Tuesday, May 31, 2011
OK. . .Let's face it, the Dutch clearly don't understand the concept of breakfast. The hostel website says breakfast is included with your room. What they mean is: bread; a toaster; some sort of cereal grain (?); juice and coffee. Where are the eggs, the bacon, the hash browns? Someone forgot to send them the memo!
I pack my paniers (bike bags - love that word), check out, and go to load up the bike and head out. Don't panic, the bike is there. . .but my bike light is gone. Of course, the one thing I did not remove fom the bike, someone else clearly has. Why do people do that? Part of me understands the need for power, etc. But another part wonders why some people never learned, or forgot, their kindergarden lessons: "Don't take things that don't belong to you." And they only took the light, not the mounting. What can they even do with it? Aaaarrrggghhh!!!
I have looked at the maps, both paper and online, and I am ready to head twelve miles east for the campground. A nice, sunny day, but near the river there is wind, a headwind. I seem to be doing OK until I come to some construction- the road and path are completely blocked. There is a sign directing bikes to descend some steps, but I am unsure of the route. As I am contemplating my options, two Dutch folk arrive on bikes and face the same dilemma. They do speak English and I show them on the map where I am going.
"Oh, no, no. You are up here." She points to the map. Seems I missed a turn and a bridge. I must now find the ferry and cross the river. "We will show you. Follow us." Translation: "If we don't show this idiot American the way, he will never find it!" Down the steps, down a dirt path, up some more steep steps (remember, 50 pounds on the bike) then back on pavement for about three miles. These Dutch folk are cranking on their one-gear bikes. I am peddling hard to keep up! We arrive at a very small ferry and I thank them profusely. "Dank je, dank je." Make sure you know the important phrases.
The tiny ferry takes me across the river. Three minutes. One Euro. Priceless.
NOW I know where I am. I can see the route clearly, but am still fighting headwinds. I arrive in the small village of Lekkerkerk. I have been biking for 2.5 hours, but it feels like five. Tired of fighting the wind, I stop at a small cafe for lunch and a short rest. I visit the local grocery store and find a steak for dinner and some nectarines. The campground is only a few miles away.
Camping de Nes turns out to be quite nice. It is not too full, so I have an entire quadrant to myself. Cokes are only 85 cents and the wi-fi is accessable throughout the campground, so I can connect while sitting in my tent! I set up my gear and get organized. I relax for a while and do a little blog and facebook catch up. Looks like rain for tonight, so I set up my table and stove, and cook a dinner of steak, tarragon-lime rice and broccoli with lemon butter. Nectarines for dessert. I do love to cook at camp!
Into the tent, a little more internet catch up, and a gentle rain starts as I drift off.
Monday, May 30, 2011
My friend Dies worries about me. She wants to drive me to Rotterdam vs. me taking the train. I thank her, but let her know that I am capable (sometimes) and have traveled before. "I got to Amsterdam, didn't I?" I have booked a room for one night at the YHA, to have time to blog and get my bearings.
A quick stop at the Jewish bakery. Aha, they are open! I buy two croissants for the short trip (they are the best).
In one hour, we are there. The website said to take the road from the station towards the river. Hmmm. . .I don't see the river. Once again, a quick question of a passerby points me in the right direction. Again, aha. . .I see a sign that says, "Info Rotterdam" - the tourist center (hooray, open on Sunday). I get my bearings, a map, and the fellow hands me a giant chocolate bar. "Free today." Okay, I am liking this place!
I find the Youth (ha!) Hostel, which is just a few blocks away and check in. I am a little surprised to find a young Chinese woman in the room. Hmm. . .now I understand what a "mixed dorm room" means. Okay, I am really liking this place!
I think I will take a short ride, but am intrigued by music coming from the park across the street. There is some sort of huge music, African drumming festival. I park my bike and walk about, have some fried fish and a smoothie. The park is FILLED with people. They are all speaking Dutch (duh) and all of the hand-outs and programs are in Dutch, so I have no idea what the festival is about, but I am enjoying the food and the people watching.
I leave the festival and take a short ride across the bridge. The bike paths here are completely separate from the roads, and quite wide. They do, however, also accommodate motor scooters, which can be somewhat unnerving. I stop at a grocery and buy food for dinner.
The kitchen at the YHA is not the best, but I manage to make a nice dinner of lemon chicken with steamed broccoli. Many of you know that in addition to being a gadget freak, I bring dehydrated stuff, like black beans and hash browns. I have recently found little packets of True Lemon crystalized powder. It really works great (comes in lime too). It is now 9:00 pm. Did I mention that the sun doesn't set until 9:30? It's a bit alarming to realize how late it is because the sun is still out. I do some blogging and then head for the room.
It is Sunday night, but the downstairs is filled with a drunken crowd, I think locals, who are hooting and hollaring. They do, however, stop on the stroke of 11:00 pm as the "quiet time" now begins at the hostel. I am now able to fall asleep next to (well, more like across the room from) my new friend, Sun Mai.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
The weather is gray. I decide to be a tourist and take a canal boat ride. There are so many bikers here, that Dies has advised me to walk vs. ride in the city. I walk to a bike shop along the way and buy a needed seat cover, then head to the central station. I board the "Lovers" museum tour that goes around the city. One can hop-on-hop-off and visit museums and other attractions. The ride is pleasant, and gives one a quite different point of view of the city.
I stop at one museum, but it is under renovation, so many paintings are unavailable. I had hoped to see more Vermeers, but it was not to be. I move on to the Van Gogh museum. There are many wonderful paintings, including Night Watch, but I am dissapointed as my favorite, Starry Night is not there.
The sun has come out and my spirits lift, and I return to the boat and finish the canal ride. Dies and I go to a Turkish restaurant and have little meat balls with rice and humus with the most wonderful, light pita bread I have ever had.
Dies wants to go to a market for flowers and to browse. I have discovered that I have somehow, unknowingly bent the back rack on my bike. A stop at the bike store reveals that it is irreparable and a new rack is needed (are we having fun yet?).
With that done, we bike to the market. I find a heavy chain lock for the bike and buy it. I will need this to guard against theft, a frequent occurance here in Holland.
Tonight, Dies takes me to an Ethiopian restaurant, one of her favorites. We eat with fingers, the traditional Ethiopian way. Our server assures me that certain elements on my plate are "not very picante." For those who know me, this is a red flag, as my no-spice palate rejects half of my dinner. C'est la vie!
Before bed, I gather my gear together and pack as tomorrow after breakfast I head for Rotterdam.
Thursday - May 26
When I was twelve years old, my mother had directed the stage play, "The Diary of Anne Frank." It had a profound effect on me and helped define not only my Jewish heritage, but I belive my sense of right and wrong, my indignity at injustice, and my distaste for those with power but no humanity. I have rallied against tyrany in many forms, and like Quixote, I too, have tilted at windmills.
So, it is here, in this land of windmills that I am aprehensive about visiting the former hiding place of Anne Frank. It is a quite unassuming building along the canal, a mere three blocks from my friend's home. Yet even as I approach it, I can feal the tears begining to well. The photo above shows visitors lining up to enter.
As I take my place in line, I prepare myself for an onslaught of emotions. I can see the images from both that original play I had seen, and the movie, which was so powerful.
Waiting in line, there are five young males behind me joking and using vulgar language. I try to ignore them. Just as we arrive at the entrance, once again, one of them is boorish and vulgar. This time, without hesitation, I turn and face him square in the eye. "Excuse me, but I would prefer if you did not use that type of language in public. Especially in this particular place." He turns silent. I was determined that he would not sully my experience, or this place, that stands as a symbol to so many more than just me.
In the museum downstairs, a short film tells of the war, and the chronology of the eight people who go into hiding for two years. I ascend the stairs. The higher up you go, the stairs get narrower and steeper. My heart is heavy as I stand in front of the bookcase that hid the entrance to the secret annex. The stairs are now barely wide enough for one person and are very steep to accommodate the smaller space.
The rooms where Anne Frank and her family lived seemed not as small as I had imagined, yet for eight people together for two years, they were both sanctuary and prison. Unable to venture outside; unable to walk around during the day, for fear a worker in the warehouse below would hear them and suspect something, they sat and read, and Anne and her sister did their lessons.
I move slowly through the museum and the house, lingering at each section so I can retain the memories. There are more films: Otto Frank, the only survivor of the eight; and Meip Gies, who tirelessly brought food and supplies to them. The original diary is on display, and though its gingham-like cover may look similar to other diaries of other young girls, it holds a history that is singular in its depth.
In the far reaches of my soul, I am somehow connected to this young girl, who suffered through a monumental tyranny, but like many others, did not survive it. Perhaps this experience will prompt me to create a new story. I do not know. At minimum, it will remain with me forever, as it is now, even more a part of me.
Friday, May 27, 2011
Wednesday Morning - May 24
A beautiful sunny morning! I take the train to Rotterdam and will change there for Amsterdam. Twenty minutes later, I arrive and find a conductor for directions. The service lift is the only one big enough for by bike and bags. I change platforms and am told the train leaves at 10:28.
There is a train already on the platform at 10:23, and I ask if this goes to Amsterdam. An affirmative from a fellow passenger prompts me to board the train, park my bike in a cubbyhole and sit. Fourty-five minutes later, a conductor asks to see my ticket and informs me that I should not be on this train. It is an express, and there are no bikes allowed. Fortunately, he is in a good mood and does not throw me off! I have lucked out and arrive much faster than if I had been on the "local." There is a very small lift and I must lift the front of the bike straight up in order to get fully in to reach the exit.
Central Station Amsterdam
Just like it sounds, a bustling terminal of trains, busses and trolleys. I have a small map, and with only one querry to a walker and one reversal of direction, I find my way to the home of my friend Dies (pronounced Deece). She lives right on one of the canals.
Worse Than Cambridge - Exponentially!
There are more bikes than cars. They are EVERYWHERE! You must look 4 ways whenever crossing the street, or even just walking along the sidewalk. The riders are bold and have no fear. Cars too. This leaves all the fear for pedestrians. See above picture of bikes lining the streets and bridges of the canals. Also, many cart-type bikes, and bikes with child seats abound.
Dies takes me to a marvelous park in the countryside with a Van Gogh museum. I could not have hoped for a more gorgeous, sunny day and pleasent tour. We return to dine at a nice Thai restaurant.
More Monday - May 23
After school, Linda and I drive to Bury St. Edmonds, sight of a historic abbey where St. Edmonds is buried (of course). There is a lovely rose garden among the many half-shells of buildings raized by citizens hundreds of years ago.
After feeling a bit isolated days earlier, I have decided I need to buy a phone, just for peace of mind. Five pounds for the phone and ten for the sim card. Can't go wrong there.
We return home to a great meal of grilled steak. Linda has been most gracious with the shuttling, sightseeing and meals!
TUESDAY - May 24
I have had a wonderful time telling stories to the children. Today, Linda has a workshop to attend. I sit in the library at the base and blog.
Afterwords, we drive to Cambridge for some more sightseeing. There are bikes and riders everywhere. I think this is a taste of things to come in Amsterdam. I am pictured here, in front of King's college, the largest of the colleges in Cambridge. Also, a pic of bikes lining the street. We have a nice dinner of MILD chicken curry, then Linda drives me to Harwich, the port where the ferry is, and we say our goodbys.
The crossing is a pleasant and uneventful, just the way I like it. Tomorrow I will awake in Holland.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Post for Monday May 23
Linda Hanson's class at Lakenheath RAF Elementary School.
Telling to kindergartners. So much fun!
The eight classes of kindergartners (5 year-olds) are split into groups of two classes each, about 30-40 children in each group. These are children of the US miltary personell on the base. I tell for about twenty minutes to each group, spread out over the day.
I start off talking about how "stealing" is not a good thing. Several children share that things have been stolen from them. "Do you think someone can steal a smell?" I ask, and proceed to tell "Stealing Smells." They all breathe in and smell on cue. They each guess at what the Judge will decide. Will he make the girl pay? They all agree that the judgement fits the crime.
They want a "scary" story and I tell "How Mosquitos Came to Be" where clever Jack kills the blood sucking giant, cuts him up, throws him into the fire and the ashes turn into mosquitos who forever search out humans to suck their blood. They wanted more scary stories, but I shifted gears.
Some heard "The Princess and the Storyteller Frog." Some heard my version of "Something from Nothing" or " The Otters and the Fox." Others made the sounds of all the animals in "A Big Quiet House." All groups got a little bit of magic with a dissapearing red scarf.
For each group, I finished by guiding them in telling a "group story" where they chose the characters, actions and dialogue. The best of the group stories was about a mosquito named Quito, and a lizzard named Lizzy. They walked to the market where Lizzie bought some shoes. Quito looked down at the shoes and said, "Those shoes are lovely!" I have all the children repeat her words, then - I seize the moment!
"All of the boys, raise your hands - say that line again."
The boys, "Those shoes are lovely!"
"Young men, you will need to remember that line, and say it often in your life. Say it again."
The boys, "Those shoes are lovely!"
The boys, "Those shoes are lovely!"
I just couldn't resist.
Post for Sunday - May 22
The London "Eye" ferris wheel. Picture taken from a very windy Waterloo bridge across the Thames.
On my way to just north of Cambridge to visit my friend Linda. The train goes from Salisbury to Waterloo station in London, about an hour and a half ride. I have brought along two pain aux raisin, fresh from the bakery (called a pasty). It is still warm, and almost melts in my mouth. Mmmm. This alone would be reason enough to travel halfway 'round the world!
I have a bit of unease. I am striking out on my own for the next week or so. This is a little unnerving. For the past two years, I have traveled with Cookie and relied on him for directions and "leading the way." Now, I will not have the advantage of his experience and knowledge of the area, or the safety of traveling together.
I must keep pushing back the images of me, stradling my bike on the side of some highway in the middle of nowhere; cars whizzing by me at autoban speeds; dark, cold and rainy; power drained from my cell phone and tablet; not speaking the local language or dialect; feeling like The Little Match Girl. Pehaps that sounds a bit extreme, but you must remember I have a very vivid imagination.
I arrive at Waterloo, hoping it will not be mine, get a map and ask directions to King's Cross. I walk outside and am immediately disoriented. Which way is up? Eventually, I am able to see the bridge and find my way onto it. The wind is fierce today. I am concened about time. I have one hour to get through the city to the other train station. Will that be enough? I seem to be making my way. I confirm my route with a passerby and after forty minutes, arrive at King's Cross. This train only goes to Royston, then busses will take us the rest of the way to Cambridge as they are working on parts of the track.
We arrive at Royston, and must first get to the OTHER PLATFORM, which means STAIRS. A quick query reveals that I must exit the station and ride my bike around the block to the entrance. There, I am happily informed that my bike can go underneath with luggage. Hooray! The Little Match Boy will not be stranded in Royston! (I am now resolved that I MUST buy a cell phone that can be used here.)
Linda is there at Cambridge to pick me up. We head for Lakenheath RAF base. This is a US run base where she teaches kindergarten. We sign in and head for the commissary to pick up some groceries for dinner. I am stunned! American food brands and products are flown into Germany and then trucked to bases in Europe and England. Since it is a US base, they all pay in US dollars. Amazing!
She takes me on a short tour of the area, then we head for her place and a wonderul home-cooked meal. I give her a little assistance with her computer and Facebook and we plan our schedule. Tomorrow I tell!
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Cookie bought a new bike last year, so he has two now. He is trying to sell the old one at the market, but no one seems interested.
Market day, "Pound-a-bowl!" That's the cry of the fruit and vegetable mongers in market square. Some have 4-5 plums in a bowl, other vendors have 10-12. Still, the ballyhoo is the same. Hawking their wares to passers-by; some purchase, others stop to talk, and others speed by, intent on getting somewhere. Today I am a slow walker. No place to be, no place special to go, just enjoying the ambiance and the people.
The festival is actually going on all over the city. Often, street performers display their talent: jugglers, magicians, and even strange, small "skits" can be seen. Today, there are three young ladies pushing carts with tea service on them. They are quite jolly and talketive with the crowd. Then they burst into monologue, song and dance, all about tea. Yes, that's right, the national beverage, tea.
It's all quite in fun. There is a man hidden inside of a large pot on one of the carts who pops up to the surprise of the crowd. Their little "pastiche" goes on for about twenty minutes, using unsuspecting audience members as foils for their frivolity. As they exit down the street, I ask a festival representative if they are a local troup. She tells me they are from Winchestor,and the festival actually "commissioned" them to create the piece. Oh my. . .I am thinking, with that kind of attitude, I could make a bundle here!!!!
The rest of the lazy day is spent helping Cookie hawk his bike, "How about a bike for the little one there. He'll grow into it." No luck.
I also e-mail back and forth with my friend Linda from Cambridge. We met on the plane coming back last year. She teaches kindergarten at a US military base. We solidify plans for me to train there Sunday and visit, then do some storytelling at the school on Monday.
We finish up, as always, in a pub (the Cathedral Hotel) charging our electronics, having a bit of desert, and, oh yes. . .a spot of tea.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Friday - May 20
Today we leave the YHA and head for the campground. After breakfast, we organize all of our gear and pack the bikes. This is always amazing to me. We have a TON of gear...well, 50 pounds each. I have two paniers (bike saddle bags) a front handlebar bag and a "trunk bag" that sits on the back rack. I am not sure how I do it, but I manage to get everything in those bags. Oh yeah, and my backpack.
Now the bike handles quite differently with all that weight! Just geting on and off can be very dangerous. We head out, and as it is a little early to check in at the campground, I make a suggestion to Cookie. "Why don't we take the circuit to Woodford with the bikes loded and do a REAL tune-up." Damn. Cookie says "Yes." What was I thinking?
It was a good ride. I did have to get off and walk up one hill, but I expected that. All in all, a good ride.
We arrive at the campground and are welcomed by the hosts, Wendy and Nigel. They have become old friends of "the Americans". We set up tents in our usual spot and then it is back to town. Cookie is volunteering at the festival this afternoon and this evening for the big opening. I run some errands in town and then we meet up at the Kings Head for dinner.
The festival opening is a marvelous suspended acrobatic act from Argentina called Voala! I have uploaded a short video, but it really doesn't do justice to the act. There is nothing quite like gorgeous ladies doing acrobatic feats. Oh yeah, the guys are OK too.
Back to the campground and the first night in the tent. Ahh. . . love the sleeping pad and bag.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
The sun is shining! We have breakfast and prepare our bikes. Cookie cleans up his, I attach all my tchotckkeys, front and rear rack, side mirrors, water bottle cage, and GPS. Looking good!
The children are leaving and all wave to me and thank me again for the stories. (see pic of us)
We head for the center of town, run a few errands, window shop a bit, then we are off on our tune-up ride.
Did I tell you that I LOVE MY NEW BIKE? Our ride is twelve miles round trip to Woodford and back. A pleasant ride with only a few small, little hills. This is the first time I have done this ride and not had to get off to WALK up the hills. I LOVE THIS BIKE! It is a beautifull day and we are riding. Nice and easy riding.
Here is a picture of Cookie riding ahead through a tunnel arch of trees. Later we encounter a pack of lazy sheep. "Bah ram ewe, bah ram ewe, to your breed your clan be true!" They do not reply to my bleating entreaty. I can't understand why.
We return to town refreshed and delighted at tuning up. The afternoon is spent working on the bikes, and I am making a camp table for Cookie. I made one for myself last year, my own design, weighs about one pound, is adjustable in height and packs small. Cookie has the advantage of getting a new one with the kinks worked out.
Dinner for me is a lamb burger and green beans with sauted red onion. The lamb is quite good here - home grown. Mmmmmm.
The Festival starts tomorrow. Cookie is a volunteer "steward" this year. He will be working several of the venues. The opening tomorrow night purports to be a marvelous show of airial acrobatics and performances. You can trust that I will report back.
I love it! So I went to a different bike shop this morning and they had a great bike. It was somewhat more than what I saw at the other shop yesterday - more money, but way more bike. So I bit the bullet and bought it. So happy I did. It will take care of me for the next 28 days! Will post a picture later.
The whole incident reminds me of the bike I bought in Phoenix just over two years ago. Three days after I bought it, I parked it outside of a bike store near my home. After browsing for five minutes, I looked outside and it was gone! I stormed home and barely held back my tears. The next day I went back to REI and purchased an identical bike. Needless to say, the salesman was perplexed. I call this new one, "The Twin."
Don't have a name for the one here in England yet. We'll see.
Another long day, walking back and forth before the bike is ready. Going to Poundland (the Brit's version of the Dollar store). One has to be careful here. The pound equals $1.62 American. One can get lulled into thinking it is "just a dollar." Then, before you know it, 20 pounds actually equals $32.40! Tchotchkeys don't come cheap!
Having some difficulty uploading to the blog. My new Tablet is small, but appears that it has some limitations.
I am off to bed and will post again tomorrow.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Just as I physjcally crashed after the weekend Slam and party for our friend Paulette, my good luck ran out at the train station in Salisbury. My bike was nowhere to be found. Either it was stolen, or removed by security for being there too long. In any case, I need to buy a new bike. BTW...Cookie's bike WAS still there. I had put mine in a different location...bad move. C'est la vie. A trip to the bike store uncovers a possible choice. I will sleep on it (the decision, not the bike itself) and go back in the morning.
On to the grocery store to get food for tonight, and for tomorrow's breakfast. We are at the hostel for.two days and can use their kitchen to cook, and also use the fridge. I make lamb burgers and Cookie has a veggie/pasta.
Two years ago when l first came to Salisbury, I told stories to group of children staying here at the YHA. Well, there is another group of eleven-year-olds jabbering away in the dining room. Once again, I identify myself as a "storyteller" and offer my services. "Are you available at 8:45 in the day-room?" "I am," says I, and proceed to finish my lamb burger and contemplate which stories I might tell. What good fortune to have found an audience!
There are two dozen students from St. Catherine's Church of England Primary School who sit and listen attentively to "Stealing Smells", "The Otters & The Fox", "The First Picnic on Earth", and "The Princess & The Storyteller Frog." We take a picture for posterity, they are off to bed, and so am I...all with smiles on our faces. How I love storytelling! (pic coming)
Monday, May 16, 2011
One of the best decisions I made was to produce the Slam. I was overjoyed at the turnout, and my expectations were far exceeded. My thanks to all who participated!
Now it is time for another adventure - biking in England and Europe. My third summer there promises to be the best. In addition to the UK, I plan to visit Amsterdam, Belgium and France. Many of you know that we leave our bikes locked up at the train station. I have every confidence they will be waiting for us again, albeit a bit sooty.
As always, we shall start in Salisbury, site of a great Arts Festival. We stay at the hostel for two days, then head for the campground. That's as much as I have planned at this time. The rest will unfold as the days pass and we make decisions on the fly.
My eyes (and the rest of me) are tired and I shall attempt to sleep a bit on this first leg of the trip.