|Danielle has some big shoes to fill|
We drove about an hour north to visit Amsterdam. We took the advice of several travel websites to park outside of the city center and then use public transit. This worked out well. The park and ride location we chose was at the stadium for the 1928 Summer Olympics. The stadium was quite small by comparison to the ones that have been built for recent Olympics. Most colleges would have a football stadium much larger that this stadium so it was an interesting reflection on how much more money is being invested in the Olympics now.
Once we arrived in city center via tram we walked to the Anne Frank house. It was amazing how many people were in line to go inside. The line stretched over 3 blocks. We decided to skip the line which would have taken many hours of waiting and just read the historical information posted outside. Amsterdam is famous for it's canals and we found an outfit that would rent us a small aluminum boat to explore the canals on our own. This was really cool and enjoyed by all.
The kids all had their turn at being captain. Not surprisingly, Amsterdam was packed with tourists. I think that there were a lot here for drugs and/or the red light district that the town has a reputation for given the number of people we ran across that were high or acting lewdly. This definitely provided a different experience that isn't well suited to a family and in reality not very representative of the Netherlands.
|Caleb guiding us through the canals of Amsterdam|
The next day we went to Kinderdijk which was an area that still had many Dutch windmills that were built in the 1700s and still operational today. I was impressed with how fast they turned with just moderate winds. I know how much engineering work can go into the airfoil design of the blades on modern wind turbines. I was impressed how well these worked from being designed 300 years ago without many of the design and construction advantages available today. We saw one resident turn on his mill by climbing up one of the blades (a lattice of wood) and pull across a canvas cover to make the sail of this blade.
|Putting the sails up. 3 of the 4 are up on this one|
|Old and New Wind Technology|
He did that 4 times (one for each blade) and then the brake released and the mill was put into action. Some of the windmills here were used to turn an Archimedes screw to pump water up the dike. I built an Archimedes screw with Joel for a school project and it was neat to see a real one in action. After some aimless exploring we ended up in a small town named Nieuw Lekkerland. We had lunch at a small restaurant there and talked to the owner for over an hour. She was very friendly and helpful in having us explore some of the typical foods for the region (lots of different processed meats that were deep fried. Doesn't necessarily sound good on paper, but it was good). The lunch experience was an unexpected pleasant surprise as we learned much and had a great time conversing with restaurant owner.
On our last full day in the Netherlands, we went to the town of Leiden. Leiden was a relatively small town but it had many canals. Many of the restaurants had seating on barges that were docked on the canal. It was a very vibrant town with many shops and places to socialize with friends.
Overall, I really liked the Netherlands. It had very pretty countryside and the people were very friendly and helpful. All the canals through some of the cities was really neat. One of my favorite parts of the Netherlands was just how bike friendly they have made their cities. I always heard about many people riding their bikes here but didn't realize how much they have put into the road and path infrastructure. There are roads and then usually totally separate roads (usually in red) for the bikes. You don't need to ride your bike right next to the cars which makes it much safer. It really made me want to get a bike and ride.
We loaded up the Renault to drive to Strasbourg France. I spent a few hours the previous night packing the car in order to eek out just a bit more room for everyone to sit. It ended working out OK and we were just a little bit less of a circus clown car act. We made it back into France through Belgium and a brief pit stop in Luxembourg where we got donuts (Dunkin Donuts no less)
** On a side note... the pictures aren't very big when they show up in-line with the text, but if you click on any of them you can view them full screen.
|Amsterdam Canal from our boat|