Monday, February 25, 2013

Windmills, Tulips & a Night in Prison: A Weekend in North Holland

Our cell.
This weekend Vicki and I spent a night in a Dutch prison.  You ever see that  Nat Geo Show "Locked Up Abroad?" It documents the stories of vacationers and/or expats that are hired as drug mules and end up in Thai prisions. Well, our experience was nothing like that but I'll pretended it was.

Before we get to our cell block story, lets take a few steps back. Vicki let me, "Mr. Logistically Challenged" plan our past weekend excursion in the Netherlands.  Vicki was trusting her weekend to someone who still has not mastered telling time on a 24 hour clock yet.  (Yes, Dad, I know you just subtract 12.) What was she thinking?

Moments after this picture the entire canal & my nose froze.
I decided we would tour the Province of North Holland. But I really should have consulted with the Weather Channel first before going north, it was COLD up there, temps in the high 20s(F) with a wind that stung you in the face.  But hey, we were hunting windmills, so we wanted wind right, right? WRONG.

We journeyed to "one of Holland's top tourist destinations," Zaanse Schans.  It's a charming village situated on the Zaans River with traditional Dutch green, wooden houses and historic functioning windmills.  This is all within walking distance of the Koog-Zaankijk rail station.  

Zaanse Schans in Nine Pictures
Besides the windmills & the clogs, my favorite part was the machine that dispensed free maps for pulling the lever (pictured).

So how did I end up getting us locked up? Did I try to ride on a blade of a restored windmill?  Did I try to put on some colorful clogs and quietly exit the gift shop?  Did I become a drug mule?  Well, I'd be lying if I didn't consider at least one of these scenarios, but alas, none of them landed us in the big house.

You can really find anything on the internet, even an old prison that has been converted into a hotel.  I booked us one night at the Gevangenis Hotel, Oostereiland Hoorn; translation 'Prison Island Hotel, Eastern Hoorn.' The old prision was now the home to a hotel, where guests can stay in actual "cells", updated of course.  There is also a movie theatre and a brasserie on site.  Despite, my temptation to see Ben Affleck's Argo, we checked into our "cell" then braved the cold and explored the town of Hoorn.

Hoorn is a quaint harbor town, that apparently would be a great place to visit say, in the SUMMER.  Although it makes for some pretty unique scenery when the canals freeze over.

d' Oude Waegh, Hoorn, Netherlands
We found ourselves wandering through the town square before deciding on dinner at d' Oude Waegh. Beautiful restaurant set in a building dating back to 1609.  Here, we again conquered a Dutch only menu (read about our first all Dutch menu here). I had the "Beefburger ‘d’Oude Waegh’ Man's Size."  Vicki went with the "Gegrilde entrecote met rode port saus."  Both were delicious, and came with fries and a salad, the national side dishes of the Netherlands.

Perhaps, the highlight of our visit to Hoorn was, Cafe 't Schipperhuis. This nautical themed cafe featured a functioning bar fashioned out of the hull of an old wooden boat.  Upon entering the fairly empty cafe, we were greeted by a friendly Jack Russell Terrier.  We immediately knew we would love this place.  The bartender took a break from her game of pool to serve us a round.  We went with the local Amstel and "chatted" with the owners of the Jack Russell. By "chatted" I mean, smiled and nodded to Dutch phrases and showed them iPhone pics of our Jack Russell.

The red pin marks the Little Cafe by the Harbour.  Englebert Humperkink Not Pictured.

Learning Dutch #'s at the bar
At one point during the night the bartender decided to play a round of "Name that Tune" with us.  But the song she played left both Vicki and I stumped, it was in English that's all we knew. She informed us it was called "The Little Cafe By The Harbour" sung by Englebert Humperdink.  Then she went and played the Dutch version, the song blasted across the empty bar.  Vicki and I wondered what exactly was going on here, should we be asking for the check.  The bartender then explained that the original song was written by Pierre Kartner at the table directly behind us.  She exhibited a certain pride telling us the story, and we got wrapped up in the nostaglia of it too.  Sitting in this famous harbour bar with a Jack Russell, eating delicious fried cheese, sipping Amstels, Cineys & Jenever all while learning how to count to ten in Dutch from our bartender, was one of those nights we'll remember for a long time.  It was perfect.  But all good things had to come to an end, we excused ourselves and returned to our cell.

The next day's adventure included a trip to the Holland Flower & Food Festival in Bovenkarspel.  I found out about this festival through the website, iamexpat; great site for events around the Netherlands.  It was only a 30 minute train ride from Hoorn.  I thought a little taste of spring was exactly what we both needed.  It was a nice manageable event, no where near the magnitude of the Philly Flower Show.  The tulips were amazing and they were EVERYWHERE in every color imaginable!  I also had one of the best red peppers I have EVER tasted from the free sample vegetable booth.  Yes, there were free samples of vegetables.  Awesome!

The Holland Flower and Food Festival  in Nine Pictures
Vicki took so many great pics; it was really tough choosing just nine for my collage.

Oh look, a bike.
From the Flower Show our initial plan was to trek back to our home in Oss. However, since our train was scheduled to go right through Amsterdam Central station, we decided to make a slight detour to see the city during a lite snowfall.  We figured since we were there, we'd scout out some pancakes along the way too.  Our destination was the Pancake Bakery on Prinsengracht.  We went with a bacon, cheese, & mushroom pancake (savory) and a pancake with banana, pineapple and ice cream (sweet).   Yes, they were as delicious as they sound.

Wine bottle art on a houseboat in Amsterdam

Our weekend getaway in North Holland was pretty successful.  Well, if you take out the fact that at the end I fowled up the timing of our train from Amsterdam to Oss because I thought 14:00 was 4 o'clock.  Don't ask, it was a long weekend.

I hope you enjoyed the adventures of this "Sissy-Boy" and his wife.  Cheers!

Sadly Sissy-Boy Homeland was closed.

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