Tuesday, February 17, 2004

We had a terrific time in Holland over the 4-day weekend! Our friends the Mitchells took the train over and met us there, and the kids enjoyed getting to explore with Rebecca. We all stayed out at the Holiday Inn in Leiden, which is where Fred and I spent our first New Year's Eve together back in 1989. The one bummer was that the pool was under renovation, so the kids weren't able to take advantage of that. Even without the pool though, we were never at a loss for something to do.

For our first dinner in Holland, Fred and I wanted to find the Argentine steak house that we had eaten at during our first trip there. I, unfortunately, had forgotten to copy down the name out of my old photo album. Even so, we were able to find it, and it was just as good as we had remembered, although the ribs were a little overdone this time around.

Most of you know that Fred is neat and orderly, while I . . . am not. In fact, in my family the verb "to fred" means to put something away before the user is finished with it. Coffee cups and wine glasses that were just sitting there waiting for seconds are frequently fredded and can be found on the top rack of the dishwasher. I thought it was funny how even when it comes to garbage, Fred is so much tidier than I am. Here is my boneyard:

And here is Fred's. Notice how neatly the bones are arranged. Why, they're practically in alphabetical order:

On Saturday morning, we took the bus to the train station and the train into Amsterdam. We bought tickets on the canal boat-taxi and after a little confusion regarding where we were supposed to catch the boat, we headed off to the Anne Frank house.

They have done a lot of work on the house since I was there back in the 1980s. As powerful as it was then, it's even more so now, with lots of televised testimonials of witnesses. We bought a copy of the newest edition of the diary, which has about 30% more material than the original edition. Mike started reading it that night when we got back to the hotel room.

In the afternoon, the dads took in the Heineken Experience, while Amy and I took the kids to a nearby cafe to have a softdrink.

That evening, we had reservations for dinner at the Kinder Kook Kafe, where children prepare and serve the meal. We could have dropped the kids off at 3:30 to be a part of the staff, but we opted to all go strictly as customers for the first time.

The Kinder Kook Kafe is about a half block south of the notorious Red Light District. There is an invisible line where the neighborhood goes from downright seedy to pleasantly residential. If we had known exactly where the restaurant was, we could have spared ourselves the stroll right through the center of the district. Instead, the kids got the field trip of a lifetime, complete with underwear-clad prostitutes modeling in the store windows and the smell of marijuana wafting through the crowd. On a positive note, the odor of the pot effectively masked any smells that might have been wafting from the pissoirs scattered here and there along the sidewalks.

The food at dinner was a bit unconventional, with an Indonesian theme and rather soggy rice, but the experience was wonderful! It was so cool to see the kids working so proudly to serve the food that they had prepared. I think that it would be a wonderful program to copy in the States, though I'm afraid that all of our rules and regulations might get in the way. Apparently, the Dutch don't have a problem with 9-year-olds serving beer and wine, for example. Here is a shot of Phil and Amy with our chef and waitress:

Sunday morning we all piled in the van and drove out to the Zaanse Schans, which is a working model of an old Dutch village. (If you say the name of the town correctly, you will hawk a loogie when you get to the "Schans" part of the name, which is pronounced Skqkqaaantz, as near as I can figure.)

We got to see them making wooden shoes, and we got to sample a lot of delicious cheeses. The cheese factory was the scene way back in 1987 where I accidentally ate a big bite of beeswax hand cream. Hey, it was just sitting there right next to a bunch of different honeys that were available for sampling, and it looked like it might be a spread of some sort. Ha ha, joke's on the American, and I got to walk around with Nivea breath for the rest of the afternoon. This time I studiously avoided eating any cosmetic products. I did, however, mention it to the staff, and they said people do that all the time. So much for being special in my stupidity!

The kids enjoyed wearing the big wooden shoes:

They even got to sit in a REALLY big wooden shoe:

But they especially enjoyed talking to the goats and sheep and feeding the ducks:

After lunch we headed out to Den Haag to visit Madurodam, which is a collection of famous Dutch landmarks set out in miniature. Here are the kids next to a church:

We capped off our visit to the Netherlands with supper at a British pub. How multicultural are we? I had wanted fish-and-chips but had to settle for chips-and-fish instead.

No trip to Holland would be complete without taking home a little pot, so yesterday morning on our way out of town we stopped off so I could buy . . . a little pot of irises, a little pot of crocuses, and a little pot of something called Allium. Gotcha! It's Bonnie's Kitchen Windowsill: The Next Generation.

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