just crazy here.  I don’t know if it is always like this but it is very volatile.  Tomorrow is the family lunch and we are hoping for nice weather. 

Today we got up leisurely and headed to Central Station.  We caught the train to Haarlem which is a very short trip but exciting for the boys as it was there first time on a real high speed commuter train.  Haarlem was beyond our expectations!! You were right Christine it was a very special place.  Incredible buildings, interesting shops and market stalls.  The church, St Bavo’s was very impressive and we were all extra awed to know that both Mozart and Handel played the massive organ in the church.  We had planned to go to the art museum but we all enjoyed strolling and shopping and eating so much that we kept the day simple.

The boys were thrilled to find BMX biker jackets in the one store and shoes for two of the boys.  If the wind blew a tiny bit they claimed a chill to don their jackets until they started to swelter. 

All in all a very enjoyable day.  We are looking forward to seeing family tomorrow.


Musings and hints-In Holland now it has changed from thirty years ago (JOHN!!) You can no longer board the train and purchase tickets on board.  If you don’t have tickets when they come around to check they will charge you the 4 Euro for the ticket and a 35 Euro fine a piece.  Luckily the conductor took pity on the dumb ass Canadians and didn’t fine us.  We didn’t run into the conductor on the way there and only on the way back so we managed a free ride to Haarlem and back!! But I wouldn’t risk it again!!$200 dollars for a 15 minute trip would be a bit hard to take!

Word for the day-smeerkaas – cheese spread…doesn’t it sound yummy!!!




August 1,2008wooden shoe

Can't believe I just wrote that. August already. Jonah has begun the countdown. Not because he is desperate to go home but just because it is his thing. Today was raining heavily in the morning so we left the bikes in the shed and went to catch the bus...but they have changed the route and it started to pour so we drove to the bike ferry instead. It worked out well. Actually easier to find a space for you car at the ferry then for you bike. But that is Amsterdam for you.

house with sleeping loft

Our first stop was the Anne Frank Haus. No pictures as you can not take them inside. A sobering experience for sure and fairly emotional. To step into the rooms and contemplate that they didn't go outside for two years...unimaginable!

Then a stop at one market and some stores and a bite to eat for the boys and then onto the Dutch Resistance Museum. A small museum but very well put together. We were there for a long time. If you walk the main corridor it shows representations and tells stories of life for the average person in occupied Holland. Of the main hallway are side 'rooms'. If you enter these they tell stories with pictures, video and artifacts of the exceptional stories of the war. The persecuted, the hidden children, members of the Resistance. I think I would not have been so brave.

It amazes me how much the boys can take in. Even Gabriel gathers information and understands a lot of what he sees. Plus he is very patient.

sint nicolaaskerk

We walked through the city some more and I finally bought something for myself at one of the markets. A great skirt made by a local designer. It is very fun and very Amsterdam with a removable pouch for your bike lock keys and wallet and a wrap skirt that is easy to bicycle with. Now I want to go back and get another.

Last stop was the Catholic Church across the street from Central Station. Very Grand and beautiful with the organ music ringing through to the ceiling!!! An amazing end to the day,

Our feet are tired and our brains are full from another day!

Tomorrow to the original Haarlem!


PS. Yes mom I am dragging my children through art galleries, museums and churches just like I vowed I would never do to my children while you were dragging me around 30 years ago!!