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.