We signed off our last blog at the gorgeous town of Leiden ..
before leaving Stewart met with Jacqueline Sollevelv from MS Netherland to talk about how the two countries could benefit from sharing ideas for fund-raising and communications. They also discussed the powerful fund-raising commercial from MS Netherland using the Eric Clapton song ‘You look wonderful tonight’… well worth viewing at http://www.sofii.org/node/207. The text at the end, translated from Dutch, simply says ‘Multiple Sclerosis: it destroys the nerves’.
Then, on our way again:
- Leiden to Amsterdam via Kagerplassen (lake), along the Ringvaart van de Haarlemmer-meerpolder , across the Westeinderplassen to Aalsmeer, along the Schinkel of Kostverlorenvaart into Amsterdam’s outer harbour around the point and into Westerdock (our Amsterdam home).
The weather was wet and windy as we left Leiden but we had only 10 kilometres to travel to our planned mooring at Kaag, an island on the northern edge of the Kagerplassen. This lake is extremely popular particularly in the summer but we are now getting to the end of school holidays and the wet and windy day seemed to put most people off travelling, it was quite. We moored on the island just ahead of the car ferry which scuttled forward and back from the mainland – so some people were definitely out and about. We couldn’t work out where they went once on the island as there wasn’t much to it except a small hotel (with WiFi), an art gallery which seemed to be closed, and some boating businesses. We also found an excellent restaurant ‘Tante Kee’, recommended by the Harbourmaster, only a few hundred meters from our mooring, but it too was quiet. They’ve had a bad season we’re sorry to say.
We used the hotel the next morning for heaps of internet activity, taking up most of our morning, but returned to a bit of a scare. Another windy and wet day with very rough water .. and as we approached the boat we could see her stern end halfway across the canal. There must have been a crazy fast boat creating huge wash to have caused the mooring ring to snap. One rope previously attached was dangling under water but thankfully part of it was still connected to a post. Relief .. we could haul her back in and thank goodness that all 37 tonnes didn’t take off down the canal without us.
Another short journey took us to Aalsmeer, only 10 kilometres away, with three lift bridges.
We crossed the big lake which we found very exhilarating – we could only see sails and everything looked so far away, again like being at sea. We found our mooring (organised by the very helpful Harbourmaster at Kaag) at Nieuwe Meer marina with a welcoming Harbourmaster (Remco).
It was slightly tucked away but on the mainland so we didn’t have to use the delightful, self-operated ferry, which was very unstable – we used it once just for the fun to it and that was enough. It turned out to be one of our favourite moorings and with WiFi to the boat .. brilliant!
Aalsmeer claims to have the world’s biggest trade centre.. in this case trading flowers. They have a number of amazing statistics: the building itself is the fourth largest in the world based on floor-space (990,000 square meters, almost a square kilometre, or 10.6 million square feet); around 20 million flowers are sold every day, they turn over (within the six locations in Holland) €4 billion per annum, of mostly flowers. It’s all conducted, as we saw with our own eyes, by Dutch auction (as you’d expect). The auctioneer nominates a price which reduces by split seconds and the first bidder to hit the button at the price they are prepared to pay is the successful bidder. It all happens so fast .. the electronic boards show the name of flower, producer, quality reference, country of origin, minimum size of the lot, currency and final bidders number and more.
What an experience .. it was so vast with the buzz of hundreds of people and engines towing and pushing the flower trolleys around – fascinating. The bidding rooms, by contrast completely silent, were five vast spaces each with two ‘clocks’ (ie, auctions,) were mesmerizing with their rows of bidders in amphitheatre seating separated from the distribution floor by big glass panels .. it is one massively efficient centre from the trading floor to distribution. Within 24 hours of being picked flowers have been taken from the greenhouse (sometimes from overseas) to the auction rooms in Aalsmeer, auctioned and flown to another part of the world.
We must also mention the Japanese restaurant in town, recommended by Remco. It looked empty as we walked past the windows and could see a dark open space of tables and not one customer – but when we pushed the door open and entered we could hear a buzz and around the corner was a huge room full of happy customers. No wonder .. they offer a choice of five excellent Japanese dishes per person from a huge menu including Sashimi, Sushi and Tempura, AND you can have this five times (rounds). That means you can have 25 dishes per person for €23 .. we were full after the first two rounds!
The next day we were heading to the end of our ‘circuit’, due to arrive in Amsterdam soon after lunch as it was yet another short trip of about 13 kilometres with one lock and just a few mobile bridges. This included, going back through the beautiful open waters of the lake heading away from Amsterdam, going south, before we could turn into the canal – we were in a ‘cul de sac’, so to speak, at our mooring. It was odd gliding along through the glassy lake, to be adjacent to where we had been an hour ago.
There were many nurseries with green houses along this section.. we passed the Amsterdam airport on one side (Schiphol) and a huge horse centre on the other.
We saw a particularly unusual sight: a rescue boat up in a winch stored almost vertical to the water.. and of course many extremely swish houses and waterfront gardens.. not far from Amsterdam. We passed through another beautiful lake, the Nieuwe Meer (like the name of the marina back at the last lake) just before the lock for our final stretch into the heart of Amsterdam. Lunch time .. and we’d been told by the fuel pump operator at the other end of the lake there was a good mooring and place to eat right by the lock.
As we approached the lock we could see a small restaurant with a man lounging in a big soft chair placed on the jetty. I called to ask if he knew where we could have lunch. “Not here” he said, “sorry we have a big party booked.. but you could go to the big black building over there”.
So we moored up and took on the challenge of getting the wheelchair past all the paraphernalia of outdoor furniture, including his big soft chair, not at all easy, to get to the ‘black building’. Doable with some help, but we arrived at the building to see it was not accessible. We were sure they’d work something out like putting a table down on the lower deck. First I asked if we could have a table for two.. “Sorry, we are fully booked”. Can you believe it! So, on this occasion, we had to retrace our steps carefully squeezing between furniture and the water along the jetty to have lunch back on board, lovely fruit was all I had and very good for us too.
With relief, not long after our meagre lunch, we entered Westerdok from the frantically busy Amsterdam outer harbour to find Walter (our Harbourmaster) waiting to take the ropes and help us with the tricky task of positioning Endellion on the inside of a big cruiser so that we were parallel with the jetty and had wheelchair access. Home again .. that’s how it felt.
We had another superb three days in this great city .. Amsterdam, referring to our various guides, has more than one hundred kilometres of canals, about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. The three main canals, Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgrach are all in walking distance from our mooring in the Jordaan. Much of this region is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
This visit we spent time ambling around the city streets absorbing the atmosphere. We discovered the amazing calm and quiet of the inner courtyard of the Beguine convent, founded in the 4thcentury. It has belonged to the English Presbyterian community since 1607. This is right in the heart of the frantically busy city. Later we were amazed to find ourselves swept along by the crowds heading for the ferries at the outer harbour .. they were all in bizarre fancy dress and we found out later taking the ferries to a Big Day Out type of event not far away.
The city is more like one big marina with so many people enjoying the water everywhere and seemingly enjoying being in such large crowds.
We left Amsterdam the same way as we arrived, ie, with Walter taking the ropes of the cruiser so we could slip out from its side and head out into the harbour for the final time for 2011. It’s our plan to return here for the winter of 2012, we know the exact mooring place and we will have WiFi with Walter’s help. Walter by the way owns this marina along with many others in these parts. This is a marina at the top of our recommended list.
With our farewell to Amsterdam .. it felt a bit like ‘the party is over’. We’ve had an amazing time since leaving our winter mooring of Paris, almost every day we’ve been out and about and loving it.
Now .. we are in a shed with no daylight, only fluorescent lights. We’ve rigged up a network connection, thankfully, so we have WiFi .. but certainly we have no satellite or TV! We have some very good DVDs, mostly cheap oldies like The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), The Graduate (1967) .. and some newer ones like Amy Winehouse Live in London (2007). Stewart has downloaded the latest Podcast of Salty Dog(amazing Australian online Blues and Roots radio-like program) and we have each other!
All around us we have builders and painters (again) but they are great fun too .. we’re hoping Stewart will be off the boat in a day or so via a forklift truck – he’s done this before so ‘no worries’!
We’ll let you know how it goes…