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Many years ago, on a tall ship sailing cruise in the Whitsunday Islands in Australia, I met two friends from the Netherlands and I’ve been lucky enough to keep in contact with them over the years. Last year Mum and I got to visit with one of them when we took a day trip to Amsterdam from Paris and, now that I’m living in London, I was hoping I would get to catch up with them again.

When I first moved to London, I wrote down all the long weekends in the year with the intent of doing a trip on every one. Since Easter is an extra long weekend, I thought I’d go visit my friends in Amsterdam and they were happy to host me. As part of the travel experience of the weekend, I booked a ticket on the ferry instead of flying. Your ticket includes train travel on both sides of the ferry and you can also add meals.

I hopped on the train at London Liverpool Street and ended up at Harwich International. It was maybe 10 mins (after going through passport control and security) that I was walking onto the massive Stena Line Ferry. I’ve read before this ship is basically “a hotel on water” and that is an accurate description. It was MASSIVE and had all the trappings of a big hotel: restaurants, bars, internet area, shopping area and even a cinema!

My cabin on the ferry

My cabin on the ferry

A relaxing bar area on the ship

A relaxing bar area on the ship

I had a delicious dinner in one of the restaurants and headed to bed. I was woken up at 6:30am by “Don’t worry, be happy” blasting from the sound system on the ship. Lordy I tell you did that give me a fright! After a somewhat lackluster breakfast, I hopped off the boat and onto a train. I got off the train in Schiedam and met up with one of my friends Anke. We walked around Schiedam, had a hot drink and then headed off to Gouda.

Quinessential Dutch shot: bicycles, cheese, tulips...

Quinessential Dutch shot: bicycles, cheese, tulips…

 

Stadhuis Gouda aka Gouda City Hall

Stadhuis Gouda aka Gouda City Hall

 

Inside a Gouda cheese shop!

Inside a Gouda cheese shop!

 

Dutch apple pie-YUM!

Dutch apple pie-YUM!

We wandered around Gouda (pronouced How-da by the Dutch) for the afternoon, having a delicious lunch in a warm cafe and picking up cheese souvenirs and tasty pastries. Then we headed to the suburbs of Amsterdam to meet up with David and Jessi at their place. We had a lovely catch up (and meeting with Jessi) and planned our weekend.

The next morning we had a leisurely sleep in and wonderful breakfast. Then we headed out to Zaanse Schans. This is a “fully inhabited, open-air conservation area and museum”. It’s meant as an impression of Dutch life in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Windmills!

Windmills!

 

The wood workshop...

The wood workshop…

 

Clog planters....nice idea

Clog planters….nice idea

 

For the high class Dutch woman

For the high class Dutch woman

 

Clogs galore!

Clogs galore!

 

So cute!!

So cute!!

The next day we went to Keukenhof, which is the world-renowned flower festival that runs over two months. I will do a separate post on that because it’s too amazing to squeeze into another post.

My last day in Amsterdam was spent walking around the city, buying last minute souvenirs and having snacks. Luckily for us, it was a beautiful day so we were able to enjoy the sunshine and warmth as the rest of the weekend had been chilly and windy.

Amsterdam Centraal train station

Amsterdam Centraal train station

I had a wonderful long weekend in the Netherlands* with my friends and look forward to going back when the weather is warmer! I said that same thing last year but next time I’m going to go during summer time so the weather had better be nice!

*I’ve asked a few times to try and understand why sometimes it’s called Holland and sometimes it’s called the Netherlands. The explanation I got is that the Netherlands is the country and Holland is actually an area within that. In fact, there are two provinces called North Holland and South Holland. For some reason the two are used interchangeably but there you have it.

 

 

 

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