Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Week 21 - Going Dutch

The week started with a bang or rather a whir.  I was about to head off on my travels (first stop my mum's house to drop off Skye) and I heard a very strange whirring sound coming from my car.  I have to admit, when I bought the car, I had a bad feeling about it. Everything in my gut said to walk away but my stubbornness and the fact that Dougal's tax was running out the following week meant that I was under pressure to buy something.  And so it is that I found myself feeling nervous about the car and something goes wrong with it on my travelling day.  The noise was enough to put me off driving it so I took it to my reliable garage and left it in their hands to fix the problem - oh the joys of buying a cheap car...a huge lesson learnt here. 

But SuperMum to the rescue!!!  My mum collected me and got me to the train station for the first leg of my journey.  I was flying from Edinburgh on Wednesday evening so I took advantage of being in my favourite Scottish city and met up with a friend for lunch and a catch up then I booked myself in for an appointment at the Mole Clinic.  I urge anyone who has fears about skin cancer to get their moles checked out.  It's such a good service and only took about 30 mins for a professional to individually check every single mole on my body and give me the all clear.  Being a redhead, and prone to burning in the sunshine, means that I'm a high risk category for skin cancer so it was a relief to get the all clear for now.

The flight to Amsterdam was uneventful and the transition to my brother's house was super efficient as only the Dutch can be.  I had a lovely warm welcome from my family who collected me from the train station.  I have to say the house is stunning - so homely and welcoming.  All credit must go to my sis-in-law who has an eye for interior decoration.  Here's the guest bedroom:

Our days were full but relaxing all the same.  On the work/school days my SIL and I negotiated the Dutch trams and buses and enjoyed taking in the splendour of restaurants and cafes.  There's a different vibe in Holland when it comes to eating out and I love it.  People watching is a sport in it's own right and there is no shortage of "buzz" to add a little bit of spice to a latte and apple pie.  Talking of which, we found a place called the Pancake Farm which had the most amazing cafe, play park and picnic area (for the warm sunny days).  And to top it all, the Dutch are a dog friendly nation so they are welcome in most places and I was pleased to see dogs at the Pancake Farm.  Skye's going to love it. 

We went to see Born to be Wild at the IMAX theatre which was an emotional rollercoaster because it talks about the plight of Orang-utans and Elephants and the wonderful people who have set up centres to rehabilitate orphans.  The sights are spectacular and the sound of Morgan Freeman's voice narrating the story makes it a must see!

At the weekend the four of us decided to take a cycle into the centre of town where I was meeting up with one of my Borneo friends (who lives an hour away) and we were taking J to see Happy Feet 2.  Now, I have to tell you about my cycling experience.  Firstly I would like to say that I normally embrace new things and would always urge people to immerse themselves in the local culture.  I feel it's only right that visitors also do the same.  So cycling was high up on my list of things to do in Holland.  We were setting off on 3 bikes (one had a tag-along for J).  Easy - all I had to do was follow the leader.  Unfortunately I started off at the back of the convoy.  I watched my brother wobble with J on the back and that made me wobbly.  Plus the cars are so close.  Plus there's so much to negotiate - cars coming from different directions, pedestrians, trams, buses and traffic lights specifically for bikes.  So you can imagine my fear when we came to our first junction.  Red lights.  But there are so many lights, I'm not sure which one is for us.  I see the ones directly in front of us turn green and SIL took off.  Then a car from our left started to turn right...and my brother had to swerve to avoid him.  Seeing this, I slowed to stop and my hesitation made the car edge further to the right then I realised if I let him go, all the other cars turning right would proceed and I would be stranded so I started cycling again and looked up and saw all the lights in front of me were now red!!!  Holy Moley!  My family were way ahead.  So I just went for it and hoped that nothing would hit me.  My heart was in my throat.  And the tears pricked my eyeballs but I blinked them away and cycled as hard as I could to join my family who were completely oblivious to my trauma.  At the next stopping point I asked to go in the middle so I had help either side of me.  We made it and I had a gorgeous pasta lunch to calm the nerves and fill the tummy.  The way home was more relaxed, possibly due to the reduced traffic, and I actually started to enjoy the feeling of wind in my hair.   We've since dissected my cycle fears - I'm a control freak and I always prefer to know what I'm doing and where I'm going so, being in the hands of others, makes me more nervous.  My solution?  On my next trip, my brother is going to set me free with a bike and a map and I'm going to meet one of them at a cafe in the centre and find my own way there and back.  This challenge also makes me nervous (probably moreso) but I'm in complete control and, as long as I study the map, I know I can do it safely...it might take me twice as long as everyone else but failure is not an option...so bring it on...

On Sunday we went to the NEMO Science Centre in Amsterdam where J got stuck into the science experiments and we all learnt something too. 

In all, it was a fantastic holiday.  A huge relief to see my family so happy and settled in a country that seems to "suit" them if you know what I mean.

My journey home involved trains, planes, buses more trains and my fabulous mum to drive me and Skye home.  A dog's welcome home is unsurpassed.

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