I Heart Amsterdam

I Heart Amsterdam

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day Trip To Gouda Pt 3.

(This is the canal where I took a little dip looking for a lost bicycle key)

An older gentlemen wandered over to us, as I was wiping my legs clean of muck. One of the girls told him what had happened and how I tried retrieving the key. It turns out he was an artist of some sort, with his studio right next door to us. Maybe he could help he suggested and off he and Poppy went to come up with something while Maren, Molly and I just stood there all defeated looking down into the canal. Poppy came back a few minutes later with a piece of string with a large circular doughnut magnet on the end. Looks like we are fishing.


This time the plop was the sound of the magnet hitting the murky water below as Poppy starting fishing and while the rest of us simply crossed out fingers. No luck. Plop......Plop...... Plop. This isn't working. Maybe the magnet isn't strong enough. Maybe the key doesn't have enough metal. Most likely the key has sunk well below the mud where we can reach. I decided to give Poppy a break and give it a try.

Plop. Plop. Plop......

I tossed the magnet into the water a little off to the side where the bike was above, thinking that sometimes objects don't always sink straight down, but sway back and forth in the water. I felt a little tug on the key and I though I had snagged it on something, for as I began reeling the string back in the line was heavier. When the magnet breached the water, I saw what appeared to be decaying leaves on the end (yuck) and I grabbed the magnet to clean it off.

"Oh My GOD!!!!" Poppy screamed. I then realized that I had just reeled the key up over the railing, onto the sidewalk. It actually work and we had the key! We all roared with laughter and utter delight, hugging and jumping all around. Tears of joy, relief, and laughter abound. I think it is say to say that none of us could believe that this actually worked, but that didn't matter anyhow. What mattered is that we had the key.

Poppy took the key, cleaned it off and after the bike was unlocked, we set off on our ride back to Rotterdam....but the story doesn't end there.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day Trip To Gouda Pt 2.

Plop. That is not the sound you want to hear when you are standing over or next to a body of water and you are holding valuables. Plop.

Maren, Molly, Poppy and I all just stood there and stared at the ripples in the water, not believing what had just happened, looking over the railing into the water that is 5 feet below us, water that is stagnant and putrid.

A rush of emotions all at once hit us. We went from jolly to panicked in seconds. What were we going to do??? Poppy's bike can not be moved, we are far from home, and we don't have a spare key.

Poppy said she would go into the canal and fetch the key. Gross. Who knows how deep the water was, what was actually in there, and also we weren't really even sure where the key had sunk to. I told her I would go in. There was no way I would let Poppy or anyone else go in there. If it had to be someone, then it had to be me.

Off came my shoes. Then my socks. Up rolled my pants and I climbed over the rail and put my toes into the sludge. This was going to be awful. I held my breathe and stepped down.

The water was cold and all I felt was mud and rotting leaves. I put my feet a little deeper but I was not hitting the bottom. I had mud up to my knees and I was still sinking. Air bubbles engulfed my body and I had to find a way to stop sinking. I held onto the railing for dear life. This was going to be trickier than I thought. I needed some sort of plan.

There appeared to be a stone or concrete piling in the mud below Poppy's bike. I thought maybe I could stand on that because obviously what I was doing wasn't working. Maybe I could use that to plant myself on and then use one foot to feel around the muck. What seemed like a good plan really wasn't. I stepped onto the stone and then gradually placed my weight down and as I did this the stone just started sinking and never stopped. Here I am, hanging on for dear life and my legs covered in mud...what a sight to behold.

A middle aged woman walking by noticed us and asked in good English what happened and what was I doing in the disgusting canal. When we told her the a bike key had fallen into the canal below and the bike was still locked and I was trying to fetch it she simply chuckled. "If I was younger I would just pick the lock for you" she said, giving us the impression that A) this isn't the first time she had lost her own key and B) she is too old to steal bikes and C) we are on our own. We asked about local bikes shops but it being almost 5pm now they were all closed. She went on her way. "What about the police?" we asked her but she said they wouldn't be able to do much. We were out of ideas but I knew I at least needed to get out of this muck.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day Trip To Gouda Pt 1.

Maren, Poppy, Molly, and I headed off on a bike adventure that will be forever embedded in my mind. Our destination was the town of Gouda (How-da) the place where some of the tastiest cheese is made.

After a good breakfast and quick bike check/map check, we left the Hotel Baan in the morning full of smiles. To get to Gouda from Rotterdam, we would be winding our way through small towns along bikes paths and canals. It is about 15 kilometers away with the sun on our backs the whole way there.

Getting there was no problem. What I love about riding bikes in the Netherlands is that you just figure it out as you go. There are so many bike routes so you just choose one, ride to the end of it, then jump on another. All you have to do is follow the signs. Easy right? Maybe not. But we did make it there, passing swans and old bicycle lovers along the way.

The town of Gouda is a very small town medieval town, with St. Jans Kerk Cathedral (built 16th C) in the middle. This cathedral is the longest crossed shaped church in the Netherlands and also houses the beautiful and tall Gouda stained glass windows depicting famous Biblical stories. We parked our bicycles along a canal and we out for a bite, in dire need of some beer and cheese.

The famous cheese market is still held each Thursday, but since we were there on a weekend we missed it. Instead, we went cheese shopping in the local markets, sampling cheeses that we 30 or even 50 years old and unbelievably delicious. I could write and write about the cheeses, but I'll spare you the details of that. All I will say is that I have never in my life had such amazing cheese and that the Gouda cheese in the US is awful compared to real Gouda cheese from Gouda.

Of all the places to run into people, we ran into Pei and Sue and joined them for lunch. They had taken the train there, about a 25 minute ride over our 90 minute bike ride.

After filling our bellies and saying goodbye, we went to the Cathedral and after giving a donation, took a self guided tour of the inside. I am still blown away by the beauty of these windows, windows that survived WWII because the townspeople hid them from the Nazis after they were invaded.

After an amazing day spent in Gouda it was time to head back to Rotterdam for we had a group activity planned that evening where we were going to share our travel experiences from the weekend previous (where Maren, Poppy and I went to Utrecht [another story soon to come]). Checking our bags, and after rolling up our pant legs we were almost ready when I hear a PLOP.

Hummm? Plop. I glance over the railing into the canal and see ripples in the water. I look over at Poppy and she is pale white. She just dropped her only bike lock key into the murky, stank, canal. It is gone and her bike is still locked, unrideable.