May 17, 2012

Best of Holland (Day 6, 17 May 2012)

In the blink of an eye, 6 days of touring have come to an end! We are back in Amsterdam for one night at the Mercure Aan de Amstel Hotel before departing tomorrow morning for Singapore.

I fried my own eggs at breakfast this morning, they had a corner for you to DIY! Even provided wet wipes and all.

We kicked off today's sightseeing with a short ride to Workum where we had a short rest stop and managed to have drinks with Ananda again. The smell of dung permeated the air again but after a while you get used to it.

We then drove on towards Friesland province on the Afsluitdijk, a 30km stretch of causeway along the Zuiderzee, a bay belonging to the North Sea that was dammed off, forming a freshwater lake on the other side. It was a major project in the 30s and there was a monument dedicated to the architect which we stopped at. There were tonnes of giant mosquitoes flying about and they sort of swarmed the bus windows and a number of them went splat on the windshield!

We continued on to Edam, the town the cheese is named after. It was another pretty village, and then on we went to Volendam to stop for lunch and some R&R time. They had plenty of souvenir shops and being on the coast, I felt it only apt we eat some seafood.

They had a number of shops selling fried fish and seafood and we managed to get a sear inside one. I had a mixed platter, while he had fish & chips. Then we browsed the shops, didn't buy much, except for some tees for the kids at a very cheap outlet store.

Last stop was Zaanse Schans, a popular tourist attraction with a collection of historic windmills. Unfortunately, the sky was overcast so all my pictures turned out gloomy. The houses in the area are a distinct green and after trying for so long to take a decent windmill shot, I gave up and we had apple pie and coffee in one of the cafes.

The place is truly a tourist magnet, lots of Indian and Chinese tourists, and Chinese sales assistants behind the jewellery counters. We visited a clog shop, so many types of clogs!

We reached Amsterdam in the early evening and I found out from Swana that Nat had been peeing unusually frequent the last couple of days so I told her to get it checked because I suspected an infection.

The room was big but a little old but it faces the Amstel River. We got ready for the farewell dinner, to be held in a place called Humphrey's.

There was a section cordoned off for us but because we lingered in the back, all the tables got filled pretty fast and the only 2 empty seats were separate from each other.

That wasn't actually a bad thing because then we got to sit and eat with Ananda and Mark our driver in a quiet corner. And we could also change dishes from the appetizers offered because Nick and I don't eat carpaccio or salmon! Instead we had soup and grilled prawns, and I chose prawns again for my main.

We found out interesting facts about Mark, he had a 19 year old son, but lives in Germany because of his girlfriend. He used to be a 9-5 office worker but traded it for life on the road because he felt restricted.

We had to hustle right after dessert which took some guests by surprise because there are restrictions on how many hours a driver can drive and also mandatory rest hours so we made it to the hotel just in time, only to encounter a locked gate! We got off anyway, and bade our goodbyes to the rest of the group.

My bags are all packed, hardly any space left and I'm rather satisfied with the purchases. Wished we had more free time to wander on our own but 6 days wasn't actually as fast as I imagined and we saw so many things.

Holland is very postcard pretty. I won't forget so soon the greenery, tulips, canals, quaint villages, windmills, cows, ducks, cuisine and hospitality. We had a lovely time, I'm not sure if we'll ever come back but I'm glad we went and I look forward to the next tour!

I could get used to this touring business versus free and easy, didn't have to worry about sightseeing planning or where to stay...just where to shop! Everything was mostly taken care off, we didn't have to spend too much except the occasional dinner and our lunches so it's very worth it with the staff discount, although this particular trip was free, even for me, thanks to his generous boss.

Hmm, where to next?

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