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Europe, here we come!

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15th – 22nd April 2013

We bought a map of Europe while still on the ferry as we waited to disembark into the Netherlands.From ferry to beautiful Amsterdam

It wasn’t a great help and we got lost anyway but eventually found our way to Amsterdam JUST in time to meet with Janet the day before she left to go home.

We all wandered around the cobbled streets of Amsterdam enjoying the warm sun on our backs and marvelling at the architecture that stands this city apart from any other.Windmills

The houses with several floors tower up over you tall and slim with windows upon windows upon windows…mostly adorned with pots filled with happy flower heads. The buildings actually lean in and out and this way and that and very few of the original homes have a single straight wall in them. Imagine a cartoon street drawn in a bubble and that is how it feels. Pretty colours separate the ornately decorated fronts and bicycles line every possible space on every single street.Wonky houses and bicycles

Everyone is stylish or a tourist, the cyclists rule the roads and have a certain death wish and the smell of cheese, marijuana and flowers permeates the very air around you.

We lunched in a cool cafe on local fare, beef stew and some amazingly oozy cheese and chatted with Janet about her time in this vibrant colourful city. She had of course loved it and her pictures are just brilliant, she had been concentrating on nude portraits with a very respected and excellent local artist.Parking is a problem!

We lounged around in her apartment (well, room really) and people watched out of the huge windows with a glass of wine and a box of fancy chocolates she had bought Alex for his birthday. We just wasted the afternoon away talking, catching up and thinking about what we would eat for our next meal!

We ate out for dinner in a fab little restaurant and then even decided to taxi back to camp as it was a good 3 mile hike and a tram!Dinner with Mum

The next day we took the hike and the tram to go and spend the morning with Janet before she left for home. Another sad farewell and I was suddenly exhausted. We grabbed a coffee and a bowl of soup, caught up on-line and made plans to meet with friends in the week. We popped into the famous Dam flower market and was truthfully a little disappointed.

There were very few actual flowers to be seen, just rows and rows of varying sized bulbs. Bulbs upon bulbs upon bulbs like huge, tiny and middle sized onions was all there was to see.
We picked up some good cheese and good wine and set off back to Peggy to gorge ourselves on the good stuff for the evening.Onions...I mean flowers!

We left Amsterdam the next day and set off North along the coast. We saw lots of flower fields in so many colours…daffodils popped their sunny faces up everywhere and tulips spread tracks of purple, pinks and yellows through the fields. Of course we saw hundreds of windmills and although I have visited Holland several times I had never really noticed how absolutely FLAT it was…hence the success of the windmill!Clogs!

We spent a few days enjoying the rugged coastline. We camped in campsites so we could get some blogging done. We watched a poor man fight his tent in the gale winds and pretty much spent our time eating…A LOT! We were due to catch up with some friends Tineke and Jose who we had met a few times on our travels in South America! we met them first in Panama and then again in Colombia and had stayed in touch.HUGE chocs!

Jose had even filmed our Colombian wedding for us! We went over to their house and inevitably drank lots of wine and ate lots of food and then the next day the four of us went up to Pieterburen to visit the seal creche! They were so cute with their big sad eyes and flopping about on their bellies. They look so useless and make hilarious noises and we enjoyed visiting with them and seeing the fantastic rehabilitation programme in action! We wore ourselves out there and then had lunch on a house boat, named rather aptly ‘De Pannekoekenboot’ which means  ‘ The Pancake boat’.Cute seals!

As always we were sad to say bye again to the guys but we know we will see them again somewhere someday! We were on our way back to Amsterdam to catch up with more friends, Gaby and Hiske who we had shared a shipping container to ship Peggy and their Ravy across the Darian Gap. We camped in a lay-by on route and met them at the park for a picnic lunch and then went on a mission to buy a GPS and a wedding dress while Hiske stayed home to cook dinner!Jose and Tinike!

Now imagine in your mind, Alex, Gaby and I shopping for a wedding dress…well, that’s exactly what it was like. I walked in and out of several shops until I finally found the dress that would do the trick. I tried it on and thought it looked ok. Alex agreed but it had a mark on it…SO, I went to swap it for another dress but without a mark. Meanwhile Alex pipes up and suggests that maybe I should get the EXTRA small as the small looked a little big…stupidly I listened and bought the Extra Small and we all skipped back to Gaby and Hiskes and ate and ate and ate and ate and drank and drank and drank.Gaby and Hiske

We had a great laugh with them and a couple of their friends and then left the next day after they had gone to work. Again, hard to say our farewells but I know we will meet again AND we had a VERY big trip to look forward to in the next few days!

You wont believe where we were heading next!

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